Tips for renovating an existing closet into a safe room/shelter

Tips for renovating an existing closet into a safe room/shelter

This is a discussion on Tips for renovating an existing closet into a safe room/shelter within the Reference & "How To" Forum forums, part of the Related Topics category; Reading another thread about building a safe room got me to thinking about a tiny room we have at the bottom of our basement stairs. ...

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Thread: Tips for renovating an existing closet into a safe room/shelter

  1. #1
    Senior Member Array DJC7's Avatar
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    Tips for renovating an existing closet into a safe room/shelter

    Reading another thread about building a safe room got me to thinking about a tiny room we have at the bottom of our basement stairs. It's really more of a small walk-in closet. It's approximately 5'x4' (I think. The basement isn't finished currently so we don't spend much time down there). The walls are all concrete blocks except for the door in one of the long walls. The other long wall is an exterior wall. Initially I thought it might be a good alternative to simply replace the existing wood door with a steel door and call that the safe. But then I was thinking some fire resistance would be nice. Do concrete blocks and a steel door offer any significant fire/heat resistance? If not, what are some ways to achieve a fire rating for the room? If I can make the entire room fire resistant than I may just get a relatively cheap 10 gun safe to put inside so the room could also be used as a storm shelter and possibly even a panic room if the need arises. Any advice would be appreciated!
    ”One loves to possess arms, though they hope never to have occasion for them.”
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    Fire-rated drywall in multiple layers would help a lot. Don't forget about the ceiling as well.

    The best locked door you can use would be one that a burglar can't find, IOW hidden somehow, like behind a bookcase or curio cabinet.
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    VIP Member Array Snub44's Avatar
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    ...humidity would be a concern...

    ...I'm for hiding the guns in a much more readily accessible area...or several throughout the house...
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    Member Array OneSilverT's Avatar
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    What PPK and Snub said times two.

    Make sure that you have a supply and return if possible. Otherwise would need a fan and or a dehumidifier. Read the line links on the other post. I believe one was called rhino vault. They had some interesting products that some could be duplicated at home. Layers of 5/8" firerock is a good start though....
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    Not to be a wet blanket but if your thinking any fire protection at all for living beings in there, your going to need SCBA or other form of fresh air available. Smoke will kill the occupants long before the fire or heat does.

    As far as safe if the BGs are determined to get in there all they need to do is smoke the occupants out if theres no supply of fresh air that cant be readily cut off.
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    Senior Member Array DJC7's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ppkheat View Post
    Fire-rated drywall in multiple layers would help a lot. Don't forget about the ceiling as well.

    The best locked door you can use would be one that a burglar can't find, IOW hidden somehow, like behind a bookcase or curio cabinet.
    I did not even think about the ceiling. Good call! Unfortunately, if we were to renovate this room, we wouldn't really be able to do anything 3-dimensional to hide the door due to its proximity to the bottom of the stairs. Maybe something 2-dimensional?

    Quote Originally Posted by Snub44 View Post
    ...humidity would be a concern...

    ...I'm for hiding the guns in a much more readily accessible area...or several throughout the house...
    We do get a bit of water in the basement and it remains fairly humid, but we have looked into waterproofing and purchasing a couple more dehumidifiers to supplement the one we already have. The hope is to have the basement completely finished within the next two or three years. The renovation of this little room will be a part of that so I wouldn't look at storing any guns down there until the whole thing is finished. And it would be just that, storage for non-defensive guns (is there such a thing? lol). My wife and I would each have our pistols on us and a shotgun somewhat available upstairs. Got a toddler in the house.

    Quote Originally Posted by OneSilverT View Post
    What PPK and Snub said times two.

    Make sure that you have a supply and return if possible. Otherwise would need a fan and or a dehumidifier. Read the line links on the other post. I believe one was called rhino vault. They had some interesting products that some could be duplicated at home. Layers of 5/8" firerock is a good start though....
    Will look into this. Thanks!

    Quote Originally Posted by Ghost1958 View Post
    Not to be a wet blanket but if your thinking any fire protection at all for living beings in there, your going to need SCBA or other form of fresh air available. Smoke will kill the occupants long before the fire or heat does.

    As far as safe if the BGs are determined to get in there all they need to do is smoke the occupants out if theres no supply of fresh air that cant be readily cut off.
    I had just been thinking about fire protection for the firearms themselves should the house catch fire and we have to evacuate. Hadn't really considered it in the case we actually did have to use it as a safe room. Something else to consider!
    ”One loves to possess arms, though they hope never to have occasion for them.”
    ~Thomas Jefferson


    "Carry your gun - it's a lighter burden than regret."
    ~Breda

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    Member Array Kensterfly's Avatar
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    I know this is an old thread, but the thought struck me immediately that... in case of fire, if you have time to run down the stairs to the basement then you certainly have time to get OUT OF THE HOUSE through a door or window.

    I'm surprised no one addressed this.
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    Member Array Romans5.8's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Snub44 View Post
    ...humidity would be a concern...

