How to build a 10X6 ft. storm shelter for under $2,000

How to build your storm shelter / safe room for under $2,000.

by Doc Wacholz

pic of safe room / storm shelter door

Welded door w/ door swung open

In April 2011, we saw one of the worst tornado outbreaks ever in the Southeast. On April 27th alone, there were 208 tornadoes with four being EF5’s tearing across hundreds of miles of the countryside, killing hundreds of people and destroying hundreds of millions of dollars in property across six states. This was the catalyst (amongst other things) to build a storm / shelter / root cellar / bunker.

This is not the easiest way or maybe the best way build a shelter, but it worked well for me and my budget. First I live in a region of the country where I have hills to dig into. So I choose a location near the house, not too far away, in close running distance.

I dug out (with my tractor) a twenty-foot wide swatch and twenty-foot back into the side of the mountain. I left the bottom of the hole about eighteen inches above the valley ground level, that is in front of the hole. This will help keep any water flowing into the valley, out of the structure area. To also help aid in water drainage, I cut a shovel wide trench above the structure area, so water coming from the ridge above is diverted away.

Digging around the perimeter of my newly dug hole, where the “survival shelter” was to be built, I added a French drain. A French drain is basically a shallow trench with 6” septic drainage pipe, with holes on the top that allows the water to flow down and out. A nylon sock encompassed the pipe to keep debris and dirt out of it. This trench was dug where with a downgraded out flow. This French drain will direct water away from the structure and down into the valley. I then added about 8 inches of rock over the drain and in the area where the shelter was to be placed. This again allows for better drainage of water from under and around the structure.

I contacted a local concrete septic tank builder and explained what I was doing. With a few pencil sketches of my shelter, he was able to add extra reinforcement steel where needed and vent holes for incoming and outgoing air. He placed a four-inch vent hole at the bottom left front corner for incoming air and one at the top right front corner for outgoing air. He also took the time to Dam Tight the bottom of the tank for me at no extra charge.

The 10 foot by 6 foot by 6 foot high, 1500 gallon tank cost $750. delivered in place. The tank came in two pieces and weighed a total of twelve thousand pounds. The halves pieced together with a V groove and some thick rubber sticky material that acted as a seal all the way around. I added hydraulic cement on the seam to help water proof it a bit more. Before I cut the door way, I put two coats of Dam Tight and three coats of rubber roofing material on four sides and the roof top.

I rented a concrete saw, and then cut a door way into the structure, leaving the bottom of the door four inches above the shelter floor. Again helping keep any water from coming in. The thickness of the tank is four inches, with rebar and wire throughout the structure. “A car could drive over this structure with no problem”, according to the maker. Not that we are going to try it, but adding dirt to the roof does add weight so this was a bit reassuring.

Building the door took a little planning. I utilized four-foot by eight foot, 1/8” thick steel plates that would rise two feet above the roof line. The steel door hole cut, would be 1 inch bigger all the way around then the hole cut into the concrete structure. This way when the door closes, it will have a tight rubber seal to close on. I considered using ¼ inch steel plate, but the weight would have been twice the 1/8 inch steel which still weighs 300 pounds or better. The inside lock has not been welded, but will done near the end of the project. There is an outside door lock welded on already. The door will be Red Headed onto the concrete structure.

Before back filling, I added pink foam for a little insulation on the back and sides with Liquid Nails. Now the back filling begins. At the point I took the pictures, with the back and sides being filled in. Once the door is in place I will place 4 inch by 4 inch PT posts stacked upright behind the door, on the roof, so the dirt has a place to stop.

That is why the door is two feet higher than the roofline. The dirt on top of the roof will be approximately four foot deep on the back side and two foot on the front side to keep the slope of the ridge the way it was. Of course these 4 x 4 posts will be nailed, screwed and glued together as this holding wall is built. By the deadline of this article, I really don’t know if this structure will be complete, due to rain, snow and the cold, but I will entail the rest of my plans, like I just did.

Before back filling the roof, it will have insulation, plastic material plus roofing material that will help keep water off the roof and direct it one foot or better past the sides of the shelter. This will be in place before I back fill the roof area. Back filling the space above the roof and behind the structure will take nearly 83 cubic yards of dirt. I guess I made the hole a bit bigger then I really needed. Small over sight I’m sure you can correct!

