This article will give you everything about building the best DIY storm shelter.
As you read through this article, you’ll have a general idea for planning and designing a reliable, durable haven that fits you and your family’s specific needs.
But, you may be wondering what a storm shelter is? It is a super-strong safe chamber that can survive heavy winds, tornadoes, and flying debris. Even if your house breaks apart, you’ll be protected.
Let’s dig in and learn how you can start building a DIY storm shelter.
How a Storm Shelter or a Safe Room Might Be Beneficial?
If you reside in “Tornado Alley” in Texas’ panhandle or are concerned about powerful storms with high winds, installing storm survival shelters, also referred to as “safe rooms,” should provide some relief.
When a heavy storm strikes, most people retreat to an internal chamber or a cellar, as your instincts may lead you, and then hope for the best.
Unfortunately, the constructors didn’t build such sites to endure high winds and wind-driven debris. Even if it’s in the heart of a home, a drywalled, 2×4-framed room is no match for a 2×4 going at 100 mph or more.
Winds of more than 200 mph can be generated by “Force 5” tornadoes or C5 hurricanes, the two most dangerous storms, enough to knock a well-built house off its foundation.
So a tornado shelter might be beneficial, especially if you live in a high-wind zone. And a tornado shelter won’t break the bank, either. With a bit of elbow work and suitable materials, you can almost assure your family’s injury-free survival through any storm.
Remember that you may use a safe room for more than just storm shelters. You can also use the room as a storage room, walk-in closet, bath, or pantry within the house.
You and your family can also use a safe room as a yard or storage shed outside the house. It’s a practically impenetrable vault for jewels, firearms, documents, and pricey equipment, no matter where you store it.
Design Ideas for Safe Rooms
Even for rooms inside the home, constructors built all safe-room designs to create an entirely separate space from the house structure and fastened them to a concrete slab.
A chamber includes a robust, impact-resistant casing to protect people from wind-blown debris, the leading cause of storm fatalities and injuries.
FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) has issued a free brochure that details several designing types of safe rooms. It has a variety of designs to choose from, based on your home’s structure and local building techniques and materials.
Other similarly effective designs include:
- Poured reinforced concrete.
- Reinforced concrete block.
- Welded solid steel
However, you’d have to employ a contractor or buy a kit to build a welded solid steel (on Amazon) type.
In addition, you may place one-piece steel or modular cast concrete unit into the ground, or a home under construction is another possibility.
Even if the house collapses around the safe room during a storm, you’ll be warm and secure inside. But this doesn’t guarantee that you won’t be terrified. Who wouldn’t?
Lastly, storm tornado shelters and safe underground storm shelter bunkers are in infancy, but the room shown below is the most durable and DIY-friendly design.
For individuals who live in slab-on-grade homes or mobile homes, it will fit in most basements, spacious garages, or even outdoors on a separate slab.
You can build the construction as shown, then add a roof and siding for outdoor use.
Safe rooms or storm shelters can be any size as long as you build them to the requirements outlined in the FEMA brochure. This storm cellar chamber is 7×8 feet, but it could easily be 4×4 feet.
Consider the available area, the number of persons you anticipate protecting, the additional role the room will serve, and your budget when determining the size.
The walls and roof of the storm shelter have a sandwich skin with two layers of 3/4-inch plywood with opposing grain directions. Plywood absorbs most of the shock from flying items, while a layer of 14-gauge steel on the room’s “safe side” inside further shields debris.
You can install the skin inside or outside the studs as long as the steel sheeting faces within the storm shelter chamber.
Additionally, install the sandwiched skin on the studs’ exterior surface wherever possible. Construction will be more straightforward because you won’t have to cut through steel to run wiring or install electrical boxes.
You’ll also be able to attach a decorative layer of drywall to the plywood. This part should be on the exterior and the studs on the inside.
Because those locations were unreachable from the outside, we had to put the sandwich on the interior surfaces of the two walls facing the concrete block and on the ceiling. To secure the drywall screws, we bonded 12 furring strips to the interior-mounted steel on the ceiling.
Only humans and dogs, not door-busting debris, may enter a storm shelter with a steel door set in a steel frame with three deadbolts opposite heavy-duty hinges.
You can build a sheathing made of steel and plywood with either 3-inch self-tapping screws (on Amazon) or 3-inch deck screws (on Amazon) 6-inch apart. With 10d nails (on Amazon) placed every 6 inches, you”’ fasten all doubled framework members to each other on each side.
Lastly, excluding the 14-gauge steel sheets, full-service lumberyards either have or can special-order all components. You’ll need to create this storm shelter underground room.
These details may be intimidating for someone with little to no experience constructing anything. You don’t have to worry.
There are prefabricated storm shelters that are commercially accessible and, in some places, more inexpensive alternatives to a site-built safe room. The premade storm shelter manufacturers usually include everything but the foundation in a constructed safe room.
A storm shelter is only as secure as its base, even if it has been inspected and authorized for missile impact and wind pressure. When constructing your foundation, adhere to the ICC 500 guidelines.
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