How Much Does a Storm Shelter Cost to Build?
The safety and security of your family, pets, and valuables is of utmost importance during a dangerous storm. The average range of storm shelter costs is $2,565 to $10,150, and we’ve broken down exactly what makes up those costs.
- Typical Range:$2,565 to $10,150
- National Average:$6,306
If the thought of building a storm shelter has crossed your mind recently, then it’s probably time to jump on it. Since destructive storms can pop up at any time, it’s wise to be prepared rather than caught without safe shelter. Storm shelters come in a variety of shapes and sizes—even some prefabs—which means you’ll see a range in prices, too. A true storm shelter must meet federal safety requirements for withstanding winds and debris from extreme weather. On average, a storm shelter cost is $2,565 to $10,150, but most homeowners spend around $6,306.
Storm shelter costs are determined by the type of shelter, installation, materials, site preparation, and any special features you want to have. Storm shelters can be as simple as a basic safe shelter to hold a few people, or they could be decked out with shelving, plumbing, and a power supply. The benefits outweigh the cost since this is a matter of life and death in many areas, so as you plan this important project, use the information below to understand what to expect for storm shelter cost.
Factors in Calculating Storm Shelter Cost
The cost of a storm shelter largely depends on the type of shelter you build. Some require a lot of construction, while others are fairly simple add-ons. You can opt for an above-ground or in-ground storm shelter, or a prefab or custom storm shelter. The type of material you use will also affect the cost, and that can vary based on your location and the current demand.
Prefab vs. Custom
Prefab storm shelters can be a budget-friendly way to install a shelter and still meet standard safety requirements. In-ground storm shelter cost for a small prefab model could range from $3,000 to $8,000 plus delivery and installation. Granted, a 5-foot by 5-foot by 8-foot shelter might not be large enough for your needs, so the cost could be higher.
Custom storm shelters can be built to suit in any area you prefer. As with any custom construction project, it will cost more money, but it will also meet more of your needs. Expect to pay up to $10,150 unless you’re building an extra-large storm shelter. In that case, you could spend up to $30,000 to shelter 12 to 15 people.
Above-Ground vs. Underground
Above-ground storm shelters tend to cost a little less than underground shelters. Many of these above-ground shelters are placed in a garage or basement. Garage storm shelter cost ranges between $3,000 and $9,000, while the average cost for all types of above-ground storm shelters could be up to $15,000.
An underground storm shelter cost is usually between $4,000 and $30,000. These cost more since they are more difficult to install due to the complexities of building underground. While underground shelters are more secure and take up less space, they are naturally prone to flooding, so it’s worth talking to a local installer to determine what’s best for your area.
Some prefab units come as small as 5 feet by 5 feet by 8 feet—small, but big enough to get the job done in a pinch for a few adults. However, it’s best to plan for about 6 square feet per person in areas with tornadoes and 10 square feet per person for hurricane-prone regions. If you have a large family or you want to share the shelter (and the cost to build it) with a next-door neighbor, you might need an eight-person storm shelter. This size could cost between $4,000 and $10,000, according to HomeAdvisor.
Delivery and Installation
Many prefab storm shelters will include the cost of delivery and installation in their quoted price. If they don’t, these extra costs can add another $1,000 and $3,000 on top of the cost of the storm shelter. Be sure to ask when getting your storm shelter quote.
There are several brands available for prefab storm shelters. They all meet federal safety regulations, and many companies have a variety of options available or they specialize in one type of shelter. It’s important to research them carefully to make sure they service your area and offer important features such as long-term warranties, specific safety ratings, and different sizes and customizations. Some of the top brands include Oklahoma Shelters, Safe Porch, Survive a Storm, Atlas Survival Shelter, Ground Zero, Valley Storm, and FamilySAFE.
A storm-safe shelter is built with durable materials, often with reinforcement to withstand the battering of debris and wind in severe storms. Many shelters are made of lightweight, durable steel and cost $4,000 to $30,000. Fiberglass is also popular, but it can only be used underground and comes at a cost of $3,000 to $10,000. Polyethylene is more environmentally friendly and costs $3,000 to $7,000. Concrete shelters are heavy and durable with a price of $3,000 to $7,000, and they can be precast or poured. Kevlar storm shelters are the most expensive and durable at $5,000 to $10,000 per room. This is a unique material that can even be added to an existing room, or it can be added to a prefab steel shelter for extra reinforcement.