With the door in place and the 4 x 4 lumber on, and the roof backfilled, now comes the front of the structure. I will do the same type retaining wall (as on the roof) on the sides of the door. I choose the same wood, 4 inch by 4 inch PT posts that will stack upright and go six feet out from the structure. These wood retaining walls will be on each side of the door, attached to the door and will hold dirt that will be covering up the front of the structure.

pic of safe room storm shelter bunker

Storm shelter partially backfilled and completed

Utilizing the septic manufacturer again, he pours these two foot by two foot by four-foot wide concrete reinforcement blocks that weigh one ton each. I plan on stacking these four-foot out away from the structure. These will be stacked three high, making a six-foot high wall in front of my structure. Sure this is overkill, but that is my middle name! After these blocks snug up against my 4 by 4 wood retaining walls alongside the doors, I will back fill that area with dirt. This will give me a 2 foot thick concrete barrier with 4 feet of dirt in front of my structure. Of course, I will paint the concrete blocks to match the surrounding foliage. When this is complete I will grow grass and ivy on the roof area to help keep the soil in place and blend and bushes in the front to hide it.

Now for the inside, I choose a thin layer of insulation for the ceiling and walls. This will keep the echoes down inside plus keep from getting a knot on the head when I stand up! For the floor I like the industrial rubber floor mats, as the dirt falls below the mat through the holes. As for the ventilation, I am exploring several options with no decision made yet.

Of course by now, I have all the necessary survival food, gear and tools in place and ready to move in. So we don’t get a tornado…we don’t have a mass extinction event…now I have a great root cellar and a fort for my 5-year-old to play in. All in all it costs about $2000 and some diesel fuel for my tractor to build. Not bad…for an old country boy in the mountains!

About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. Okay, this is way over my head! I’m passing it on to my husband, I’m sure he’ll get it! Very nice and a great build for the budget!

  2. wow, that is great. I don’t live in Tornado Alley so have never experienced one or seen the aftermath (except on TV). One question I have though, is it alright that the door opens outward considering a tornado may throw obstructions against your shelter? not trying to belittle your shelter, I think you did a great job on it.

    • MtWoman (N Central Texas) says:

      I too wonder about the door opening outward…at least that looks like what it does. Someone in Joplin couldn’t open their door to get out of their “safe room” because so much debris had fallen against it. Of course theirs was inside their house, so the whole house fell around it.

    • JeffintheWest says:

      From the looks of it (the way the steel lines the door opening area), and the planned reinforcement with wood and dirt, I’d think any debris would be hard put to find its way into that space — at least sufficient to block the door.

      Still, Murphy is alive and well. I read something somewhere (maybe on one of the DIY websites?) about someone who installed a hydraulic system for emergency door opening in a tornado shelter. I think it was a one-shot system (it would only operate once, then you had to reset the hydraulic fluid by hand or something), but once would be all you need. If memory serves, it was rated to push several tons of debris away from the door. Opening inward, would be better in some ways, but on the other hand, if a big rock or tree hits an inward opening door, there is a lot more chance it will actually make the door work and it will, well…open inward.

      Your only other alternative would be an escape hatch or something. Basically, you cut another hole in the roof (or a sidewall) and install a hatch (like on a submarine, if possible, but failing that, any sturdy, solid door that can be sealed with another rubber gasket) in the hole. Assuming you use a sidewall (for ease of access by your kids), you then dig a tunnel (or bury a strong corrugated steel or concrete pipe like they use in road construction) leading to an egress point somewhere up-slope. You cover the egress point with another door or hatch of some kind (really just a wood storm cellar door like you see in old Kansas or Nebraska farm houses that you can lever up from underneath would work) and lightly cover it with dirt. Then you back-fill the tunnel with sand (don’t forget to hook an entrenching tool to the wall of your shelter so people trapped inside can dig their way out with something more efficient than their hands). The sand prevents animals from living in the tunnel, helps keep it dry, prevents debris accumulating in there, helps the tunnel maintain its shape (if someone does actually park a tractor on the tunnel or something, it could lead to some crushing — filling the pipe with sand minimizes the possibility of this happening) and is easy to dig out. If the worst case occurs, they pop the hatch, dig the sand out (make sure the tunnel is short enough they don’t fill up the shelter with sand getting out), and then they push up the wooden cellar or storm cellar style doors at the end and voila! They are out and safe. Every year you’ll need to make sure there isn’t some kind of heavily rooted plant over the end of the tunnel, and clear off any vines or the like that might have grown there, but other than that, it should work fine (don’t park your car on the escape tunnel either).

