Building a gun friendly house need help with ideas


December 11, 2003, 03:24 PM
My wife and I hope to build a house in the next three years. We have both come up with a good size list of features we would like to incorporate into our house. Some of the things on my list include:
Fire proof Workshop with Reinforced Metal door
Hidden compartments in various rooms for guns
Bullet proof glass in windows next to doors
25 Yard firing range in basement workshop :D
Old style cellar doors for basement
I know some of this stuff will increase the cost of the house, but other then the shooting range I think the cost should be minimal. The shooting range is going to be a 25 yard long 7 foot high tunnel that will go out from the basement at a 90 degree angle. The tunnel will end right next to the planned exterior wood burning stove. I plan to have an exhaust fan sucking the fumes down range, and also having an escape hatch at the end of the tunnel. By fire proofing the workshop and also doing some sound proofing I am hoping to be able to shoot handguns in the basement without disturbing the rest of the house too much.

I am posting this to try and get some other creative ideas. My question is what other security, and gun related features should I think about incorporating into our design plans? Have you customized your house to make it more safe, or secure??

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El Tejon
December 11, 2003, 04:25 PM
Uncle Jeff covered home design. Get a copy of "To Ride"; should help.

Mike Irwin
December 11, 2003, 04:57 PM
In floor radiant heat.

Variable speed air conditioning that will allow you to closely regulate the amout of humidity in the air during the summer.

Soundproofing in the shooting room/range.

Remember to reinforce the walls in the shooting room. Not much good if someone can bypass the door by whacking the wall with a sledge hammer.

December 11, 2003, 05:00 PM
Make sure whatever floor you will have a large gun safe on can take the load.

December 11, 2003, 05:37 PM

with plenty of room for a walk in safe and a firing range.

December 11, 2003, 05:54 PM
Mike you read my mind exactly!! We are putting in the radiant heat throughout the house on two floors, and I am going to have an offshoot line that is going to go out to the driveway, and sidewalk. I will also have a line for the garage. That way I can melt all the ice and snow on the driveway with the flip of a switch, or heat the garage.

The plan is for all of the guns to be in the shop in the basement. That is a good point about the walls being reinforced!! I will not that for sure.

December 11, 2003, 05:55 PM
Walk in gun safe is a nice idea and not cost prohibitive. Build a concrete block room and buy a vault door. Doors can usually be had for less than a mid-level gun vault. (Dont forget wiring)

Have you priced bullet proof glass?

If you go with a gun vault have your cabinet guy build a false front. (My wife insisted on that one)

Take the walk in vault one step further and design it as your safe room (both from intruders and enviromental/weather hazards.

For optimum personal protection have all bedrooms on one end of the house. For personal sanity have a split arrangement. (when kids have slumber parties you'll understand)

I'll think of more later....

December 11, 2003, 06:07 PM
Thanks Smoke those are all excellant ideas. I have not priced the glass for the door area. My thinking behind the thick glass for the door area is I would like to be abll to easily see any visitors without needing to worry about them busting in to the house. I also want to keep any possibe BG from threatening me with a gun to open the door.

Larry Ashcraft
December 11, 2003, 06:34 PM
Take the walk in vault one step further and design it as your safe room (both from intruders and enviromental/weather hazards.
My daughter and her husband did just that. They moved into their new house about a month ago.

They had a room built in the basement about 6x10" with concrete filled block walls and a poured concrete top. It will serve as a safe and a storm cellar. The door isn't on it yet though.

December 11, 2003, 06:39 PM
Why not keep plenty more distance between you and someone behind the door using a low-cost intercom with webcam?

Exterior doors: sturdy models, opening direction outside, studded hinges, dead-bolt locking. No windows that can be opened at all, small ventilation trapdoors or valves instead. Affordable anti-burglar adhesive foil in one glass layer of all windows. Decorative flower boxes with prohibitive iron attachments along the windows on the outside, a yard-wide thorny shrubbery on the ground next to the wall. A watering jug with a long nozzle :D . Automatic, bright exterior lights; more webcams.

