A storm shelter can be added to the home in a variety of ways, with the basement the most popular choice used by homeowners as an area of protection. From tornados to severe thunderstorms, a storm shelter provides a safe place where family and friends can gather in order to avoid being hurt or killed during natural disasters. If you have an existing basement you can actually have it retrofitted to become a storm shelter, but do you need to make the changes?

If you live in an area prone to natural disasters, it is a good idea to make the changes to your basement to make the area a safe haven. The basement will become a strong space where debris will not be able to enter and damage will be minimal. It is recommended that the basement be supportive for the amount of people you have in your family and include at least 5-square feet of space to house water, food, medical kits, and tools to get out if you were to become trapped.

The shelter should be placed in the corner of the basement with two adjoining exterior walls. The concrete walls will need to be reinforced with steel and be below grade to provide effective housing during a natural disaster. Framing will need to be done to create the space for your shelter including a door to gain entry as well as exit. Framing for a shelter is different from conventional framing. Triple top plates are recommended with studs doubled up and nailed together every six inches on each side before installed. The sill plates of the walls will need to be lag bolted to the concrete flooring for a quality hold. The door will need to be placed at the end wall of the shelter for adequate protection.

The walls of the shelter will need to be tough in order to withstand high winds and wind-blown projectiles. Use two layers of ¾-inch plywood over a layer of 14-gauge steel sheeting. With the proper reinforcement and strength, you will have a shelter that will withstand the elements, providing a safe place for you to go during severe weather.

If you are a natural at DIY projects you will find that the Federal Emergency Management Agency offers plans for creating your own storm shelter in your home. Planning advice, as well as construction plans, can be accessed by the general public at the FEMA website. If you are not comfortable with creating your own storm shelter, seek professional assistance.

A specialist in basement construction will be able to provide recommendations as to what you can do to protect your family during a natural disaster. Changes can be made to the basement to create a safe zone where you and your family can gather to ride out any tornados or severe weather that might come your way. Consider your options and add in the changes needed to provide an added layer of protection for your family during events that are out of your control.

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Meet Lance Davis


Lance Davis is a third generation Concrete Contractor with over 10+ years experience in concrete repair and slabjacking. His company Davis & Sons Concrete has proudly served all of North Central Illinois, Rockford and the outer suburbs - and he would love to hear from you!

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