Secret Doors

Creative Home Engineering can make secret doors and hidden passageways for your home.

Pull a favorite book from your library shelf and watch a cabinet section recess to reveal a hidden passageway.

Twist a candlestick and your fireplace rotates, granting access to a hidden room.

Who cares about the security properties? I want one.

Posted on March 27, 2006 at 11:50 AM • 92 Comments

Comments

Pat CahalanMarch 27, 2006 12:12 PM

That is *definitely* geek porn.

New contractor to add to the list for building a new house...

Kevin S.March 27, 2006 12:17 PM

I'd probably defeat any security benefits of the product by my inability to keep my mouth shut about it. How could you have something so cool and NOT show it off?

jayhMarch 27, 2006 12:18 PM

In Salem, MA there is the (alleged) house of 7 gables with a very well hidden circular stairway from the kitchen to one of the upstairs bedrooms (was it clandestine liasons or midnight snacks that inspired its creation). Supposedly it was 'lost' for some years until rediscoverd during reconstruction.

Mike CMarch 27, 2006 12:25 PM

There were 2 things I've wanted to put in my house when I finally build it... A secret room (I'm thinking the bookcase deal) and a large safe hidden behind a painting. Maybe I'm too nostalgic from my days watching Scooby Doo and reading the Hardy Boys, but who cares. It's TOO COOL!

ZwackMarch 27, 2006 12:25 PM

Security through Obscurity...

But I want one...

I don't know where I could fit a secret room in my house it would be obvious no matter where it was put (it's a small house) but I still want one.

Z.

anonymousMarch 27, 2006 12:27 PM

Of course if you don't build it yourself, the contractor's records would reveal its location and properties, no?

Kevin S.March 27, 2006 12:29 PM

"Maybe I'm too nostalgic from my days watching Scooby Doo and reading the Hardy Boys."

Maybe they could make a large portrait with eyes that slide away so you can spy from the secret room into the dining room, too! THAT would be neat.

Ian MasonMarch 27, 2006 12:33 PM

The secret door's OK but the real expense is the portraits with removeable eyes, the huge cavern at the end of the secret passage, and the cost of digging the underground canal.

One of the things on my "To do before I die" list, is to design and build my own house. And it WILL have at least one secret passage. I've actually spent far too long dreaming up ways of making it as hard as possible to detect...

Kevin S.March 27, 2006 12:35 PM

"Of course if you don't build it yourself, the contractor's records would reveal its location and properties, no?"

Not if you bury the records and the dead contractor's body under the floor of the secret room! ;)

RvnPhnxMarch 27, 2006 12:38 PM

$#$&%^@#*$&% site with flash-only homepage!
Their hidden pasageway is hidden in a flash applet!

Pat CahalanMarch 27, 2006 12:40 PM

@ Zwack

Go down.

In California at least, the basement is fairly unheard of. Even elsewhere, it's the easiest place to conceal a secret room, since it isn't easy to discover by simple examination of dimensions. Put a secret room in a house, and someone can figure it out by the 10x10 dead space between rooms. Under the ground it's a lot more difficult to find :)

ZwackMarch 27, 2006 12:52 PM

Greetings Pat,

Given that I live in Oregon (State Motto - 100,000 gallons of water and nothing to do on a Saturday Night) and that I'm just outside a 100 year flood plain (The other side of the street and I wouldn't be) I'm not sure that trying to add a basement back onto the house is a good idea (the house was moved from about a mile away, it used to have a basement, now it has a crawl space with light fixtures hanging down into it!)...

But we're planning on remodelling the upstairs and changing the roofline. If we do that then I can probably make enough room for a small "secret room" up there. Given that we already have an unfinished room with a window in the roof space (outside the upstairs room) I think that it could be done in such a way that it doesn't seem any more strange than it does at the moment.

Z.

Paul JohnsonMarch 27, 2006 12:56 PM

The original secret passages were "priest holes". Back in Tudor times the monarchy oscillated between Protestant and Catholic a few times, and being out of step varied from expensive to fatal. Priests of the wrong religion (especially Catholic during the reign of Elizabeth 1) were hunted down by the secret police. So wealthy families would hide them away in these priest holes: specially built secret rooms. They were generally very small because the secret police were quite prepared to spend days measuring up the house to identify any missing bits.

