Building a Gun Vault Without Breaking the Bank

posted on June 9, 2020

Photo courtesy of Vista Outdoor

The addition of a safe room or a walk-in vault that has a secure door and no windows is all the rage these days in home building. Areas such as these provide refuge from attack, whether from highwaymen or natural disaster and there’s no better place to store your guns. Sure, if you’re a millionaire you can have a vault built into your mansion that’d be the envy of Batman, but most of us are just gun owners looking for a little extra security. Here are some considerations on designing a walk-in gun vault that won’t break the bank.

When people think of gun vaults, many envision underground bunkers. Storing your guns underground is good because being ensconced in earth provides a level of protection against fire, tornadoes and exterior walls from being breached, but it also poses a major problem for guns: humidity. Moisture is the enemy of firearms, and most basements and underground dwellings smell dank and musty for a reason. That’s because the earth is moist, and moisture attacks areas of lesser moisture concentration. Moisture can permeate wood, concrete and eventually eat away metal via rust. Moisture also leads to mold.

So, if you do decide to build an underground vault/safe room, consult a professional first. You’ll need to make sure it stays dry, has proper ventilation and that it has power for communications devices. Before any concrete is poured or metal framing is welded, make sure you’ve prepared a door frame that will accept a standard-sized vault door. Consider things like which way it must open, how it must be installed so it remains secure from the outside and make sure to only buy a door that can also be opened from the inside.

Perhaps better than an underground vault are those fortified above ground. These “safe rooms” are not as prone to temperature/moisture disparities as those underground. Consider running an HVAC system (or get a standalone unit such, as a mini-split system), so your guns will stay at a constant temperature that’s desirable for long-term storage. Many HVAC systems have a dehumidifying feature. Mainly, however, by keeping your vault above ground with a quality door, your safe spot will be easier to access and you’ll be more prone to use and enjoy it.

Of course, walk-in gun vaults are best built into your house at the time of construction using cinder block, stud construction, walls fortified with rebar or all-metal construction, but retro-fitting is possible. Many builders buy prefabricated metal or concrete safe structures and drop them into the home, then build regular stud-and-sheetrock walls around them so the vault appears seamless in your house.  

If you’re a do-it-yourself person, there are several routes you can choose: A: Identify a windowless room and fortify its walls with steel, rebar or cinder block; B: Choose a corner of your house and build two fortified walls and a frame for a vault door; C: Fortify a large closet. Closets are great because they rarely have windows; they commonly adjoin bedrooms or comprise dead spaces of houses; they can be easily accessed; and their entrances can be easily hidden. If possible, choose a closet on the ground floor due to the weight it will hold.

If you have a garage, consider purchasing a ready-made steel shelter like those from Shelter-in-Place. Prefabricated tornado shelters work well or you can build a room using cinder block and mortar. Another alternative is to buy a small metal storage container, have it delivered, roll it into your garage and bolt it to the floor from the inside so the entire thing can’t be easily moved. With a cutting torch and some framing skill, you can retro-fit it for a custom vault door so it looks like something you’d show off to your buddies.

Once your vault type is decided, the fun part is deciding how to display/store your guns. First, you can fabricate your own storage solutions depending on your welding and/or carpentry skills. Felt-lined gun racks are not hard to make from wood. Second, you can have your custom design made by a local cabinet maker or metal fabricator. Just make sure you trust this person, or better yet, have them make the cabinets and you install them. Third, you can buy modular storage solutions from niche companies such as SecureIt Gun Storage and others. You can also get creative and search hardware stores for display solutions like metal grid and peg systems, or even rolling tool boxes, that you can install yourself.

A walk-in gun vault is practical; it can protect your guns and even your life. At the very least, a walk-in gun vault will lend peace of mind. If it’s done right, it might also end up being one of your favorite places in your house just to hang out in … and admire your guns.


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