Does anyone have plans for a walk-in gun vault?


October 16, 2004, 11:59 AM
My gun collection has grown rapidly over the last few years and doesn't seem to have an end in sight (not huge compared to some of you guys -- 18 rifles, 4 shotguns, 9 handguns). I have quickly outstripped the capacity of my 2 little Homak safes (mostly for kid security -- they're 7, 5 and 3).

I've considered a big fire-proof safe in the near future but frankly to get one big enough is expensive and there is the problem of future expansion.

My answer? A walk-in fireproof gun vault! We have a 100 year old house that we just gutted and renovated, including a family room addition. Underneath the addition is a basement area that will eventually become my den. As long as we're finishing the space, I figure I'll insert a walk in vault.

Now, there are plenty of vault doors out there for sale, but to date, I can't find anyone that sells plans or guidelines for the safe itself. I can certainly start designing but sure would like to have someplace to start.

What I know I want:
- Walk in -- at least 10'x10'
- Fireproof vault door
- Fireproof walls (assuming cinderblock walls and ceramic fireproofing of some type -- equal to the better gun safes)
- Electrical service for lighting and outlets
- Humidity control -- assuming through a dehumidifier
- At least one of the walls and the floor I have to build on is concrete
- Concerned with the ceiling -- above is wooden joists and underlayment

Anyone have advise or a source of plans? Thanks in advance.

If you enjoyed reading about "Does anyone have plans for a walk-in gun vault?" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!
October 16, 2004, 01:10 PM
You don't really need "gun vault" plans - just room plans. Design the room the size you want it, factoring in fire prevention, brick walls, etc. The interior fittings (e.g. rifle racks, shelves, drawers, etc.) can be done to your own taste once the room is built. However, if you want to buy standard furniture or fittings, it might be worth measuring the units before designing the room - it's no good trying to fit a 10' shelving system into a 9' room!

(How do I know this, you ask? Trust me. I know this. :fire: )

October 16, 2004, 02:23 PM
I have to believe someone will come along here that has a vault room and will share the details.

Obviously the two major factors would seem to be strength of the walls so they can't be easily breached and also fire protection. Some research on building materials to cover those two area's might be of benifit.

On the web I found a location that sells a book on this subject. I don't have a clue as to wether the book is worth the money but here is the link :

Good Luck with a great idea ! ps: go to the "secure home" section of the site.

Snake Eyes
October 16, 2004, 02:55 PM
BTW--The high-tech advanced material used in gunsafes for fireproofing is....

Sheetrock. That's right: Drywall.

Two layers of Type X 5/8" sheetrock will give your room all the fire protection, or better, of the best safe.

Stagger all joints and fire-tape each layer. You'll have what building code refers to as a "two hour wall". Most safes fire test for 30-40 minutes. If you frame the room out with steel studs instead of wood, you'll be even farther ahead.

Another option, if you've got a plasterer handy, is old fashion 7/8" portland cement plaster (stucco). But drywall is a lot easier.

October 16, 2004, 02:57 PM
When they were building a subdivision near my house(blast suburban sprawl), I was able to look at the houses as they were being built. Most of them, it seemed, included a seperate foundation for the porch. WHich means it may be possible, if someone has the right foundation design, to jsut cut out the basement wall right there, clean out the dirt and floor it. Instant vault. This obviously won't work for you, iamkris, but others might be able to do it, if it's architecturally sound.

I've been planning to have my own house built, and a walk-in safe would be one feature included. I'm sure the companies that build bank vaults would be good to talk to, they can give you ideas about how to do it. I'd say at least eight inch concrete block for the walls, make sure to fill and reinforce them. There's probably some sort of insulation to put in them or something to help with the fireproofing. The ceiling is a tough one. You'll probably end up tearing out the floor above to get whatever it is installed, so you can do alot with that. Continuing with masonry, a concrete slab would probably be the best top. I don't know what to do about ventilation though.

