When bad weather strikes, it’s important to feel as safe as can be, especially inside your own home. That’s why so many homeowners that live in active tornado- or hurricane-prone areas build storm shelters in or around their homes. These compact spaces are designed to keep people safe and secure throughout rough storms and other inclement weather, such as hurricanes or tornadoes.
The cost of building a storm shelter varies depending on the size, brand, materials, and location. Another big factor is whether you’re building an above ground safe room or an underground shelter. The national average cost to build a storm shelter ranges from $3,900 to $9,000. Most homeowners pay approximately $5,800 for an above ground safe room for four to six people with plumbing, bedding, and electricity. However, costs range from as low as $2,100 for an above ground, prefabricated bed, safe room to as high as $18,550 for an underground storm shelter with plumbing and electricity that fits up to 14 people.
|Cost to Build a Tornado Shelter|
|National average cost||$5,800|
A storm shelter is a windowless room used as a safe space to ride out bad storms and other natural phenomena. They are designed to withstand high winds, flying debris, and more. Storm shelters are naturally more protected than most rooms in your home due to the lack of windows. Plus, they are built independently from the home even when inside it, so they won’t be compromised if the rest of the house falls.
Storm shelters can be made from various materials, including concrete, steel, wood, fiberglass 1, and more. No matter what you make your shelter out of, always be sure to choose materials or prefabricated models tested and approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) or ICC Digital Codes. Both entities perform thorough missile impact tests to ensure each storm shelter can withstand high winds, fallen debris, and more.
A storm shelter’s purpose is to keep everyone inside safe and comfortable even if the house around you falls to pieces. For most homeowners, they offer a great sense of comfort. Two main types of shelters can be built in or around your home: above ground and underground.
Building a storm shelter generally costs between $2,100 and $18,550, including materials and labor. Most contractors charge between $50 to $100 per hour. It takes about four to six hours to build a storm shelter on-site. Therefore, you can expect to pay between $200 to $600 on installation costs alone. This can account for between 10% to 15% of the entire project. Installing a prefabricated shelter involves a more streamlined process and should only take about one to three hours. Therefore, labor and installation costs for pre-manufactured shelters will cost between $100 and $300 on average.
In some prefab shelters, plumbing and electricity will be included in the overall cost of the shelter itself. If you’re building a new one and want both amenities, you will have to hire both a plumber and electrician. On average, plumbing contractors charge between $45 and $200 per hour, and electricians charge $40 to $100 per hour.
One of the first questions you’ll ask yourself when building a storm shelter is how big it should be. It’s one thing to keep you and your family safe as you weather a storm, but it’s also important to ensure everyone is comfortable. When measuring your shelter’s dimensions, be sure to account for how much room people will take up when they are standing versus sitting and leave space for any supplies you may bring inside with you, too. Storm shelters range in price from $2,800 to $18,000, depending on size.
|Storm Shelter Size (sq. ft.)||Number of People||Average Cost (Labor Included)|
|12 sq. ft.||2||$2,800 - $4,450|
|18 sq. ft.||4||$3,500 - $5,000|
|24 sq. ft.||6||$4,500 - $6,000|
|30 sq. ft.||8||$5,000 - $7,150|
|40 sq. ft.||10||$5,550 - $7,750|
|48 sq. ft.||12||$8,000 - $11,150|
|60 sq. ft.||14||$10,000 - $18,000|
Depending on the size of your home and the amount of extra space you have on your property, you’ll have to decide which type of shelter you want to build. Building a tornado shelter ranges from around $2,800 to $18,000, depending on the type. Both above ground and underground storm shelters have their fair share of advantages and setbacks, so the choice ultimately comes down to your personal wants and needs for your household. Let’s take a closer look at both.
|Type of Shelter||Average Cost (Labor Included)|
|Above Ground||$2,800 - $10,500|
|Underground||$4,300 - $18,000|
The above ground storm shelter cost is usually less expensive than the underground storm shelter. Costs range from $2,800 to $15,500. Above ground storm shelter prices range depending on size, materials, and location. As the name suggests, these rooms are built above the surface level. Many homeowners choose to build them in their garage, but you can install one anywhere a slab of concrete can be put down. These safe rooms are more convenient for people with mobility issues, as one can simply walk into them rather than changing levels to go underground. They provide an easy hiding place in the event of a home invasion. On the downside, above ground shelters take up a lot of extra space in your home. If you live in a smaller building, it may not be the right choice for you.