      (I can’t take credit for the idea, by the way — its how we constructed escape tunnels for ICBM control centers back during the cold war….)

  3. Amazing resourcefulness and ingenuity. Bravo! In reading this blog, watching prepper shows and generally getting myself up-to-speed I have not seen one topic covered in all the chat about bunkers: waste management. What are you doing with human waste in the event your are bugged-in for several days to weeks?

    • MtWoman (N Central Texas) says:

      Lisa…very good question. I’ve been giving that some thought myself. I do think it’s covered here somewhere….will have to look.

      • In my shelter in the basement I have a Coleman camping toilet what holds about 5 to 6 galls of human waste before it needs to be emptied. It would be a nasty and smelly operation but I could empty it in to 5 gallon bucket and seal it up until the event is over. I doubt that we would have to stay locked down in the shelter for more than 1 or 2 days maximum and yes my door opens in plus I have axe, sledge hammer, hand tools and pry bars if anything falls in front and I could always smash one of the walls out given enough energy and room to move the sledge hammer.

      • Judy, another one says:

        This is the most ecological sound advice I have seen on handling human waste with the least amount of smell. If you don’t want to go that far and bucket with cat litter works very well also.

    • Lisa,

      Here’s a post from a few months back dealing with waste management.

  4. MtWoman (N Central Texas) says:

    Wonderful project! Wish I could do something like this. Tornados scare the H*** outta me, especially now that I am in N Texas. My only “shelter” is the hangar, which is like that scene in “Twister” where they start to take shelter in that barn full of scythes, etc.

  5. I think it also doubles as an excellent root cellar.

  6. A job well done. Should work well for all the task you have planned it for. Tornadoes give little warning and very deadly for the unprepared. With the barrier in front it should serve well if you had to defend your family from armed raiders.

  7. Worrisome says:

    Great ideas! If never needed it would make a great wine cellar!

  8. Doc Wacholz……..
    I’m with a few others here, that voiced a concern with the “outward” opening door and the possibility of debris, from a tornado, blocking your exit? You also mentioned that there is a “lock” on the outside. What happens if someone just…locks you in?
    Great project though! Well done!!

  9. axelsteve says:

    Being a Komradfornian tornados scare the living (^+* out of me !! Give me an earthquake any day. That looks like a fine shelter with alot of thinking and engineering. Good job Doc.

  10. Sister Judi says:

    Great job,I am so happy for you.What a relief to have it done.Sears has a small camping toilet that would work for you,bio degradeable.In my bunker we have a toilet that runs way out to septic.I have had the root cellar for years and actually use it for many things including putting my garden potatoes in it for storage.We had red potatoes for a year it was awesome.Good luck and check our Sears.

    • Pineslayer says:

      Thank you Sister Judi! I have been wondering what would be my solution to waste in my bunker. It will be located within 20″ of my septic, duh.

  11. JeffintheWest says:

    It may be too late, but if you plan to plant ivy and stuff on top of the bunker, you should go to your local library or bookstore (or even on-line) and see if you can find a book to look at that discusses designing and building roofs for plants to grow on. Especially look at anything to do with “rammed earth” construction.

    It may be irrelevant considering the structure, but they have some pretty good discussions in them on how to line the roof to avoid run-off problems and that sort of thing. Again, it may be moot, but better safe than sorry, I always say. Besides, I think some of the roof covering designs they offer would improve root health and things like that. Nothing like a patch of dead vegetation to give away your “concealed” bunker!

    I’ve visited Taos, NM, and they have a small community of “earthship” houses out there (too often they look like something a village of slovenly hobbits would live in in Middle Earth), but they do have some excellent construction ideas for roofs and passive solar energy and so on, to include planting stuff on the roofs. Maybe a book on Earthships would also provide helpful info.

