HOW Standard WALLS ARE VULNERABLE
Even low level calibers easily tear through wood or steel stud walls.
Though meeting basic code standards, walls provide little flame protection.
Axes, sledgehammers and makeshift battering rams can easily penetrate through drywall.
Projectiles from hurricanes and tornadoes send massive shrapnel at homes.
The standard 2×4 walls that make up the vast majority of rooms are surprisingly easy to break through, whether steel or wood studded.
When build a safe room many people focus on the entrance and forget to reinforce their walls.
Every part of a standard wall is penetrable. The drywall between studs is of course the easiest area, filled with not much more than air and perhaps some wires. A simple hammer or even a hard boot could easily puncture through.
Wood or Steel studs provide some resistance at those points, but not much. Wood can easily be drilled through or sliced with an axe. Steel studs are a more dense material but because they are hollow and long they can easily be bent. Further, a low caliber bullet would easily tear through either one.
Traditional Safe Room Wall Materials
Modern Safe Room Wall Materials
Poured-in-place concrete, concrete block, and high-density steel, such as AR-500
Advanced materials such as ballistic fiberglass and Kevlar (para-aramids).
Concrete typically is only able to be installed during a new build. Steel is impractical to cut on site so panels must be perfectly planned.
Easily installed into new or existing walls (wood or steel framed). May be cut on-site with diamond-grit saw blades. Comes in standard sizes.
Unrated for ballistics due to non-standard nature – assumed to meet specs. Very good forced entry.
Rated with UL certification for bullet resistance to all 8 Levels. ASTM rating for fire & forced entry.
Modern Materials Specialized For Safe Rooms
- Does not produce shrapnel
- Doesn’t impede emergency signal
- Blends in
- Complimentary 3D modeling to plan layout
- Easy, modular install on site
MODULAR SAFE ROOM WALL OPTIONS
We work with three main options depending on the situation.
Handgun Protection Only
Resistant to Forced Entry
Can be cut on site
1 Standard Sheet Size
Resistant to Fire
1-2 lbs. / Square Foot
Flexible, Bends Easily
Handguns (Soft) & Rifles (Rigid)
Not Designed for Forced Entry
Can be Cut Similar to Wood
Melts At High Temperatures
1 – 1.5 lbs. / Square Foot
Soft Material Option Bends Easily
Concrete Safe Room Walls
Concrete is a solid option during a new home build, especially if concrete it already being poured elsewhere. It provides very thick structural support. Options include poured in place concrete and block masonry concrete filled. Rebar is to be used for additional support.
Concrete and masonry options provide some of the best forced entry protection. They are expected to withstand a wide range of bullets fired.
There are several issues in using concrete for a safe room.
- If it is not done during a new home build, it is not practical to get poured-in-place concrete to an existing room.
- Even if it is a new build, a concrete walled room will need to be located where it has enough support (ground level or basement). However, a safe room is often best placed in upstairs bedrooms.
- The walls can be very inconvenient for making modifications for electricity, HVAC, etc.
- Concrete is expected to provide a fair amount of protection, but since it is not a standard product there is no ballistic testing to know what level of safety you truly have.
Ballistic Steel Panic Room Walls
High strength steel, such as AR-500, has become very popular for ballistic targets and body armor. Some consider it when planning a safe room therefore as well.
Ballistic steel can be very thin relative to it’s bullet-stopping strength. It provides very good protection from cutting attacks, too.
There are several factors related to safe rooms that make steel a mediocre option for a safe room.
- From a practicality perspective, the steel is nearly impossible to modify on site. A slight mistake in sizing means you may have major problems during installation. Just screwing the panels in is problematic even.
- There is no official rating on ballistic steel’s ballistic properties for walls, just various people’s past experience.
- Though it is thinner, the weight is generally no less than alternative, cheaper options.
- It blocks cell phone and wifi reception, making it a risky proposition when staying in your panic room and trying to call police.
Select Products Rated or Tested By:
Installation of Modular Safe Room Walls
There are numerous ways to reinforce safe room walls both during construction and afterwards. Almost any type of reinforcement can offer significant gains over standard drywall.
Panels Easy to install
Panels come in convenient sizes similar to drywall. They can be pre-cut to fit your space. They easy attach into existing studs – even if drywall is in the middle.
Secure Walls Blend in
Walls containing ballistic fiberglass or Kevlar look just like normal walls. They can be placed inside the wall for complete hiding or they can be placed over wall and then painted or paneled over.
If you have the advantage of building a new home there are a wider variety of options. You can add the precise sizing of the room and walls you need in to your building blueprints. You will have access to the walls from all directions. And you will have the contracting professionals on staff who can implement any plan at this point.
