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How Much Does a Tornado Shelter Cost?

Our need for safe and secure homes is a given, however, most houses aren’t equipped to weather severe storms and extreme winds. If you live in the Central, Midwest, or Southern United States, then you’re no stranger to dangerous tornadoes and hurricanes.

Preparation is key. In adverse and extreme weather conditions, your family’s safety may depend on it. One of the best ways to be ready is to have a tornado shelter or a storm shelter. Should the unthinkable happen, your family can seek shelter beneath your home in a well-equipped and solidly constructed tornado shelter.

How much does a tornado shelter cost

How much does a tornado shelter cost? It’s important to prepare your budget and learn other basics before having one made. This article will tell you all you need to know so your hurricane shelter can provide maximum protection if you experience severe weather conditions.

Factors Affecting Tornado Shelter Cost

These 7 factors will affect the cost of your tornado shelter the most.

1. Prefabricated vs Custom Built

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly yet safe tornado shelter, consider a prebuilt storm shelter or prefabricated shelter. These types of shelters can be bought at home improvement stores.

Larger shelters command higher price tags. The average tornado shelter cost is around $6,000 to $7,000 while a small, on-ground shelter costs between $3,000 and $3,500.

A custom shelter is more expensive but can be built with additional amenities like an extra-large kitchen, bedrooms, and even entertainment facilities like billiard rooms and bowling alleys.

2. Shelter Types


On-ground, or above-ground shelters are generally cheaper than underground tornado shelters. These types of shelters are usually installed in the basement or garage and are useful in regions prone to flooding. They can cost anywhere between $3,000 and $15,000 depending on the size and materials.


Underground storm shelters or in-ground storm shelters are more expensive than on-ground models but provide maximum protection against tornadoes. They require much more planning since their installation requires excavation, concrete, and waterproofing. The tornado shelter cost for an underground facility ranges between $4,000 and $30,000

Access to an in-ground tornado shelter

Safe Room

A safe room is a fortified indoor room that keeps residents safe during severe weather and other types of emergencies. The cost of an 8-foot by 8-foot room is $6,600 to $8,700.

3. Shelter Size

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends tornado shelters to be at least 5 square feet per person and at least 10 square feet per individual if it’s a hurricane shelter.

The tornado shelter cost of above-ground shelters for 4 to 6 people starts at around $3,000 while larger, underground storm shelters can cost up to $30,000.

4. Delivery, Installation, and Customization

Prefab storm shelters can be ordered directly from manufacturers or at home improvement stores. While delivery and installation are usually included in the quoted price, you should still ask the seller about it beforehand since these fees can cost an extra $1,000 to $3,000.

Another option is to turn an existing room or basement into a storm shelter by using materials like reinforced concrete, or even Kevlar. However, consult a professional before attempting to DIY a shelter.

5. Brand

The tornado shelter cost depends on the brand you choose. All top brands meet FEMA safety regulations and offer different features. When evaluating brands, opt for long-term warranties and companies with good customer service in your area.

6. Materials Used

The material of the structure will also affect your tornado shelter cost. Aside from price, you should choose materials based on where you plan to set up your shelter and the type of shelter you need. Durable materials that have been tested and approved by FEMA include wood, cinder blocks, concrete, fiberglass, steel, polyethylene, and Kevlar. Wooden shelters are usually the cheapest while those made from Kevlar are more costly.

7. DIY vs Hiring a Professional

Building a tornado shelter requires knowledge about permits, experience, and materials. If you haven’t built one before, it’s in your best interest to hire a professional. While contractors will generally charge you about 10% to 20% of the tornado shelter cost, the extra expense is worth it since it means your family’s safety.

Additional Costs and Considerations

1. Preparing the Site

A prefab above-ground storm shelter will not only have a lower tornado shelter cost but is easier to prepare for. In contrast, a custom-built underground shelter can require weeks of preparation.

A pre-built storm shelter requires clear and level ground before installation. It must also be anchored to a concrete pad or foundation.

