Converting a walk-in closet into safe room

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Converting a walk-in closet into safe room

Post by KnifeStyle » Fri Apr 28, 2017 12:38 pm

I'm about to close on a place closer to my work, rigging it up for frequent out of town guests due to being next to the airport. Noticing the guest room had a walk-in closet, I got the idea of beefing up that interior door and using that area to house my rifle locker and store anything of distinct value or of questionable status. I want this place to be completely sterile for entertaining and socializing, the last thing I want is a pair of drunken friends to go make out somewhere and find a rack of guns, machetes, and a mascot costume. Thus, this walk-in closet will become a locked door...And with some creative decorating, it will ideally be hidden behind a full-wall curtain draped a certain wait. I am not positive if there is a light installed or electrical outlets, but that could be a longer term project to add once the house is settled. Just a nice little nook for weaponry, hiking gear, and maybe a little velcro board of morale patches since I never get to put them on anything.

But as I mapped out how to upgrade the door and have anything organized and accessible...I gradually wondered how it would work if I simply closed the door behind me and locked it. There should be enough space on the floor to lay down a sleeping pad, and if some hiking gear is stored in there anyway it will be hanging nearby. I'm not imagining a long-term spider hole situation, moreso a typical short-term panic room protocol. If there is an immediate threat making its way through my front door and I have time to relocate, ducking behind the curtain and locking myself in this nook would visibly hide me, put a solid exterior door in front of me, and give me enough breathing room to call 9-11 with close access to tools and supplies that could become necessary.

Looking into this online, I see people gutting the walls to add bulletproofing with steel and concrete for when the walls get shot through like you pissed off the Punisher...I think I'm going to pass on that level. By all means I'd be taking cover behind the rifle locker and staying low, but I'm not seeing that pursuit as a necessary cost and effort. At the very least I'd rig up my locker with some ready-access options, keep a trauma kit visible for quick grabbing, and throw an old cell phone without a SIM in there for backup 9-11 access.
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Re: Converting a walk-in closet into safe room

Post by Dabster » Fri Apr 28, 2017 3:15 pm

Just a closet door? I guess you'll at least be conspicuously hidden which might buy you an additional minute or two.

I have a back closet that I think of reinforcing. I agree the 3-d steel vault is more than most could stomach but I have heard of people adding gravel between the dry wall to create a bit of cover in case of shooting.

How about starting by reinforcing the door so it can't be easily kicked in?
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Re: Converting a walk-in closet into safe room

Post by Close_enough » Fri Apr 28, 2017 4:54 pm

I've heard of the same thing with old ammo boxes filled with sand. I think you have to establish a level for how hardened you want it to be. A gun cabinet, pile of cinderblocks filled with sand, filing cabinet, etc.
If I had to do it:
Plywood screwed to the wall studs (all interior walls), a solid core door entrance, and reinforcing hardware to prevent someone from kicking their way in.
Disguise it. I.e. with hanging clothes, floor and crown molding, and a release behind a fake breaker box.
Equip with a big red button tied to exterior strobes and sirens, and a landline or spare cell.
Have an exit route. I.e. ladder to the attic, rope ladder in attic for exiting through a peak vent

EDIT: Derp moment. Reread you post. Forget disguising it, but do the rest. Install a privacy lock (basic bedroom door lock) with the key facing out to keep amorous folks out it. If anybody gets curious, it is where you store your hunting and camping gear.

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Re: Converting a walk-in closet into safe room

Post by KnifeStyle » Tue May 02, 2017 9:07 am

Looks like I'm closing on the 15th, should have photos for analysis before the month is over.
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Re: Converting a walk-in closet into safe room

Post by JeeperCreeper » Tue May 02, 2017 9:47 am

I plan on doing something like this when I buy my first house. I have some pretty basic brainstorming ideas, but I am not a homeowner, not an expert, nor really know what I'm doing. But here's my thought process and I'm sure someone smarter will come around and tell me I'm dumb...