Intrusion detection in doors and windows (inertia/glass break sensors). IR/MW sensors for burglary alarms when house empty. Both a silent alarm mode and a helluva bad klaxon with exterior blinker. Security systems with lighting automation and webcams are cheap to install when their wiring is included in the planning of the overall electricity thing, with plenty pairs for future needs left over.

Smoke detectors in the middle of all rooms' ceilings, preferably wired together as well. CO2 and gas detectors where needed. Lots of fire extinguishers in different sizes, after operator.

Plan ahead for fields of fire - which interior walls must be real hard cover. Have a safe room.

December 11, 2003, 06:44 PM
What about a 'safe room', such as the master bedroom? Use a decorative steel door and steel frame as its entry. Have a keyed door handle and a deadbolt with a turn handle only on the bedroom side of the door. Use thick plywood under the drywall (or block if feasible) to surround this room. This would help prevent or delay entry into the room through only the thin drywall. Think of things you may need in an emergency and plan to locate these items within this room. A small wall or floor safe for emergency weapons and lights. Maybe run an antenna lead to the room for a Shortwave radio or emergency transmitter (I know, you're supposed to have a license for these, but in an emergency who cares.).

For the glass you might look into some of the new polymer films they use nowadays. I don't know if they make a bullet resistant one yet, but I have been impressed with how they impede the breakage of glass by large rocks and crowbars.

It's great that you have the opportunity to build your house with these features you want. Good luck.

December 11, 2003, 07:26 PM
"Tremors" quotes... must resist...

"You broke into the wrong dang rec room, didn'tcha?!?"

"Well, I guess we can't make fun of his lifestyle anymore..."


I'm a big fan of the hidden compartments idea... also, be sure to put phone lines into the safe areas, maybe a second line for that. Harden the outside walls as much as possible in an effort to prevent over-penetration. Secret passages are tons of fun as well. See how many you can fit into the plans... And (IMHO) last but not least, false front as much as you can, in case any close friends that might be antis won't get nervous.

December 11, 2003, 07:40 PM
"You broke into the wrong dang rec room, didn'tcha?!?"
BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA Oh man I can't stop laughing. lolol

Still, a safe room in this day and age is not a terrible idea. My wife and I are moving to a larger home in 2004 and there are some "must haves" when it comes to security. Guns are not enough anymore.

December 11, 2003, 08:36 PM
A Block wall isn't too bad of an idea. I am sure if I pitch it as a Safe room instead of a gun room my wife will even feel better about it!! She is deathly afraid of tornados and would love to have some place that is 100% safe. Plus the secret door out the tunnel will make her happy as well in case the basement ever caves in. So far all the ideas have been awesome. THAnks, and keep them coming.

December 11, 2003, 08:47 PM
Someone mentioned doors that open to the exterior. I have always thought opening them to the interior of the house provided some options.

The door jamb or whatever protects the dead bolts and other items that keep the door closed. You also have the hinges inside and protected. I would personally set up the door so that you had the ability to "quickly" rig something to prevent it from being bashed in. My mobile home front and back doors could be braced with some 6x6s or other large lumber using walls that are close by for the back of the brace. I have no clue where this would be useful, but I like the concept that I can easily barricade my doors if some neighbor goes nutzo and I prefer not to leave my home and confront them. I also have an idea for hooks that could hang coats by day and by night be like those old time log cabin items where a large piece of wood is placed from one side of the door to the other, and these hooks hold it in place. Another thing about doors is that if the thing opens inward you can not pry on the door edges nor can you hook something to the door knob and use a vehicle to pull on the door only. If the door opens inward the door jamb will protect the edges and it will be taking the brunt of a pulling attack.

I like a real solid door and then some of those super metal mesh doors you see in the movies for "bad" neighborhoods. These are the ones that would take the place of a screen door but are sort of like wrought iron and usually they are glass instead of a screen. Actually that is another thing about all the doors opening to the outside, that would be annoying when moving stuff since the doors would overlap.

