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need storm shelter ideas  RSS feed

 
                            
Posts: 158
Location: Abilene, KS
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I need some ideas on how to cheaply build or acquire something to be used as a storm shelter, specifically tornado shelter.  Obviously it will be underground, steps down to the door. 
My thoughts were to dig the hole, use concrete and rebar on the floor, walls and dome roof - straw bales for forms, then thin shell laminated concrete.  Of course, this is just the basic idea, I have a lot of details worked out.  The bad news is that hubby is not too excited about this idea.
Short of spending thousands for a prefab, does anyone have any ideas?  I welcome all, including real off the wall thoughts.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
Posts: 985
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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Caveat:  I've never built a storm shelter.  Never lived where we needed one.  (If I did live in such a location, we would definitely have one!)

Never mind the straw bales for forms.  Dig your hole and make a round ferrocement structure, reinforced with re-bar.  Don't need forms for ferrocement.  Don't need any fancy laminated concrete, either.  Use a cellar door and steps to get in and out. 

Kathleen
 
            
Posts: 79
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Well, in terms of cost effectiveness, earthbag construction might be your best option, although it will need a french drain installed below the walls and water proofing material put on the outside before backfilling.  A round shelter will be stronger than a rectangular or square one.  The best part is that most of the building materials will come out of the hole dug to build the shelter inside, the displaced dirt.
 
                            
Posts: 158
Location: Abilene, KS
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Thanks Kathleen, for responding so quickly!
Ferro cement is definitely an option as far as I'm concerned.  I did extensive reading on a ferro forum years ago, so I know how strong it is.  Rather than cellar doors, I'd rather have steps leading down to the door of the shelter.  We have two options for placement.  One is under a second story deck that has not been built yet.  I was planning on a sheltered, 3 season room under that deck with the storm shelter, so the open stairs would be sheltered from rain.  Another option is behind an attached building, but then it'd be open to the weather.
I'm having to dodge the septic tank with this project.. agh.  Having a big truck w/ crane to lower a prefab just isn't feasible with the laterals, given the layout of our land ...Neither is the cost!
I love the 'flying concrete' system of moveable forms, too.  Hubby is concerned of all the labor involved - his plate is pretty full as it is.  We're both good DIY people.
This doesn't have to be too far underground, either, but water resistant.  I'm interested in using some kind of recycled thing if possible...I'm just drawing a blank though.

Around here, a lot of people run outside to see where the tornado is.
 
                            
Posts: 158
Location: Abilene, KS
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Paul,
Would the dome of the earthbag shelter be strong enough to support, say, a foot of soil?
 
            
Posts: 79
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Brigham Young University did some tests a few years back, building a small earthbag dome, and then setting a tractor on top of it.  Yes, it would be strong enough, and each layer of a bag contains 4-6 inches of compacted soil within it, the width of the wall varying depending on the size of bags you use, typically 18-24 inches thick.
 
                            
Posts: 158
Location: Abilene, KS
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I remember reading Kelly Hart's info on the earthbags a long time ago.  I'm glad you brought that to my attention as I found a couple of good sites about them.  Mother Earth News has basic directions and states that it can be bermed or below grade.  I don't know what kind of response I'll get on the home front though, as it's rather labor intensive and we aren't kids anymore.  I do like the permie way of doing things...does that translate into 'cheap', too?    Thanks for the input.
 
Cyric Mayweather
Posts: 78
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May i suggest the Post-Shoring-Polyethylene method 
there's a long thread here for it and we thankfully have Glenn on the site who is probably the 2nd most knowledgeable builder of this system i know of (behind Mike the creator of the system its self of course )
i would imagine you could build a a 8x8 cellar easy or any size you want i guess
 
Larry Schlicker
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I have heard of some using concrete septic tanks for storm shelter's. Just another idea to throw at you.
 
