If you Google “adding a secret room to your house,” you’ll get results ranging from “Are You In on the Secret? How to Add a ‘Hidden Room’ to Your Home” to “8 Really Creepy Secret Rooms Found in Houses” to “5 Scariest Secret Rooms Ever Discovered.” After Googling this topic, it took a concerted effort of the will to pull myself out of the YouTube wormhole into which I eventually plunged. I didn’t link to the last two titles here in order to spare you the click-bait experience. You’re welcome. If you really want to watch the videos, you can, well, Google them.
There’s a significant market for adding secret spaces to homes. Tellus Build is a construction, renovation and design company with experience developing secret rooms for clients. Brett Riordan, senior vice president of construction, explains that people have a variety of reasons for wanting to install secret rooms, such as for use as “a jewelry safe, gun safe, or safe room in case of emergency.” He adds, “Other times it can be as simple as wanting to create an accent wall where a closet door exists, and not wanting to see the door and hardware.” Someone might also want a private office, collection room, home theater, “man cave,” etc.
How Do You Create a Secret Room?
You can create a secret room on your own or hire a company that specializes in this type of work. Riordan explains that a more basic project would be converting a closet into a secret room by changing the door and properly concealing it:
“A simple solution for a small secret room is taking an old closet and removing the existing door and jamb, then installing a solid core metal door (with pivot door hardware) in its place. You can then use tile or any finish desired to cover the wall and secret door from corner to corner. The pivot door hardware is critical, as the door will be heavy after brick, tile, and/or desired finishes are applied. The pivot door hardware will require you to cut into the slab several inches to accommodate the closer hardware, and the same recess will need to be provided above. Rixson typically sells the best closer or pivot hardware. Clients should plan ahead and think the usage through, as this can be a costly project.”
Besides closets and larger rooms, wall safes are common ways to conceal items. While you can have it hidden in any way you want as long as you’re willing to pay for it, bookcases are one of the most popular types of secret doors. Several different kinds are available, such as a single door that swings in or out, double doors that swing out and sliding doors. Fireplaces, cabinets and mirrors are other common options for hiding a secret entry.
It’s surprisingly difficult to find photos of actual secret spaces that people have built – or maybe that’s not surprising, considering the “secret” aspect. However, as you check out the links throughout this article, you’ll find several videos that do show how some companies and individuals have constructed secret spaces.
How Much Does It Cost?
Ah, the million-dollar question. These types of projects get expensive very quickly. Riordan explains, “A full concrete bunker with climate control and secure ‘secret access’ could run you a minimum of $30k and up depending on size, etc. If you utilize an existing closet and create a wall-to-wall ‘hidden door’ for, say, a ten foot wall, you would be looking at $5k to $8k, depending on finishes, etc.”
Creative Home Engineering specializes in building and installing secret doors. The cheapest product in the 2015 Pricing Estimates document on the company’s website is a wall mirror that doubles as a door, starting at $2,500. The double slider bookshelf starts at $15,000 and takes eight weeks to build and install. The company’s brochure highlights a number of the jobs they’ve done, ranging from hiding a wall vault behind a bookshelf to concealing a panic room behind an armoire, “Chronicles of Narnia”-style. These jobs were $7,500 and $40,000, respectively.
If, however, you’re like me and don’t want to spend more on your secret room than you did on your car, the Murphy Door company is another option. They’ll provide you with custom solution, which can cost thousands of dollars, or you can order a standard-sized, unpainted and unassembled flush-mount bookshelf for $599 (before taxes).
How Do You Keep It Secret?
I wondered that, too, so I asked Riordan how to conceal the extra space from the outside so that it’s not obvious there is “missing” space in the home. “There are many ways to create the hidden element. If the question is how do you not notice the square footage of the room, that is considered in the planning and design stages of the build,” he said. “For example, if you had a fourth bedroom and framed in the door opening, if done correctly, no one would know the fourth bedroom existed.”
How Should You Prepare for the Project?
I also asked Riordan what important aspects people should consider before starting a project like this. How you’ll use the room is the most important consideration, he said, followed immediately by your budget.
It’s also critical to do your own research about the products and finishes to make sure you understand what’s needed to meet your goal and that you get the proper materials, because, Riordan explains, “poor planning in the finish stage can leave you with a lackluster result, actually drawing one’s eye to the hidden room.” He advises, “Don’t cut corners, especially when it comes to the hardware chosen. Cheap hardware could create more sagging in the door or noise as the products settle in. Remember, the heavier you make the door, the stronger the components need to be to accommodate the weight. If you are looking to ventilate the space, make sure to plan accordingly (is ventilation even feasible in that space?). Oftentimes people don’t think of limitations in the design of the house … for instance, a structural beam could prevent you from running electrical or ventilation piping to the space. Think ahead!”
Learning all about creating secret rooms and passages has gotten me excited to build one in my own home – and then I can share the process and pictures with you here! Just kidding. It wouldn’t be very secret if I did that, would it? If you, on the other hand, would like to share your experience building secret rooms and hidden spaces, post anonymously in the comments, and I promise to keep your secret safe.
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