Some friends of my wife who live in an old house had a chimney fire. The fire brigade came along and tried to put it out, but it wouldn't stop. Eventually they discovered a priest hole in between two fire places on opposite sides of a wall. Centuries of accumulated soot and birds nests had caught fire.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Priest_hole for more details.

Paul.

Pat CahalanMarch 27, 2006 1:29 PM

@ Zwack

> But we're planning on remodelling the upstairs and changing the roofline.

This can always yield interesting results. My neighborhood in CA is 1900-1935 era homes, most of which have had some modifications from the original floorplan.

Some of them probably have room-sized dead spaces due to ... um... architectural "ingenuity". If you're careful about how you redo the roofline, you can keep the building looking good while giving yourself some workable interior space.

One tricky idea I thought of when I was considering how to hide an extra space requires a two story building with a interior chimney. Replace the wood fireplace with gas, remove the "middle" of the chimney (keep the lower half for looks and the top for disguise) and replace it with suitably hardened ducting. No idea if it's actually feasible, though :)

Mike C.March 27, 2006 2:35 PM

Nobody has yet mentioned that houses with secret rooms actually fetch higher prices on the market!

My next house will have a secret room. If I can build from scratch, I'd like to get some underground tunnels in there as well.

Bruce SchneierMarch 27, 2006 2:50 PM

"Put a secret room in a house, and someone can figure it out by the 10x10 dead space between rooms."

I think you've been playing too much D&D.

Pat CahalanMarch 27, 2006 2:55 PM

> I think you've been playing too much D&D

Heh. Is that an assumption based upon prevalence of the old 1/4" = 10 ft dungeon maps of the D&D world? Would it have sounded less geeky if I used 8x12 or some other dimension?

(fwiw: I haven't played D&D in years).

The MailmanMarch 27, 2006 3:19 PM

> I think you've been playing too much D&D.

Woah. A D&D zinger coming from Bruce Schneier. Most awesome thing I've read all day.

pfoggMarch 27, 2006 4:47 PM

My parents' house had a secret room on the second floor, and it can't have been *too* obvious, since I was the only member of the household to find it. The interior floorplan and the exterior placement of windows made it difficult to compare distances, but noticing the missing space and making measurements is how I knew to look for a way in.

Filias CupioMarch 27, 2006 6:16 PM

Selling a house with a secret room is a bit tricky. If you show it to all potential buyers, the new owner will end up with a house with a not-very-secret room. If you only tell once the house is sold, you miss out on the extra value of this feature.

RogerMarch 27, 2006 6:18 PM

@Bruce:
> I think you've been playing too much D&D.

Ah, but how did YOU recognise the 10x10 reference? 8^)

Oh, waiddaminnit, how did I know that was what you noticed...

RogerMarch 27, 2006 7:31 PM

I guess we need to be clear what the hidden room is for. I know a family who put a "secret passage" in their new house design as a game for the kids, who absolutely love it. So do most adults. But it isn't all that secret, in fact they were careful to make sure it was actually quite accessible in case anyone fell ill whilst inside it. CHE seems to be selling these things at $10,000 a pop, which to me is too much for a game, and they are claiming security is one of the benefits.

> Pull a favorite book from your library shelf and watch a cabinet section recess to reveal a hidden passageway.

The tilting book thing is too much like security through obscurity. As soon as someone sees you open it, the gig's up. And if an opponent even suspects the existence of a secret room, the first thing any red-blooded Hitchcock fan will do is try every book on the shelf. Then the candlesticks, lampstands and vases. Then anything else in the room that looks like a knob or button.

Rather, I think the best way to open one of these might be the acoustic E-Lock which Bruce covered recently! You get the security of a proper locking mechanism, while the lack of a visible keyhole means it doesn't spoil the obscurity part. In the video on CHE's website, for example, consider the arrangement with two wall niches and the painting. Most likely what will happen in reality is this: a burglar will try to lift the painting to check for hidden keys or a wallsafe behind it. Finding it to be fixed in place, he will rip it off with his jemmy, and discover the control panel. He doesn't know what the control panel does so he follows the cables, ripping the wall open as he goes. After about 2 feet this leads him to the secret niche, which he smashes open, ignoring the beautiful operating mechanism.

