9 Steps to Building a Tornado Shelter

UPDATED 9/8/20

If you live in an area that has frequent tornadoes and bad weather, you’ll need to set up a tornado shelter in or near your home. There are certain things that should be in place as you set up your storm shelters and safety areas. You need to make sure that you do a lot of research before building tornado shelters because tornadoes are a little different than the other types of severe weather. Here are the steps you will need to follow for setting up a tornado shelter that will weather the storm, literally.
Tornado shelter installed in garage floor

  1. After deciding on the type of weather you are building a shelter for, in this case, tornadoes, find out if the area where you want to build your shelter is a flooding zone or a storm surging zone. This will help you determine whether you should build an above ground storm shelter or an underground one. Obviously, a flood zone would need above ground, storm surge- below ground. For the sake of the article, let’s say you need to build an underground model.
  2. Make sure that you measure a space that is big enough to provide you with around three to five square feet per person that is expected to use the shelter. You will also need to leave room for supplies so be sure to factor that in as well. The three to five square feet per person does not include supplies.
  3. When you know how big the room needs to be, then dig out a hole that is larger than what you need. this will give you room to be able to build walls and a door. If you prefer not to have to build a full set of stairs, you might be able to build a tornado shelter which is not entirely underground.
  4. The foundation that you pour in should be concrete and at least five inches thick. Once the concrete is in, you will need to wait and allow it cure properly. A complete and full on cure can take up to 28 days.
  5. You will need to build the frame with wood, steel or fiberglass. Your decision there depends on how severe the storms are that your area experiences. You can build your dome shaped frame either directly on top of the foundation or outside of it and attach it with anchors when you are done. If you are going to build right on the foundation then you’ll need to wait until the concrete is cured. Either way, don’t forget to line the frame with a waterproof membrane. It will always need to be reinforced using wire mesh or something similar.
  6. Then you have to pour more concrete over the frame, once it is installed. To strengthen the roof, add more layers of wire mesh. It should be able to hold up against 200 pounds of force. This will ensure that it stays intact even during high winds.
  7. The door will need to be made of steel and have a minimum of three deadbolt latches on the inside. Plan out the door beforehand and don’t forget to install the hinges on the outside of the frame.
  8. When the door is done, go back to the roof and cover with whatever material you choose in order to make it not stand out so much from its surroundings. Your tornado shelter can still be fairly attractive. It doesn’t have to just be a concrete slab.
  9. Once the exterior is done, you can get started on the inside. It’s a good idea to make it as cozy as possible. If everyone is crowded into a bleak concrete room, they can tend to get claustrophobic and panicky. However, putting in some nice couches, beds, shelving space, battery operated lights and clocks and other things will make the space more comfortable and bearable during the time that you are stuck inside.

Professional garage door installationSometimes, the thought of having to have a shelter available for use can be a scary thought, just the fact that the weather gets bad enough to need one. However, don’t think of it as being scary. It’s just the way of life and it’s responsible to have a place to go when the weather gets bad enough.

Building a tornado shelter does not necessarily mean creating a new structure outside of the home. Many people are now choosing to install storm shelters under garage floor. The garages have thick concrete flooring, having a tornado shelter installed in garage floor is a way to have shelter access without having to go outside. Storm shelters under garage floor are becoming a more popular option since most modern homes feature an attached garage. Additionally, having to run outside for shelter access increases the likelihood of injury.

If having a tornado shelter installed in garage floor is the right option for you, there will be some customization to the garage that will need to be done. Professional garage door installation will be necessary to add thicker storm proof doors to the garage. Whether it is single or double garage door installation, putting in a garage door should only be done by a professional. Professional garage door installation ensures that the garage can stay safe, secure, and dry in the case of a storm. If you intend on having a shelter in garage floor, securing the garage with professional garage door installation is a critical step for the safety of your family.

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