Choosing the Right Above Ground Storm Shelter: A Buyer's Guide (2024)


In areas prone to severe storms and extreme weather events, having a reliable, sturdy, and safe shelter can be of utmost importance for you and your family. Above ground storm shelters are a popular choice due to their accessibility, easy installation, and efficient use of space. However, choosing the right above ground shelter for your specific needs and circumstances can be a daunting task. This blog post will guide you through the key factors to consider when choosing the best above ground shelter, from assessing your geographical location and structural integrity, to size, installation options, and financing considerations. Our aim is to help you make an informed decision that prioritizes safety and preparedness, giving you peace of mind in times of storms.

Factors to Consider When Choosing an Above Ground Shelter

Choosing an above-ground shelter is a significant decision that requires careful thought and planning. This type of personal preparedness can offer valuable protection in times of natural disasters or other emergencies. When deciding on the best shelter for your needs, several critical factors must be considered—among them, the location of the shelter. Choosing the right location is essential for safety, accessibility, and compliance with local regulations. Let's explore these points in more detail below.


The chosen location for your above-ground shelter can significantly impact its effectiveness and safety. A well-chosen location can mean the difference between a shelter that provides safety and one that offers little protection.

Consider the Topography of the Area

Before choosing where to build your above-ground shelter, it's essential to assess the land's topography or physical features. Is your area prone to flooding or high winds? If so, these conditions may affect the shelter's structure or durability.

Areas prone to flooding, for example, require shelters built atop high ground. This positioning ensures floodwater doesn't reach the shelter, thereby safeguarding its occupants. On the other hand, if you live in an area known for high winds or tornadoes, you may need to invest in a shelter designed to withstand these powerful forces.

Check with Local Building Codes and Regulations

Before installing an above-ground shelter, make sure to check your local building codes and regulations. These legal requirements can dictate where you can place a shelter and what type of shelters are permitted in your area.

Complying with these codes and regulations protects you legally and ensures your shelter is as safe as possible for its occupants. Violations can lead to fines or legal actions and compromise the shelter, posing potential risks to those within. By checking with these regulations first, you can save time, money, and possible litigation.

Ensure the Shelter is Easily Accessible for All Family Members

Lastly, when choosing an above-ground shelter location, ensure it is conveniently accessible for all family members. The less time it takes to get everyone inside, the better—the goal is to minimize exposure to potentially harmful conditions, after all. Therefore, think about the placement of the shelter in relation to your home, considering the distance and any physical hurdles that might be in the way. Opt for a location that all family members can reach quickly, easily, and safely, even in the most challenging conditions.

Remember, an above-ground shelter is only as good as its location. A poorly chosen location could render the shelter ineffective, putting you and your loved ones at risk. By taking these factors into account when choosing a location for your above-ground shelter, you can ensure it serves its purpose of providing security and peace of mind during times of crisis.

Structural Integrity and Materials

When planning for shelters to withstand storms or other natural disasters, the choice of materials is critical. The integrity of our shelters heavily depends on the quality and durability of the materials used in their construction. Let's take a deep dive into some of the most common materials employed in the design of above-ground shelters: steel, concrete, and polymer.


Steel is widely recognized for its durability, strength, and resistance to extreme weather conditions. It can withstand high pressure and corrosive environments, attributes that make it a popular choice for storm shelters. However, the cost of steel may be high, and it can corrode with time if not properly treated.


Concrete is another common material used for shelter construction. It is rugged, relatively inexpensive, and offers excellent resistance to high winds and flying debris. Concrete shelters can be built to any size and can be designed to blend seamlessly with existing structures. However, concrete can crack under extreme pressure, and its strength may also be compromised if it is not mixed and installed correctly.


Polymers are modern, lightweight, and versatile materials gaining popularity in the construction industry. High-density polyethylene (HDPE) is commonly used in storm shelters because it is lightweight, doesn't corrode, and is resistant to UV light. However, polymers may not offer the same level of protection against extreme storm impact as steel or concrete.

When choosing the material for building a shelter, the potential severity of storms in your area should be considered. The materials must be strong and durable enough to withstand the strongest storms you may encounter.

