Building A Storm Shelter

Storm shelters, which are now often called “safe rooms,” are most often seen in regions where there are frequent tornados and/or hurricanes. Storm shelters offer a more sensible and safer alternative than going into the bathroom or basement during a natural disaster. It makes sense for every family to have one in the case of an emergency. There are 4 steps to accomplish in making your own storm shelter:

Step 1: The Location and the Floor

Technically, you can put your storm shelter anywhere you wish, but the best location is the basement or the lowest level or your house. Once you have decided on a suitable location, you’ll need to purchase a steel plate the size of the area that you wish to build your storm shelter. This will be the floor for your structure.

Then, you will need to place 2 layers of 2x4 boards around the perimeter of the structure fastened down with steel strapping to hold the studs to the plate, leaving room for the door (mentioned in step 3). Then use 3x ¼" steel washers and ½” epoxy-embedded bolts to hold the boards to the studs. Once you have installed these, you’re ready for the walls.

Step 2: The Walls

The walls are what protect you and your family from any projectiles, so they must be heavy duty. The first thing to do is to place double 2x4 boards vertical on top of the existing boards on the floor in order to create a frame which you can install the walls onto. It is recommended that you place these board one foot apart to ensure maximum stability.

Once you have the studs in place, then you will need to measure the length of each wall. Remember to also save room for where you want to place the door (measure the door for dimensions). Next, assemble the parts for your wall: 14-gague steel sheet, horizontal ¾” plywood, vertical ¾" plywood and 1/2" of drywall. This is the membrane of your shelter walls. It is easiest to install this as a complete unit, so assemble this membrane before you affix it to the vertical studs.

Step 3: The Door

When you go to install the door, the hinges must be on the outside of the room. The door needs to be a foam filled 16-gauge steel door inside a 14-gauge steel door frame. The best models have three deadbolts directly across from the hinges, and the hinges themselves are ball bearing. If there are any exposed cracks, you’ll need to seal them off with caulk from the inside to ensure an airtight seal.

Step 4: The Ceiling

The ceiling needs to consist of double 2x6 ceiling joists that are strapped to the wall for stability. Just beneath that place two ¾” plywood pieces to the ceiling joists. Next install a 14 gauge steel plate with ½” furring strips glued to the steel. Finally, you can install the ½ drywall to the ceiling, and call it done!

Additional notes: Please be aware that if you decide to make the room airtight, you may need to cut a hole through the ceiling in order to install an air mover so that the occupants of the room do not suffocate.