What is a home survival shelter? A safe room or shelter, built inside or outside your home, to provide absolute or near-absolute protection when the danger from natural or human-made causes is imminent.
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If you live in a storm-prone zone or you’re just a prepper who’s wary about impending nuclear bombings and the resulting fallout, building a survival shelter for your home is a project you might want to consider.
Bearing in mind that danger does not give notice, a completed survival shelter is your greatest insurance.
But what exactly is a home survival shelter?
A safe room or shelter, built inside or outside your home, to provide absolute or near-absolute protection when the danger of death or injury from natural or human-made causes is imminent.
Whether you label it a prepper house, emergency shelter, bomb shelter, storm shelter, fallout shelter, or survival bunker, the most important thing is that the shelter meets its survival purpose.
If you are wondering how you can make a survival shelter, this article has you covered.
We’ll tell you what your need to consider before starting to build a survival shelter and give you a step by step guide for building an underground survival bunker.
We also give you ideas about companies and designs that you can consult when planning your dream bunker. Read on to find these and a few other survival shelter ideas.
Planning a Home Survival Shelter
Factors you should consider
Ordinary homes are constructed in adherence to set building codes. Even then, most of them will not guarantee protection should a tornado, hurricane, widespread chaos, or nuclear fallout expose you to serious, life-threatening danger.
In all these situations, constructing a home survival shelter is crucial and needs to be done in advance so that it can serve the intended safety purpose.
Specially designed survival shelters are built following specific construction codes. These codes, together with other safety factors that we will discuss, should be considered before deciding on what type of shelter you want to put up or put underground.
Here are the 5 factors to consider before building a home shelter.
1. Survival house capacity and size
How many people and for how long
No one will be planning to build a mansion for a survival shelter. Even then, you need to think that the shelter’s space has to be habitable for the number of people who will occupy it, and for the estimated period you will be inside.
Though you can be certain about the number of occupants, determining with precision the length of time you’ll be in your shelter might be difficult.
To determine how much space you need, think that the worst disasters (a nuclear attack for example) could require you to be safely locked in your shelter for months.
Danger threats can vary and so the purpose for which you build your survival shelter. If you’re protecting yourself from a tornado, you may not need an underground survival shelter. An in-house safe room would be good enough.
If instead, you are a survivalist, conscious about your safety in the occurrence of the III world war or a nuclear bombing (perish the thought!), a long term survival shelter would be ideal.
You will need to work with constructors that are experts in the field like these two companies:
Hardened Structures - a renowned worldwide provider for fortified & hardened homes, underground bunkers, TEOTWAWKI underground shelters, and bomb shelters among others.
Rising S Company - experts in underground bankers and bomb shelters. They have a wide range of survival shelter options including the military bunker designs with hidden security doors and NBC air filtration for underground bunkers and bulletproof features for aboveground solutions. You can get an idea of their underground bomb shelter prices and floor plans on their website.
3. Survival shelter location
Inside or outside
Deciding whether your survival shelter is constructed inside or outside the home can be informed by the purpose of the shelter and the resources that you have.
If you want a hurricane shelter, building it inside the house may mean double protection and a lesser financial expenditure. For example, the slab floor serves as a foundation in the basement or the ground floor of your home.
Building your hurricane shelter outside will certainly cost you more because you’ll have to start from scratch with a solid foundation. Whichever choice you make, there are some pros and cons to both.
Survival shelter inside the home benefits
You will access the shelter fast.
The house serves as a first protective cover for the shelter.
You can use existing resources, making it cheaper
Survival shelter inside the home disadvantages
The shelter takes up space in your home that you might need.
You have to put up with a messy home during construction.
It can get pricey if you need to renovate your home prior to the construction of the shelter
Survival shelter outside the home benefits
You have more space to build a bigger shelter.
It is easier to deliver construction material.
Survival shelter outside the home disadvantages
You’ll need more time to access the shelter when disaster strikes.
The shelter can be a blot on the landscape
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4. Survival shelter position
Above ground or underground
If your survival shelter is outside your house, you’ll need to decide whether you want it above ground or underground.
Underground survival shelters
Underground shelters are best when it comes to extreme danger and as long term safety solutions.
But they are also a more secure option for short term dangers like hurricanes and tornadoes.
One easy and cheap way to make an underground survival shelter is to use your basement. That means you could go for a DIY storm shelter.
But you may need to reinforce the slab floor to meet building requirements, which still counts for a smaller budget than starting everything from zero.
If you opt to build an underground bunker outside your home, you must be ready to pull a lot more bucks from your pocket to pay an expert in geotechnical engineering for ground analysis, even before thinking about other construction costs.
A ground analysis is crucial to determine factors like the presence of a solid bedrock that requires digging into, or a high water table indicative of possible flooding.
Above ground survival shelters
Above ground shelters are easier to build. They may count as your best option in hurricane-prone areas because they are independent of a home that could be easily destroyed.
They also have some advantages:
They do not pose the danger of flooding if hurricanes bring with them plenty of rain.
Whereas above ground shelters may be difficult to identify in case of emergency, above ground shelters are readily visible and occupants can be easily found if they need to be evacuated.
They are easily accessible even by persons with mobility challenges, which is not the case with the narrow and steep entries of an underground shelter.
Depending on the foundation, above ground shelters can be moved is you decide to relocate.
5. Cost and hassle of installing utility and sewer systems
To survive underground, you’ll need to think about all the utility services, beginning with a reliable air filtration system and water and power systems.
You’ll also need to think about a sewer system if you are not planning to use a composting toilet.