On average, underground storm shelter prices range from $4,300 to $17,000. Underground shelters are the most common type of rooms. They tend to be larger than their above ground counterparts, which means they can generally hold more people. This impacts the overall underground tornado shelter cost. These shelters are usually built in yards or underneath garages and made of concrete, steel, or fiberglass. The biggest downside of placing one in the yard is you have to go outside and be exposed to the elements to get there. The cost of underground storm shelter installation is usually higher than an above ground safe room because of the extra work involved in creating a space for it.
Plenty of different materials are available that you can use to make your storm shelter, and each has its own unique benefits. The material that’s best for you depends mostly on your budget and where you are planning on putting your storm shelter. If you’re not sure where to begin, you should learn a bit more about your options. All these materials have been tested and approved by FEMA.
|Material||Average Cost (Labor Included)|
|Wood||$3,000 - $4,500|
|Cinder Block||$3,150 - $6,500|
|Concrete||$3,500 - $8,000|
|Fiberglass||$4,000 - $9,000|
|Steel||$4,450 - $10,000|
|Polyethylene||$5,650 - $12,000|
|Kevlar||$5,750 - $15,000|
Wood storm shelters are sturdy and cost-effective, making them a great choice for frugal homeowners. They can be built into an existing home with common materials and tools. On average, these shelters cost between $3,000 to $4,500. On top of lowering costs, wood blends in better with your surrounding home. According to the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL), wooden storm shelters can resist high wind pressure and other tornado or hurricane impacts. According to Texas Tech University (TTU), the best way to build these shelters is to incorporate masonry infill or steel panels between layers of plywood 2.
Cinder block shelters generally cost between $3,150 and $6,500. Cinder blocks are much lighter than concrete, making them easier to install on your property. They are very durable and can protect from high winds and falling debris. However, they are more susceptible to flooding and leaking. You can use cinder blocks for both above ground and underground shelters.
Concrete storm shelter prices range from $3,500 to $8,000 on average. Concrete is one of the most common building materials used for tornado shelters. It is extremely heavy, making it a secure choice for both in-ground and above ground storm shelters. On the downside, since concrete is so heavy, they are difficult, if not impossible, to move once installed. They are also rather big, so it may not be the best choice for homes with less square footage to spare.
Fiberglass storm shelter prices range from $4,000 to $9,000. Fiberglass is generally used only for underground storm shelters, so they don’t have to take as much of the brunt from wind damage and flying debris. Despite looking less durable than concrete or steel, these storm shelters can withstand hurricane and tornado force winds. Fiberglass models are usually created from a mold to reduce the risk of leaking during heavy storms or other direct interactions with water.
You can expect to pay between $4,450 and $10,000 for a steel storm shelter. They are typically used for above ground safe rooms and are painted or powder-coated to avoid rusting over time. They are generally assembled piece by piece, making them extremely easy to set up and take down when needed. For this reason, they are a convenient choice for smaller homes or people with mobility issues.
Polyethylene 3 storm shelters are more expensive, ranging between $5,650 and $12,000 on average. Some in-ground storm shelters are made out of polyethylene, a durable polymer that can withstand heavy winds, falling debris, and more. This material is both rustproof and waterproof, making it a low-maintenance option for indoor and outdoor shelters.
Kevlar storm shelters range in price from $5,750 to $15,000. Kevlar is a type of plastic and is the same material that is used to make bulletproof vests. Above ground shelters built with Kevlar can be installed directly on concrete slabs 4 with no special footings and don’t cause interference with wireless signals once inside. They are impact and crush-resistant, making them a great choice for homes in tornado-prone areas.
