Building a Fortified Panic Room in Your Home

panic room

When I first started reading about panic rooms, I have to admit, my first thought was about that terrible movie with Jodie Foster, Kristen Stewart and Forest Whitaker from a few years back and how ridiculous it would be to spend tens of thousands of dollars for some high-tech secured room that most of us could never afford or have a practical use for.


I mean, I don’t have 3 million dollars, a daughter that starred in the Twilight movies and last I checked, Forrest Whitaker doesn’t even know where I live, so why the heck should I care about a panic room?


Panic rooms seemed very much to me like an expensive “vanity prepper” luxury item like one of those underground “survival bunkers” with the 6 figure price tag. Cool in theory, but unless you’ve got a ton of disposable cash and a desire to be featured on “Doomsday Bunkers” (god I hope not) it’s pretty impractical for real life.


However, recently I started thinking more about the actual concept of a panic room and how they could relate to realistic and practical preparedness. After a lot of research I’m now very much on board with them… so much in fact that I think you should build one in your home too. In today’s post I’m going to explain how and why.


Panic Room, Fallout Shelter, Pantry or Something In-Between?


The main reason I changed my tune when it comes to panic rooms is because I started thinking outside the box and started thinking about what else a panic room could provide from a preparedness standpoint. What I’ve discovered is that a panic room can serve a lot more purposes than just being somewhere to run away when the bad guys break in looking for hidden treasure.


  • It can be a great place to securely store prep items
  • It can be a relatively low-cost alternative to an underground storm shelter
  • It can be used as a fallback position in a home invasion scenario
  • With the right construction, it can serve as an excellent temporary fallout shelter in the case of a nuclear disaster
  • With the proper lock installed, it can make an excellent permanent and secure safe for firearms and other valuables
  • Safe/Panic/Storm rooms typically increase the sale price of a home by 3.5 percent


After doing this initial research I was sold on panic rooms being a lot more useful than I originally thought. That being said, they’re still ridiculously expensive right? Who has that kind of money?


Well, actually, with the right design and location, I discovered that a panic room doesn’t actually cost that much money at all. When you consider the value it can add to your home, most of the time you’ll actually MAKE MONEY in the long run from installing one. When you couple that with the peace of mind that a panic room could give you when preparing for a disaster scenario, this is a no-brainer. Every prepper should have one.


How to Design a Practical Panic Room for Your Home


The first step in designing a panic room is identifying how many people you need it to hold and for how long, obviously the bigger you want it, the more it’s going to cost to build. If you’re trying to keep this build as inexpensive as possible, plan on your room only housing your immediate, live-in family.


Although it’s possible to build a panic room above ground or even on a second or third floor, your costs for this type of build will be huge. The walls on a panic room are typically made out of reinforced concrete. Your floors will not hold the weight of the room and you’ll have to spend a lot of money reinforcing the floors in order to support it.


Your best option is using a basement with existing concrete walls. In this kind of setup, you can use 2 of your existing basement walls to construct the room, which cuts the cost of your build in half.


You could design your room to include a toilet and a sink for waste disposal and water access. However, this also raises the cost of construction significantly unless those connections are already hooked up in area you are going to build your room in. Since this room is really only designed to be used for a short time, I personally don’t think it’s worth the added cost. A composting toilet and bottled water could easily be stored in the room and would be a much cheaper alternative.


Free Panic / Safe room design plans


Below I have gathered a few helpful links to free design plans and additional information for building your own panic or safe room.


Design Guidance for Shelters and Safe Rooms – FEMA

In-Residence and Small Business Safe Room Designs – FEMA / DHS

Taking Shelter from the Storm: Building a Safe Room Inside Your House – FEMA


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1 comment

  1. Papa "J"

    I didn’t build a safe room, but I did build a gun safe that if larger, can be a safe room. I had a 5′ closet that I remove the drywall, ripped the 2x 4’s in half, leaving just the corner studs. Installed a layer of 1/2″ hardy backer, then 2 layers of 6″ concrete wire mesh staggered to make it 3″. Secured a piece of 3/4″ fire resistant plywood and supported the inside of the closet with removable framing to prevent the walls from bowing. Caulked all cracks with a strong poly adhesive caulk. (Make sure it is fully cured and strong) I installed some long screws through the plywood that will bind the plywood to the now poured grout. I used a grout pump, but can be poured by hand. Finish inside as you like after. My door is a 1-3/4″ Hollow metal door and frame. I added 2 more non removable pin hinges, so a total of 5. Then I ran screws through the door and then poured the door with grout also. Grind the screws off and patch & paint the door. I also did similar things to the ceiling and floor. It’s an awesome safe.

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