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Old 06-27-2009, 10:28 PM   #1
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Need Help building a fallout shelter in house

I know this may sound strange, but my husband and I live in the middle of the woods in a very rural area. We are surrounded by very very tall trees and are concerned with high winds, storms, etc. We are trying to find information on how to build a storm/trap door that would be cut into the living room floor that leads down to our ( unfinished ) partially undug basement. there is no access to the basement area except to walk out the front door, walk down the drive and back through an outside door to the basement. In other words there are no stairs, no entry from inside the house whatsoever. Our floor joists are 16 inches on center and we are wanting to cut a hole 32 inches wide and one that we could lift up and have stairs going to the lower level. Kind of like the old trap doors you saw in old movies. once we cut out and hinged off the door we would then need to build stairs going down to the basement as well. If anyone could help with ideas, plans type of tools, materials etc. would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance for your help


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Old 06-27-2009, 11:04 PM   #2
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You need to speak with an architect or structural engineer before you do anything. This kind of job will require a building permit so you will either have to draw up plans on your own or have them done. This really is a job best left to the pros or highly experienced DIYers. If you are certain you are up to it the basic tools you will need are as follows: Circular saw/ reciprocating saw/ 4' level/ 6' level/ ramset/ chalk line/ tape measure/ hammer/ miter saw/framing square/stair guages. This is by no means a complete list but it should get you started. You also need to get some books on renovation and framing. Make sure you understand all the processes before you cut anything. Your engineer or architect will determine your header size and figure out the loading etc. I am concerned that you do not have the experience neccessry to do this kind of work and really hope you will reconsider trying to tackle this project yourself.


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Old 06-28-2009, 09:16 AM   #3
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Thank you

Originally Posted by ARI001 View Post
I am concerned that you do not have the experience neccessry to do this kind of work and really hope you will reconsider trying to tackle this project yourself.
Hello there, and first I want to thank you for your help. Sorry about giving you the impression that we are going to do this ourselves. I was basically interested mostly in can it be done. My husband is a contractor/Electrician. However, you are correct in that we do not have the experience as we have never done anything like this before. The advise you gave is outstanding and it will be followed. I did not know for example that I would need a permit to do something inside my home. I thought a permit would be needed for outside work or building on to the house. so again thank you for the enlightening information.
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Old 06-28-2009, 09:50 AM   #4
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As you are apparently in a rural location, you may not need a permit, however the only way to know is to check with the local building inspector.

In answer to the question can it be done, absolutely, however as noted by ARI001, this can be a complex job because it involves cutting load bearing elements. Also, a staircase is a surprisingly complex item to fabricate from scratch, because of clearance issues, support of the base, rise and run issues, and handrail requirements.

Now on to the fundamental question. You stated that you want to build a fallout shelter. I am old enough to remember a period of time when fallout shelters were popular. A fallout shelter was designed to protect the occupants against radioactive fallout from an atomic war for a period of time, perhaps 30 or 60 days, after which presumably the occupants would emerge onto a charred wasteland and resume living a long and happy life. I don't think you are actually intending to build such a shelter, I get the idea you actually want a storm room, which is a radically different type of structure.

For example, you need an air filtration system for a fallout shelter, not necessary for a storm room. You need a large supply of canned goods and drinking water for a fallout shelter, not necessary for a storm room. You need blast protection for a fallout shelter, not necessary for a storm room. You need emergency electrical generation capability for a fallout shelter, probably not warranted for a storm room. You get the idea.

So if you are actually interested in building a fallout shelter, let us know, I can steer you to web sites that discuss issues associated with such shelters. If it is a storm shelter, let us know, that is a much more easily achieved goal.
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Old 06-29-2009, 12:38 PM   #5
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If I were you, I'd forget what you're planning to do and just purchase a premanufactured storm shelter. I used to live in Kansas and lots of people had them. They're basically a precast concrete "room" that's buried in the ground. Would likely also be way cheaper than what you're planning.
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