wikiHow to Build a Storm Shelter

People who live in areas that have destructive storms, such as hurricanes and tornadoes, should have safe rooms or storm shelters where they can ride out these storms safely. The Federal Emergency Management Association has information on construction standards for storm shelters, referred to as safe rooms, and may offer states or local governments incentive grants to help pay for them. The National Storm Shelter Association also provides helpful insight into design and construction of storm shelters and safe rooms. However, if you are a homeowner, you may decide to build a basic berm shelter to stay safe while you arrange for a professional to build a permanent shelter.


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    Decide what type of "storm" and/or "wind rating" you are building a shelter for. Tornado is an "EF" rating of 1-5. Hurricane is similar. This will help you decide on how strong your shelter should be built.
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    Find out if the area you intend to install this 'tornado or hurricane' shelter is in a "flood zone" or "storm surge zone." This will help you decide on an "in-ground" or "above ground" model.
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    Once you have found it safe to install an in-ground type model, the following is helpful.
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    For hurricane shelters measure a space large enough to provide about 10 square feet of space for each person who will use the shelter, plus room for supplies. Tornado shelters only require 3-5 square foot of space per occupant.
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    Excavate a hole larger than the size of the room to allow space to build walls and install a door. A berm shelter is not completely underground, which allows you access to the door without building a full set of stairs.
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    Pour a concrete foundation 5 inches (12.7 cm) thick. Allow it to cure completely.
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    Built a dome-shaped frame using wood, fiberglass or steel, depending on the severity of the storms you area tends to experience. Line the frame with waterproof membrane and reinforce it with a wire mesh. Use anchors to attach the frame to the foundation.
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    Pour concrete over the frame. Reinforce the roof with additional layers of wire mesh to strengthen it, making it thick enough to withstand 200 pounds of force so it doesn't get torn off by high winds.
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    Install a steel door frame and door with three deadbolt latches. Make sure the hinges are on the outside of the frame.
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    Cover the roof with waterproof membrane and add masonry or other material to help it blend into the surroundings in an attractive way.
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    Finish the interior, if desired, to make the shelter more cozy.
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    Install sturdy shelves to organize supplies and maximize floor space. Put in benches or other seating and consider ways to make sleeping on the shelter floor more comfortable.


  • An ambitious do-it-yourselfer may consider buying a prefabricated storm shelter that can be assembled quickly on site or even simply dropped, fully assembled, into a hole in the ground.
  • Put an extra cell phone in your shelter and ensure that you have the means to power it, such as an extra battery or a radio with a hand crank.


  • Make sure you have a way for fresh air to enter your shelter. If you don't and are forced to stay inside the shelter for an extended period of time, you can suffocate.
  • Don't attempt to take refuge in a storm shelter if flooding is a danger. Evacuate instead.
  • Don't give in to the temptation to use your storm shelter as an extra storage room.

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Categories: Landscaping and Outdoor Building