Safe rooms are accessed above ground and can be built in many places in and around your home. When it comes to building a safe room inside your home, it’s important to keep every part of it separate from the actual building itself. This way, it can stand on its own and relies only on its own structural integrity in the case your home falls. We’re going to take a closer look at some of the most common places for safe rooms, ranging from $2,100 to $8,100 in price.
|Safe Room Locations||Average Cost (Labor Included)|
|Bed||$2,100 - $4,500|
|Under the Stairs||$3,600 - $5,000|
|Closet||$4,700 - $6,100|
|Shed||$5,000 - $6,750|
|Garage||$5,600, - $7,500|
|Basement||$6,000 - $8,100|
If you live in a smaller home and have a smaller budget, a bed shelter may be perfect for you. They generally range in price from $2,100 to $4,500. These shelters meet all FEMA requirements and take up virtually no room in your home. They are tested to withstand an EF-5 tornado. Bed shelters are simply vaults 5 underneath your bed. The biggest downside to these designs is they are the smallest type of shelter. So, you can end up feeling cramped or claustrophobic. The design allows people to lay mostly inside the shelter to remain safe without shutting the door until the last second. Some can even extend to allow more vertical standing room.
Adding a storm safe room under stairs is convenient for people who have less square footage to work with within their homes. These shelters cost between $3,600 and $5,000. Rather than taking up extra space, you’ll be utilizing an area you already have. While this can be convenient, the main downside is safe rooms under the stairs will generally have to have short ceilings.
A tornado safe room closet costs between $6,600 and $8,700. Having a storm shelter in closet design can be convenient for getting into your safe zone quickly and easily in case of an emergency. Closets already don’t have windows and are generally sheltered places, so reinforcing it to make it a safe room is a simpler task. On the downside, if you turn the closet into a safe room, you may lose out on storage space. While it may seem easy to use the spot for storage when not needed for anything else, this can pose problems if you need to take cover quickly as you’ll waste time trying to clear out all your unnecessary belongings.
Shed safe rooms vary in price, ranging from $5,000 to $6,750. A shed can be a convenient space for an above ground shelter because it frees up extra space in your home. However, you will be forced to go outside and expose yourself to the elements to access it. Most professionals suggest building your safe room in a space with indoor access just in case you have to seek shelter immediately. However, sheds can still be a great secure location if your home doesn’t have space for a safe room inside. If you are building a safe room inside your shed, be sure there are no windows or exposed areas. Also, be sure it is tested to meet FEMA standards for protection against EF-5 tornadoes.
One of the best places for your above ground safe room or underground storm shelter is in your garage. The average cost of a storm shelter in or on the garage floor ranges from $5,600 to $7,500. Most homes have an entrance into their garage from their homes, meaning you won’t have to venture outside and brave the elements to reach safety. Additionally, it is out of the main house, so you don't have to worry about it taking up valuable storage space. As an added bonus, your garage is level to the ground, so you don’t have to move up or down stairs to get to it.
Your basement is a great place to put your safe room because it is already underground. Therefore, it’s already much safer than many other locations in and around your home. Generally, basement storm shelters cost between $6,000 and $8,100. There aren’t many disadvantages to having a storm shelter in your basement. However, not every home has a basement. In fact, it costs an additional $10K to build a house with a basement versus without one. That being said, if you have a basement, it’s a great spot for your shelter.
Many people lean toward prefab shelters because they’re easier to put into your home and usually less expensive, too. This is because a modular storm shelter helps homeowners avoid the costs of new construction. You don’t have to pay for any labor costs related to that process. However, installation costs vary depending on how far the installer has to travel to deliver the product and if any foundational work needs to be done for underground models. On average, contractors charge about $50 to $100 per hour, and the process can take between two to three hours.
Some homeowners ask, are prefab storm shelters the same as modular safe rooms? Prefab storm shelters refer to both above ground and underground shelters, whereas safe rooms are only above ground. The main differences between the two are the locations in which you can put them. Precast above-ground concrete storm shelter prices vary depending on size, materials, and location, but generally cost between $3,100 and $9,000. Underground models cost about $1,000 more on average.