But do the same thing with an acoustic E-lock, and he will only discover the hidden compartment after a very thorough search, and hopefully he doesn't have enough time.

The obscurity part is still worth having because a) it's fun, and b) it will significantly slow down the majority of attackers who don't know about the room before the attack, maybe defeating them altogether if their time is too limited. But once an attacker suspects the room's presence, it better be surrounded by something stronger than plasterboard (drywall), because they aren't going to waste time looking for the hidden door.

Things which might give away the room's presence:
1. insider information, either from the contractors or your friends
2. noticing the dead space in the floor plan
3. tiny imperfections in the concealment scheme, possibly exacerbated by the passage of time
4. scuff marks from the mechanism operating
5. fibres, leaves or other foreign matter trapped by the edge of the door
6. visible or weakly concealed control mechanisms with no obvious function, especially those which can be backtracked to the door mechanism
7. sounds or other unintended emanations from the concealed space
8. a very thorough search which probes all wallspaces looking for wallsafes etc.
9. Certain knowledge that a person or large object cannot have left a room, yet doesn't appear to be in it.

It is interesting both to think about strategies to mitigate or reduce these risks, and the reasons why "priest holes" were a remarkably successful version (although certainly not the first as suggested above -- there really are secret chambers in some ancient Egyptian tombs).

TankMarch 27, 2006 8:42 PM

I have something like this. It's a 7 foot Campbells Soup can that I unscrew the bottom of and hide inside.

QuindarMarch 27, 2006 9:31 PM

The house in which I grew up had more windows on the outside than it did on the inside. Apparently when the house was extended, the contractors misread the plans (?) and made what was supposed to be a crawlspace into a full room, and then sealed it up. The "secret" way into the room was to climb through the (small) window and down a ladder.

Eventually my parents had a door cut in the wall.

(And yes, it was *underneath* the living space.)

asquiMarch 28, 2006 12:45 AM

What's wrong with bulglar alarms and safes?

The way I see it, you have two options:
1. A casual burglary, the effects of which can be largely limited by an effective burglar alarm.
2. A 'professional' job, where you are a marked target in which case you will likely have a gun pointed at you and/or your family, and be asked to hand over the goods.

In the second scenario, a secret room is probably better than a hunky safe in the middle of your lounge room. However, if you're the target of a professional burglary then they know what you have so playing dumb is only going to cause unnecessary problems (eg. fingers being cut off, etc.)

Remember, in the worst case the purpetrators have nothing to lose, and your life is meaningless to them.

Hence, I postulate that a simple house alarm combined with clever hiding of valuables (possibly even in a safe, though not necessarily) is the most cost-effective solution for protecting your valuables.

- asqui

Richard BraakmanMarch 28, 2006 2:28 AM

The problem with the acoustic E-lock in this scenario is that it's battery powered. What's the point of a secret room that can't be used for sinister purposes centuries later?

(Or, in this case, three years later :)

MozMarch 28, 2006 3:55 AM

Anbd even easier hidden opening mechanism is to use the burglar alarm pad. Optionally, a single switch in a non-obvious place could redirect the signal, but simply snooping it and "typing in the wrong code" could open the secret door. It's security through obviousness. In this day and age of wired homes, there are many solutions - an extra phone socket or network socket that you plug a suitable keyboard in, etc etc.

billswiftMarch 28, 2006 6:44 AM

@asqui
Where are you from? I definitely want to avoid wherever it is. `Professional' burglars in the U.S. are even less likely to burgle an occupied dwelling than an incompetent; running into an armed homeowner is a burglar's biggest nightmare.

PharmacistMarch 28, 2006 8:38 AM

A secret room like this would be a great place to hide a meth lab or a cannibis nursery.

Arturo QuirantesMarch 28, 2006 9:12 AM

"Who cares about the security properties? I want one."

