If you live in an area with frequent hurricanes or tornadoes, building a storm shelter can provide an added sense of security during inclement weather. Installing one is a major decision, as it is not something that is used frequently, and can be a significant expense. Homeowners can choose from a wide range of storm shelter options, ranging from above-ground pre-built rooms to in-ground custom made structures.
An above-ground unit, also known as a “safe room,” is typically installed in a garage or basement. However, it can be built on a concrete foundation that is separate from the home.
An in-ground shelter involves a more complicated and costly installation process, as the ground must be prepared beforehand. Furthermore, homeowners must decide whether they prefer a pre-made shelter that is manufactured by a certified vendor, or a unit that is custom built based on their specifications. All of these important factors have a direct impact on the cost of installing a new storm shelter.
The placement of the storm shelter is one of the most notable cost factors, especially for custom-built structures. Building an above-ground shelter that is approximately 8 ft. by 8 ft. by 8 ft. costs between $6,500 and $10,600, on average. Installing a custom in-ground shelter that is up to 8 ft. by 14 ft. costs an average of $2,500 to $18,000. If you opt for a shelter of the same size that includes a wide range of optional features the installation costs may rise to $22,000 or beyond.
Here are some of the other considerations to bear in mind when creating your budget:
The size of your storm shelter will be the largest single factor in determining cost. The larger the shelter, the greater the material and installation costs. How do you decide on the size of a storm shelter? FEMA recommends 6 square feet of floor space per person for a tornado shelter and 10 square feet for a hurricane shelter.
The quality and durability of the materials has a direct impact on the costs. For example, corrugated steel typically comes at a lower price than fiberglass. If your city requires permits, having a contractor acquire it for you might add to the overall costs.
Underground storm shelters require excavation to get the shelter installed in the ground. If you have property that is easy to dig through, the installation should go quicker and cost less. If you have rocky soil or concrete to jackhammer through, the installation may be more time-consuming and expensive. Keep in mind that professional installers may also have to rent or purchase specialty equipment for the job.
The optimal location for a storm shelter is close to the house, but not so close that debris falls on it, trapping you inside. See how tall your house wall is and position the storm shelter as far away in distance from its height in length. Think about also building a sloped door so that if debris should hit the door, it will slide down rather than lying flat.
It is recommended that concrete be poured around and in ground storm shelter to keep it from floating out, should the surrounding soil become saturated with moisture. If you are trying to cut costs, you could consider skipping this process.
According to estimates published by FEMA, the cost of a steel-reinforced storm shelter that is 8 ft. by 8 ft. is between $6,600 and $8,700. They estimate that smaller prefabricated safe rooms usually cost less than custom built units, and that they come in a broader range of sizes. In fact, a prefabricated safe room that measures 10 square feet can be as low as $3,000 (installed). However, pre-built storm shelters that are 8 ft. by 8 ft. or larger usually cost about the same amount as custom-built units.
Premanufactured storm shelters can cost as little as $3,300, including installation. The average cost of an 8 ft. by 10 ft. above-ground structure is between $5,500 and $20,000. This includes delivery, installation, and a range of features, such as a welded steel box and steel planks.
A 5 ft. by 5 ft. by 8 ft. in-ground shelter costs approximately $5,400, with an additional $2,700 for delivery and installation. This figure can rise if the unit includes optional features. As is the case with custom-built structures, there are a variety of cost considerations that should be factored into your budget.
Installing an in-ground shelter that involves a great deal of ground prep will generally cost more than an above-ground unit that does not require any excavation. The delivery can be another major expense, particularly if the manufacturer is located in another region of the country. Typically, vendors charge a specific rate per mile for delivery.
Additionally, homeowners should keep the setup costs in mind, especially if the unit involves a more complicated assembly process. It’s always wise to speak with the manufacturer beforehand to verify which costs are covered in the total price and how much extra you will be required to pay upon delivery.
There are a number of add-ons to choose from, all of which add to the potential overall cost of installation.
Bed frames (with mattresses)
Serves as an alternate escape route
Assist those in need
Homeowners may also qualify for certain storm shelter grants, rebates, and special funding that can offset the cost of installation. For example, FHA offers loans that cover some or all of the costs involved. Additionally, some states that experience frequent tornadoes provide financial assistance. To determine if you are eligible for storm shelter funding, contact your local hazard mitigation office.
Installing a storm shelter is just the first step in emergency preparedness. Homeowners must also ensure that they are ready for tornadoes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters before they strike. Purchase an emergency kit that contains all of the first aid essentials, as well as a sufficient supply of non-perishable food that can be stored in the shelter. A weather radio is also a wise investment as it allows you to stay updated on weather conditions and other important news.
If there is a tornado or hurricane warning, homeowners should take refuge within the storm shelter immediately. All members of the household must be aware of how to access the shelter and any supplies they are expected to bring. All of these details are typically outlined in an emergency preparedness plan, which homeowners should post in a clearly visible place inside the house.
What materials are typically required for storm shelter installation?
Storm shelters usually consist of steel panels and/or concrete. Generally, custom-built structures feature reinforced concrete. Pre-fabricated units usually include a range of materials, such as corrugated steel, steel plates, fiberglass, high-density polyethylene, and/or rebar. Shelters must also feature doors or hatches that are constructed of steel, steel-plated plywood, aluminum, or fiberglass, as well as ladders made from the same materials.
Are storm shelters handicapped accessible?
Most in-ground shelters involve the use of stairs, which can be challenging for those with a disability. An above-ground shelter is an ideal alternative, especially if you do not wish to pay for the cost of ramp installation. Many manufacturers even offer retrofitting services that can make it handicapped accessible.
What are the key differences between an above and below ground shelter?
An above-ground shelter is ideal for homes that cannot accommodate an underground structure, such as those that have water table limitations. The unit is installed above the ground, which means that it can be built within an existing structure. As a result, homeowners do not have to pay to remodel their homes or excavate their landscape for the sole purpose of installing an in-ground unit.
In-ground, or underground, storm shelters are usually more secure, as they are extremely resistant to debris, strong winds, and other natural disasters. They also free up space within the home or yard due to the fact that they are subterranean. It is important to note, however, that they are prone to flooding, especially if the structure is not properly reinforced.
What are the benefits of a pre-built storm shelter?
A pre-built shelter typically cost less, as there are no building expenses involved. They are also available in a variety of sizes and materials, which makes it easy to choose the one that is right for your family’s needs. Lastly, prefabricated shelters can typically be installed more quickly.
How long does it take to install a storm shelter?
A pre-built storm shelter can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to install, depending on the complexity of the job. Installing a custom made shelter can take significantly longer, as the structure must be built from the ground up. Keep in mind that installation can also be lengthier during busy seasons, such as tornado and hurricane seasons. If you live in an area where the ground freezes, you will have to wait for it to thaw before installing an in-round unit.
How much space do I need within the storm shelter?
FEMA recommends that you have at least 6 square feet of space for every person during a tornado and 10 square feet for a hurricane. For example, a 5 ft. by 6 ft. shelter is suitable for a family of five in a tornado-prone area. It is always best to overestimate the amount of space to make certain that your shelter companions are comfortable for extended periods of time, if necessary.
In the event of a natural disaster, installing a storm shelter is well worth the investment. A shelter also serves as a secure place to store valuable items and a safe room in case of home invasion. It’s wise to assess all of your emergency preparedness needs and budget before choosing the storm shelter option that is right for your home. For example, those who live in tornado-prone areas may opt for a fiberglass in-ground structure, even though it does come at a higher price than other storm shelter options. Use this guide to ensure that you select the ideal shelter without being caught off-guard by the itemized costs.