Finally, before purchasing or constructing a shelter, make sure it has been properly tested and certified to meet industry standards for storm protection. Various agencies and independent testing laboratories perform rigorous testing on shelters against extreme winds, impacts from flying debris, and crushing forces. Such certified shelters provide confidence that they can withstand the forces they are designed to resist.

Remember, safety must be your primary concern. The choice of material for your shelter should complement your overall preparedness strategy in protecting your family, loved ones, and valuable possessions from unforeseen elements.

Size and Capacity

Choosing the right size for your shelter is crucial. Your shelter’s size must tally with the number of people who will be using it, including pets. The shelter's size should not be determined arbitrarily – it should be based on a careful evaluation of the number of occupants source.

In addition to the people and pet factor, you must also ensure that there's enough room to store emergency supplies and provisions. These are essentials every shelter should have, so don't skimp on space for them. Items such as first aid kits, canned foods, bottles of water, warm clothing, and pet supplies should have a dedicated space in your shelter. For a comprehensive list of emergency supplies to consider, check this article link from

Finally, consider the potential need for wheelchair accessibility or special medical equipment. If any members of your household have disabilities or other medical needs, these should factor into your planning. For example, your shelter design might need to include a ramp for wheelchairs or storage areas for medical equipment and medications.

Remember, in an emergency scenario, your shelter should serve as your temporary home. As such, it should be as accommodating as possible. Each of these factors will affect not only the size of your shelter but also its functionality and livability. It, therefore, pays to give them some careful thought.

Installation and Maintenance

When planning for emergencies, an above-ground shelter can be an essential component in your survival strategy. However, selecting the right one requires thorough research and understanding of the installation process for different types of shelters. Additionally, each shelter has unique maintenance requirements that you need to comprehend to ensure its functionality during a crisis.

Researching the Installation Process

Each type of above-ground shelter comes with its specific installation process. Some might be relatively straightforward, involving only basic assembly, while others could require professional installation.

For instance, modular above-ground shelters typically come in pieces and require assembly. This process involves securing the sections together, anchoring the shelter to the ground, and possibly adding some weatherproofing elements such as seals or insulation.

On the other hand, custom-built or more complicated shelters might need professional installation. These can include wiring for electricity and ventilation systems or the construction of attached entrances for easy access.

Before you buy a shelter, it's important that you research the necessary installation for each model you are considering. Look for detailed instructions, video tutorials, or find out if professional installers are recommended by the manufacturer.

Maintenance Requirements

Once your shelter is installed, regular maintenance is crucial to ensure that it remains safe and functional. Different types of shelters will have varying maintenance needs, so understanding these ahead of time will help you keep your shelter in optimum condition.

For instance, a steel-reinforced concrete shelter will require regular checks for cracks and other damage. Any discovered issues must be repaired immediately to ensure structural integrity.

Similarly, shelters that are fitted with air filtration systems, electricity, or water systems will need these components checked and serviced regularly. Equipment like filters and generators will need to be replaced periodically, and electrical and plumbing systems will require their routine maintenance.

Choosing the Right Shelter

When selecting a shelter, look for products that come with detailed instructions for both installation and maintenance. This information will guide you through the process, help you prevent common mistakes, and keep your shelter functioning correctly.

Certain companies may also offer professional installation services, which could be indispensable if the installation process seems too complex or if you just want to ensure the job is done correctly. Plus, these professionals can give you practical advice about maintaining your shelter.

Overall, considering the installation and maintenance needs of different above-ground shelters should be a key part of your decision-making process as you prepare for survival situations. The right shelter, properly installed and maintained, can be a literal lifesaver during threatening circumstances.

Cost and Financing Options for Above Ground Shelters

One of the major considerations when planning to build an above ground shelter is the cost. Depending on the type of shelter, location, and size, the price can vary significantly. It's important to carefully compare the upfront costs of different options before making a decision. Moreover, understanding your financing options can play a pivotal role in your ultimate choice.

Comparing Upfront Costs of Different Shelter Options

Above ground shelters come in a variety of design options to fit varying needs and budgets. Pricing can range anywhere from $3000 for a basic steel residential shelter, to over $20,000 for a custom design with all the amenities [^1^].