When it comes to finding the right storm shelter for your home, it’s a good idea to explore different brands to find the right fit. Countless options are available to choose from that serve residents and businesses throughout tornado and hurricane-prone areas and beyond. Many specialize in both above ground and underground storm shelters, so finding the best fit comes down to your budget, location, and personal preferences. The average prices for all brands range from $2,600 to $13,050, but you’ll have to call to get a precise estimate.
|Brand||Underground Shelter Costs (Labor Included)||Above Ground Shelter Costs (Labor Included)|
|Oklahoma Shelters||$2,600 - $8,450||$3,750 - $11,000|
|Ground Zero||$2,950 - $8,500||$3,800 - $11,950|
|Storm Safe||$3,150 - $6,500||$3,950 - $12,350|
|Survive-a-Storm||$3,300 - $7,800||$4,250 - $12,100|
|SafePorch||$3,400 - $9,950||$4,450 - $12,250|
|FamilySAFE||$3,600 - $9,100||$4,750 - $13,050|
|Southern Illinois||$3,750 - $8,000||$4,300 - $12,050|
|Valley||$3,800 - $9,150||$4,150 - $10,950|
|FlatSafe||$4,000 - $9,500||$5,100 - $10,050|
|Hausner’s||$4,450 - $9,950||$5,600 - $13,350|
|Fiberglass Creations||$4,800 - $6,500||N/A|
|Atlas Survival Shelters||$5,000 - $9,500||$7,000 - $15,850|
Oklahoma Shelters above ground safe rooms cost anywhere between $2,600 and $8,450, while their in-ground shelters cost between $3,750 and $11,000. Oklahoma Shelters provides home and business owners in and around Oklahoma City with durable storm shelters and safe rooms. Each product is engineered and tested to ensure it can withstand the forces of high winds and debris. They also back all their shelters with a 10-year warranty against leaks and corrosion.
Ground Zero shelter prices range from $2,950 to $8,500 for above ground models, which can fit between 8 to 10 people. Underground models cost from $3,800 to $11,950 and can fit between 16 and 20 people. Ground Zero Shelters, Co. has been designing, manufacturing, selling, and installing innovative tornado shelter systems that meet or exceed current FEMA standards since 2004. They have a BBB accreditation and are affiliated with the American Tornado Shelter Association and the National Association of Home Builders. They sell both concrete and steel tornado shelters and safe rooms complete with debris-proof doors.
Since 1987, Storm Safe Shelters has been building and installing underground steel shelters and above ground safe rooms in Oklahoma. Their above ground safe rooms range in price from $3,150 to $6,500, and their underground models cost approximately $3,950 to $12,350. They were the first company to install storm shelters in garage floors. Since then, they have been working with homeowners and community centers. Their products have the Registered Professional Engineer seal and have been tested at the Texas Tech Wind Science Engineering Research Center to ensure they can withstand EF-5 tornado winds. Storm Safe offers flexible financing options and free quotes.
Survive-a-Storm above ground shelters range from $3,300 to $7,800, and their underground models from $4,250 to $12,100. Survive-a-Storm Shelters is a division of Harbor Enterprises, LLC and a world-leading producer and distributor of prefabricated storm shelters and safe rooms based in Benton, IL. The company currently offers both steel and fiberglass shelters and safe rooms that can be customized to fit in any space in or around your home or commercial building. Their dealers serve 35 states across the U.S. and offer no-money-down financing on all products.
SafePorch designs and installs storm shelters tested and proven at Texas Tech University and meet all FEMA and ICC standards. An above ground safe room can cost between $3,400 and $9,950, while a SafePorch storm shelter cost ranges from $4,450 to $12,250. They are known for their adaptable designs that blend in with your home, making them a convenient choice regardless of where you’re putting it.