On the windows, one cheaper option is the hurricane rated window. Check each company out, but many that make the hurricane window have it strong enough to handle large flying objects. But most likely not bullets.
These also don't degrade as much as some of the bullet proof stuff.

I would like the bullet proof glass, but never get over confident because some folks have some serious firearms. Another thing about many types of bullet proof glass is that they degrade over time. Sometimes this will affect performance and other times it just means some of the plastic layers go yellow and you really can't see through them as well.

Overall, build the house in layers. Landscaping is the first one, windows and doors and exterior walls are the next one. After that you get into specific rooms setup as safe rooms.

I have always liked the idea of being able to close a door in the hallways to seperate things if the house is sort of big. The door simply blocks a hall way, but it can serve a lot of purposes.

I would make all doors exterior grade, some of the metal ones are not as strong as some of the all wood ones so look around and research what others use. In most cases a commercial rated exterior door is one tough sucker.

Overall, I would make the exterior wall equal to the safe room walls to begin with because I would prefer to keep people out.

Of course money is the problem with that.

If you run a search on joelskousen you will find some books that get into ideas about covering fire and what not. These are similar to the jeff cooper book mentioned by someone above, I think I remembered that right but heck I could be off.

December 11, 2003, 10:07 PM
Gun ports in the attic allowing a 360 degree sweep of the yard.

Darn it, my tin foil hat has a few holes in it. :uhoh:

December 11, 2003, 10:15 PM
Harden the outside walls as much as possible in an effort to prevent over-penetration.
ESPECIALLY, over-penetration from incoming rounds ... :D

December 11, 2003, 10:28 PM
Screw the false front. Build a wall infront of it that acts like a door. It looks like a wall, but swings open. It worked great for the Greenbriar Hotel in Maryland (the congressional fallout shelter). Build a ventilation system in the room that you can turn on in a flick of a switch, out of PVC pipe extending out 100ft from the house with fans in them at the safe's end. Have the outside ends in separate concrete-lined housings, looking like innocuous housings you would find in the woods. Dont have them together in the same housing.

December 11, 2003, 10:30 PM
Not gun-related, but get ethernet wired ethernet ports in your rooms.

Highland Ranger
December 11, 2003, 10:55 PM
I'd do as much of the identifiable work myself - i.e. tell the contractor you are building a wine cellar, let them dig it and pour the concrete and you install the things that identify it as something else (backstop, doors etc)

Keeping you measures secret to the greatest extent possible is prudent.

December 12, 2003, 01:43 AM
Not to nitpick, but the Greenbrier is in West Virginia. White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

Some very good ideas on the new home. How about an integrated intercom system with battery backup?


Travis McGee
December 12, 2003, 02:04 AM

Pardon me for saying so, but I think that your idea of a one-lane firing range which doubles as an escape tunnel is totally freaking brilliant. I wish I had thought of that one myself! Talk about two birds with one stone! The tunnel exit can be concealed in shrubbery, in a small tool shed etc with a way to escape unseen from there.

This is really a top-notch idea, and thanks for sharing it with us. Now don't tell anyone else! The escape tunnel angle will only work if it's secret, and that means from your shooting buddies and everybody else outside of your family.

Congrats on a really great novel idea.

Andrew Rothman
December 12, 2003, 08:52 AM
The escape tunnel reminds me of the Heinlein book, "Friday." Are you a fan?

(Aren't we all?)

AJ Dual
December 12, 2003, 09:18 AM

If you buy the cable in bulk it is very easy to run all sorts of wire yourself when the house has just been framed in.

Pull Coax, Cat5 or Cat6 Ethernet twisted pair, audio, telephone etc. to one or two walls of every room (not having at least two jacks on either end of the room can make re-arranging furniture impossible), and run it all to a modualr multimedia rackmount panel in the basment. Even Home Depot has these for home users now. Maybe a few runs to locations where cameras, intercoms, or security sensors would be handy too.

