Cold Room Conversions

cold roomby Keith Tripp, 2020


A client recently asked about converting their cold room space to use as conditioned storage space or a wine cellar. Cold rooms are typically located underneath the front entrance porch and stairs. The walking porch surface is the concrete ceiling of the cold room. The sides of the cold room are poured concrete , similar to the main foundation walls. Brick is sometimes installed on the sides of the cold room walls above ground, but this is installed as decoration and is not required to be a draining veneer wall.



Here are some of the some considerations for converting a cold room here in the Greater Toronto Area, Ontario, Canada.

  • Cold rooms were not built as living space, and are often subject to water leakage¬†especially under entrance stairways where there will be melting snow in the winter
  • Cold rooms are uninsulated, so require the addition of insulation and vapour barrier and possibly an air barrier if being used as heated space or even a cool space.
  • Cold rooms are not built to meet an air barrier standard. To the contrary, they are vented to the exterior. Even though concrete makes a good air barrier, an air barrier may be required to compensate for openings at joints.
  • The walls and ceiling of cold rooms are solid concrete, without a vented cladding wall. They are likely to be subject to inward solar driven vapour diffusion. This means vapour barrier selection is important. This would be a good application for a “smart” vapour barrier.
  • Cold rooms are vented to the exterior, so if being converted to heated space they require air flow to be connected (so installation of ductwork) and blockage of the venting to the exterior.
  • Proper wine storage requires temperature control and usually the installation of a refrigeration unit