Building A Storm Shelter 

building a storm shelter image


Building a storm shelter may not be necessary for the next ten years… or it may be by next week. We can never tell with these disasters, can we? What we can, however, say is this: knowing how to build a storm shelter is invaluable in this present time. News of destructive tornadoes, flash floods, and hurricanes are quite common these days, and I think it’s time to be proactive.

In this article, we’ll walk through the necessary corrections considerations to make before building a storm shelter from scratch. Knowing these factors will help you and your family decide what you need and even want to stay protected from whatever Mother Nature sends your way.


Considerations Before Building A Storm Shelter

There are various types of storm shelters, but the objective here is to ensure that you and your family have a place to stay protected when the storm blows fierce. An ideal shelter does not only have space for you and others, but it must also have enough space for food and provisions.



You may think that price is inconsequential when discussing safety, but it isn’t. You need a budget when building a storm shelter. Above Ground shelters are typically less costly than underground construction because the latter requires more complicated and expensive installation processes. Sadly, an above ground storm shelter is unlikely to hold against extreme weather disasters, therefore necessitating an underground option.

An aboveground structure will cost an average of $11, 000 – $13, 000 while an underground structure will cost an average of $18, 000 – $20, 000. That’s something, isn’t it? If you, however, have a basement or any similar structure in place already, your underground storm shelter may cost below $11, 000.


Construction Permits

As weird as it sounds, some states may not allow you to build a storm shelter, perhaps due to certain locations or whatever reason. You, therefore, have to consider construction permits before starting work. Generally, though, every state allows a storm shelter when all factors are satisfied. The FEMA P-320 Publication is a great point to start, you see.

Also, you should be familiar with the construction processes of your locale. If you aren’t or are new to the area, you can seek the help of local builders. They’ll offer advice on the shelter suitable for the climate and may even give a tip or two on securing permits. 


Type Of Shelter

There are two types of storm shelters to consider: underground and aboveground.

Above Ground Shelters

A shelter aboveground is not as ineffective as many people think. As long as it is properly constructed, an aboveground structure will do just fine. There are several pros to this shelter type. 

For example, it can be very much helpful if there’s anyone who’ll have challenges going underground. Also, when short of space, you can make your shelter in little spaces, such as a closet or pantry. 


Underground Shelters

Undeniably the better, an underground storm shelter is a great measure towards safety. It is very effective against several disasters, be it a tornado, hurricane or whatever, whether natural or human-made. What else, they save you a lot of square footage as well.

On the other hand, however, an underground shelter isn’t ideal during flash flooding or in low-level areas prone to ocean tides. Also, it can be quite expensive to build.


Shelter Size

When deciding on the size of your shelter, you have to consider your family needs. As you may expect, a small family would be well served by a small tent.


Small Storm Cellars

For a young couple, small family or single individual, a small cellar is just ideal as a storm shelter. However, whereas this cellar is just perfect for surviving short-lived phenomena, such as a tornado, it is hardly convenient to see out a great storm, a hurricane, for example. This is because there is insufficient space to house supplies and gear for a long while. 

A small cellar is usually 3 by 6 by 5 feet. Cellars can be built in the garage or yard, and although the latter is often more spacious than the former, both can house between 4 – 6 people.


Regular Storm Shelters

For each person, the recommended space in a storm shelter during long-lived events, such as a hurricane, is 10 square feet. In shorter events, like a tornado, this measurement isn’t essential. 

The typical size of a regular storm shelter is 4 by 8 by 4½ feet. That’s enough for 6 – 8 persons, including all supplies and gear you’ll be carrying. As such, regular storm shelters satisfy both long-lived and short-lived storms and are therefore highly recommended and more common.


Large Storm Shelters

As you may expect, a large storm shelter is meant for a large group of people, most often a community setting. Although possible, this shelter type is rarely built-in alongside a house. It is instead a standalone building. Large storm shelters measure 5 by 8 by 5 feet and can house between 14 – 16 people.

Keep in mind that regardless of the shelter size you choose, ensure to build a door that’s at ground level and hence accessible from above. It is common to see people create a separate storage room that’s connected to the primary shelter room with a ladder, but this always depends on the available space. 


Final Considerations In Building A Storm Shelter

The advantages of a storm shelter are numerous. For a building with so much importance, $11, 000 to $15, 000 isn’t significant. By the way, concrete is the sturdiest and heaviest material you can use for building a storm shelter, which means that it is highly effective and, therefore, very common. 

For an above ground shelter, concrete ensures permanence, and for an underground shelter, concrete ensures that the structure isn’t collapsed by the force of the soil on top of. So, what are you waiting for? 

In our subsequent blogs, we’ll look at the basic steps for constructing aboveground and underground storm shelters.