There are two common ways to achieve vault level walls at this stage. One can utilize concrete walls or build reinforcement in to standard looking walls. Starting with the latter, the same process of regular wall making can be done if the addition of reinforcing panels on the inside is added. Rather than leaving the space between drywall hollow, instead these can be filled with either metal or fabric armoring. Metal armoring can come in the form of steel, or lighter weight variations like AR500 for your vault walls. Fabric armoring includes Kevlar and ballistic fiberglass panels. By sandwiching in these secure materials between standard drywall one can achieve high level fortification without disrupting the natural look of a home.
But just because a home is already built does not mean it can not have highly secure panic room walls in an existing home. There is another option: safe room wall panels.
Safe Room Wall Panels
Safe room wall panels are modular pieces of strong materials such as AR500 or Kevlar. Especially the hardened fibers, they come in standard wall panel sizes, such as 48” x 96”. These wall panels can be applied directly to the interior of your safe room or panic room. Let’s consider adding fiberglass safe room panels, for example. No wall demolition is needed. Sheets of fiberglass panels can be ordered directly to your home. These sheets can then be nailed against your existing walls, secure to the hidden wall studs, making the overall wall just a few inches thicker, depending on the thickness of the armor. To finish it off, the exposed side of the fiberglass can either be painted and textured or, if preferred added another layer of drywall. If an additional layer of drywall is used it can simply be screwed in to the ballistic panels because they have enough sheet strength to support both.
The type of safe room panels that you’ll want to install will depend on your protection goals. Are you primarily look to be secure from burglars, planned attacks, tornadoes, hurricanes, societal instability, or something else? Mother nature can create winds that are stronger than man can replicate. However, humans can creatively attack the weak points of any structure, so every aspect must be considered.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Many people use their safe room as a large vault for valuables, most commonly for firearm collections.
Proper vault walls are similar to building panic room walls, with some minor differences. Many of the same factors are present, particularly since most people utilize their vault room to not just protect valuables but also as a panic room in emergencies – to protect people. Therefore, vault walls have similar objectives to panic room walls.
Vault walls should rigorously protect from forced entry, first and foremost. Generally this is going to be attacks from bladed weapons (such as axes), from blunt weapons (such as sledgehammers) and sometimes from motorized weapons, such as drills or saws. Motorized weapons are very rare though, as the noise and time required would easily lead to police presence due to a standard alarm system.
Ballistic protection is also helpful for a vault room situation, but not as important as it is with a panic room. The odds of a stray bullet hitting one object stored in the room is perhaps not such a big deal. On the other hand, a single bullet hitting a human is a major problem.
Another difference with constructing vault walls is that there typically is a greater focus on fire resistance. This isn’t as important with a panic room since if a fire were the emergency, the client’s best bet is to simply exit their home, not to sequester themselves inside. But with a vault room the client will want their valuables to be protected for an amount of time until the fire can be extinguished. Cement, Ballistic Fiberglass, Kevlar and some steels provide a decent amount of fire resistance. (Less common ballistic materials, like ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethelene and ballistic rubber, are obviously very poor at resisting fires).
However, in many cases, if various objects are of significant value and at clear risk of fire damage the best bet is often to add a low-security fire resistant container to hold them.
Improper materials and improper installation may significantly lesson the protection afforded by your panic room’s walls. As far as materials, we recommend only working with products that have specifically passed the rigorous testing process for bullet resistance as laid out by Underwriters Laboratory. The safe room panels we provided also have ratings for forced entry, fire resistance and more.
Walls panels need to be installed securely. With advanced modular panels, they simply need to be properly secured to existing wall studs. Cement and steel require more analysis and structural engineering to ensure their great weight doesn’t slowly erode their stability. When using modular panels, it is ideal to cover seams with overlapping material, though in the big picture it is only a very minor vulnerability.
Our team can help you plan the right strategy for your vault.
Modern safe room walls utilize high strength fibers that are the culmination of decades of research during the information age of humanity. Many of the materials were either first discovered for military use or invented accidentally (such as Kevlar, which was a happy accident when looking how to make stronger tires). Both materials utilize a network affect of interlinking fibers to provide enormous strength. It works in the same way that a simply, thin, nylon net can easily stop a speeding, solid baseball.
Ballistic fiberglass works by utilizing the strength of glass, while eliminating glass’s shattering risk by converting it to fibers. The fibers are interwoven and specially glued together to form numerous layers. Kevlar gains strength from the round (aromatic) molecular structure as well as the massive number of interlinking hydrogen bonds. Learn much more about the science behind ballistic Kevlar here.