Secret Rooms, Bunkers, and Panic Rooms

Whether it's for a doomsday situation, a break-in, or for some alone time, a panic room, a bunker, or a secret room is a great idea to build in your next home. These kinds of additions can be both functional and entertaining for people who like to be prepared, and for people who just like to add a little flavor to their homes. And they aren't as hard to put in as you might think. In fact, there are a few ways to put in these awesome rooms for a decent price and without much hassle. In this article, however, we will discuss the differences between these three rooms, some of the things you might find in one, what you can use them for, and a few suggestions on picking a place in your home for it.

Panic Rooms

Let's start with the panic room. What is it? Well, simply put, a panic room is a room you build in your home that is designed to be a safe place to hide when something happens. They can be great in the case of a break-in, during a tornado (if they are tornado proof), and any number of other situations.

Panic rooms can be both hidden or out in the open, but if you are hoping to use one as a way to escape an intruder then you should consider adding in some element of camouflage so that you won't be found.

The most important thing to have in a panic room is a heavy, lockable door. This will be what separates you from the intruder. A metal door or at least a heavy, solid wood door will do fine. They need to be secured with at the very least a deadbolt or two. You don't need to worry about making it like a safe door with a thousand deadbolts on every side - all you need is some form of locking mechanism to keep it closed against someone kicking at it.

In conjunction with the door, you will want to line the walls of your room with thick wood and or metal sheeting to prevent someone from busting through the wall. If any of your panic room's walls are surrounded by the foundation of your home then you won't need to reinforce those as they have at least a foot or so of concrete and rebar between it and the earth around it.

If you are serious about making a good panic room you will want to put a telephone inside. This can be a landline or a cellphone, just make sure that if it is a landline that it has a separate connection to the network than the rest of the phones in the house as intruders can cut the phone line. If it is a cell phone, first make sure you get reception in the room and second, make sure it is plugged in at all times to prevent it from not having a charge when you need it.

Other things you will find in most panic rooms include: a weapon, food and water, and possibly a way to use the restroom in the case of a long-ish stay.


Bunkers are not as popular nowadays in construction unless you specifically request it. However, after market bunkers can be pretty common. But what exactly is a bunker? To put it simply, a bunker is a protected place in your home where you can stay for long periods of time if necessary.

You usually see them made for doomsday or disaster situations, however, it doesn't need to be an end-of-the-world ready room to be considered a bunker. Just like with the panic room, you can use your bunker for protection against a tornado or other natural disaster.

Most bunkers will usually be encased with concrete, steel, or some combination of the two. However, sometimes you will see some that have the concrete or steel walls lined with lead as well - this is for radiation protection.

A bunker will usually have areas for sleeping, food and water storage, some sort of sewage system, a generator, and, in some cases an air filtration system. These are all to increase the likelihood of the occupant's survival for a long period of time.

Bunkers can be expensive to make or to buy (yes you can buy premade bunkers), but you can have most of the work taken care of for you when you build your home if you try and work the foundations of it into the floorplan of the house.

For people with really elaborate bunkers, they will usually have made walls bomb proof, radiation protected (like with the lead we talked about earlier), equipped with a water filtration system, and may even have some sort of ham radio system. On occasion, you will also see bunkers that are either encased in a faraday cage or have their electronic systems inside one of these at the very least. (A faraday cage is a system that protects against electrical pulses that would normally destroy your electronics by sending the pulses alongside the rigid outside of the cage.

Usually, bunkers are buried to give them added protection and stability, but if necessary you could build one above ground, but they would require a lot more equipment and outfitting to compensate for there not being any dirt around their sides.

Secret (or hidden) Rooms

Lastly, there are secret rooms. These can actually be found in quite a few homes nowadays because they are a fun novelty. Most secret rooms are built after the house is completed since they will require a few special items. Most of the time you can make a secret room out of a room that has only one entrance that is sort of off in the corner somewhere. It is hard to hide a room that someone would expect to be there. So, if you have an extra storage closet off your garage that stacks behind your living room to make the back wall of your home straight, you might be able to convert that room without anyone being the wiser.

Really, the door to the secret or hidden room is what really makes or breaks the hidden room, though. You have to find a way to conceal the door so that no one will know or suspect it would be there. If you have a room you are considering changing into a secret room you will first want to remove the trim on the outside of the doors that you can cover it and make it flush with the rest of the wall. This can be a bit of a challenge because you will have to either make the opening mechanism be built into the wall, or you will need to build the entire wall out a smidge to accommodate the doorknob.

A lot of people simply take the doorknob off after the trim is gone and then refinish the wall with wooden slats or something like that to disguise it. They then create some sort of locking mechanism that you can open discretely.

There are many companies now, however, that make cool hidden doors that look like bookshelves or mirrors, or something like that. Then, when you do whatever is necessary to unlock it you can swing the bookshelf out, enter your hidden room, and no one will know where you went once the door is closed.

People use hidden and secret rooms for a lot of reasons. They can be converted into private retreats or a place to stash your valuables. Whatever you choose to do with it, it will definitely add value to your house when you want to sell it in the future and it will also give you a fun secret from anyone who comes over.

What about a secret panic bunker?

If you can't decide which one of these three rooms would be best for you, or which one you will enjoy more, then you can always do a combination of them all. If you were to build a bunker in your basement that is adequately camouflaged, secure, and stocked up, you could easily have the best of all three worlds.

Not only will this give you all the benefits of a bunker and a panic room, but, if you outfit it as a retreat for yourself it will be much more fun to use and you will have more fun spending your time in there during a storm or end-of-the-world situation if it is filled with your hobby supplies you would have put in your secret room.

When it is all said and done though, you really need to remember that the likelihood of needing a panic room or bunker is very slim, so if you are going to spend the money on or both of them, be sure to make it usable the rest of the time, so put a sewing station in there or a woodworking shop, whatever suits your fancy. That way, that space isn't going to waste until you end up needing it.

For more information on fun things you can do with your house, check out more of our blogs and web articles. And if you want to learn more about getting a home here in the Treasure Valley (or to build one) call one of our great real estate agents. They will be glad to help you.