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55 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
I bet my to do list is bigger than most. I'm constantly choosing between things that have to get done and things that I want to get done. The things that I want to get done often get pushed down on the list, so that things that have to get done can be taken care of.

Getting doors on my storm shelter has been on my list for almost three years and happens to be one of those items which is hard to distinguish between having to get done and wanting to get done.

While there are many disadvantages to living in Michigan, one of the advantages is that we don't have as many natural disasters as other parts of the country. While the threat is low, compared to what many of you are exposed to, we do get some major thunder storms, tornados, and straight line winds.

My home does not have a basement, only a crawl space and when I bought the home the crawl space was sand, so my wife and daughter we never thrilled to spend any amount of time down there due to threat of severe weather. Since I was building an addition on the house anyway, I decided to both add a concrete floor to the existing crawl space and add a storm shelter to the new addition.

The addition was going to have the same height crawl space, so I decided to dedicate one corner of the addition for the new storm shelter and also have an area for the new sub panel and a space to use as a mud room. The 7.5" poured concrete walls for the storm shelter got built almost three years ago and the concrete ceiling for the shelter got poured just days later.

I wanted both a standard height door for the main entrance to the storm shelter as well as a partial-height emergency exit in case the main entrance became obstructed. Luckily, we haven't had much severe weather in the last three years, but we did have a severe enough tornado threat last Fall that we spent about 45-60 minutes in the shelter riding out the storm.

Without having the doors on the shelter, we were definitely not as protected as we would have been otherwise, but we felt safer being surrounded by those 7.5" poured concrete walls, and the 3.5" thick concrete ceiling, both reinforced with lots of rebar. I had always planned on fabricating my own steel doors and had just not found the time to come up with a design, purchase the material, and make them.

Since the storm shelter door was not in place and the exterior door to the addition has a window in it, I could clearly view what was happening outside while we were sitting in the shelter riding out the storm. I thought to myself that once I fabricated and installed steel door for the shelter that I would no longer be able to see outside and the shelter would feel kind of like a tomb totally surrounded by concrete and steel.

That got me thinking on solutions for the door that would be not only secure, but would also allow me visibility to the outside. It just so happens that as my job as a project manager, I sometimes remodel banks. A lot of banks, especially in crime ridden neighborhoods, have doors and windows made out of bullet resistant glazing, or BRG. I realized one of their BRG doors would be ideal for my main entrance door to the storm shelter.

A few weeks later I was mentioning my ultimate, but what I felt was not a very realistic desire to acquire a BRG door to one of the contractors that I was working with when he mentioned he had at least one used BRG door he pulled out of a remodel job a couple of years ago. He said he had no real use for it and that his cousin had already shot up one of the other BRG doors they had just to see how 'bullet resistant' they really were and if I didn't take it then the door would likely see the same fate.

A few days later we carried the used BRG door down to my shelter. Unfortunately, as you can see in the pics below, my concrete contractor who framed up the main entrance door to be a standard-height door, forgot that he was going to be adding 4" of concrete to the floor of the crawl space.

So, back to my never ending to do list. It was going to be hard enough to find the time to install this door, but now I was going to have to figure out how to cut down both the BRG door and it's aluminum frame. That automatically pushed this door installation down many position on my to do list. It was actually Pangea's thread titled "Storm Shelter" is about 3/4 done. that got me motivated to make some progress on my own shelter.

So, although I wasn't sure how the professionals cut this type of BRG material, I assumed a router would be my best bet. For decades I have just clamped an old level or an aluminum straight edge to use as a guide, but since I wanted every chance for success on cutting this door, I decided to go buy a fairly expensive clamp specifically designed to be used as a guide.

As you can see in the image below, this specialized clamp allows an unobstructed guide, with no bar clamps sticking up to get in the way of the router.

Since the BRG door, which I am assuming is an acrylic material, is 1.25" thick, I thought that I better make a couple of passes with the router instead of trying to cut through the entire 1.25" all at once.

First pass went just fine.

The second pass also went well and the resulting edge looked perfect.

