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Shelter Information & Frequently Asked Questions

The first thing anyone in the market for a shelter should establish is “what type of shelter am I looking for”. We basically offer every type shelter normally produced in steel and have available by special order custom sizes with any of our standard models. If you have no real preference for a shelter type, and have a garage or carport, we will always suggest the underground garage/carport shelter. The following information will explain why the underground garage/carport models are favored by the majority today, along with benefits of the other types as well.
This model is by far our best seller and the shelter most people want. These shelters must be installed under a roof, typically inside a garage, carport, shed, barn, etc. It must be under a roof since all the ventilation is in the lid. It can’t be rained on because with the vents in the lid, on top of the shelter, the water will run into the shelter.

The benefits are:
  1. The shelter is installed inside a garage/carport and you do not have to get out in the storm to access the shelter. More people are killed by lighting each year going outside in the storm to get into a shelter than by the actual tornado. This model must be installed under a roof (garage, carport, barn, shed, awning, etc.). All the ventilation is in the top of the shelter and any water on the lid will run into the shelter through the vents. However, when properly installed, the shelter is raised between ¾” to 1 ½” above finish concrete grade to divert ground water away from shelter lid.
  2. The shelter takes up no usable space from your house or garage. It sits directly under the car, and the only space required to install it is the space it would take to park a car. The shelter is typically installed just inside the entrance to the garage/carport. This location is by design. By having the shelter just inside the garage door, with the lids on the end of the shelter nearest the garage door, rolling inward, a typical vehicle in a typical garage would never have to be moved to access the shelter.
  3. Our underground garage shelters have an excellent record against leakage. We take great precautions to avoid a leak because once installed, these shelters are not intended to be taken up for any reason. Once fabricated, every welded seam in the shelter is tested with a 2-part dye process. The dye is applied to every welded seam, on both the inside and outside of the shelter, and sits for 24 hours with the dye on it. If the welds are not complete and solid, the dye turns a color in that area, telling the fabricator that the weld is not solid in that area. Once the welds are proven to be solid and consistent, the exterior coating is applied to the shelter. This is a very high tech, two-part blend of epoxy and tar. It is the best coating for metal currently available and is the exact same blend that the Army Corps of Engineers requires that submersed bridges and oil wells be covered with. This is an excellent and proven water barrier and it prevents water penetration and corrosion.
  4. Many times, other shelter companies who do not offer this type of shelter will attempt to use fear and false, negative statements to deter a client away from an underground garage type shelter. Please do not be fooled by untrue, biased statements. This style/model of shelter is the safest option available, and this is proven by extensive testing and actual severe storm results. Shelters in the garage/carport floor have been used in the Midwest for decades. There are no records on file of any injuries, much less a fatality, in a properly built shelter, installed correctly. As with all our products, this style shelter has been tested to meet or exceed FEMA-321 and ICC-500 criteria. FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), which is managed by the national government, would not approve any style, model, or design which had the slightest potential for failing to protect the occupants. They certainly would not endorse a shelter if it could potentially cause an injury, rather than to protect as designed. The number one “false tactic” that companies who promote above ground shelters use on potential clients is the claim of “if your house gets blown away the shelter will fill up with water”. This is so far from the truth! The part they typically fail to disclose is the fact that when installed properly, as our guidelines require, the shelter is sitting above the concrete slab. This prevents any water that might enter your garage/carport from cleaning your garage, your vehicle, rainwater, etc., from running into the shelter. This slight elevation diverts water away from the shelter rather than allowing it to run inside it.
  5. All sizes of the shelter have a 3’ lid. This allows the lid to easily stay under the car without hitting the lid when pulling in and out. Our lids are ¼” steel plate. Many times, a client might assume that for some reason the tire of the vehicle is driven across the shelter lid, that the lid could fall in and the vehicle fall into the shelter. This is not the case at all! The lids will withstand the weight of a vehicle tire. Driving on the lids continually could cause them to warp, and not roll properly, if driven on constantly. However, the vehicle will not fall into the shelter.
  6. All our shelters have a two-piece lid. Some companies have a one-piece lid. A one-piece lid is not considered the best design. It requires free and clear space outside of the shelter area for the lid to open. With our two-piece lid, the lid opens within the space of the shelter, and does not need free space outside the lid to open. Also with the two-piece lid, each part of the lid can be opened from inside the shelter and pushed off the shelter if needed. Our locking system is simple, smart, and practical. While some companies use locks, push buttons, spring operated hinges, etc., we simply opted to use two, heavy duty, solid steel, slide bolts, which can be operated from both inside and outside the shelter. Our testing and studies have proven to us that keyed locking mechanisms and push buttons with springs do not perform well in simulated storm conditions. It has been proven that only slight impact, with minimal force, can and often will displace springs and cylinders in locks, preventing the occupants from being able to exit the shelter. By simply using two, heavy duty, solid steel slide bolts and solid steel tubing for the housing, there are no fragile parts or components to our locks on the lids that could possibly be damaged upon impact, altering their function.