FamilySAFE above ground shelters weigh nearly 400 pounds and can withstand EF-5 tornado winds. They range in price from $3,600 to $9,100. Their in-ground shelters are made of concrete and have doors that can lift up to 10,000 pounds. They cost between $4,750 and $13,050. FamilySAFE is a storm shelter company in the U.S. that specializes in both above ground and underground installations. They offer a wide variety of full-tested shelters and efficient installations by trained and certified contractors. They distribute their shelters throughout nine states in the U.S.
Southern Illinois above ground shelters cost approximately $3,750 to $8,000, and their underground models cost between $4,300 and $12,050. Southern Illinois Storm Shelters, Inc. provides safe, affordable storm shelter models and has been in business since 1998. They install impact tested door design, screened ventilation, a six-point lock system, and more for shelters that can be placed indoors and out. Additionally, all six of their underground models come with handrails 6 for enhanced safety.
Valley Storm Shelters™ is a designer and manufacturer of above ground and underground storm shelters based in Huntsville, AL. Their above ground shelters cost approximately $3,800 to $9,150. Their underground models, which feature doors with hydraulic lifts that can move up to six tons, cost between $4,150 to $10,950. They serve residents in Midwestern, Southern, and Eastern states. They offer custom residential storm shelters that can be personalized to fit unique customers’ needs. All their products are built to withstand 300 mph winds and tested by the Texas Wind Science and Engineering Research Center. Additionally, they are a producer member of the American Tornado Shelter Association.
FlatSafe tornado shelter prices range from $4,000 to $9,500 for above ground models and $5,100 to $10,050 for underground models. FlatSafe Tornado Shelters is a manufacturer and installer of above ground safe rooms and below ground storm shelters. Their products are tested and certified by the National Storm Shelter Association, the Wind Engineering Research Center at Texas Tech University, and FEMA.
These safe rooms generally cost $4,450 to $9,950. Their underground shelters range from $5,600 to $13,350. Hausner’s has been a leader in the design, manufacturing, and installation of prefab storm shelters since 1954. Their team constructs safe, affordable storm shelters for Oklahoma residents. They offer a wide range of slope front and flat top shelters, as well as concrete safe rooms, metal safe rooms, and community-sized safe rooms.
One of the most popular types of shelters manufactured by Fiberglass Creations is The Refuge tornado shelter, which comes in three main sizes that fit 6 people, 8 people, and 12 to 15 people. The Refuge storm shelter price ranges from $4,800 to $6,500 and is only an underground shelter. They have been building and installing high-quality storm shelters for over 30 years. All their shelters meet FEMA and ICC standards for withstanding tornado-force winds. They also make any shelter drawings available to city, state, or federal organizations for permits, rebate programs, and more.
Atlas Survival Shelters, Inc. is a storm shelter manufacturer based out of Dallas, TX. They provide high-quality storm shelters of all shapes and sizes to meet the needs of diverse residential and commercial customers. On average, their above ground safe rooms range in price from $5,000 to $9,500, and their underground shelters range from $7,000 to $15,850. They have factory-trained and certified dealers worldwide to help every customer with their storm shelter needs. All their fallout shelters come with an escape tunnel, bulletproof hatches, and airtight doors.
One of the most important features of your storm shelter is the main door. In addition to being easy to open and close, your door should be able to withstand heavy winds and flying debris at the same level the rest of your shelter can. To ensure it can, it should go through both pressure and impact tests. This is especially important for homeowners to consider when building their storm shelter or if they ever need to repair or replace the door on their current one. Steel is currently the only material that passes FEMA’s tornado tests. Even a wooden door with metal sheathing has not been successful. A steel FEMA door cost ranges from $300 to $700.
When it comes to building an above ground safe room, you should get in contact with a local professional engineer or architect to get a full rundown on natural disasters in your area. That way, you can decide whether you build your storm shelter up higher to avoid flooding or lower to the ground to shield it from high winds and falling debris. You will need a concrete slab on top of a level surface. You’ll need your shelter to be separate from the rest of your home in case its structural integrity is compromised. If you need to pour new concrete, you can expect to pay between $5 to $10 per square foot.
