Basement safe-rooms can serve as excellent strongholds, protecting your family from severe weather events and home invaders.
Concrete block types (meas-ured in inches) clockwise from top: 16x8x4 solid; 16x8x8 heavy wall; 8x8x8 heavy wall and 16x8x6 normal wall.
Quikcrete bonding adhesive brushes on white but dries clear. Used brushes can be discarded after applying the adhesive.
The completed concrete-block safe room in the author’s basement looks unobtrusive.
A safe room is a proven way to protect your loved ones from extreme weather events and from determined attacks by those using hand tools or small arms. Several companies build safe rooms that range from the modest and simple to the large and lavish. In Fall 2008, I built a safe room to protect my family. The strongest and least expensive safe rooms take advantage of existing basement walls, which usually are made of poured-in-place, reinforced concrete. Unless you live in a log cabin or stone house, you’ll need a basement stronghold to keep family and friends secure. What follows are high-level tips and techniques for building a basement safe room without breaking the bank.
Corners Are Key
A basement corner is particularly advantageous for building a safe room because two walls are already in place. If your basement has an area bounded by three walls, all you need to do is build the fourth with a door. My first step was to think about the room’s size and the scenarios we were likely to encounter. I visualized the room using masking tape on the floor, and the space appeared to be adequate for three or four people in a pinch.
Box stores don’t usually carry solid wall block, which is more expensive. Opting for 16-by-8-by-6-inch, hollow, heavy-wall block, I paid about $0.75 apiece—today it’s nearly double that price. Virtually all concrete blocks have a notch for inserting reinforcing steel bar (rebar). I didn’t use rebar, in case the wall later had to be dismantled. Decades ago, I had done enough repair work on a brick wall to know that I was a lousy mason. So I hunted for an alternative to mixing mortar and applying it with a trowel. I discovered a liquid concrete bonding adhesive (Quikcrete) that works for applications without lateral loading. Buying a couple of gallons of the stuff and using old bristle brushes, I set to work.
A safe room is a proven way to protect your loved ones from extreme…
by Jorge Amselle / Apr 17, 2013