How to Build a Safe Room in your Home / DIY Panic Room

Your most important priority is the safety and security of your family and closest friends.  If you live anywhere in the world where extreme weather will affect you, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and windstorms; It is important to have an area in your home that can keep you safe until the storms pass.  You could also face a home invasion and in events like these, you will want a place to hide. A safe room is a place where you can feel safe.  The construction is made of reinforced walls and doors. Stock the safe room with non-perishable food and water in case you’re stuck for an extended period.

You can build a safe room for a DIY project or you can hire a building contractor to build it.  Having a safe room will give you immense piece of mind when a storm is on the horizon.  Another name for this type of room is a panic room. A panic room is more associated with the threat of intruders, but can also be implemented for natural disaster protection.

Plan For Safety

Before you begin the construction phase of the safe room, you need to do some research.  Make sure its built correctly and will not place the occupants inside at risk.  Begin by reading the government manual available on the FEMA website. Click HERE to be redirected.

By reading the manual, you will inform yourself on the potential risk, structural design criteria, design considerations, proper air filtration, and many more considerations that will keep you and your family safe.  If you deny yourself these reading materials, you risk designing a safe room that turns out to be anything but safe by becoming a hazard.

Construction Material

The walls are lined with steel mesh for improved integrity. Click Here for Steel Mesh Amazon Pricing.

You need to construct your safe room with reinforced walls and be built to withstand all type of storms, and also threats of home intruders.  Understanding all these factors as you commence construction of your safe room is essential.  You must build the room out of material that can withstand high winds and flying debris that could potentially hit your house in a situation involving a tornado or severe hurricanes.

Concrete walls would be your best choice if you want to build the safe room in your basement, where you can build walls that not yet exist.  You can also adapt existing wooden-walled rooms by reinforcing the inside walls with steel sheathing or steel mesh.

Windows should be avoided if you’re in the construction phase but if you’re converting an existing room you should remove the windows and replace them with plexiglass to prevent shattering.  If it’s important for you to have a window in your safe room, make sure to build it small enough so a burglar could not get through it.

Construction Design / How To Build A Safe Room in your home
A securely anchored safe room.

You should begin with a construction design that will give you the right knolege on how to build a safe room in your home. The safe room must be securely anchored, so it’s entirely stable in the event of a tornado or high winds created by a hurricane.

Design the place by making sure that the spaces where the room is connected, like walls and ceiling joists, are designed to withstand wind.  If possible, have your safe room separate from any other place in your house, so it doesn’t sustain damage if your home does.

Consider the chances of flooding in your area before building your safe room below ground.  Construction of the door must be of a dense material that cannot be kicked in by an intruder or blown open by a storm.  Both metal or solid wood are good options.  Reinforce both sides of the door with metal for added security and a multiple deadbolt setup.  A good tip is to have the safe room door swing inward in case there is debris left from the storm.

Where Should You Build A Panic Room / Safe Room?

Do you know where the best spot in your house is to build a safe room?  The most reliable place for a safe room is underground!  Another excellent location is a floor level interior room.  Anywhere in your house is ok If your priority is to build a panic room to protect yourself against intruders and you’re not concerned about natural disasters.

The middle of your basement is the safest location to build your safe room.  Basements are ideal if you want to protect yourself from high winds or tornados.  Keep the place away from outside walls because those would be the first walls to go in the event of a hurricane. You could also choose an inner corner of the garage since its more open space and less risk of being hit by falling debris during a storm.  This is only true if you keep your garage clean and uncluttered.

Have a Plan Before You Build Your Safe Room

You need to plan what type of safe room you need.  How many people would it be able to accommodate? How much space do you need?  What is your budget?  The primary goal of the safe room is to ensure everyone’s safety.

Yard Bunker Safe Room

A yard bunker safe room is made for underground installation. One outside door opens to above ground, and you can purchase units to fit any number of people. Steel or concrete is your best choice because fiberglass shelters run the risk of cracking.

Above Ground Safe Room

Above-ground shelters can be attached to the outside of a home, or you may situate them within the interior. You can design them so that they are virtually invisible to the naked eye and made to look like any other part of your house or outbuilding.  These types of safe rooms can be built or purchased prefabricated, which is slightly pricier but will ensure that they are built to code.

