Laurel's Adventures in Home Repair   


Storm Shelter Installation - Lawton, Oklahoma House

June 2 - 13, 2014


In our second home in Oklahoma there is the fear of tornadoes. Tornadoes, which are almost statistically impossible in El Paso, TX, are never given much thought.  I say "almost" because you never know...

A few sleepless nights in Oklahoma during a few tornado warnings convinced my husband that he would not feel safe until he had a hole to hide in.  After researching different shelter options, he decided on a garage safe room.  This is a storm shelter that is installed into the ground in the garage of your home.

The company we contacted to install the storm shelter was Thunderground Storm Shelters. (no longer in business prior to March 2018, when I proofread this page)  My husband chose this company because they had the jumbo tall size which has a height of 6' 3". He wanted something he could stand in without hitting his head.

After contacting the company in February 2014 and agreeing to the terms, they sent us a contract.  We paid a $300 deposit and were told they would contact us at the end of April to schedule an installation date in May. 

A couple of things you need to check on before installation:

 1) What kind of foundation do you have on your house.  Is it the good ole cement slab or the newer post-tension cable system.  Our Oklahoma home is older, so it is cement slab.  With a post-tension cable system you will need to bring in another contractor to cut the cables and repair the cables after.

2) Mileage charges.  Because the city our house was in was not the same as the company's, they additionally charged us for mileage. 

3) Is the entrance to your garage large enough to get the shelter in?  As you will see in the photos below, it was a tight fit on our house. 

4) Do you have any plumbing where you plan on putting the hole?  You may not know until the project begins.  We didn't.

5) Does your city require a permit and pre and post installation inspections?  Our city did.  And there is a fee.  Find out from the storm shelter company who will contact the city inspector and take care of the fee.

6) Does the company charge based on the amount of hours they think it will take?   If they have to come back a second day, will they again charge for mileage and the additional time?

Below are the photographs of the installation process. 
Day 1 - the installation process should only take one day UNLESS there are some problems along the way.  Which we did have. 

The truck arrived at our home and the crew started unloading their truck

The storm shelter was taken off the truck and loaded onto a dolly

The storm shelter was pulled and pushed into our garage.  Note the tight fit.

The storm shelter finally squeezed all the way into the garage

The storm shelter pushed to the back of garage out of the way

The floor of the garage was marked and crew began cutting the cement

Cement being removed

After this point there are no photographs of the plumbing they came across.  What the crew discovered was that the cement was much thicker towards the inside of the garage.  Which can be seen in the photograph below.  They needed to use a jack hammer to get through the cement. Also, sure enough, a water pipe went right through where the hole was going to be.

Needless to say, the installation process was halted until my husband found a plumber to re-route the plumbing so it would not be in the middle of the hole.

If we had known there was a pipe here, we would have had the hole dug on the other side of the garage.  So much for the city inspector who should have known where the pipes were or should have had a copy of the building plans at the city office to review.  So do not trust that your city inspector has a clue of what is going on.

Since it is almost impossible to get a plumber immediately, the crew packed up and left.  It took a few days to get a plumber to the house to do the job of re-routing the pipes and a few more days to get the crew back to finish the job.  The final installation was done on June 13, 2014.  These photos are below.

The now completed shelter hole above shows the thicker concrete at the back of the hole and the water pipes moved to the edge of the shelter hole.

Dried cement placed on the bottom of the hole and then water added

This company pores the concrete in dry and then adds water as opposed to having a cement truck pore in ready mixed concrete.  Hmm..... I am wondering how you know if you have added enough or too little water.

Final preparations before lowering the shelter

Lowering the storm shelter into the hole

Almost all the way in...

Crew stabilizing the shelter and making sure it is level

Cement going in the sides

Cement finished being added to sides

Pre-mixed cement added to level out the floor

My husband waited 24 hours before going inside the shelter to allow the cement to set. The photographs below are of the inside.  Because of the tight space, it is almost impossible to get a photo of the entire inside.

The stairs going down into the shelter are very steep.  Probably best to go in backwards, like going down a ladder.  I also suggested that my husband pick-up some of those sandpaper like stick-on anti-slip  tapes for the stair treads.  The metal treads are slightly corrugated, but this will be useless under any wet conditions.

The shelter has two wood benches that are covered in carpeting.  They run the length of the shelter through the stairs.  My husband bought an area rug for the floor of the shelter.

The shelter company provided a battery operated light but my husband added another.  He also purchased a weather radio that will be kept in the shelter.  He has another by his bed.

Under the stairs are where we stored drinking water, a first aid kit, blankets, batteries, some food, etc. Enough stuff to last a few days in case the worst happens.

The latch for the sliding door

After the storm shelter was installed, my husband contacted the city's Storm Shelter Registry to register our storm shelter.  This way if the worse happens and the house is destroyed, they will know to look for us under the rubble.  It is a good idea to let any friends, neighbors, or relatives know also.

This house was sold in 2019.  We installed another garage storm shelter in 2021 at our newer house.  See the 2021 installation here....
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