How To Make a Homemade Storm Shelter

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The fiercest hurricanes and tornadoes generate winds with enough force to wipe houses off their foundation. Storm shelters are reinforced rooms inside a house built to withstand the destruction and flying debris that cause so many casualties. They double in purpose as ordinary closets or vaults for guns and valuables. Shelters can also be buried underground. In either case, the shelters should be stocked with potable water, batteries for lights, canned goods and sufficient ventilation for occupants to survive a day or two if trapped by debris.

Things You'll Need

  • Backhoe
  • Steel sheeting
  • Plywood
  • Drywall

Storm Shelter

  • Choose a location for your shelter. Interior safe rooms can be built in basements, garages or somewhere toward the middle of your home. Interior storm shelters are built completely independent of the house; the house may collapse but the shelter will remain standing. Outside storm shelters can go anywhere in your yard, but don't interrupt the path of underground cables, wires or pipes.

  • Determine how many people will be using the shelter. Don't forget to include pets.

  • Select a design. A variety of models are available through private channels and the Federal Emergency Management Agency also provides several models to choose from. Or you might prefer to tailor the shelter specifically to the height and shape requirements of your home.

  • Purchase the material. Most storm shelters call for plywood to absorb the blows of flying debris, reinforced with steel sheet. The interior walls can be coated with drywall for aesthetics and further protection.

  • Build the walls and ceiling according to your plans.

  • Mount a steel door into a steel frame and secure it with three or more heavy deadbolts. Outward swinging doors increase resistance against blasts of wind, but there is a risk that heavy debris will land on the door and keep you from opening it.

  • Wire the electrical lines for lights and a fan.

Underground Shelters

  • Choose a model. Several prefabricated models are on the market, or you might want to make your own. Shipping containers have strong corners, but their thin metal sides require extensive fortification to resist the pressure from dirt. Large metal culverts or drain pipes do not have this resistance problem.

  • Protect the exterior walls of your shelter against condensation and leaks, especially if you live in an area with a high water table.

  • Dig a hole according to the specifications of your model. Set the shelter into the ground and bury it.

  • Place screens on your vents and strong seals around the door to keep insects from infesting your underground shelter.

Tips & Warnings

  • Consult with your local building department about any permits needed before beginning any construction. You might also need a zoning permit.

References

  • Photo Credit Jack Hollingsworth/Photodisc/Getty Images
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