Blue Line
October 16, 2004, 03:06 PM
when i was in the army we had a freestanding vault built in our area. It was concrete filled blocks with a slab roof,which sat on a concrete slab floor, it had the fireproof vault combo lock, was alarmed, and had electrical wired to the inside for lights and humiditiy control. Basicly a big concrete box!

October 16, 2004, 03:34 PM
As had been said, fireproofing ain't rocket science.

During the last remodel I double sheetrocked (inside and out) a 5x7 closet in the basement on a concrete slab, bought a 3070 steel fire door and frame from my place of work, smoke gasketed it and have a "fire-proof" vault that will probably survive the house burning up around it, or at least til the FD can get there.

If you want plans for a concrete bunker type, check into the old survivalist-type books on basement bomb shelters. It is the same concept.

Or, go to your local security company (like the one I worked for) that does bank vault work, they can do the design/build to whatever standard you want. Including ventilation and humidity control.

Remember, if you end up using concrete blocks, you have to fill all the cells or a 12 year old with a framing hammer can get in.

October 16, 2004, 04:34 PM
Great info guys...I hadn't though about the ability to break up cinder blocks with a hammer. I like the idea of using steel studs and double wall sheet rock. I can rock with the best of them (have refinished a basement before so I have hard taught skills).

Anyone else with personal experience doing this?

Car Knocker
October 16, 2004, 05:29 PM
Grouted cinderblock walls (or any heavy walls) could crack your concrete floor if not properly supported.

I read of someone building saferoom walls out of 6" steel studs, screwing OSB to the studs (inside and out) and filling the cavities with concrete and rebar as he went up. After the concrete set for a couple of days, he removed the OSB and let it thoroughly cure. IIRC, when cured he put up wood paneling to cover the concrete.

He had high ceilings in the basement so used steel pans (heavily corrugated steel that is used to support concrete floors in buildings) and pumped in lightweight cement to form a fireproof roof.

I believe he used a Browning vault door.

October 17, 2004, 07:23 PM

No, fireproofing is not rocket science. I do this for a living, & I'm not a rocket scientist, I'm a locksmith. No, I don't do fireproofing for a living I primarily sell safes, not tin boxes. I also consult on vaults, free if you buy the door from me.

There are several considerations that the average guy simply does not think of when designing his gunroom/vault. If the home burns, and your room is in the basement, how are you going to handle the water? Is your ceiling going to be strong enough to resist having the rest of the home above it collapse on it? Emergency inside release on the door? Or have you got the beer fridge & a 'lifetime' supply of Dorito's factored into the equation also?


October 17, 2004, 09:54 PM
CB900F , good stuff to consider.

iamkris, my information tells me that if you cover all the above basic construction guidelines you only have one thing to be concerned about. That's moisture. You mentioned a dehumidifier but you would be well advised to consider where all that water is going to drain to and please be sure that you have set aside a bi-monthly schedule to check the room for problems.

A family member in another state left his vault unattended for about 2 months or so and when he opened the door he had mold growing on the walls. His guns were on wall racks and were a mess.

You can keep out the kids and the burning embers but water is a whole different animal. Consider some type of alarm for high humidity that is battery operated. Remember that power outages or tripped circuit breakers can be your worst enemy.

October 18, 2004, 11:51 AM
FEMA Has some relevant publications.
A search of "vault" over on TFL will provide quite a bit of information on the subject.

I built one bit had the luxury of doing so as a part of new construction so I can't help much with your project. One thing that I can pass on to you it to build it larger than you think you will need.


October 18, 2004, 12:27 PM
I seem to remember reading somewhere that there's a Federal tax credit available if you construct a tornado shelter in your home. It would seem that something with concrete walls and spancrete roof would qualify - you might look into this.

Plus, if it makes it into county records, "storm shelter" would raise fewer eyebrows than "vault" or "gun room."

Be sure the door - or preferably, doors - can be opened from inside.

October 18, 2004, 12:35 PM
Some good ideas. I am about to build a new house and have asked the architect to place a 10x10 vault in the basement off my reloading room. We get our first set of plans back tomorrow night.

