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Basement Safe Room

34838 Views 9 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  concretemasonry
I just purchased a new home in MO and plan to construct a "safe" room in the, as yet, unfinished basement. I've selected an inside corner area and that's as far as I've gotten. Of course two walls will be poured cement... what should I construct the other two from (and ceiling)? Going through the center of the room is a 4 x 10 steel I-beam.

What I may have learned thus far: 1) steel studs would need to be thin, as steel transfers heat. 2) a spray on product that will give wood a 120 min fire resistance(?) 3) a fireproof 3/4" board that offers a 120min resistance (?).

I would like for it to be strongly fire restrictive (120 min), storm safe & solid s Ibagainst theft. Please send me your ideas. I need to hear from someone who has "been there..done that".

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I would be thinking concrete and rebar all around. Here is FEMA'S site and lots of spec's here. Make sure its "SAFE".
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In new construction I've seen where a safe room/tornado shelter is directly under the front porch.

So from the basement level its just a doorway leading into another room

( depends on your porch size ).

I've also seen on TV lately where the porch slab was lifted off in a F5 so it really should be anchored in ( I'm sure most all aren't ).

Nothing short of thick steel or poured concrete will stop flying trees/cars ect.

I like the prefab idea , maybe put it in your garage and anchor it to the floor.

Less chance of being trapped in the rubble if its on ground level and quicker to get to.
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In a tornado or fire, when the structure above collapses it won't matter what material your wall studs were. Not to mention that any framed wall isn't thief proof.

I wouldn't even consider steel studs for this application. If you want to frame it, I'd go with wood. Wood is much more durable in a fire.

My suggestion would be to use concrete block, reinforce the cells with rebar and fill them with mortar/concrete. You can get a steel door and steel jamb to go in a masonry opening that'll be pretty darn solid too (you won't find it at a home center). If fire is a concern you do need to do something to protect it from the top side.
Is this room for a specific purpose or general Armageddon?

Pretty much general purpose to the extent of being a fireproof Armageddon. I wish to protect a nice gun collection, valuable papers, and the family from storms, and any thing that would endanger them. I want it to be fireproof in the event of house fire or fire as a result of a storm.


Ok you already selected a corner area of your home so you will only need to construct two walls in order to form a room. The remaining two walls should be constructed using standard concrete blocks; you will need to build two 8’-0’’ walls out from the corner to form a room. In one wall you will need to leave an opening for a standard 36’’ door.

You should also install a separate light, phone line and jack before you complete the walls by running the phone line and electrical into the safe room and test them to be certain they are working before finishing the walls.

Now fill the hollow concrete block walls with re-bar and concrete for added strength and security as your building the walls. Remember to leave an opening for your 36’’ door. Now get yourself 4 pc’s of angle 3’’ x 3’’ x ¼’’ x 80’’ long and 2 pc’s 36’’ long. With these frame the outside and inside on your door opening and weld your metal door and door frame to the angle iron. Be certain to get a secure weld as the doorway will be the most vulnerable area, and the most likely to be tested.
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I just wanted to chime in about fire safety. If you and the family are in the safe room taking cover from a storm/etc and you have a house fire, you may not be able to make egress from your safe room. (Even more so in the event of a structural collapse).

Smoke is also a concern; you should consider a way of exchanging air with the outdoors so you wouldn't be overcome in the room.

Basements are a death trap, quite literally during a fire to begin with, let alone if you're planning on hiding there while a fire grows above you. Firefighters also may have a hard time finding you/accessing you in what would likely end up being a soundproof room.

Sorry, I didn't mean to get on my high-horse about this, but I feel like I'd be remiss if I didn't say it. (If you were just sticking valuables in there, obviously you can disregard).

As far as construction goes; concrete blocks would offer the best feasibly-achievable fire/theft protection. A fire-rated steel door. Fill any cracks/crevices with fire stop caulk. Do the ceiling in whatever material you can find/afford/work with a high fire rating.
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My parents moved me to Cheyenne, WY, on purpose during the Cuban missile crisis. I am that old.

All my BFF had bomb shelters and my parents refused to build one. Cheap is what I thought.

Of course, looking back, we were sitting on Titans and things that had they accidentally exploded, activated, in ground would have wiped out at least Wyoming and Colorado in one big mushroom cloud.

Call Jodie Foster. Ask her what her room was like in the movie.

Why so paranoid? Of course we are all dead by 2012 but my prediction is not psychotic robots but the safety releases on pneumatic nail guns will finally be freed and . .

Contractors ranging from framers to finish nailers and ultimately gallery framing guys with cute pneumatic things to put frames for art together.

We will mobilize. If we have time for meeting soon. And just try to spell death from nails.
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Just look at the FEMA site that has the necessary guidelines for a "safe cell". Genrally is a protective shelter for use free standing, basement installations or on grade interior home locations (closet, bathroom, etc.).

Generally it has the following requirements (no code involved, only common sense):

1. Reinforced 8" concrete or concrete block walls. Never, ever steed studs or wood, unless it isthickn plywood sandwiching a steel plate.
2. Reinforced concrete roof (8") for fire and debris protection.
3. A substantial concrete foundation (slab may be satisfactory in a basement of the walls are anchored thoroughly.
4. An inside swinging steel door with harwdare requirements that are suggested.
5. Details are also given for ventilation systems.

Beining in a basement does not give much protection from thr witnd and especially debris. About 5 miles north of me, two childeren were sucked out of a wasement and browned in a pond during and [email protected] or F3 tornado.

These safe cells are more common that people realize since they are built into new construction and are used for other purposes. They are based on the tornados, which have much higher wind speeds than hurricanes, that last longer, but lose "puch" as soon as they come off the water.

The basis for the suggested design is a series of test conducted over 15 years or so on actual materials. The guys testing the walls have a lot of fun shooting 12' long 2x4s at 150 mph our of an air cannon (absolutely zero penetration is the criteria). As far as I know, only 3 wall sections have been improved despite the tries to have other assemblies accepted, which frustrates the manufacturers that rely on advertising and not real performance.

Depending on your desires, you can use these as a guide and make changes that deteriorate the standard.

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