Now I had to route out a space for the bottom hinge to mount. As you can see in the piece that I cut off, the hinge sits flush with the bottom of the door.

Here is where my new shiny clamp failed me. As I was trying to route out the space for the bottom hinge, the damn clamp slid and I started cutting much higher into the door than I intended. I was paying attention to when I was going to stop the router at the piece of wood I had clamped as a stop instead of paying attention to how deep I was cutting, so it took me a while to notice the clamp had slipped.

So, after a few choice words I went back to my decades old tried and true method of using quick-grip type clamps to secure the straight edge. I was going to have to cut over an additional inch off the door than my initial 4 1/8" I had planned to cut off it, but I really had no other choice at this point. As you can see, I didn't cut the entire bad part of the door off, because I was going to have to remove a portion for the hinge anyway.

Now it was time to try and route out for the hinge without screwing up again.

The hinge fit perfectly, so after I drilled and tapped the new holes to secure the hinge, I was done with the modifications to the door itself.

Making modifications to the aluminum door jamb was the next task to be completed. My initial thoughts before I started making any modifications to the door or jamb were to cut the door jamb first, and then cut the BRG door itself to fit the jamb, but luckily I changed my mind and thought it best to cut the door first. Had I cut the jamb first, and then had the clamp slip while cutting the door I would have had a much harder time trying to overcome that screw up.

This first pic below shows how long the jamb is compared to the newly shortened BRG door.

Here is a similar view, only from the other angle. You can see I've removed the second half of the hinge from the aluminum frame and have it placed on the half of the hinge that is attached to the door.

Here are a couple pictures showing the hinge mounted back on the aluminum jamb before I cut the 5.25" off the bottom of the jamb. As you can see the other half of the hinge is machined into the aluminum door jamb. Not having a mill I was not looking forward to cutting off 5.25" off this aluminum jamb and then having to machine out a spot for the hinge with using just a cut-off wheel.

Here is the bottom of the jamb cut off. No turning back now. I had a my Makita angle grinder with a thin cut-off wheel and my little Dremel with a 90-degree adapter and another very thin cut-off wheel to use to make the cut out for the hinge to recess into.

Although I have quite a bit of prior experience using an angle grinder, I've been a desk jockey since 2006 and I did not think I was going to be able to do this decent of a job.


55 Posts
Discussion Starter #2
The wood 2x8's that my concrete contractor had used to frame up the opening for doors on the shelter had both lag screws and nails sticking out the back side of them before the concrete was poured. Even though those lag screws and nails were embedded into the concrete I decided to add some 4" Tapcon concrete screws to provide extra hold before I installed the aluminum door jamb. I installed 7 of these 4" Tapcons on each vertical 2x8.

The way the hinges attach to the BRG door and the aluminum door jamb, I did not see a way to first attach the aluminum jamb and then attach the door. That meant I had to try and both hold this extremely heavy BRG door upright at the same time I was trying to plumb, level, and secure the jamb. I'm guessing the door itself weighs between 300-400 pounds, but I'm not sure. I could probably figure it out by weighing that bottom piece I cut off and then calculating the weight, but I haven't done that yet.

Anyway, I attribute my success in getting the door level, plumbed, and secured to luck as much as I can say any skill was involved. I just got downright lucky. If this door had gotten away from me before I had it secure something would have broke for sure and that might have been me. Here is where I left off last weekend after I got the door secured.

Today I installed another 2x8 above the door, to help fill in the gap left by having to cut the door shorter than I had initially planned. I also finalized the Tapcon's that are securing the aluminum door jamb to the wood and concrete, added a new Schlage electronic lock set, and caulked the wood jamb, so I can paint it next weekend before I add some aluminum trim all the way around the door.

Here are some overall photos that show not only the door, but a little bit of how the inside and outside of the storm shelter look like.

I obviously still have the partial-height emergency exit door to complete, as well as running utilities to the storm shelter, but it is a little further along and a little safer of a storm shelter than it was a few weeks ago. I have quite a busy month ahead of me at work, so I don't plan on getting much more done on this anytime soon, but I'll update the thread again when I do make more progress.
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