You might also want to look into what kind of low-voltage control wiring is most popular for "smart house" systems, so all you need do is hook it up if you want to in the future.

You need not even hook all this stuff up, just leave it in the walls and mark it off on the plans for future use, be sure to label both ends of the wires in the rooms and in the basments.

The boxes and faceplates for all this junk is what will cost you, you could just have your electician put in two-gang boxes, but with only one pair of outlets in it, and just leave all the extra wire knotted off inside. Then it's an easy fix to change the faceplate from a two gang, one outlet, one blank, to an outlet + Ethernet/phone/coax/audio etc. Leviton and others make modular faceplates that can have Ethernet, Coax, audio, and phone all in a one-gang faceplate now, so a two gang box is all you should need.

Another good move would be to put in some empty wire runs for future upgrades, at least between the floors, made from PVC pipe, and have a big bundle of pull strings already in them. Any kind of wiring contractor walks into that situation, and he'll kiss your feet.

Every house I've lived in has had a hodgepodge of holes in the walls and floors for cable TV and phone and it's my biggest pet peeve.

December 12, 2003, 10:02 AM
Travis thanks for the praise. I thought my tunnel/shooting lane was a pretty good idea. I still haven't figured out how much extra it is going to cost me. 25 yards of block 7 feet high, plus whatever I cap the tunnel off with. Most likely it will be a poured cement ceiling. The tunnel is also going to be used to bring in the hot water lines from the Furnace at the end of the tunnel.

December 12, 2003, 10:17 AM
I've seen those exterior wood burning stoves before.

Could you build a large shed around it to also store your garden tools, and also incorporate room for your tunnel/emergency exit from basement?

Not only would this be convenient to conceal the exit from the basement, it would also make it unnecessary for you to go out into the cold to check on your fire, which I imagine would be several times per day.


December 12, 2003, 10:24 AM
Since you're a few years off, you have a chance to do some good research. There are a lot of good ideas in this thread.

I also recommend getting a book called The Secure Home from Be warned that some of the writing is fairly anti-government, but the information on securing your home, alternate systems, hiding your safe room, etc are sound.

AndrewWalkowiak's wiring information is great. The idea of putting in vertical cable chases is KEY. You will make your life much easier in future expansions. Same with structured wiring (ethernet, coax, etc). Running flex conduit to each outlet (high and low voltage in different conduits) can also simplify your life later.

You can also check out for some good ideas on both home automation and structured wiring.

For heating, you might want to look at Geothermal. It works like a heat pump, only using constant ground temp instead of outside air. Works for heating and cooling. More expensive initial cost, but extremely efficient to run.

When it's all done, make sure you have the blueprints with all the systems clearly marked. Will greatly simplify your life later, as well as possibly increasing the resale value if you include the docs.

Good luck!

December 12, 2003, 01:14 PM

You also might want to check out this site:

They have an ICF (Insulation Concrete Form) system that basically is 2 layers of 2½" of rigid foam on the exterior with 6" or 8" on concrete between. The system is held together with a 'ladder' type, made out of steel at 12" o.c. that is used to screw the drywall or siding to. You can't tell that the house is made of CONCRETE (think defense), is energy tight, structurally sound and again, can I say DEFENSIVE? :banghead:

They also have a product that you can pour concrete on top of (porches) that might very well work for your tunnel

I found out about this ICF place because I sold them a CAD program that they may or may not keep (they wanted to use it for estimating purposes and I can't get detailed enough for them) and thought it looked pretty cool. In fact, if/when I build, I'm seriously considering this for my own house. I used to run/own a lumber yard and have just left a place (still drawing for them) that does light gauge steel framing in houses, multi family & commercial.

BTW, I also live in Wisconsin and draw for a living. If you want, give me a call (email: ) about having me draw your house if you are interested or else to bounce your ideas off of.