Digging a tornado shelter hole in the ground

When hiring a contractor to install your ground shelter, ask if the quoted price includes site preparation.

2. Permit Requirements and Building Codes

Some areas require permits before a tornado shelter can be built. The permit fees will depend on the shelter you’re building and the utilities you’re planning to include.

Apart from the permits, you’ll also need to adhere to FEMA building codes stipulated in FEMA’s P-361 standards. These standards ensure that your shelter is safe for you and your family.

3. Accessibility for the Differently Abled

If you have a family member with limited mobility, a garage storm shelter for severe weather may be the best type of shelter for them since it will be on the same level as your home and be situated very close to it.

4. Additional Features Like Emergency Exits

Additional features will increase your tornado shelter cost and the price you pay for permits. Features you may want to consider are plumbing, ventilation, bedding, and an emergency exit. This will make your shelter viable to stay in for many hours and even days.

It's a good idea to keep an emergency kit in your tornado shelter

Tornado Shelter Maintenance

A tornado shelter needs regular maintenance to ensure that it’s usable should an emergency arise. Here are the important tasks you need to keep in mind:

1. Keep It Well-stocked with Unexpired Supplies

Extreme weather conditions can last for hours and even days. In such cases, you’ll need an emergency kit and ample supplies that are safe to use. Always check the expiration dates of your supplies, (particularly food) to ensure that you can use them in case of an emergency.

2. Keeping It Clean

A tornado shelter will most often be unused, allowing dust and dirt to settle inside. Clean it regularly so that if the time comes, it can comfortably accommodate you and your family.

3. Keep Your Door in Working Order

The door to your shelter is one of the most important features of your shelter. In case of severe weather, it needs to function properly so your family can quickly get to safety. Test the door and its latch regularly to ensure they’re working properly.

A tornado shelter increases property value

Benefits of a Tornado Shelter

If you’re on undecided about building a shelter, here are a few benefits that may help you make up your mind.

1. Convenient During Emergency

Should extreme weather conditions like tornadoes happen, a storm shelter can make a huge difference when it comes to your family’s safety.

2. Storage for Valuables and Emergency Provisions

A tornado shelter can store at least a week’s worth of emergency provisions. Alternatively, you can also use it as storage for valuables like your wine collection or firearms.

3. Protects You and Your Family

The biggest benefit of a storm shelter is it keeps you and your loved ones safe during emergencies. Your shelter can also be a safe room in case your house is infiltrated by ill-intentioned intruders.

4. Increases Property Value

Home add-ons like tornado shelters increase your property value, especially in regions prone to extreme weather conditions.


How can I save money on my tornado shelter?

Given the high cost associated with building a tornado shelter, you’ll want to reduce your spending whenever possible.

Here’s how you can reduce your tornado shelter cost:

  • Opt for a prefabricated storm shelter rather than a custom shelter
  • Build an on-ground shelter in an existing space like your garage or basement
  • Opt for cheaper materials that are still rated for safety
  • Get quotes from multiple contractors before choosing one
  • Make your tornado shelter multi-purpose

Can FEMA help me pay for a home shelter?

Yes, FEMA provides financial assistance to people residing in tornado-prone areas. They can shoulder up to 75% of your shelter’s cost. You can apply for financial assistance through Safe Room Funding.

How much time does it take to install a tornado shelter?

How long it takes to install your tornado shelter will vary greatly depending on its size, location, materials, and if there are additional features. Prefab storm shelters can usually be installed in a day or less, but underground storm shelters can take at least a few weeks.

Wrapping Up Everything You Need to Know About Tornado Shelter Cost

Those residing in hurricane and tornado-prone areas should prepare for the worst by having a tornado shelter installed. A well-equipped and well-built storm shelter can give you adequate protection against tornadoes while providing you with all your needs as you wait for a severe storm to pass.

Before building your tornado shelter, consider your tornado shelter cost, the space and type of shelter you need, the weather conditions that it has to withstand, and the local regulations in your area.

Learn more about other types of shelters on Survival World.