    Other than that — great job! Guess we know what you’ve been doing to prep these past weeks! 🙂

  12. Dude that thing is AWESOME I have been scratching my head for a while about building some sort of shelter that is both easy to construct and not needing a second mortage to complete, As far as Im concerned the contest is over you win Great job

  13. Bamafornow says:

    I live in Tuscaloosa, in Forest Lake. My neighborhood was one of the hardest hit and is no longer ‘forested.’ (do a google image search for forest lake tuscaloosa, my house is barely visible on the first picture, one block back from the lake). I was at the law school when it hit, luckily, and even more luckily, my house was relatively unscathed.

    But as I tried to get home I drove/walk/climbed over power lines/climbed through trees/helped lift a telephone pole off of a man trapped in a car/held my breath while broken gas lines and sewage lines pumped fumes in the air/helped an older woman sit in a chair while she bled (eventually dying) and I finally made it home. The walk was less than a mile and it took over 2 hours to get home. I found a 60 foot pecan tree on my house, a large wooden fence literally impaled, intact, into an exterior wall, of course no electricity, no running water, and because of all the trees, I couldn’t get my vehicle, an F250 6.0 Diesel which miraculously survived, out of my driveway. I was stuck with 2 options….stay or leave. My wife and I decided to leave. It was a terrible decision to have to make and I did not want to leave my house. But we had nothing but beer and champagne in the fridge and no food that didn’t require a microwave to eat. We packed as much as we could carry including our dogs and cats and our shotguns, some water bottles we happened to have and toiletries and walked out of the neighborhood. We were 2 of thousands leaving the town. The sight of 2-3 thousand people similarly situated, walking like refugees while cops and firemen looked on helplessly was terrifying. How quickly my neighborhood and neighbors changed.

    We lost 2 neighbors in the storm, killed because their homes were in the wrong place, at most certainly the wrong time. One, an older man, used to sit on his front porch all day in a rocking chair and wave to every car that passed. He kept a little garden next to his very small house. The only thing that survived from his lot was one, literally one, tomato plant. It actually bore fruit later. It would be months before we were able to live in the house again, and we had been lucky. Most people on our block lost everything.

    The next days were difficult, we stayed with friends as they lived outside the affected zone. They had electricity and water and the stores near their house were not only standing, but were open. Thank God for those friends. The day after the storm I helped with volunteer efforts. We found roving bands of…wait for it….chainsaw crews, just individuals, normal people, walking the streets clearing the way. Those of us without a saw would latch on to a couple of people with a saw and we could clear a full grown tree out of the street in about 45 minutes. After a few hours of this we actually came to our block. My wife went ahead, cleaned the broken windows out of our truck, and by days end we had helped 2 people move their belongings out of their totally destroyed homes. Over the course of the next week, we volunteered with different groups, took food from one place to another, cut and cleared more trees and cooked food. Through it all, the volunteers were many and were supported heroically by the organized groups like Red Cross, churches, etc. Those groups brought water, food and tools and toilet paper to all of the volunteers.

    By the end of the month, we had to move out of our friends small apartment and ended up living in a different town. Since we are law school students, we were able to find summer work at a law firm down in Montgomery. I’m happy to say that I’m writing this introduction from my couch, directly in a spot where, on April 27, 2011 a pecan tree branch was sitting. We moved back in.

    The two hours I spent walking home that day were the worst two hours of my life. I’ve never felt more fear, anxiousness and uncertainty. I still smell the gas, hear the people calling out from their homes and feel the strain in my back where I pulled a muscle helping lift that pole. When I drive home now, under much less shade than before since there are no trees in my once wooded neighborhood, I sometimes forget what happened and hold up my hand, waving to an empty lot with one tomato plant waving back.

    That is why I’m starting the prepping journey and why I’m really glad someone posted an idea for an inexpensive shelter. I fully intend on putting one in. Thanks.

    • MtWoman (N Central Texas) says:

      Wow…Bamafornow…thank you for your story. I am glad you were/are safe and back ‘home’.

      • Bamafornow says:

        Thank you. It is nice to be back in my house. But, I’m almost finished with law school and I’ll be moving back to my real home, the Ozarks of Missouri. That’s why I’m “Bamafornow”

    • Bamafornow,

      Thank you for sharing your story. That’s incredible. And welcome to the Wolf Pack.

    • Pineslayer says:

      Thanks Bama for sharing.

      Nothing helps more than hearing real life stories. What would be your top 10 mistakes or successes in your tragedy?

      • Bamafornow says:

        1. No preparation of any kind.
        2. Not getting my animals out of my house before the storm
        3. No basement/shelter
        4-10. Basically, everything stemmed from not being prepared.

