How to Build a Tornado Shelter

How to Build a Tornado Shelter

People who do not reside in tornado-prone areas such as the American Midwest are unaware of the seriousness of tornadoes. Hiding in your home’s interior bathroom will not protect you against severe tornadoes, which can easily pull a structure off its foundations. A tornado shelter can not only keep your family safe during a tornado or other deadly weather, but it is also simple to construct if you have the necessary tools. Check out the handy tutorial below for instructions on how to make one in your own backyard.

The Distinction Between a Tornado Shelter and a Storm Shelter

Each sort of storm has its own set of threats, and not all storm shelters will keep you safe from all of them. That implies you should think about which storms are most likely to cause trouble in your area.

Underground tornado shelters, for example, are one of the safest types of tornado shelters, but they could become deadly after a hurricane brings flooding. Above-ground storm shelters are also protected from flooding, but they are more vulnerable to the full power of high-velocity winds.

As a result, it is critical to thoroughly examine the type of disaster for which you are constructing your shelter and then proceed in the most appropriate manner.

How to Build a Tornado Shelter?

Building a tornado shelter requires permits and a lot of planning. Don’t get me wrong, it’s easy but you have to take note of the legal side of building. Here are some guidelines you have to follow before building and a quick guide on how to create a sturdy tornado shelter.

Obtain a copy of the FEMA P-320 publication.

When constructing a tornado shelter, you must adhere to certain requirements and criteria. Get a copy of the FEMA P-320 Publication to find out what you need. This pamphlet contains all of the information you’ll need to build your own tornado shelter in your location.

The FEMA P-320 document not only gives thorough information on how to create a protection shelter, but it also specifies the minimum standards for designing your shelter, whether it is built in the garage, basement, as an internal room, or as a separate structure. There are also construction plans and material lists. You can obtain a copy of the FEMA P-320 by visiting their website.

Obtain a Building Permit

When creating a tornado shelter, you should follow the National Performance Criteria for Tornado Shelters. As a result, it is critical that you obtain the necessary permissions and inspection schedules before you begin digging up dirt or pouring concrete to verify that you are in compliance with the law. You can obtain building permits from your local municipal hall.

Determine Your Wind Zone.

The direction or position of your wind zone is critical in deciding the strength of your tornado shelter. A wind-zone map can help you determine the position of your wind zone. You can also look it up on the FEMA website.

Choose the Shelter’s Location.

Depending on the information you gathered, you can construct your shelter in the basement, garage, or interior of your home. It can also be a distinct structure. This book will teach you how to construct an underground shelter.

Make a Hole.

You can now start digging the hole underground where the shelter will be built. A typical tiny shelter should have a 12-by-12-foot space. To account for the thickness of your shelter, dig at least three times this space.

Construct the Concrete Floor.

After that, level the floor. Pour enough concrete onto it to make it 5-inches thick. Allow the concrete floor to dry.

Construct the Walls.

Measure the dimensions of your walls based on the size you choose. Then, dig holes in which to install your frames. Depending on your wind zone, you can use fiberglass, steel bars, or wood board. After you’ve finished installing the frameworks, pour some concrete to the height of your walls and let it dry. After the walls have dried, apply a waterproof membrane to the whole exterior of your shelter. Reinforce the walls of your shelter with wire mesh on the inside and outside.

Make the Roof.

Finally, using the 2×4 and plywood, construct the roof frame for your tornado shelter. Nail the wood board to the plywood, then pour concrete twice the thickness of your floor. Allow it to dry before utilizing the shelter. You can store this structure with everything you might need during terrible weather, much like you would a storm shelter.

How is an Underground Storm Shelter Waterproofed?

Instead of drain tiles and granular material, you might set the concrete slab on bentonite panels, use bentonite rope in the keyway between the floor slab and the wall, and apply bentonite panels to the walls prior to backfilling. You might use attached or loose-laid sheet membranes to fill the spaces between the tiles.

If you’re going to utilize concrete, be sure you have the correct kind of concrete for the job. For example, if you want to construct a wall out of concrete slabs, you must select a concrete type that is suitable with the slab. If you are unsure what type you require, contact your contractor to assist you.

Is Concrete Strong Enough to Withstand a Tornado?

To withstand a direct tornado hit, strong reinforced concrete is required. The conventional building will be incapable of dealing with it. Hurricanes exist. Masonry and concrete structures are robust enough to withstand a direct hit from a storm, but not a tornado.

Tornado damage can result from a variety of reasons, including wind speed and direction, wind direction and speed, and storm size. Wind shear, which happens when the wind blows at different speeds in various directions, is the most prevalent source of tornado damage. As a result, the air flows in a different direction than if it were flowing in the same direction. This can result in the formation of tornadoes.

How Far Can a Tornado go?

Tornadoes have been reported to blow dirt and create trenches, but this is extremely rare. Trenches as deep as ten feet have been dug. Tornadoes are high-speed low-pressure systems that occur in the upper atmosphere. Mesocyclones, on the other hand, are the product of a low-pressure system traveling across the earth’s surface. Typically, they are linked with thunderstorms.

Can Tornadoes Lift Concrete?

A tornado will never slide a concrete slab across the earth. The above-ground shelters planned and built to FEMA requirements are not designed to withstand a tornado. If you are in a shelter, you must ensure that you have a means out if the tornado strikes. If you don’t have an escape path, the wind and debris from the storm are quite likely to kill or seriously harm you.


I hope this has encouraged you to build your own in-ground tornado shelter to provide your family with the best protection against devastating tornadoes. No matter what you choose, either reinforced your house to be stronger or build an underground tornado shelter, get the proper permit and hire a professional to do it. If you want to do it yourself, make sure that you read everything you need to do or consult a person who knows how to construct before anything else. Remember, preparation is better than panicking. 

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