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Wooden rickhouse design

Jason Parker

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'd say, call Jim Beam and ask them, they are very nice and can probably point you in the direction of a local architect. Also, you can use google images, there are good pictures of the model rickhouse at the bardstown museum.

They seemed to be all built out of 6x6 or 4x6 and 6x6. It seemed like everything but the vertical beams were that size.

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DISCUS "Recommended Fire Protection Practices for Distilled Spirits Beverage Facilities" has a good deal of information about barrel warehouse practices.

However, some info of note:

  • If palletized warehousing is in your plan in any way, you'll need to give me a call regarding the sprinkler issues. FM Global has pulled their underwriting for palletized warehouses.
  • Drainage, in the event of catastrophic leakage is required at 125% storage volume of the total volume of barrels contents in the warehouse.
  • Ventilation is required at a rate of at least 1 cfm/ft^2 of solid floor area. see NFPA 91, Exhaust Systems for Air Conveying of Vapors, Gases, .... and NFPA 90A.
  • Electrical should be installed per NEC Class 1 Div 2.
  • Establish a non-flammable area around the warehouse of pea gravel, probably at least 20'.
  • Beam and others are now building warehouses with at least 100-200 ft distance between the warehouse and any other building. Their preferred standard is actually 100 yards. If you've ever been to KBD, the space there between rick houses is about spot on.

Good luck. Please do share pictures when you're done.



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  • 4 years later...
On 4/6/2013 at 10:15 PM, Jason Parker said:

Thanks Mendodistilling. I've done what you suggested, and more. When I get mine built, I'll post photos and a material list I used.

Hey Jason,

Just curious if you are able to share your progress. Thanks!

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If you have a local sawmill that can supply you rough sawn oak you will save a huge amount of money.  8'6" and 9'3" long pallet squares are dirt cheap.  They are typically 4"x4", 4x5, 4x6 and 6"x6".Smaller circle saw mills saw these and sell them to other mills that resaw them into pallet decking and pallet stringers.  These same mills usually saw rough sawn lumber that they sell to flooring mills.  The # 2 and #3 common is pretty cheap.  if the Miller will let you pick through the #2 common, #3 Common and pallet lumber you can find lots of boards that are structurally sound.  Don't purchase the #2 and #3 common or pallet lumber as strait run or you will have a lot of waste. If you build with rough sawn Oak you want to build with it while it's green as it is really hard to work with and nail it when it is dry.  I know all of this because I ran a sawmill for almost 20 years. 

  If you know how to use wooden pegs and dowels as well as notching then you will have an easier time.  Many of the old barns built 70 to 150 years ago were built from green oak lumber and beams using wooden pins to hold everything together.  I used to buy old barns, tear them down and sell the old hand hewn beams and rough sawn lumber to contractors and end users.  The old pegged barns built by German immigrants were the toughest to get apart.  The pegs where so tight that I would usually have to drill them out and sometimes i would just have to take a chain saw to them.  Somebody may say that you shouldn't use green oak, but they don't know what they are talking about.  Green Oak has been used for building barns and racking houses for generations.  If you use pine or other softwoods then it should be air dried.   I would probably air dry poplar if I were using it.  If you use Kiln dried Lumber it will move almost as much as green and nothing twists and bows as much as pressure treated lumber except for Hickory, which should never be used as structural.

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  • 2 weeks later...

It appears to be cedar but could be another softwood like, pine but it's hard to tell from a photo.  My description of the use of rough sawn air dried or green hardwood  lumber for a traditional racking house would not work for what Jason is doing.  Kiln dried wood should be used when building simple barrel racks indoors like that.  My racking houses will be small but they will be built in the traditional manner, on the side of a big hill on my property here in the Ozarks.  The whiskey will go through the outdoor temp, humidity and seasonal changes that traditional racking houses provide.  Also the wind and breezes will move through my barrel houses as is traditional.  Also those of us who are hunters know that breezes move downslope as the day cools toward evening and they continue to do so until very early morning and then they move up hill as the day heats from morning until the late afternoon.  These thermal convection currents are why it is better to have your racking houses on the sides of mountains or hills.  The combination of all of these natural environment actions improves the quality of the barrel aged spirit.  Also barrel aging in heated air conditioned spaces  where the humidity is low causes problems.  Of course not everyone has the option of having a traditional racking house, especially those people who have their distilleries in cities and towns.

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  • 2 months later...

Buzick Lumber in Bardstown KY builds quite a few of the large rickhouses around there.  You've probably seen their ads in ADI and Distilling magazines. 

I built the first round of racks like that for us out here out of 4x6 and 4x4 douglas fir ( i wanted oak but it's hard to find in HI). Ended up switching to double barrel racks when we moved from 15 gallon barrels to 53 gallon because we couldn't use a block n tackle hoist anymore.  Anyway, your racks look good and I love the Genie.  Do you recommend the genie for barrels?

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