Installing a Severe Weather ‘Safe Room’

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa -- During spring in Iowa, severe weather can strike at any time. Most of us know that when the sirens go off we head to the basement. But how prepared is your basement to handle severe weather?

Dan Bush is with Newcastle Home Builders. Every home his company builds is equipped to withstand an F4 tornado hitting the structure. He’s built homes in the metro for almost two decades.

We asked him a few questions, on how to better prepare your home and keep your family safe during severe weather.

What are common issues, you see, in homes that are not prepared for severe weather?

“So many homes have the perfect spot for a safe shelter. It can just be the front stoop. Many of the homes already have the walls in place then they fill them with sand and put a concrete top on it. It is a matter of pouring a floor and installing a steel door,” said Dan Bush, Newcastle Home Builders.

Are there items homeowners can install without doing a full renovation?

“The least amount mess and construction issues is to add a small room to the house. It could just be a great closet or if you have the room to install one in the corner of garage. You can get a safe room with wood framing, layers of 3/4" plywood and steel sheeting. There are companies that make steel panels similar to a walk-in cooler. Your room needs to be large enough that the door can swing in. So, if there is a disaster the debris doesn’t block the door and you cannot open it,” said Bush.

What is the cost of installing a severe weather safe room?

“You can have a safe room for a couple thousand dollars. To have a safe room included during the construction will cost for approximately $35 per square ft. Cost for renovation the interior of an existing home really depends on the location and excess to get materials in. It would be around $150 per sq ft. with the systems that I use,” said Bush.

What does an installation of storm shelter cost?   

“For a free standing unit you are looking around $100 per sq ft with a FEMA rated door plus exterior finishes,” said Bush.