                            
Posts: 158
Location: Abilene, KS
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Thanks Cyric,
Well, that didn't fly when I mentioned it last night.  The septic tank is close enough, maybe 10' (?) and he's worried that if there was a problem with the tank, we'd have sewage goop getting into the storm shelter. 
I think I'm screwed on this deal.  Although he hasn't said it, I think he's worried about the asthethic end of it, wanting what's traditionally used.  We are selling the house when it's finished and out here, people are used to using the basement (which we don't have) or a buried concrete bunker.
Maybe I can convince him that the finished project would look like a wine cellar??    I doubt if anyone would tear it apart to see how it was constructed.
Thanks for the input.
 
                        
Posts: 278
Location: Iowa, border of regions 5 and 6
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Marianne wrote:
Maybe I can convince him that the finished project would look like a wine cellar??     I doubt if anyone would tear it apart to see how it was constructed.



That's actually a very good idea: wine cellar or root cellar.  So long as it provides shelter from the wind and flying objects, it's good to also use as a tornado shelter.
 
Cyric Mayweather
Posts: 78
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Muzhik wrote:
That's actually a very good idea: wine cellar or root cellar.  So long as it provides shelter from the wind and flying objects, it's good to also use as a tornado shelter.



I agree
Why limit your self to only one use, wine cellar, root cellar, tornado shelter, Fallout shelter (ya i know) but if your going to build something try to build as many uses as possible into your construction
 
Kathleen Sanderson
Posts: 985
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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Hey, fallout shelter might not be as far out a use as we'd like to think!  As long as it has other primary uses, I think it would be excellent to have something that could also serve as a fallout shelter in a pinch.

Kathleen
 
                            
Posts: 158
Location: Abilene, KS
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Oh, I definitely will use it as a root cellar or storage of canned goods.  Then during tornado season, have a bucket with the stuff I need ( like radio, batteries, etc) to grab as we go in there.
Larry, I had thought about the septic tank, but given the layout of our land, location of septic tank and laterals, it's going to be difficult to get a heavy truck w/ crane to lower it back there.
I guess my feeling was that a plastic bubble would work as long as it was underground.  Even halfway underground with a dome or barrel vault roof might work.  The only thing with that is that it'd have to be able to hold up tons of weight if the roof or pickup truck ended up on top.
My plan was to have this situated in the SE corner under the second story deck (that has not been constructed).  Tornadoes in this area usually come from the SE, so if the house was torn apart, maybe most of the heavy debris would not land on top of the shelter.
I have considered culvert (can't find it big enough around here), and concrete block with a small quonset roof, but can't find that small enough.  Anything with a rounded roof....earthbags are looking better and better to me, but because of the labor involved, I don't know if I can get that idea sold here.
I appreciate every comment and suggestion!
 
                            
Posts: 158
Location: Abilene, KS
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I had to break this into two posts as the message box was jumping! 

Would soil cement hold up to the humidity that's most likely going to be in there?  Has anyone here done a 'build in place' type structure with soil cement or is there a section somewhere on the forum about that?  Might not be a good idea as rain water would definitely wick, huh.  I can't berm on one side because of an existing concrete block building being too close.
I'm in Kansas, have access to strawbales, some clay in the soil, so cob would be the obvious, but again, since it's underground, I worry about longevity.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
Posts: 985
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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Actually, if you built very solidly with earth, or earth bags, and rounded/domed the top, would underground actually be necessary?  You are mainly after a tornado shelter, right?  Wouldn't something like one of those earth bag domes be pretty safe even in a tornado?

Kathleen
 
            
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I agree with Kathleen, an aboveground earthbag dome, possibly earth-bermed, would not only provide a good storm shelter, but would double as a root cellar/wine cellar well.  Weak points in buildings are the doors and windows, so I would recommend against putting windows in the structure, and putting in a steel frame and door.  As the average earthbag wall is 18-24 inches thick, it will create it's own thermal heatsink and will be virtually indestructable.  The primary thing is to cover up the poly bags with plaster, stucco, or earth to prevent breakdown of the plastic by UV rays.  An led lighting system, with a battery backup in case of power failure, would give good light, and would last up to 20 years of continuous burning (not that I recommend continuous use).  A small solar panel can keep a 12 volt battery trickle charged for emergency use.  LEDs also create minimal heat.