On the other hand, underground storm shelters require a bit more preparation. Before you begin building your new storm shelter, it is a good idea to review updated satellite images of your area to get a better idea of the best locations to place the shelter. Generally, it takes one to three hours to prepare the ground and complete the excavation before installation begins. This is often not included in the overall price of the shelter and can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is a government agency supporting communities during natural and man-made disasters. A safe room is a structure designed to meet their tornado shelter requirements to provide almost absolute protection against severe weather phenomena. In addition to setting the standard for storm shelters, FEMA provides hazard mitigation funding to eligible states and territories to help individuals reduce risk for themselves or their property. An approved FEMA storm shelter design is guaranteed to stay safe and secure no matter what the weather throws at it.
On top of installing the room itself, you may want to have additional amenities to make yourself comfortable should you have to stay in the shelter for a long time. Two important features include air ventilation and filtration systems. Some additional popular amenities people add allow them to access the Internet, use the bathroom, and sleep comfortably. If you’re thinking about adding more features to your storm shelter, it’s important to factor that into the overall cost.
|Handrails||$40 - $120|
|Air Ventilation/Filtration System||$100 - $3,000|
|Electricity & Internet||$150 - $2,000|
|Plumbing||$150 - $5,000|
|Bedding||$200 - $400|
If your storm shelter needs repairs, get in touch with a local expert to assess the damage. Perhaps it’s leaking, rusty, or was not properly installed the first time around. Chances are, an expert can get everything working. However, serious repairs can be costly and time-consuming, ranging from $5,000 to $10,000, including labor. Installing a new storm shelter may be more convenient and cost-effective in the long run.
Another part of your overall maintenance plan should involve regular storm shelter cleaning. Odds are, this room doesn’t get used very often. However, when it does, you want to be comfortable for the duration you’re in there. Be sure to periodically sweep and wipe down surfaces. This keeps dirt and grime at a minimum and stops insects and other pests from making your safe room their new home. Also, make sure to restock and reorganize your supplies, so you can be ready when the time comes to hunker down.
It’s always a good idea to have an emergency exit if the primary entrance gets blocked. In some cases, it can mean the difference between life and death. Many people also have an emergency kit ready inside the room to force either door open should they be blocked after a tornado or other event. While emergency exits aren’t necessary, it can be a great idea for added peace of mind. On average, it costs between $550 and $1,500 to install.
Yes, there are plenty of different designs from which you can choose for your safe room or storm shelter. However, it is much easier to build an above ground room without a professional. First, plan the size of your shelter and figure out where you want to put it. Then, you’ll have to pick materials for the walls, floors, and door. Steel and plywood are great options to use when building your safe room on your own. Be sure to consult your FEMA booklet and stay within specified guidelines. The process takes multiple days and can cost anywhere from $500 to $20,000.
When getting a safe room, you don’t have to apply for funding. Instead, FEMA provides Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA) funding to eligible states and territories, which will then give it to local governments to reduce overall risk. Contact your local State Hazard Mitigation Officer to learn more about your options.
In addition to offering protection for you and your family, storm shelters increase the value of a home. In fact, a recent study from the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes indicated that a shelter increases the sale price of a home by approximately 3.5%.
Above ground safe rooms are just as effective as their underground counterparts and can even be more convenient. They can be installed anywhere on a solid concrete slab and are great for people with mobility issues. Additionally, it can be an easy hiding place if you are dealing with an intruder.
Many institutions offer special financing options for above ground safe rooms and underground storm shelters. You can also utilize a home equity loan or a cash-out refinance and use your home’s equity to offset some of the cost of installing a storm shelter.
Underground shelters are inherently safer since they are protected by the ground, but above ground shelters can be just as effective. When building an above ground safe room, be sure it undergoes testing to ensure it can protect from flying debris.
If you’re deciding to build a storm shelter instead of installing a prefabricated one, you can expect to pay between $2,100 and $18,550 for labor and materials. Extra amenities such as bedding, electricity, and plumbing are sometimes included, but not always. Be sure to check with your local contractors.