  7. All our underground garage shelters have a bench going down each side. Our benches are wood, covered with padded carpet. After all, do you REALLY want to be sitting underground, in a storm, on metal benches that could potentially conduct (lighting) electricity? Our benches are more comfortable than metal benches and can also be moved within the shelter. The benches can be totally removed or can slide from one side to the other as needed, which shelters with metal benches don’t allow due to the benches being fixed to the shelter.
  8. All our garage shelters come standard with a fan, light, and come along winch. The fan is not required to breathe, but is nice to have. It is installed on the underside of the lid, under the main vent in the top. The lid has passive air flow around all edges of it, so the fan is not required for adequate air flow. The fan runs on normal D batteries. The lights also run on normal batteries and are included simply as a convenience. Every garage shelter also is standard with a comealong winch. This is simply an extra feature and will likely never be used or needed. This is a hand winch, which attaches to the back wall of the shelter and to the front lid. Should it be used, it would assist in pulling the front door open. With the design of our shelter doors, which roll and are inset a little from the shelter frame, it is virtually impossible to be unable to slide the lid open, even with debris on top of it. Many other shelter companies are now offering expensive and useless hydraulic type lifts with their shelters. These are designed to assist with pushing the lid up and off the shelter, if by chance there was debris on it. This is another “scare tactic” used by many companies who try to sell shelters with some type of hydraulics included. Clients are often told without this hydraulic lift, they could be trapped in a shelter for extended periods of time. These shelters, with this hydraulic lift system, cost substantially more than our models, and have no proven safety benefits. First, it is simply a bad design, to install a lift system that pushes the lid straight up, against the weight of any debris. Our sliding lid design is much safer, and the likelihood of having debris on it that would prevent it from opening is a very, very small percentage. This is what I tell clients when they mention “the other company has a hydraulic lift with their shelter”. I also tell them if they want to spend the extra $1500- $2000, although it is not necessary, they can buy the hydraulic system and install in our shelter. We do not offer it simply because there is no additional safety aspect to justify the higher expense.
  9. The lids and interior of our underground garage shelters have a two-part finish process. Most companies simply spray an industrial grey primer on the walls of their shelters. We take it a step further and apply a second coat of white enamel paint. This coat of paint adds a lot to the shelter. Not only does it look much better than a shelter with a primer finish, it is much easier to keep clean. It also brightens up the inside of the shelter, and makes it easier to see when inside it.
  10. When we install an underground garage shelter, our process is the most in depth and safest in the industry. Most other companies dig a hole, put the shelter in, and then fill around it with dirt, gravel, concrete, or a combination of those. We completely fill the area around the shelter with concrete, including the use of an electric agitator to force concrete under the suspended shelter. For additional strength and safety, we utilize steel rebar to secure the new shelter to the existing slab, essentially making the new shelter and concrete part of the existing slab.
  11. Our underground garage shelters install in one day, from start to completion.
  12. The underground garage shelters are available in three sizes:
    • Regular – 3’ wide x 6’ long x 4.5’ deep – accommodates 6
    • Medium – 4’ wide x 7’ long x 4.5’ deep – accommodates 9.3
    • XL – 5’ wide x 8’ long x 5’ deep – accommodates 13.3
    • The main difference when considering the correct size shelter is the width of the shelter. With a 3’ wide shelter, you cannot sit directly across from each other because your knees will be touching. In the shelters that are 4’ and wider, you can comfortably sit directly across from one another. The shelters are all the same except for two things: The XL has metal steps that retract against the wall when not in use, allowing for added space inside. The regular and medium have wooden steps, covered with padded carpet that can be removed when not in use, allowing for added space. The regular and medium are both 4.5’ deep where the XL is 5’ deep.
    • capacity based on FEMA formula of 3 sq. ft. of shelter space per person
  13. Tested at Texas Tech University to meet or exceed FEMA 321/360 and ICC-500 criteria.
  14. Our underground garage shelters can be installed in existing homes and new construction. The underground shelters can be picked up on any typical utility trailer. The weights are: Regular 900 lbs., Medium 1200 lbs., XL 1570 lbs.
  15. The shelter frames are constructed from steel square tubing and 11-gauge metal walls and ¼” steel plate lids. Some companies use a thinner 12-gauge metal. The difference might not sound like much, but the 11 gauge walls do not flex and give nearly as much as the 12 gauge walls when pouring concrete around them. To further add strength to our shelter walls to prevent flexing, our shelters are fabricated with steel angle iron stiffeners on the outside of each long wall. Other than to stiffen the sides and prevent flexing, the exterior, horizontal angle iron also serves as additional concrete anchors when encased in concrete during the install. We use ¼” steel plate for the lids for added safety and strength.
  16. We offer a full color install manual, complete with pictures and text, to any client who wishes to install their own shelter or arrange the install themselves.
  17. The underground garage shelters come with a 20-year warranty against leakage.
All SteelSafe Shelters are available throughout our 21 state market area.
Factory certified installers available in certain markets and installation guidelines available with every model.

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All SteelSafe Shelters are available through any Lowes retail location. Factory certified installers available in certain markets and installation guidelines available with every model. Find a Dealer
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