December 12, 2003, 01:37 PM
A friend of mine is building his home and one thing he spec'ed is an impression in the concrete foundation for a full-sized gun safe. The safe would lay down on it's back into the concrete foundation.

This has the wonderful advantage of being nearly impossible to remove or break in to, and it probably quintuples the fire rating.

I think it added $100 to the cost of the house.

December 12, 2003, 01:54 PM
If you have your safe at the low point, that is where the water will go...

December 12, 2003, 03:00 PM
IMHO an even better idea than a filled block safe is a safe poured as part of the foundation.
Just set the forms so that six feet from the corner of the basement you can pour an offshoot for 10 feet on the interior side of the outside wall. make a 90, take it another 18 inches and opposite of it have another take-off that also comes out 18 inches, leaving a 36 inch opening for a vault door (if you can pour with the mounts in place so much the better). Finish off with a poured ceiling.

The downside is that this has to be designed a part of the original construction and can't be added later.

However, even though it's marginally more expensive, 8 inch rebar-reinforced concrete that is part of the house itself would be exponentally more secure and would also double as a good fallout shelter.:evil:

December 12, 2003, 03:54 PM
A modern windmill and solar panels can generate enough electricity to run the house. Even if the power grip goes off, you still have power.

Can you sink a well and have your own water supply?

Is this a city house or a country house?

As far as bullet proof windows are concerned, I'm planning on either have burglar bars (with emergency escapes) or windows on the upper half of the place only. An alternate idea is to have a central patio or atrium with no windows on the outboard side of the house.

December 12, 2003, 04:07 PM
C-Bag I like the idea of the safe in actually installed in the wall! That would make the fire protection even more effective. Artjs I am also interested in the product that you mentioned. I have heard or people having a complete concrete house. I can tell you one thing for sure concrete stops bullets a hell of allot better then wood. Oh and Bogie I would never let my safe sit on the floor of the basement. I would put it on concrete blocks to keep it at least 12 inches of the floor.

Here is a very rought draft of my plan.

Somebody mentioned possible using drainage pipes for the tunnel instead of pouring it. Does anybody have any idea how much those drainage pipes usually cost?? The tricky part would be the end of the shooting lane/tunnel. Would I put stairs or a ladder, and how would I incorporate a bullet stop into the whole deal. Any ideas.

December 12, 2003, 04:38 PM
And don't forget hidden _rooms_.

They seemed to serve Anne Frank for a while.

Older houses are very irregular and idiosyncratic, whereas newer home designs are much more regular.

The point of that statement is that in a new home, it's pretty difficult to find a spot to make into a hidden area that won't be readily apparent as "missing space", but in an idiosyncratic older home, it easier, because the missing space gets hidden in the overall "noise" of the house.

December 12, 2003, 05:01 PM
What AndrewWalkowiak said about wiring. Even if you don't know what you might use it for, run it. It's cheap now, expensive onece the walls are closed up. Overdo it.

Then remember that odd houses cause construction types to talk. Word gets around. Presto! You are now a target!

Keep it quiet.

December 12, 2003, 05:30 PM
A safe room in a basement will get very dark without power, and all the cameras and computers will do no good without juice. A diesel generator for self reliance or a simple battery backup for temp use that can be charged off of the grid would be nice.

As mentioned earlier the solar or wind would be great, dont even pay to hook up to the grid, take that money and produce your own power via wind and solar or fuel powered generator. You are already on your way there with your wood burner idea, they also make corn burners that have a huge hopper that automatically feeds so you just have to empty the ash every now and again. I am sure they have similar auto feeders for wood or other fuel pellets.

Make sure your safe room has proper ventilation and a place to store some basic food and sanitary supplies to go with your guns which it will already contain.

December 12, 2003, 05:44 PM
Bullet proof glass is expensive. Solution? Don't have windows next to doors.

For extra security for less critical windows, try hurricane glass ( It will stop a .22 or shot, and will prevent kick-ins.

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