-I might not want to use a drapery or curtain to hide a secret door long term. If the room is to be hidden, a full size drapery may inquire curious minds to look behind very easily. I know it would be more expensive, but something like a large mirror or shelf may hide a flush fitting door more incognito. I kow they make sliders or hinges that make them move easily. There are videos on Youtube of hidden rooms and safe rooms that have budget options. I bet even Pintrest has stuff even though I don't use it. But I agree, if you lock yourself in, a curtain would be easiest to get back in place while you are in the room (can't move a shelf when you're in the room).

-Weight will be you enemy if the room is on a second story or not laying directly on a foundation. My buddy built a vault room in his basement (he built the house) so he can have a bank vault door that weighs 3,000 pounds. The last thing you want is sand, concrete, or heavy steel to warp your floors. I even had to move my ammo stores to my ground floor to keep the floor from sagging at my parent's house years ago.

-For doors, I would recommend a basic steel door. Nothing too heavy duty, but enough to deter a crow bar for a couple minutes. Consider most wooden doors now are hollow fiberboard, anything is better than something you snag at Lowe's or Home Depot. Besides, if someone really wanted in, they could just punch through your interior walls. Looks like a decent steel fire/storm door is about $400, comes with a steel frame, and weigh about 100 pounds... not bad if the walk-in closet has any frame or load bearing surface.
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Re: Converting a walk-in closet into safe room

Post by Halfapint » Tue May 02, 2017 10:34 am

Looking to buy my first house as well and this thought came into my head. I have a closet that is in the down stairs under the stairs. It's a small closet and a funny angle, but it's a good gun safe for the time being. I was thinking of reinforcing the door jam, getting a solid wood door, and putting dual deadbolts and a door lock on it.

I was thinking of removing to drywall and putting some concrete or gravel in ballistics fiber to stop bullets coming through, but that might be overkill for an area that ia rather sleepy.
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Re: Converting a walk-in closet into safe room

Post by SCBrian » Tue May 02, 2017 3:23 pm

reinforcing the door is a good first step, but the door is only going to be as strong as the door jamb. And on a closet? you're probably looking at a single 2x4 on each side, and one for the header (Depending on age of house, codes in effect at the time) They might not get through the door, but a swift kick could remove said door from frame, or rather frame from wall. Would it buy you a few seconds or minutes, sure, maybe. Look at the weak points and figure a way to reinforce them.
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Re: Converting a walk-in closet into safe room

Post by norcalprep » Tue May 02, 2017 4:02 pm

I've thought about making a panic room before in a previous home. I never did it as I sold the house and moved on, but, if I remember correctly from my research, 'bulletproof drywall' may be an option to make it a little more protective. The whole 'wall of ammo cans with sand' sounds like a decent option, but my calculations put it at too much weight for the floor (if you're on a concrete slab, that's probably not an issue for you). Lastly, one option I was exploring (and may appeal to you), was to only reinforce the bottom 4' of the walls of your safe room. It's at least some protection since you'll probably be ducked down anyways, reduces the cost, and also the weight of the reinforcements.

I have a family to worry about so I never considered the following, but it sounds like you're by yourself. If that's the case, then maybe a bulletproof shield would be more economical than securing the whole room? Make it yourself out of AR500 steel, or something like Use plywood sheets around the room to prevent quick breeches, definitely reinforce the 2x4 around the door frame, but only bulletproof your corner in there.

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Re: Converting a walk-in closet into safe room

Post by Stercutus » Mon May 15, 2017 8:58 am

I always think basement when I think safe room. Being in a properly reinforced below ground room level offers protection from:

- Flying missiles of all types
- Windstorms and tornadoes
- Radiation
- Extreme high and low temperatures

Since people live in different rooms around my house getting them all in to one spot is not easy in the event of an intruder. That is tough luck for the intruder. He will have to face armed people in different rooms around the house.
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Re: Converting a walk-in closet into safe room

Post by MacAttack » Mon May 15, 2017 12:06 pm

Turn the huge walk in closet into a smaller standard closet with a hidden door into the new safe room.

If you have a basement you could put a trapdoor to the basement inside the safe room.

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Re: Converting a walk-in closet into safe room

Post by southpier » Mon May 22, 2017 7:29 am

without specific ways of 'how-to', I would add considerations of:


second access/ egress

fresh air intake


any of these can be simple or as elaborate as provides peace of mind

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