Additional Costs and Considerations
It’s best to consult with a pro to understand what type of shelter is best for your home and the area you live in. The cost to build a storm shelter usually requires a few other budgetary considerations. Most locations will need some site preparations before installation, and there are often permits to obtain and local building codes to meet. These and other factors are explained here.
Prefab units are designed to be easier to install with little extra preparation compared to a custom in-ground storm shelter. Still, you’ll need to consider what area is best for the shelter and make sure there is no landscaping, garage equipment, or other objects in the way. The ground might also need leveling first, and all prefab units must be anchored to a concrete pad or foundation.
In-ground storm shelters likely require the most site preparation since excavation will be required. This also means checking for underground utilities first. If you plan to have any electricity, plumbing, or other utilities added, those will need to be installed as well. You’ll need to ask whether the cost of site preparation is included in the total price.
In many areas, you’ll have to obtain a permit in order to build a storm shelter. This might depend on the type of shelter you’re building. Permit costs could be as low as $50 to $100, but these could increase if you’re adding utilities and other custom features.
Local Building Codes
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has standards that storm shelters must meet to be considered safe. Reputable businesses will have shelters that meet or exceed those requirements. But beyond these, your local or state governments might have additional requirements that apply to specific geographic, geological, or other situations for your area. You can speak with a local building inspector or municipality to learn about local building codes.
A key point to remember when planning a storm shelter is how accessible it is. Ideally, a storm shelter should be inside your property or very close by. Some tornadoes happen so quickly that there just isn’t time to get to a shelter that’s even 50 feet away. Beyond proximity, it’s important to consider how easily it can be accessed by a person with a wheelchair or someone who has limited mobility. A garage storm shelter or add-on is often the best choice in these cases as it’s usually on the same level as the house.
Additional Systems and Features
Some storm shelters are built just to keep people safe during a short storm, while others are intended to remain a safe space for many hours to days. In the latter case, it may be necessary to install mechanical and HVAC systems to make sure the area is as livable as a house, in addition to being spacious enough. You could even include internet service, plumbing, extra ventilation, shelving, beds, and a secondary emergency exit. All of these will require custom construction and will come with a higher price.
Types of Storm Shelters
The question of how much does a storm shelter cost is largely determined by the type of storm shelter you choose. Review the following information to understand each type as you decide which is best for your needs.
In-ground shelters are the most secure and durable type of storm shelter since they cannot be blown over by the wind or smashed by falling debris. They can be made from a variety of materials, and they are available as prefab or custom shelters. The drawback is that some areas are not ideal for an underground storm shelter since they could be prone to flooding. Still, it’s worth talking with a local installer and checking your topography and having your soil tested to see if an in-ground shelter could work.
Above-ground shelters are less costly than in-ground storm shelters, and they are fairly versatile in terms of where they can be placed. These are often prefab units that can be installed in a basement or garage, added onto the house, or installed in a bedroom. They’re also great for people with accessibility considerations. The main construction requirement is that they have space for a concrete pad under them.
For homes that have basements, building a basement storm shelter is a convenient and cost-effective way to go. Basement shelters need to be anchored to the concrete foundation, and homeowners should avoid placing them under anything excessively heavy on the main floor, such as a piano, refrigerator, bookcase, or safe.
Garages are also convenient spaces to build a storm shelter. They already have a concrete pad that can anchor the shelter in place. However, this means you’ll need to choose a smaller shelter than usual, so this might not work well for large families.
Secure rooms or safe rooms are sometimes known as storm shelters, but they can also serve as what’s also known as a panic room. Sometimes safe rooms are designed to protect against weather and intruders, so they are often customized with locks, surveillance equipment, and a landline to call for emergency services. But as long as they are built to withstand hurricane- and tornado-force winds, then they can also serve as a storm shelter. These rooms are usually inside the home and easily accessible.
Sometimes a budget isn’t the only constraint on a construction project. If there simply isn’t space to add a storm shelter and it’s not possible to build one underground, then consider installing a bed shelter. These are unique installations that meet FEMA requirements up to an E5 tornado. They are installed right under a bed, which can make them feel claustrophobic for some, although there are different sizes and shapes here, too. But they’re convenient to get to, especially in a smaller home or apartment.