        1. Friends, that weren’t affected, living nearby. Without them, I would have been in a group shelter for a long long time.

    • L.A. Mike says:

      Moving story. Nice to hear that the hearts of masses still pull together in such a time.

      • Bamafornow says:

        They did pull together. But later on, after reflection, I realized that the reason they were able to come together to help us is because they weren’t impacted. They had homes with electricity and A/C to go to. Maybe not that night, but they knew their home was still there. I don’t know what the masses would be doing if they too were affected; when their families’ lives were on the line….

    • Tigerlily says:

      Wow…you almost made me cry with the line “I sometimes forget what happened and hold up my hand, waving to an empty lot with one tomato plant waving back.” I seriously had to fight back tears on that one. I’m glad you made it through.

      • Bamafornow says:

        It wasn’t easy to write that story, but I think it was worth while. I think I’m a better person for having had the experiences. Today I’m watching the news and I see the devastation up in North AL and Southern TN and I’m going to try to get some people together and go up and help. I would never have thought to do that a year ago.

    • MaryB in GA says:

      Welcome to prepping! You’ll learn so much, it seems overwhelming at first but you had an experience that should have you very motivated. Glad you and your wife are safe and back home!

    • Encourager says:

      Bamafornow, thank God you survived that disaster! Tornadoes are the scariest thing I can imagine, unless it is an earthquake of over 6.0. We have tornadoes here in MI; one went by our house 30 years ago and I remember it like it was yesterday. We were fine; our fields were filled with pieces of house, insulation and debris from others not so lucky.

      We have a room down in the basement that is filled cement walls with a 6″ slab on top – the floor of our solar collector/greenhouse. That is where we will head if necessary.

      • Bamafornow says:

        That’s a good spot to be in, for sure. I’m still living in the house I was renting last year. As I write this, ironically, there are tornadoes passing through Alabama. The wind is picking up outside and the sky is darkening. It feels like last year outside. But, this year I have 2 bags full of provisions, water, etc. I have my flashlights out and charged and ready and my hand crank radio close by. The bathtubs are full of water for the toilets (and for the pets) and I’ve got about 10 days worth of canned goods in addition to my MRE’s and protein bars. Heck, I even ordered an extra pizza last night so I’d have one in the fridge. My guns are cleaned and loaded, my steel toed boots are laced up, our vehicles are separated my wife has the diesel 4X4 and is at the courthouse for some mandatory lawyer stuff, but we have a simple, yet detailed meet up plan in case (always separate your vehicles during a tornado….leave one at work, school, or whatever, so that 1 twister won’t render you immobile.)….in short, although I’ve not prepped much at all for TEOTWAWKI, I’ve at least got myself ready for a tornado….lack of preparation won’t be my mistake again this year….

  14. Dean in Michigan says:

    Nice job Doc……..

    Coming from a construction background, I’d say you did really well putting this together. I have thought much about bunker designs, it’s just not super practical in my suburb backyard. To many people would see what I’m doing. If I ever get my property up north, I will definitely be putting in a bunker of some sort, depending on topography.

    This may be great timing on your project to be finished. Forecasters have already predicted another spring filled with severe weather.

    Good Luck..

  15. j.r. guerra in s. tx. says:

    If you live in regions where hills are very common, an underground (or partial) home makes quite a bit of sense. Great insulation for summer / winter, much easier to conceal the location, and virtually little exterior upkeep (let them goats eat the lawn on the roof! 8^)), a lot to recommend them. One of the classic BO ideas was building an underground garage, then placing a camping trailer into it.

    Malcolm Wells later in life specialized in underground architecture, a study of his books may provide some ideas you might like to implement. An obstacle to building them in developed areas are HOAs, but if you are in the country, might not be a problem.

    Thank you for the ideas and progress pictures.

    • I have some good friends who have lived in an underground home for more than 30 years. I’ve posted this link before, but since there seems to be a lot of new folks here, I’m posting it again. The house has been very low maintenance except for the occasional dampness issues, but is actually one of my favorite houses. Lots of natural light and good air flow, but no worries about the weather.