Sealing it and moisture proofing it seem to be the big issue. Don't have much alternative except to keep adding safes. It sure sounds nice to have a big walk in room with guns lined up on racks and shelves rather than packing them in safes and banging them against each other getting them in and out.

October 18, 2004, 12:54 PM
I am about to build a new house and have asked the architect to place a 10x10 vault in the basement off my reloading room. Why not make it large enough to INCLUDE your reloading room? And maybe you can hide the whole thing with a false wall and a hinged bookcase or something?

And don't tell the architect it's a vault - you really don't want "vault" on your blueprints where any construction worker can read it. Call it a "storm shelter" instead and be sure the guy knows the walls ought to be solid, not cinderblock. (Although filling cinderblocks with concrete and dropping rebar down the holes will make things pretty strong.)

October 18, 2004, 12:57 PM

Couple of ways you can go. First is cinder block works great but you have to reinforce the cells with rebar. Now your dealing with an 8" wall. Don't forget that you have to do the floors and ceilings.

Second way to go is the USG Structocore system.

This is a steel lath system screwed to metal studs. Diamond veneer plaster is used over the surface to provide a durable smooth surface. This system is used in embassies, jails, etc. It has a machine gun as well as gorilla factor (how fast does it take a few big guys with any tool they want to penetrate the structure.) This is by far the best system available.

While drywall as described in a previous post will work for fire prevention and depending on the system that you use can be a 1-2 hour system, it offers little in the way of protection. It's easily defeated. No sense putting a vault door on it.

If you interested in more detail contact me off line and I might be able to scrounge up a picture of what it looks like as well as some more detailed installation tips.

October 18, 2004, 01:26 PM
ssr, I did a 16'x16' and have room for racks, loading bench, work bench and computer. If you are doing central air and heat in the house put a register and return air in your room. I did mine on grade using concrete block reinforced with rebar and pea gravel cement for the walls and a poured cement slab roof. As built, it provides storm protection as well as a pretty good time delay against break in.

Extra large footings in the foundation are a must if you are building on a slab. The FEMA link provides some useful construction details and may give information on the tax credits that HankB mentioned.

October 18, 2004, 02:11 PM
You need more shotguns.


October 18, 2004, 02:41 PM
Thanks for the input. I had asked initially for a 10x10' vault off of a 15'x20' reloading/gun cleaning/stuff storage room. I though it would work better to have my reloading room with all of the storage, ventilation, work sink, cable TV, etc more accessible (maybe one of those heavy doors with the punch key lock, and then the vault off of it, with the racks on top of cabinets, and shelves for handguns and knives. I'll see what I think after I look at the initial plans tomorrow night.

Can't wait!! :)

October 18, 2004, 03:22 PM
Hint: Do not store items such as cutting torches, bolt cutters, cutoff wheels, etc., right next door to your safe or safe room.

October 18, 2004, 07:03 PM
HankL -- great link. Thanks, I'll read up.

HankB -- Thanks for the tip...I pay enough taxes, would be nice to get something back from them for a change.

Trigger -- COOL! That Structocore looks like the way to go. Plus (beleve it or not) my brother-in-law is the CEO of USG. Now I gotta work on that family discount. ;)

Smoke -- you ain't kiddin'. Then again, I need more rifles and handguns, too.

October 19, 2004, 03:10 PM
Well, I snapped a few pictures to give the group an idea what this Structocore system is like:

The general building specs for contactors can be found here. (

Hope it helps!

How about some pictures of existing rooms if you have one! :D

October 19, 2004, 08:20 PM

If you want a semi-secure room without fire protection, by all means put heating ducts & air returns in it.

If you want it done right, get a pro to help you plan. Doesn't have to be me. But, this is sorta like Fram's old commercial. Pay now, or pay later. Neither fire nor burlglars respect good intentions.


October 19, 2004, 09:25 PM
If you want it done right, get a pro to help you plan. Doesn't have to be me.

Any suggestions?