Do I Need a Storm Shelter?
Some areas of the country are not prone to predictably wild weather. On the other hand, many states across the country regularly experience the full force of Mother Nature during certain seasons of the year. If you live within the area known as Tornado Alley (in states such as Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota) or along the southern or eastern coastline, having a storm shelter is a good idea.
Hurricanes and tornadoes are the two most severe weather patterns that we experience here in the U.S. Many areas that endure hurricanes tend to use hurricane storm shutters more often than storm shelters, but the Midwest relies more on storm shelters. Still, they have distinct advantages for both areas since they are designed to keep people safe and not just the windows or house.
Benefits of Installing a Storm Shelter
Storm shelters are built differently than a home, specifically to protect people against damaging and extreme weather. Their primary benefit is that they provide a truly safe space for you and your family, but they can also increase a home’s value and easily store emergency provisions.
Protection and Safety
Most homes are sturdy enough for regular thunderstorms, but they may be unable to withstand the forces of a direct hit from a tornado. That’s where a storm shelter’s benefit truly lies. They are small and sturdy enough to keep families safer than they would be within the walls of a wooden house. And in the unfortunate event that an intruder enters your home, it can also be a safe place to get out of harm’s way.
Increased Home Value
Almost any add-on that offers benefits of comfort or safety will increase your home value, and storm shelters are no different. It’s estimated that 50 percent of the cost will help to boost a home’s value, particularly in areas prone to extreme weather. Additionally, if the storm shelter is used for other purposes, such as storing wine or guns, the value increases thanks to the dual functionality.
Easy to Install
Above-ground storm shelters are fairly easy to install, especially if they are prefab and don’t need HVAC systems. That means you can have a safe space installed rather quickly and easily without disrupting your living space.
Storage for Emergency Provisions
Storm shelters, particularly ones that are underground or in a basement, can make great spaces for storing emergency provisions. In fact, FEMA recommends that you store enough water and food for a few days in your storm shelter. If possible, consider building a storm shelter large enough to hold your family and all emergency provisions needed for at least a week, including food, water, hygiene and bathroom necessities, blankets, extra clothes for all seasons, flashlights, batteries, and more.
Protection for Valuables
Many people who live in areas with violent weather will collect antiques and valuables to take with them to the shelter during a storm. Since it’s a safe place for humans, then old photographs, family heirlooms, jewelry, and other valuables will also be safe. In fact, the safe room is often used as a storage place for those items when they are not on display.
Storm Shelter Installation: DIY vs. Hiring a Professional
It is possible to build what seems like a sturdy shelter on your own, but the reality is that it’s unlikely that shelter will meet standard safety criteria and hold up in extreme weather. You can purchase a DIY prefab storm shelter for above ground, but the most reputable and safest options are only available through licensed brands who sell top safety-rated shelters and install them. This is one area where you want to trust the safety and security of the structure in an emergency, so it’s best to leave it to a pro installer.
Particularly if you need an in-ground storm shelter, you’ll need to leave the task to a licensed company who is familiar with safety standards and special building procedures that can literally mean the difference between life and death. And if you opt to build a storm shelter with an HVAC system, it’s likely that you’ll have to have the assistance of pros who are licensed to work on those mechanical systems.
How to Save Money on Storm Shelter Installation
As you ponder the question “How much does a storm shelter cost?” remember that there are ways to help save on a storm shelter cost. Here are several ways you can reduce costs as you plan this important project.
- Consider a prefab storm shelter since they are easy to install and don’t require a lot of site preparation.
- Build your storm shelter above ground in an existing space (like a basement or garage) if possible.
- Opt for installing bed shelters if space and money are truly limited.
- Avoid choosing the most expensive material, since all of them are rated for safety.
- Speak with multiple companies to determine what actually meets your specific needs and budget.
- Consider how to use the storm shelter for more than one purpose to increase the overall value for yourself and the home.
- Alternatively, keep the shelter to a minimum with just enough space for your family and a few emergency provisions.
- Ask about receiving financial assistance from FEMA through an application process that could provide up to 75 percent of the funding.