  16. Thanks for all the great comments…as for the door…you could be right about debris…but the sides of the door have wings that go out about two feet away from the bottom of the door. This will atleast allow me to open it…and of course I could use an axe to remove anything else. As for the outer lock…well, keeping neighborhood kids out is kinda important. Sure I could get locked in…my trusty .223 with green tips will make easy work of the 1/8″ steel. Bathroom? A Coleman toilet is something that will happen. The inlet air pipe will have a down ward flow…where waste water could be drained…plus if water ever got in…it will flow out as well!! Thanks for all the great ideas…and compliments!! Doc Wacholz

  17. recoveringidiot says:

    I like your shelter, wish I had a hill!

    We get tornado’s here, they are much scarier than a hurricane IMO. Sometimes the hurricane will spin off tornado’s as well. It’s flat here with a high water table so underground shelters are not very practical, you could even be forced out by water or drown. If money were no object I’d build a shelter then build a hill around/over it. Can’t afford that now or maybe ever so I pray a lot when the bad WX shows up.

    • I agree as well at least a Hurricane give’s you 3 or 4 day’s warning giving your behind time to blow that taco stand, Tornadoe’s give no warning at most 2 or 3 minute’s God my heart break’s for all those people that died and the one’s that had everything taken away .
      Let us keep them in our prayer’s to an Almighty God that is able to heal even the deepest wound’s.

  18. SurvivorDan says:

    Nice job Doc. I don’t believe the outside lock poses a problem as it could bolt through and thus be designed to release from the inside if some villains placed a lock on the outside.
    Besides, this is a storm shelter and not a defensible bunker with alternative ingress and egress. If someone wishes you harm when you are inside they only need smoke you out. You may have something up your sleeve for defense of your bunker and that’s not our business and as should stay that way.
    This is a storm shelter and the retaining walls should help with most door blocking debris problems. In lieu of a backdoor I suggest some sort of bracing inside and at least a 20 ton hydraulic jack. That said, in order to address other’s concerns, I like it! Quite an innovative project done on a budget. I am envious of your ingenuity.
    Now if I only had a hill…..

  19. Really nice, well thought out shelter. However wouldn’t it have been a lot easier to get a place far from the nearest trailer park where tornados would not be an issue?

  20. Doc,
    The design looks well thought out and using pre engineered precast concrete is no doubt the best solution all around. I suspect it will stand up to nearly anything Mother Nature can throw at you, and it looks big enough to make a darn good root cellar. I don’t know if you’re planning on it as a hunker down shelter in the case of a SHTF scenario you kind of imply this), but if you do and you don’t have it extremely well camouflaged, the single access point could be an issue. You might also want to structure the air outflow pipe with a trap style inlet; otherwise, a can of flammable liquid (gasoline, kerosene, etc.) could easily be dumped down the pipe and ruin your day.

  21. Reminds me of the structures that Sepp Holzer describes in his book “Permaculture”. He uses them for livestock homes that are kept at a constant temp and for “root cellar” storage, etc. Thanks for sharing!

  22. Hey Ken…it does seem that tornados zero in on trailer parks alot. If that is the norm…I feel even safer…as I live on 15 acres in the mountains…where I can grow or shoot my own food. No trailer parks visible from my ridges…just gloroius mountain views drom dawn to dusk. Thanks for making me feel safer! Mtn. Man Doc 🙂

  23. LazarusLong says:

    Well, this one has got my interest. Thank you, OhioPrepper. You drew me out and got my first post. The house you linked to, I think, is about twenty-five minutes from my house. Through that link I sent a request to visit them and hope to hear positive response. Yes, I am in northern Ohio. If YOU know where that house is, you could figure out mph, and get my general location. We might even be neighbors… I think i would like that. I am new to this specific title, of prepper, but have been learning a diverse skills my entire life. I can bring a bit to the table. Looking forward to learning from you, and the rest of the pack, even if just on this board.
    Doc, stunning simplicity in the design. Outstanding work and what inspiration to so many others. Great job.

    • Encourager says:

      Welcome, LazarusLong. This is a great group, if I do say so myself, and you will learn a lot here.

    • LazarusLong,
      I’m also a Heinlein fan, so welcome aboard.
      I’ve known the Planks for more than 30 years and have spent many days out at that house. I just talked with them and at this point they haven’t received a forwarded email from the site, so if you don’t hear back in a few days, you can contact me through the link on one of my posts, and I’ll forward it on to them. Perhaps when you arrange to visit, my DW and I can come up and meet, and maybe go somewhere for a meal.

