How to Build a Safe Room that Doubles as a Closet

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Safe rooms not only provide protection for the homeowner from intruders, they offer shelter from tornadoes and other high-wind storms. If a basement is not available, build the above ground safe room and use it as a walk-in closet. Your guests may never know the difference.

Things You'll Need

  • Concrete
  • Excavating equipment
  • Concrete tools
  • Interior finish materials
  • Solid core steel pocket door
  • Household door
  • Pour the concrete for your safe room/closet at the same time you're building your new home, if possible. If you construct the safe room later, make sure you hire a reputable contractor that can match the exterior to your existing siding.

  • Excavate to a depth of at least 5 feet below ground level. To allow for proper integrity of the structure, the concrete walls must be buried deeply in the ground.

  • Add steel reinforcement to the concrete forms before pouring the walls. Use double or triple the normal amount of steel to increase wall strength.

  • Provide access for the necessary electrical and ventilation systems by positioning conduit in the walls before you pour the concrete. Make sure you provide adequate access for all the accessories you will want.

  • Pour the concrete walls to a depth of at least 8 feet above ground level. Remember this will look just like a walk-in closet so it's imperative that it have a workable ceiling height.

  • Strip the forms when the concrete walls are set and install a steel-reinforced ceiling. Cover with a roof that matches the exterior of your home.

  • Install a solid steel pocket door that will remain unseen most of the time. On the bedroom side of the safe room/closet, install a regular door that you will open and close as you do any other door in the house.

  • Finish out the room's interior and add shelves and rods to hang clothes. Consider installing one or two benches for sitting during a tornado warning or a safety issue.

  • Shut both doors during a tornado. By closing the regular door and then closing and locking the steel door, you increase the firewall rating.

Tips & Warnings

  • Stock your safe room/closet with a few dried food staples and some bottled water.
  • Make sure you have emergency equipment, such as flashlights, battery-operated radios and walkie-talkies.
  • Ventilate your safe room/closet.
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