Questions to Ask About Storm Shelter Installation
It’s important to build the right storm shelter to make sure it fulfills the safety requirements and needs of your family. It’s essential that your storm shelter is built by a reputable and licensed company who is qualified to provide a shelter that meets or exceeds safety standards. As you decide which company to hire or purchase a shelter from, you can use any of the following questions to guide your decision-making process.
- Do you require a deposit or payment up front?
- Do your storm shelters meet local building codes for my area?
- Do your storm shelters meet FEMA safety standards?
- Are your prefab shelters made for in-ground or above ground?
- How big should I build a storm shelter for six people and provisions?
- Are there accessibility-friendly storm shelters?
- How can I make an in-ground storm shelter more accessible?
- How close to my house should I build my in-ground storm shelter?
- Do I have to have ventilation in my storm shelter?
- What happens if my house collapses on my basement storm shelter?
- Is a bed shelter a good option for my house?
- How much site preparation will you have to do?
- How long will it take to install the storm shelter?
- For this custom storm shelter, do you subcontract out any of the labor?
- How much is the delivery and installation of this prefab storm shelter?
- How can I make sure I have lights in my storm shelter if the electricity is down?
- How can I save money on this project?
- Once it’s installed, is there any maintenance or things to watch for to make sure it’s in good condition?
- What kind of warranties or guarantees do you offer?
Installing a storm shelter isn’t the cheapest project you can take on, and there are some complexities to work through as you decide which option is best for your family. As you consider this wise investment, the following frequently asked questions can help clear up any remaining confusion and alleviate concerns.
Q.Is a tornado shelter worth it?
If you live in an area that’s prone to tornadoes, then a storm shelter is definitely a wise investment. Homes are simply not built to withstand winds and debris being thrown by destructive storms, and many areas do not have basements, which are only a slightly safer place to hide in a home. A storm shelter provides people with a safe space to ride out a storm with access to emergency provisions and even light as long as preparations were made ahead of time.
Q.How do storm shelters keep me safe?
True storm shelters are made of materials and special equipment that has been tested in tornado-force winds to ensure they will not break or shatter. Wood or brick walls are simply not strong enough to do the job, particularly when a tree or car is hurtling toward them. However, a steel, concrete, or Kevlar structure is significantly more durable and will provide much more protection against wind and debris.
Q.Is a storm shelter safer than a basement?
Yes, it is. While a basement is better than any other floor of the house, a storm shelter provides better safety than just a basement. For instance, if you choose to hide in a corner of the basement underneath the kitchen fridge on the main floor, your hiding space is now a dangerous space if the floor collapses. In addition, many basements have large windows which can shatter in a severe storm and cause injury. A storm shelter that’s in the basement or any other location will be built to withstand winds, debris, and even collapsed materials on top of it.
Q.Where is the best place to put a storm shelter?
Ideally, a storm shelter should be close to your house—very close. Some tornadoes appear rather quickly and there isn’t time to get to a storm shelter a few hundred feet away. The best place for a storm shelter is either in your home or garage, added onto your house, or underground right next to the house so you don’t have to walk through flying debris. Make sure to consider accessibility needs as you consult with a pro about where to put a storm shelter.
Q.How do you make a homemade storm shelter?
A homemade storm shelter likely won’t provide adequate protection against tornadoes and hurricanes. There are always risks even with digging your own shelter as it could collapse if it’s not properly installed, and if the doors are not secure, they could be ripped off by violent winds. You could purchase a prefab storm shelter and install it if you have a strong background in construction, but the best route is to leave this to a professional company who can ensure the materials meet safety standards.
Q.What is the heaviest thing a tornado has picked up?
We know that tornadoes are capable of picking up and tossing cars and semis, but they’ve also been recorded picking up locomotive trains, too. The engine of a train weighs about 368,000 pounds, so that’s quite a bit of force! There are also plenty of videos showing airplanes at airports being pushed into jetways, so it’s likely they can pick up a 747 plane.
Q.Are brick houses safer in a tornado?
Brick houses are safer than wooden houses due to their construction, especially if they are in good condition and only one story high. However, it’s best not to presume a brick house will survive the force of a car being thrown at it, nor whether it can withstand an F4 or F5 tornado. A storm shelter is still the best option of all to ensure you and your family are safe.