Prefabricated shelters tend to be the most cost-effective option. They are mass-produced in a controlled factory environment to ensure quality control, and their standardized design keeps costs down. These shelters can cost from $3,000 to $8,000 depending on size and features [^2^].

Custom shelters, on the other hand, offer greater flexibility in terms of design and layout but come with a considerably higher price tag. The costs for these shelters generally range from $8,000 to above $20,000[^1^].

Financing Options and Grant Programs

While the upfront costs may seem daunting, several financing options exist that can make owning a storm shelter more affordable. Many shelter manufacturers offer financing options such as monthly payment plans, loans, or lease-to-own arrangements[^3^].

Additionally, some states and regions prone to storms and natural disasters have financial aid programs available to help residents install storm shelters. For instance, the State of Oklahoma, frequented by tornadoes, provides rebates of up to $2,000 or 75% of the cost of installing a residential storm shelter through the Sooner Safe Storm Shelter Rebate Program[^4^].

Assessing the Long-term Value and Potential Cost Savings

While considering the upfront costs and financing options is important, it's equally crucial to assess the long-term value and potential cost savings of owning a storm shelter.

Installing a storm shelter can significantly reduce the risk of injury or loss of life in the event of a severe storm. Plus, a shelter can also potentially save you thousands in property damage costs if your area is prone to severe weather incidents[^5^].

Moreover, storm shelters could also potentially increase the value of your property. A well-installed and maintained storm shelter can be a selling point for home buyers, particularly in areas frequently hit by severe weather[^6^].

In summary, looking beyond the initial cost and considering the overall value and return on investment is vital when evaluating the feasibility of installing a storm shelter in your home.

[^1^]: "How Much Does a Storm Shelter Cost?" - HomeAdvisor [^2^]: "Storm Shelters - Pricing and Info" - StormSafe Shelters [^3^]: "Financing - Preferred Storm Shelters" [^4^]: "Sooner Safe - Safe Room Rebate Program" - State of Oklahoma [^5^]: "Benefits of Having a Storm Shelter" - Guardian Storm Shelter [^6^]: "Do Storm Shelters Increase Home Value?" - TornadoPlace


Throughout this article, we have navigated the significant considerations one must keep in mind when deciding on the best above-ground shelter for potential storm conditions. Choosing a shelter is not about solely picking the cheapest or the most visually appealing one, but it's about prioritizing safety, durability, and functionality.

One of the key takeaway points from our discussion stands as the shelter's potency to withstand severe climatic patterns. High wind resistance, waterproofing, and structural integrity are some elemental features that need to be assured before investing in an above-ground storm shelter. Remember, a proper shelter can protect you and your loved ones from harm in the face of potential extreme weather conditions.

The shelter's size is another crucial factor to contemplate, having a direct impact on the accommodation capacity during an emergency. Picking the right size means ensuring that it can comfortably provide sanctuary to all family members. A cramped shelter not only limits mobility but can also intensify stress levels during an already anxious time.

Furthermore, easy access to the shelter during times of worsening weather conditions is a pivotal factor. Shelters with simplistic design and user-friendly access points can speed up evacuation procedures, therefore, enhancing safety parameters.

Lastly, a shelter's cost should also be taken into account, but it should not be the defining factor. Investing in an above-ground storm shelter is a onetime expense safeguarding peace of mind and your family's wellbeing for years to come. Hence, it is prudent to invest wisely, even if it means straying slightly above your estimated budget.

Overall, choosing an above-ground storm shelter is a significant decision that has far-reaching implications on personal safety and preparedness. It should not be done hastily; rather, it requires a mix of careful technical evaluation, personal judgment, and a little bit of research. And remember, the purpose is not just to survive a storm, but to do so with the least amount of risk and discomfort.

At "The Modern Yankee," our primary aim is to equip our readers with knowledge and tools to lead a life of preparedness. We stress the importance of safety, acknowledging the fact that often the danger lies not in the storm, but in our lack of preparation. Therefore, we sincerely encourage our readers to implement the considerations discussed, into their decision-making process for the ultimate above-ground storm shelter.

In the end, it's all about being ready and safe. As the saying goes, "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail." With that, we wish you a safe journey in your personal preparedness endeavors.