Dr. Owen Geiger has some excellent how-to videos on youtube, I recommend viewing them.  They are listed under earthbag construction.

Construction can be a team effort, if you get your friends involved.  Perhaps it could be done as a work-exchange system, like an old-fashion barn raising, where everyone works on one structure, then they can work on someone else's structure, until everyone is protected that wants to be.  Tools required are minimal and inexpensive, for a small structure.  I recommend the Hunter/Kiffmeyer book, Earthbag Building, published through Mother Earth News.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
Posts: 985
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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Yes, it wouldn't have to be very big for what you want -- eight or ten feet in diameter.  And, in addition to plastering it, you could gradually earth berm it, too, which would be additional protection.

Kathleen
 
                            
Posts: 158
Location: Abilene, KS
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Ya, I have wondered that too.  The geo domes, anything round, seems to be the only thing standing after a tornado.  But after seeing the horrific damage and odd, impossible placement of items after a tornado.. well, it's either 'beam me up, Scotty' or grab Toto and head under ground. I might have a hard time selling that to a prospective buyer in the future.  Our next home (our forever home) will be a lot different than this one!

Short of finding something something appropriate that can be recycled into the shelter, I still like the PSP and earthbag for eco friendly and getting the job done.  Down side is labor, we're still building this house and have a l-o-n-g way to go.  I hate to add a 4 month project to the list.
 
                            
Posts: 158
Location: Abilene, KS
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Sorry, I had started typing that response quite a while ago, and then posted it before I read the last two posts.
Constructing the earthbag shelter above ground and berming it like MENews would look pretty cool, huh!  But, I can't berm it if I put it under a 2nd story deck.  There's another building too close and it would cause some rain runoff problems there.
The more responses I get, the more I think I should figure out an alternate location for this so it can be bermed.  I was just hoping to have a more enclosed way of getting to the shelter as rain usually comes along w/ the storm. 
 
Shawn Bell
Posts: 156
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Have you considered a foxhole, army style.  Dig a 3 x 6 x however long you want, use the soil to fill sandbags.  Cover hole with posts, plywood, & sandbags leaving a small opening to get in.  This would be fast, easy, & cheap.  When you are ready to move, dump the bags out into the hole, and take all of the  materials with you.

Just an idea.
 
                            
Posts: 158
Location: Abilene, KS
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LOL
Shawn, I love your out of the box idea!  And it would work, too!  It'd be better to have a permanent space as the next homeowners are going to want a shelter, too.

I keep chuckling about this...I have this vivid mental picture of two chubby, middleaged people scrambling into the fox hole.    But thanks for responding!
 
Cyric Mayweather
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Hehe just remember theres no such things as a foxhole thats to deep 
 
Kathleen Sanderson
Posts: 985
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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Cyric30 wrote:
Hehe just remember theres no such things as a foxhole thats to deep 


That depends on how much water is in it!

Kathleen
 
Cyric Mayweather
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Kathleen Sanderson wrote:
That depends on how much water is in it!

Kathleen


nope then it becomes a swimming pool  which right now isent such a good idea but by summer...Eah maybe not so much :p
 
Jo York
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Here's some info. on the post/shore/polyethylene method by mike oehler: http://www.google.com/search?q=mike+oehler&btnG=Search+Books&tbm=bks&tbo=1

 
Scott Howard
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As it turns out, a fallout shelter IS a good idea.  dang.

I built a 9 ft earthbag dome in Puerto Rico last year.  You see photos via  www.earthenhand.com.

It might take  7 seven people about ten days to build one of these, but it could last for hundreds if not thousands of years. 

You can easily bury this structure, as long as you taper off the weight toward the top, and load it evenly.

Happy Building,
 
Daniel Morse
Posts: 260
Location: SW Michigan
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I like the idea. I need a tornado shelter at the new/old place. I am wondering about seismic stress on earth bag structures. The side I am sure would ride well. Its the roof I wonder about. These are strange days.
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