New Construction Home

If you are in the construction phase of a new home, the safe room or panic room can be built into the plans as an additional room in the building.  This is by far the easiest way to create a place like this if you’re going to choose to have it inside your home.

Obtain The Propper Building Plans

Before beginning construction, it’s essential to have accurate plans that are designed to government specifications. This will ensure that your safe room can live up to its name.
You can obtain free safe room construction plans and specifics by clicking HERE.  This link will bring you directly to the FEMA website.  You can use these building design plans as a DIY project or hire a professional contractor.  You can click HERE to purchase the code guidelines to help you with your safe room building plans. These guidelines are written by the international code council, which sets code standards worldwide.

Obtain The Propper Supplies

Depending on the plan you follow, you will need various supplies that will potentially include concrete, steel bars, a heavy wooden door, and deadbolts.

Consider using anchors that are power driven around the unit’s wall perimeter to avoid horizontal movement.
To avoid vertical movement, look into Simpson Strong-Tie anchors.  Be sure to follow the FEMA guidelines for securing your ceiling and walls to the bottom plate of the structure.  Install two layers of plywood around the room interior. You should consider a sheet of steel or Kevlar behind the plywood layer.
Install a door with a 2-inch (5.08 cm) deadbolt lock.

How To Retrofit an Existing Room into a Safe Room / Panic Room

The cheapest and simplest way to get this project off the ground is to retrofit an existing room in your home.  You can retrofit a current room and transform it into a safe room for $1000 or less compared to installing a prefabricated room.  A prefabricated room can cost between $2500 and $6000.

Transforming a large walk-in closet would work very well because there are probably no windows or skylights inside them.  Any interior room in your house can be made to work very well.  One of the most important things to remember is to not have your panic room / safe room share any outside walls for an apparent safety-related purpose.

Replace The Door
Replacing door for reinforcing a safe room.

Your safe room should have a door that can withstand high winds from a tornado or the bottom of an intruders boot!  You can quickly do this at a surprisingly reasonable price.  Don’t forget the side tip we told you about earlier by making sure your panic room door opens from the inside in case of debris.

Begin by removing the existing door and doorjamb.  You will need to install new high-quality steel doorjamb in replacement of the old ones.  Reinforce the surrounding wood with steel angle iron; this piece will prevent the door from being kicked in or blown in when locked.

Replace the door with solid wood, or steel door, much like the ones you would place as a front door to your house.

Instaling the Locks
Electronic locks to secure a safe room in your home.

When installing a lock, you will have a couple of choices on which route you would like to take.  You can either chose a traditional deadbolt or a keyless deadbolt.  Personally, I would go with the keyless deadbolt. A keyless deadbolt if best if you face a sudden crisis. If this happens, you will not want to be searching for the keys.

Just make sure your young children don’t know the combination in case they lock themselves inside without you knowing.  There’s really no reason to even tell your kids about the secret safe room because chances are you will be home with them at all time unless they have a sitter on occasion.  Let them know about this room when they are old enough and able to stay at home alone without adult supervision.

Before you install the new door locks and doorknob, you will need to reinforce the wood around them by installing some steel or brass strike plates. You can purchase these types of high-quality plates on Amazon.  Click here to check the current Amazon Prices.

Install the locks on the inside of your safe room door.  If you chose to go with a traditional deadbolt, make sure you make a few copies of the keys, in case you misplace one.

Wall and Ceiling Reinforcement

If you’re building the safe room while the house is under construction, you can easily reinforce the walls and ceiling with concrete, chicken wire, or steel sheeting before adding drywall and paint to the walls.  If you’re adding the safe room into an existing house, you will have to tear the drywall down to reinforce the walls and install new drywall afterward.

The most cost-effective way to reinforce the walls is by pouring the concrete directly into the cavity between the 2x4s in the walls.  After you’re complete pouring the concrete, screw the plywood or 1-1/8″ oriented strand board to the 2x4s on all sides.  You should then cover this with drywall and paint to conceal the reinforced walls.