Bruce, I think you hit the spot withouht even realizing. Your comment is to computer security what "si vis pacem, para bellum" ("if you want peace, prepare for war") is to the military. Too many people just want "one of these" (whatever it is) without any regard for the security implications. Who cares if a virus is inside that Kournikova picture, I wanna see.

BTW, i totally agree with you on the subject of secret rooms: I want one, too. It's just too cool to resist, damnit! They got us on this one.

linnenMarch 28, 2006 9:42 AM

Just remember, brain transplants are done in the basement and re-animation experiments are done in the attic.

Or is it the other way around?

Davi OttenheimerMarch 28, 2006 10:14 AM

Limited info on the company. The first question I have is whether they keep their blueprints in a database connected to a network or a filing system in an open space, and second who they hire to do the work, third for how long...there used to be an excellent book on how to build your own secret spaces but maybe the concept of self-built home security is history?

@nonymou5March 28, 2006 6:54 PM

The music on the site is just way too cool!!!

For even more fun, wire cameras all over the house with the monitor and VCR in the secret room and add the ability to controll all electrical in the secret room, then top it off with speakers built into the house and sound controlled in the screte room. Hire a student to watch your house while you are on "vacation". Sell the video and profit!!!!!

Build a few of these all over the house and host murder mystery parties for extra income.

Bruce SchneierMarch 29, 2006 5:23 AM

"For even more fun, wire cameras all over the house with the monitor and VCR in the secret room and add the ability to controll all electrical in the secret room, then top it off with speakers built into the house and sound controlled in the screte room. Hire a student to watch your house while you are on 'vacation.' Sell the video and profit!!!!!"

I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for those pesky kids!

Jim HyslopMarch 29, 2006 8:21 AM

"I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for those pesky kids!"

Jinkies! I'm pretty sure it's "meddling kids" :=)

TomMarch 29, 2006 2:16 PM

Ideally the door to the secret room should be controlled by a bust of Shakespeare whose head tilts back to reveal a hidden switch. (Remember, in Bruce Wayne's study?)

alecMarch 30, 2006 1:54 AM

for even better home security, just make the external entry ways (front/back door) into secret doors as well! "a robber can't steal from a house he can't enter"...

asquiMarch 31, 2006 5:37 PM

@billswift

I'm in the UK, where guns are illegal and shooting tresspasers is frowned upon.

I was thinking of the worst-case scenario movie-plot threat, but the point stands -- what does a secret room offer you over and above a decent house alarm? (In a security sense -- I'll grant the uber-coolness value :-)

DaleApril 3, 2006 3:28 PM

Some folks have "safe" rooms. Some are as simple as a bathroom with a strong door. If you hear breaking glass (or otherwise freaked out), you retreat to this room and call the police with your cell phone. The best one I ever saw was built in a structural concrete space. They dug out the pea gravel, and fitted a steel door - even without being hidden, it was fairly good security.

BrianApril 9, 2006 3:24 PM

I think a lot of you need to simply think outside of the box.

Contractors: worried about the contractor knowing about your secret room? Don’t tell them you have a secret room! Either just don’t tell them (do you have to justify your home design to them?) or make something up. Tell them that the wife wants a walk in closet, a storage closet, a utility room, small home office, computer room, laundry room, craft room, play room, etc. Be creative and lie. What you do with your house and the rooms inside of it once they leave is your business. Just don’t be a fool and have them install the hidden door for you! Most are DIY jobs anyway. If you buy it from a company that specializes in manufacturing that kind of thing, I would think that most would be happy to sign a confidentially agreement or something. Usually companies that deal in security related things like this are mindful of customer needs. Customers don’t want to install a hidden door/room and have the company not provide that level of service to them.