But even in the latter case, you’ll need some form of waste disposal at some point if you should be locked down for a long period. Installing these systems can be tedious and costly, and this may be inflated if you also need a heated survival shelter.
Utility and sewerage systems for in-house or above ground survival shelters are easier to install since you can directly connect to those of the main house.
Now that you know the important factors you need to consider when making your survival shelter plans, we tell you how to build a survival shelter step by step.
How to Build a Home Bunker - Step by Step
Whether you want a shelter to keep you safe from a tornado or nuclear fallout, the key thing is that it will stay strong and protect you when disaster strikes.
With the nuclear weapons piling up in some countries and economies struggling to stay afloat, maybe an underground bunker is not a bad idea after all.
Here’s a comprehensive 3-steps guide on how to build an underground bunker.
Step1: Get that home bunker permit
Assuming that you have already weighed the factors discussed above and decided that you are proceeding with building your life-insurance shelter, your next key step is getting the permit.
Most countries and states will require you to follow a certain process to acquire a permit before constructing any kind of survival shelter.
Permits are essential because building a bunker requires digging, and that might mean tampering with water and sewerage pipes, electrical wiring, gas lines, and other underground utilities.
Permits are also a way of ensuring your safety through a sound bunker. For example, if the water table is not established and your bunker floods, you will not just waste a lot of resources but you will also be putting yourself in danger by occupying the bunker.
Also, in states like Florida with an extremely high sea level, digging to build a bunker may be altogether discouraged just as would be the case in regions that are close to tectonic faults.
The occurrence of such faults would make your bunker sink lower and your survival shelter would turn into a demise cave.
Step2: Hire a contractor and choose the underground bunker plans or design
Hiring a contractor when making an underground bunker is the safest way to go. It might be difficult for you to correctly design a bunker according to construction standards.
The internet is full of contractor company sites and bunker plans like those linked to earlier and you can always do internet research or seek information from those with firsthand experience.
Finding past clients of particular companies may, however, be difficult considering that bunker owners often keep them secret as a safety precaution.
Choosing a bunker plan with practical entrance and emergency exit points, living spaces that fit your needs and number of occupants, reliable lighting, ventilation, water, and sewerage systems will contribute to a safe and comfortable stay should the survival retreat eventually happen.
Popular bunker designs include the square concrete or steel models and the tunnel ones. You can look at a more comprehensive list of bunker designs at Atlas Survival Shelters.
Talking to manufacturers on the pros and cons of each design before choosing a specific one is important.
Of course, a difference in banker designs will also imply variation in cost. For example, a 10 by 20 feet modular square design lists for $64,999 on Atlas Survival Shelters while the same size for round culvert design lists for $61,999.
Check out this video by Atlas Survival Shelters where they build a luxury Atlas bunker.
Step3: Build the underground bunker
Building entails several phases including acquiring the materials, digging, making the shelter, installing utility and sewer systems, and concealing your bunker.
The materials will depend on the kind of bunker you are making, but most designs will require the use of concrete, steel, and in some cases bricks. Bricks can take time to lay which means more expenses on labor.
Avoid wood if you can unless it’s for the furniture and interior finishing. Wood tends to be susceptible to humidity and will wilt in the long run.
Your contractor will certainly bring in machinery to do the digging. A shovel may keep you at it for the longest.
Since construction involves plenty of movement, the pit needs to be larger than the shelter. If you go for the 10 by 20 feet bunker mentioned earlier, you’ll need a few extra feet for movement.
Both human labor and machinery will be needed to put together the parts of the bunker. For example, you’ll need a crane that lifts a prefabricated bunker to place it in the pit. A crane will also be needed to consistently lift and lower material to constructors in the pit.
Installing utility and sewerage systems will be the next building phase. Securing a reliable water system is extremely essential if you foresee a long term stay.
An underground tank would be ideal since it has the same survival characteristic as your bunker. A waste disposal system with a septic tank is also advisable for long term bunker designs.
A vital element in your underground bunker is the air filtration system. A modern NBC air filtration system to bring in the fresh air and filter impurities from your bucker is the heart of your bunker. You’ll need electricity to run the system, so a sound power supply installation is also crucial.
With everything in place, the last thing you have to do is to conceal your bunker by covering it first with soil.
You can them plant some foliage so that the shelter is completely hidden. You’ll also need to cover-up the entrance and emergency exit. Creating the entrance or exit in your home is one option. But you can also build a camouflage-gazebo or tiny house outside the home.
Your underground survival bunker is now ready and you can stock it with food and other essentials and be ready to hibernate to your shelter should situations call for it.
DIY Underground Bunkers
Even though some people may opt for a DIY underground bunker, it is always important to follow safety room construction codes and involve the expertise of a professional.
Survival shelters are meant to be, as much as possible, indestructible. Not everyone has the skill to put up that kind of structure.
Building a DIY storm shelter might be more reasonable. It might also be wiser to think DIY for survival shelters that are a short term or long-term solution should you get lost in the wilderness.
But that is not our case here.
Home Survival Shelters Summary
With multiple disasters that seem to be just waiting to happen, putting all your eggs in your usual home basket is too great a risk.
A home shelter for survival is a necessary security project to invest in.
Think about where you want to build your shelter, the reason why you want to build it, how many people you will be putting in the survival shelter and the cost of installing utility and sewerage systems before proceeding to acquire permits, purchase materials, build the bunker, and conceal it from the public eye.
When all is done, the most important thing is that a probable doomsday will not find you ill-prepared for survival.
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