If you don’t want to use concrete, you can easily screw some steel sheeting to the 2x4s and the cover with drywall.  The ceiling is a bit trickier if you’re building this panic room to your existing house.   If you’re in a single story house, you can either use steel sheeting or chicken wire by installing them from the attic.  If you’re in a two-story home, you will need to install it on the inside of the safe room by placing it directly on the existing ceiling.  It might not be as concealable as you like but at least it will keep you and your family safe.

Hire a Contractor for Complicated Structure
28/7/1999: Sioux City, IA – Lite-Form workers prepare the roofing with rebar prior to pouring cement. The cement-filled foam formed walls are reinforced with steel rebar. The Safe Room may be built into new housing or added inside or outside of existing structures at a relatively low cost. Its construction is simple enough that it can be built by do-it-yourselfers. Photo by Dave Gatley

If you’re planning on creating a more complicated and personalized structure, or maybe even a stand-alone structure that could act as your safe room or panic room, you should consider hiring a contractor.  By utilizing a contractor, you’re ensuring your project will be up to code.  It will also save you a lot of headaches if you’re not entirely sure what you’re doing.

Ask family and friends for builder recommendations.  You can also search different social media sites to find out who people recommend and who you should avoid.  If there are local storm shelter companies in your location, you could visit them and inform yourself of different ideas.  You could also contact local building inspectors to point you in the right directions.

How to Stock Your Safe Room?

First and foremost you need to stock your panic room with food and water to last you at least 72 hours in case the worst happens. In the event of a significant storm or terrorist attack, you may have to stay in your safe room much longer than expected. It is critical to prepare yourself with the essentials your family will need; as well as any unexpected guests who may have to share your safe space.

Begin with at least three gallons of water per person.  You will need some non-perishable food like can beans, ready to eat soup and protein bars, etc.  For more information, click the link for a list of what you would need to stock an Emergency Food Shelter.

You will need to use some improvising when stocking your safe room with food and water.  You can skip this part if you’re only planning to build a panic room to keep you safe from an intruder since it’s likely you won’t need to hide for very long.

The best way of storing water for maximum space efficiency is using Water Bricks.  These square containers are built for stacking by saving as much space as possible. You can even transform the water bob into chairs or small tables for your safe room.  Don’t forget to rotate your food and water supplies. You would only need to do a food rotation if you chose not to buy food with a long shelf life.  You can purchase pre-made food for use in emergency food shelters with a shelf life of up to twenty-five years.  Click here for WaterBrick Amazon Price.

How to Stock a Luxury Safe Room?

If you own a luxury home, you might attract burglars. If your budget allows it, you can add many useful features.

  • Camera monitoring system;  A high-end security system, installed by professionals can allow you to monitor your home from inside the safe room in the event of a home invasion.
  • Keypad Entry;  An electronic keypad can allow you to lock the door to your panic room instantly. Having that ability is critical in the event of a home invasion. The last thing you want to be doing is searching for lost keys.

Other Supplies You Might Want to Consider (Click here for a complete list)

  • Crank radio;  Crank radios can be of great help to keep you informed with what’s happening outside in case of crisis.  You might want to wait for government instruction as to when its safe to come out.  I would always choose a crank radio over a battery operated a radio. We can all forget to stock some batteries and also risk having batteries in the room passed their expiration date.
  • One Large Flashlight;  I think this one is self-explanatory.
  • Change of clothing and blankets;  Each member of your family should have at least one change of clothing and enough blankets for everyone.
  • Several rolls of Duct Tape and plastic sheeting;  Duct tape is one of the most useful survival items in existence, so stock up!  One reason to have duct tape and plastic sheeting is to be able to seal the doors and ventilation in case of a nuclear or chemical weapons blast.
  • First Aid Kit;  Do not forget your first aid kit!  Make sure the first aid kit is big enough to be well-stocked. Bandages, antibiotic ointment, small scissors, gauze wrap and pain relieving medication are the most important items to have.
  • Prescription Drugs;  f any family member is on prescription medication, you should store enough to last a few days.
  • Gas Mask;  You might also want to consider some gas masks if your primary concern is biological of chemical warfare.  Food and water will be of no use to you and your family if you’re unable to breathe.

So there you have it, my fellow survivors. I sincerely hope you found this useful. Please leave us a comment if you have anything to add or even things you might disagree with.

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