  24. Pineslayer says:

    As a twister refuge you are in the top 1%. I envision an extension of the entrance with a turn, more dirt, add ventilation, foxholes, and plant edibles. The possibilities!

  25. MaryB in GA says:

    Great shelter and article, Doc!

  26. Encourager says:

    I am speechless! What a great plan! We have been tossing ideas around at our place; my son and hubby were talking about burying a RR storage trailer into the hill. But using the septic tank may be a better idea. I will show them your post. Thanks for posting this! You should be proud of yourself!

    • We will definitely be emailing you once my husband has a chance to look this over (he’s snoozing right now). Thank you for the offer!

  27. riverrider says:

    lot of folks needing this tonight. prayers go out to them.

  28. Ok, this article could not have come at a better time! We are literally about to get going on a storm shelter / root cellar THIS month! We have been pouring over research and have considered sand bags, shipping containers, refurbished & repainted trash dumpsters……

    This is a great idea. I’ll get my hubby on the phone with some septic tank contractors on Monday. Only $750 for the tank? Is that special pricing or what you think we can expect for one of that size?

    Prayers to all in the path of the storms today & tonight (including us here in Georgia!).

  29. One of the most insparational prepping articles I’ve read in a while, Doc. I’ve always wanted a shelter like this but your article made it seem simpler and more affordable than I had imagined. Thanks for sharing.

  30. As Bamafornow can probably attest to, the majority of houses built are not capable of standing up to the smallest of tornadoes.


    I have some questions for you.
    1. Did you compact the soil before laying down cement?
    2. Is there clay underneath your storm shelter?
    3. Have you compacted the soil underneath those blocks that make up your outer wall?
    5. Are those blocks anchored?
    6. Is there a external substructure drainage to help move water away from your structure thus preventing erosion?

    I’ve got a few more questions I’d love to ask, but this appears to be more of a short-term storm shelter than a bunker to hide in when SHTF or worse happens. As mentioned by others, I am concerned about the locking mechanism and outward swinging door. You will experience some settling with this structure over time that will cause the structure to list to one side or another. You will want to keep some bug off handy for your place. My experiences with above ground bomb shelters that bugs tend to congregate there to avoid the heat.

  31. Well…about 8:30 last night the SHTF…I noticed an unusual amount of lightning wind and hail…so I grabbed my daughter and high tailed it to the basement. 15 minutes later I peaked out and all was better but NOT normal. With no electric…I did not know what was actually happening. (Yes, I know I should have a weather radio…) I will now…it wasn’t until 6 hours later I found out a EF2 maybe EF3 hit my hometown. In fact, it came within a 1/2 mile of my homes. If I had stayed on task, my shelter would be complete and I would have been ALOT safer then in the basement of my home. In any case, we are all safe…no loss of life in MY county….you can be rest assured I’m gonna kick it in the arse to complete the shelter and get a radio! Cain…email me…[email protected] God Bless….(he did)

    • Bamafornow says:

      Thank God there was no loss of life in your county. I watched TV and listened to the radio all day and night yesterday. We here in Tuscaloosa were spared for now, but I’ve seen the disaster up in the north and it looks all too familiar. Doc, I’m so glad that you and yours made it out alright. Tornadoes are so sudden and unpredictable, they cause so much damage and leave so much heartbreak. Like you, I’ve lived through EF4/5 tornadoes, and like you, I think that having been through a big tornado only serves to reinforce the desire and need to prepare.

      Please, let me know if you could use help from us down here in Alabama. What riches we lack in money we make up for in spirit.

      God Bless,

      Eric L. Miller

  32. Eric…thanks for the suggestions of aid and words of concern! It is appreciated! I guess now…my wife won’t think the “Survival Shelter” is a waste of time or money! When a tornado hits so close, you realize how fragile life can be…and a place to wait it out is not so silly! With the weather getting more unpredictable by the year….and other earth changes…something like this will be a life saver one day!

  33. I personally prefer the later design described in the book “50 Dollar and Up Underground House Book” while it HAS been a while since I’ve read the book…I remember he talked about 2 main designs, one is the $50 version, the other is the $500 dollar version…now just so you know those prices are back in 1971, so now it’d be closer to $250 or $2,500 for the bigger house.

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