October 20, 2004, 12:54 AM
you know, i've been thinking about this for the past several weeks. we've been considering putting in a full bathroom and a walkout exit in the basement, and it occured to me that some sort of vault would be most conveniently added at the same time.

thing is, the first two clearly add several times more than their cost to the value of the home, whereas a vault... doesn't. a storm shelter, maybe, but it's not a real concern here.

which all makes it a hard cost to justify.

October 20, 2004, 08:33 PM

Suggestions? Sure. If you want an inspection & assessment of your property, somebody who will work with your architect or builder, find an ALOA locksmith who specializes in safe & vault sales & installations. There should be at least one in any moderately sized urban area. Tell him what you require & desire & negotiate a consultation fee up front.

I, unless you are either in the immediate area or willing to pay travel costs, won't be able to do the property evaluation. However, I would be willing to provide a list of considerations & advise on your project as it progresses.
PM me if that's of interest to you.

I recently got a line on a full bank vault door. I have not yet laid the mark one eyeball on it. But, if you want the kind of door you see in the movies, the kind that's measured in tons, time locks, all the whoopee-ding, let me know. This is the kind of thing that either won't last long at all, or I might have till the end of time, you never can tell.


October 20, 2004, 09:00 PM
Full bank vault door= $3300 or so installed. Not that I have any experience with that sort of thing....


Call around your area and find companies that do bank construction. They will have what they call a bank grade "fire proof door". As I understood it this is a door not UL listed as burglar proof for banks, but way over-kill for home vault use. Banks use these doors for their document storage areas. To get UL listed as burglar proof for a bank it has to be professional safe-cracker resistant to a certain standard far beyond what a home user typically needs.

The door can be installed in any rough concrete opening that is of certain spec dimensions. I don't recall them off my head. Essentially you just need a concrete wall with the right hole in it. They can wheel in the door and mount it. The weight is around 1000lbs. I suggest you look into perhaps building a cellar-like room off your basement, or walling in a room within its existing perimeter as suggested by some above. Note that as others have said, if the door is way tougher than the walls the bad guys will just breach the walls.


October 20, 2004, 09:41 PM

I don't think Diebold will consider $3,300.00 as an adequate down payment for your door.


October 20, 2004, 10:22 PM

Well there are all kinds of doors. I found some pretty pricey ones too...we have to do what we can afford. One company started at $12,000. I decided I would pass.


October 21, 2004, 10:06 PM

Just came into two bank doors. One F.D.I.C. cash vault door & the other is a bank documents room door. Both Moslers.

See my thread in Accessories for more info.


October 30, 2004, 08:54 AM

Both doors are sold.


Highland Ranger
October 30, 2004, 09:13 AM
Some good ideas. I am about to build a new house and have asked the architect to place a 10x10 vault in the basement off my reloading room. We get our first set of plans back tomorrow night.

COnsider putting the vault OUTSIDE the footprint of the building perhaps connectected by a tunnel from the basement. This would take care of a lot of your house falling on the safe and water problems.

If you have the $$$ - have them build a long narrow bunker - call it a bowling alley on the prints.

You can call it a shooting range after the contractor leaves.

If you go this route - buy the NRA source book on range design so you get the ventilation and such correct.

You can hide the access to it later - recommend you do that yourself as when more than one person knows a secret - it isn't one anymore.

October 30, 2004, 11:46 AM
A walk-in safe is a good idea, the problem is expense. Even after you've shelled out for the construction, there's all those empty spaces to fill...

Byron Quick
October 30, 2004, 12:26 PM

You may think that hurricanes are not a concern where you live. I'll agree there hasn't been a bad one hit the area in a long while.

However, some points to consider:

Tropical storms struck north of you during the current season.

Consider what Hurricane Hugo did to Charlotte, NC which is at least a hundred miles to the west of your latitude.

Email the National Hurricane Center. Ask them if a Category 5 hurricane could make initial landfall in the Washington, D.C. area. Ask what the damage would be.

A good case can be made for storm shelters anywhere on the eastern seaboard to the east of the mountains and even within the mountains...ask the people of Charlotte.

