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How to design a safe room to protect against severe weather

Learn the pros and cons of three types of safe rooms.


THREE TYPES TO CONSIDER

THE PROS: BASEMENT

Because it's below ground, a basement shelter provides the most protection from debris.

Depending on your basement's features, this can be one of the easiest and cheapest ways to install a shelter in an existing home.

THE PROS: IN-GROUND

Installing a shelter below a concrete slab — the one that form's your garage's floor, for example — is a good way to carve out room when space is at a premium.

THE PROS: ABOVE-GROUND

If you don't have a lot of space in your house, creating an adjacent above-ground storm shelter might make sense.

A separate above-ground space also is the best bet for areas with high water tables.

For maximum security, the shelter's walls must be separate from those of the main structure, and they need solid reinforcement.

THE CONS: BASEMENT

By converting all or part of a basement into a storm shelter, you give up storage space.

Basement shelters aren't appropriate in areas that might flood during a hurricane or storm surge.

THE CONS: IN-GROUND

Depending on the size of your slab, these shelters may skew small. That might be find if you're waiting out a tornado, but less comfortable for a longer-lasting storm such as a hurricane.

Like basement safe rooms, shelters built under slabs aren't appropriate for flood-prone regions.

Take care to ensure that any mobility-challenged family members can make it into the shelter without difficulty.

THE CONS: ABOVE-GROUND

An above-ground shelter may require a separate entrance. If you have to leave your home to get to the shelter, make sure the shelter is nearby and that you can get into it as quickly and easily as possible.

CAN YOU DIY?: BASEMENT

Depends on your basement and your skills. The simplest basement storm shelter is built into a corner, lean-to style, and uses two of the basemen's walls. But not all basement walls measure up to FEMA's standards. Unless they're reinforced with steel, they may not withstand damage from wind and debris.

CAN YOU DIY?: IN-GROUND

Working an in-ground shelter into plans for a building under construction is relatively simple. Installing one in an existing home is much harder because you have to excavate.

CAN YOU DIY?: ABOVE-GROUND

Possibly, or you can buy a pre-manufactured unit that meets the standards set by the National Storm Shelter Association. Make sure the slab is adequately reinforced to support the structure and is firmly attached to it. Consults a structural engineer to confirm it.

COST: BASEMENT

$1,500 TO $8,000*

COST: ABOVE-GROUND

$6,000 TO $12,000*

COST: IN-GROUND

$3,500 TO $10,000*

*price=installed

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