    ...I'm for hiding the guns in a much more readily accessible area...or several throughout the house...
    I hide some guns that way but not all. Small home (2 bedroom apartment). Second floor, only one way in and out and that's the front door. Carry weapon goes in the drawer by the bed, we have a walk-in close in our bedroom that has the safe. Pump action 12 gauge is located outside that safe for easy access (but is locked in the safe when we're away, don't want to be arming a potential burglar who breaks in while I'm not home). The 12 gauge is the preferred bump-in-the-night inspector. But the semi-auto handgun is right there ready to go should that bump be so close I can't make it from the bed to the closet!

    The house I grew up in was pretty sweet. We designed it to have a 'false wall' in the basement. House was rectangular 'ranch style' and was 27' wide (74' long IIRC). The false wall in the basement was, I think, 6 foot from the 'real wall'. It was all underground (house built into a hillside. Back door was out onto a second-story deck, front door walked out onto the yard!). The door inside this 'false wall' was steel, and was hidden behind the big screen TV in the basement 'den'. TV was on wheels. Wheel it away, open the steel door, and there you are. Fireproof drywall on the inside, that's where the gunsafe and other valuables were, had a dehumidifier and was attached to the home HVAC system. Also contained a main power switch to the house AND battery powered LED lighting (so, bad guy breaks in, we get into the saferoom, shut down power to the entire rest of the house which means no lights for the badguy and no A/C, heat, dishawasher, etc. noise to drown him out) was also a storm shelter in severe weather (no windows, thick concrete, steel door, etc.). If I had designed it, I would've probably found a way to hide an exterior door as well.

    Not sure if any of that helps what you are doing? But that's what we had. I'll second the suggestion for a dehumidifier. A competent electrician could probably wire a 'whole house kill switch'. In our case, power came underground and through that false wall and then into the floor (or ceiling of the basement, however you prefer) to an upstairs breaker box. But you could throw a big lever and cut the power to the house before it even got to that breaker. But I'm not an electrician so I don't know how that would work otherwise. But I always thought that was a neat feature. If nothing else, it's sure to freak out a bad guy when the lights go out.
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    Member Array Romans5.8's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kensterfly View Post
    I know this is an old thread, but the thought struck me immediately that... in case of fire, if you have time to run down the stairs to the basement then you certainly have time to get OUT OF THE HOUSE through a door or window.

    I'm surprised no one addressed this.
    There are other uses for a saferoom that's fireproof, including preserving valuables. That was the primary concern for ours. Even if the house burned to a crisp, we could dig out that steel door and recover firearms and valuables (including insurance paperwork, birth certificates, etc.) which were all double-protected by being inside a fireproof safe. We could easily exit the home in a fire but protecting valuables a saferoom does well.

    Beyond that- it was a storm shelter, and an intruder shelter. Likely the bad guy would be between us and the saferoom. But, you know, if you have it why not use it. The fact is, if we all happened to be in the basement when someone broke in, no need to be macho man. Hide in the saferoom, shotgun in the hand, and call the cops. No sense risking your life for valuables when you can secure yourself in a manner like that.

    I don't think I'd ever consider taking shelter from a fire inside. Certainly, the way ours were setup, there were plenty of other ways in and out of the house.
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    VIP Member Array OutWestSystems's Avatar
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    I would go with concrete board instead of fire-rated drywall.
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    Many good ideas here. Twenty or more years ago in the old Survival Guide Magazine I remember a company that sold an overhead door custom fit for smaller openings like closets and such. It was marketed to be used as an in home safe.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ppkheat View Post
    Fire-rated drywall in multiple layers would help a lot. Don't forget about the ceiling as well.

    The best locked door you can use would be one that a burglar can't find, IOW hidden somehow, like behind a bookcase or curio cabinet.
    I have a neighbor who built a sliding bookcase to conceal a room in the basement where he keeps his primary gun safe, extra food and some other items - there is a smaller safe upstairs. He showed it to me recently (I just have that trust me presence). It is well done. I kind of thought he did something with that part of the basement because the floor plan did not match the foundation as viewed from the exterior. I only noticed because I recently built a very similar home. I doubt that more than 1 out a hundred people would have any clue. He said that it was more difficult than it appeared because he had to have it look flush on the wall, yet able to move easily.
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    Senior Member Array DJC7's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kensterfly View Post
    I know this is an old thread, but the thought struck me immediately that... in case of fire, if you have time to run down the stairs to the basement then you certainly have time to get OUT OF THE HOUSE through a door or window.

    I'm surprised no one addressed this.
    This was addressed already. I wasn't planning on using it as a safe room in case of fire. Was just hoping for some heat/fire resistance for the valuables that would be stored in the room.
    ”One loves to possess arms, though they hope never to have occasion for them.”
    ~Thomas Jefferson


    "Carry your gun - it's a lighter burden than regret."
    ~Breda

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    When away I keep a junk gun on my nightstand and $200 under it. For most crack heads once they see that they will be off like a shot.

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    Member Array Romans5.8's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1 old 0311 View Post
    When away I keep a junk gun on my nightstand and $200 under it. For most crack heads once they see that they will be off like a shot.
    you our told your insurance company it was a custom 1911 and $2500 right? Ha.

    I'm very concerned about keeping my guns secure. Not because I'm worried about losing them. None of mine are irreplaceable. But because I'm concerned about arming a criminal.
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