October 30, 2004, 01:34 PM
Steel reinforced concrete is best for the walls but that can be expensive and difficult.

Concrete blocks would do fine. I would use steel framing around the outside of the safe and put up firewall insulation. Then cover that with 2 layers of 3/4 in drywall. (two layers of drywall is considered a 2hour fire wall I believe)

If you have the head room I would put in a concrete ceiling.

Get a nice dehumidifier system for it and you should be all set. Check with FEMA for ideas. They have diagrams for tornado shelters.

I also am renovating an old house and have plans for a walk in.

Here is a link to Liberty's Vault door

October 30, 2004, 05:45 PM
Fella's, IMAS in particular;

Two layers of 3/4" drywall is not, repeat NOT, 2 hour fire protection. Drywall, sheetrock, firerock, call it any name you wish, gypsum wall board is a good flame barrier and that's IT. The stuff does not have sufficient mass, density, to be a good heat sink. It's pretty third-rate protection, and that's not just my opinion, that's established fact. By all means, query Underwriter's Labs if you don't, won't, or can't believe me.

Manganese steel is excellent protection, but not practical for the average homeowner. None of the steels are practical for the average Joe. However, concrete is very good thermal insulation & is capable of being used by anybody who has the will to do so. About 2.5" of good concrete will give the 2 hour fire protection you're looking for.

Keep in mind, I'm using U.L. standards to guesstimate the thickness. Most of the 'safe' manufacturer's you're familiar with are using a FAR lesser standard to qualify their tin boxes as fire protective. You not only get what you pay for, you also get what you're willing to work for. In other words, if you really do want fire protection & want to do it yourself, the sweat investment is going to be higher with concrete. The results, if the work is done correctly, will be worth it.



October 30, 2004, 06:37 PM
Why not build a safe house, if you are starting from scratch. Check this site out. This house should take a beating.

November 1, 2004, 08:54 AM
Actually drywall is great for fire protections. Thats what is in all fire safes.

The reason is that the raw material in gypsum is CaSO4 2H2O. As the chemical formula shows, gypsum contains chemically combined water. When gypsum drywall panels are exposed to fire, the heat converts a portion of the combined water to steam. The heat energy that converts the water to steam is used up, keeping the opposite side of the gypsum panel cool as long as there is water left in the gypsum, or until the panel is breached. In the case of regular gypsum panels, as the water is driven off by heat, the reduction of volume within the gypsum causes cracks to form, eventually causing the gypsum panel to fail.

There is a 2 hour fire rating with drywall using 2x4 studs spaces 16" oc and 2 layers of 5/8" drywall. It's the UL design U301.

But like mentioned, it doesn't offer any security protection. Just fire protection.

ps. I know this first hand since I have an intimate knowledge of these systems due to my employment.

November 1, 2004, 08:44 PM
Steel reinforced concrete is best for the walls but that can be expensive and difficult. There is a proboem with anything concrete. It tends to absrob moisture from outside and release it inside. Plus in any room sized vault there will be the problem with people sized cirtters going inside and breathing and sweating water which will then condense.

So a primary consideration is some sort of ventillation and dehumidification system.

November 1, 2004, 09:45 PM

Actually, drywall is not used in all firesafes. The better ones usually use concrete. As I said before, drywall is a good flame barrier. As a heat protective insulator though, it's inferior. The spec you're referencing uses the considerable airspace as the insulator, not the drywall. You are correct in that no physical security is provided by drywall.

As far as the water contained in drywall is concerned, in firearms storage, it's not considered to be a good thing. True, it converts to water vapor & dissipates the heat energy in doing so. But, it tends to condense on the firearms as things cool, & then proceeds to make rust. The concrete insulated safes perforce must have an inner barrier, or form, for the pour. I can't speak for all safes insulating with concrete, but ours use steel for the inner containment. A continuous barrier of steel. No gaps, no problem.

I, too, do this for a living.


If you enjoyed reading about "Does anyone have plans for a walk-in gun vault?" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!