About: Retired Firefighter 1966 to 1986; Retired Wheat Farmer 1987 to 2003. Drapery Sales 1969 to 1987. 17 year Quintuple Heart Bypass Surgery Survivor; 14 year Melanoma Cancer Survivor. 81 years young.

I had this storm shelter built about 37 years ago. It is all poured concrete with rebar reinforcement. The interior measures 8 foot wide x 12 foot long x 6 ft 4 inches tall with a concrete stair entry.

I asked my wife where she wanted it built, meaning front or back yard.

She answered, "I want the entry stairs under the front porch.", so that's where it went.

We are both senior citizens now and she cannot raise the heavy wooden door covered with a sheet of galvanized steel. I can raise it easily, but it's impossible for her or the grand kids. Besides, I am not always here. Something had to be done, so here is my solution. She can easily raise the door now and I can raise it with one finger.

Step 1: The Plan

I drew out a rough draft and went hunting for parts. I found nearly everything I needed except for a weight at Lowes.

Step 2: Supplies Bought

Material List ( From Lowes = * )

* 30 ft 3/32" stranded cable

* 2 X 1½" Single Swivel Eye Pulleys

* 2 X 3/32" Ferrule & Stop Kits

* 2 X #4 x 2-3/16" Screw Eyes

* 1 X 4" x 10 ft PVC sewer pipe & cap

1 X 30 pound lead weight

Tools Needed:

Wire cutters to cut cable

Hammer & Set Punch to set ferrules

Vise Grips to sqeeze ferrules

Cordless Drill

.209 drill bit for eye screws into wood

Post Hole Diggers

Step 3: The Lead Ingot

The lead ingot weighs 30 lbs and is approximately 4" w X 13" long X 2" thick. It and several others were originally used in a race car to add weight to rear wheels. It was made by melting wheel weights cast in a Chevy valve cover.

Step 4: Fastening Cable to Door

I had thought that I would fasten the cable to the top of the door, but after thinking about it overnight, I suspected that would warp the door. I tried lifting the door from the top corner and it did as I suspected......it raised up the corner but not the whole door. I realized the cable must be raised from the center of the door.

To fasten the cable to the door, I welded a chain link to a big washer and put it on the existing eye bolt the locking chain is on, but I could have used another eye bolt instead.

Step 5: Attaching Pulleys to House

I drilled a pilot hole smaller than the screw eye threads & screwed the 2 lad screws into the wood.

The 1st photo is putlley above the cellar door & the 2nd is above the 4" pipe

Step 6: Setting the Pipe for the 30 Pound Balance Weight

To hide the weight behind the hedge, I dug a 32" deep hole and put a 4" X 7 ft piece of sewer pipe for the weight to be hidden and away from little kids. When the door opens, the weight is lowered below ground level in the pipe. I drilled a 1/2" hole in the cap to keep things from falling in the top of the pipe.,

My wife can easily rise the door and I can raise it with my little pinky finger. An added bonus is that when I would go into the cellar and hold up the door on my shoulder, it was almost impossible for my to step down to the next step without my leg giving 'way, causing me to fall. Now I must pull down on the chain inside to close the door. AMAZING.......I SHOULD HAVE DONE THIS 35 YEARS AGO.

This all cement cellar has never leaked a drop of water in 37 years. It was a little damp before I put in the exhaust fan. See 'Ible here: https://www.instructables.com/id/KEEPING-THE-TORNADO-SHELTER-DRY/

Thanks for reading, Any comments welcome. Wish me a Happy Birthday. On May 9, 2016, I'll be 80.

Step 7: More Photos Added

At the request of madmedic22, I took some more detailed photos of the hardware. I hope these help.

#1 The cable attached to the door

#2 Pulley above door

#3 Pulley above weight

#4 The 4 inch PVC pipe for the weight, buried 32 inches into ground

#5 This shows the cap on the cable and the weight on end of cable

#6 I wrapped a short piece of cable thru the hole in lead weight and a chain link to attach it the end of cable so it could be easily removed if necessary

#7 This is the lead weight with each end shortened (cut off before I decided to put it inside a pipe)

#8 This is finished view with weight inside the pipe

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    19 Discussions

    Just one question.

    Do you have a second exit away from the house just in case the tornado blows the house down on the main entrance.

    I live in Ontario's tornado ally and I have been in a couple. One chap I know his house has been hit so many times he likes to say, "Every time I need to paint the house."

    3 replies

    Good question, Josehf. Most storms move from west to east here. The shelter is on the west side of the house. That's not to say the door could not get covered with debris, but it's most likely to throw things to the east. We have drinking water and a porta-potty in case rescue takes a while.

    They move the same way here, and they do toss most of the debris east. I should get a Pic of the house in the hill, it doesn't look as good as it did 20 years ago.

    ".........it doesn't look as good as it did 20 years ago."
    Neither do I. LOL

    Wish you the best in the contest~ Nice hack by the way~


    1 reply

    Good design. One additional thing you may want to consider on such a project is a hydraulic jack kept in the shelter in case the door is covered with debris after a hit. Have seen some of the commercial ones with a sliding door include a come-along for just such cases

    1 reply

    Good idea, boxbbcar. I have a 5 ton jack i'll put down inside. Thanks. One good idea promotes more good ideas. I'm hoping the shelter is always just used to store canned goods and never to save our lives. We have had some big tornadoes very close to us........ the 2 through Moore, 1 with 318 mph wind and the 2.5 mile wide killer near El Reno.

    Here is a good read for anyone considering a storm shelter: http://kfor.com/2016/05/03/remembering-the-may-3rd-tornado-17-years-later/

    Happy Birthday!! On May 9th I'll be 61. Nice fix on the door.

    1 reply

    Thanks heyjude55. Bring a keg & we'll celebrate our birthdays. Someone told me a long time ago that no one wanted to live to be 100 except someone who was 99. LOL

    a great counterweight system. quick question .. from the video it looks like the cable is blocking most of the porch running from the door to the pulley. have you had any issues with anyone tripping over the cable when the door is in the down position, or is this porch in an area that is only used when the need arises?

    1 reply

    Good question Lorddrake. I knew that was going to be a problem when I first considered installing the cable, but this was the only easy solution I could come up with. We really don't use the front porch much anyway. Mostly just used by UPS deliveries and strangers. We live on 15 acres and use the back door and back yard 99% of the time; not the front. For the cable to be a problem, you must walk across the door. I have always tried to keep people off of it anyway.

    Happy birthday and thank you for the post

    You seem like a man I'd like to drink coffee with and learn a lot from, Happy Birthday from Baton Rouge!

    Did U watch the video? BTW Thanks madmedic22.

    I'll try to post some tomorrow. The sun's about to go down.

    Happy birthday! Excellent idea for making your shelter workable for everyone. I'd like to see a couple more pictures of the cable system, if you could?