Hidden passageways and staircases: same thing here. The one website that shows the staircase that lifts up. When the contractor wants to put a regular staircase in you say no. “My brother is a master wood carver and he built us a staircase with intricate wood carving in it, we are going to put that one in when you guys are finished��?. You don’t have a brother, there is no hand carved staircase, but they don’t know that! They will likely say “Oooohhhh! That is going to look really nice there! Thank God for family! HA HA HA HA��?. As far as passageways and stuff, same thing. Maybe you are planning future renovations or expansion and wanted that put in now so there will be less work later. I mean I can go on and on. You just need to think! Remember they don’t know your real plan or idea. They have no reason to think that you are lying. It all depends on what you are doing. Some things are going to be easier to play off than others but nothing is impossible. Worst case scenario you tell them but spin the truth a little. For example maybe you tell them that when you were a kid a tornado tore through your town and the only thing that saved you and your family was the safe room in your house. So yes you are admitting that your building a “safe room��? or whatever you want to call it but you tell them its for severe weather or something. A simple Google search will show you how common this really is. They think they are building one thing, they are really building another.

Home plans: these can be changed. The contractor may have the “originals��? but you have since remodeled! It is so easy today to redraw plans. Plus I don’t think people are going to walk into a room and question the accuracy of the plans because “this looks like a 10’ wall, not a 13’ wall��?. If you have ever moved into a new home you know how it always looks so big but when you add furniture, wallpaper, carpet, etc, it looks different. If they plans say 10’ I don’t know anyone who is actually going to measure them to double check. They will assume since this is how the house was built that “they have to be correct��?! If they question you say “why wouldn’t they be correct?��? Most likely they will respond “yeah, your right��?.

audienceoneApril 10, 2006 3:11 PM

Hmmnnn. D&D, Scooby Doo, the Hardy Boys, Security through Obscurity... I feel like...

I want one. Someday...

SamApril 19, 2006 5:55 PM

I had a secret room, it was on the 2nd floor of a house with a really steep roof, there was one section of attic left after all the ceilings were vaulted. I had a rolling bookcase built to cover the 3.5' tall opening, a phone jack installed and a light. When I sold the house I only showed it to 2 people, one ended up buying the house. If I didn't like the prospective buyer I didn't show it. It was pretty cool, I had a secret closet built into the next house also. still looking for a way to conceal the opening - thinking about a huge canvas on hidden hingles, with a magnetic latch.

DavidApril 22, 2006 2:11 PM

Six years ago I bought a very large Queen Anne sytle home. This home has over 16,000 sg ft when you include the basement, main level and second and third floors. There is also an area approx. 12x18 and 7' high above the attic area. It is a classic Queen Anne with high pitched hip roof and several gable ends and a large 14' dia. turret in the front right corner. Anyway, when I bought the home it was in very poor condition but the structure was sound. No one had lived in it since the late 60's and the family that owned it just wanted to get rid of it. I got the house at 1/5 the price of the average new construction home. Originally there were 16 bedrooms and it had 8 bathrooms, and lots of little spaces for what I guess were sitting rooms or dressing areas. I spent two years re-designing the floor plan. In the end I was able to include four hidden rooms, one hidden hallway two secret stair cases and 14 hidden doors. There also a secret tunnel from the laundry room in the basement to the new garage out back. The house had a large enough foot print that no one suspects anything missing from the floor space. The grand scale of the rooms, the height of the ceilings and the fact that the exteior walls are nearly 3 ft thick all help keep the passages hidden. Also finishing all four levels helped in hidding these spaces. When all was said and done you might think this cost a fortune. Well, I can tell you everything from buying the house to redoing every level, electrical, and pluming element cost only about 300K total (based on Ohio prices) I even put in an elevator. Granted most of the work I did myself. The point is you don't have to spend 10K on one passage way. That is silly. If you think about it long enough you will come up with creative ways to hide doors or rooms. If you don't have a large home, basements are great places to hide a room. If your house is really small and you have no basement then maybe just a hidden door from a closet to another bedroom. The options are endless. Be creative and visit discount stores. There is no reason you have to spend a fortune.

sir_flexalotMay 8, 2006 11:17 AM

There are two main ways you can do this to your house: one as above, you can have a very large house, in which case it's easy to hide some space. The other, which may not be obvious to western US'ers, is to have a split-level home with the staircase option. I have seen tons of split-level houses in the midwest, and there are also tons of basements (good protection from a tornado). You could retrofit a large basement into a secret room that opened up using the split-level stairs, plus a regular basement for the other half of the stairs. It would look totally normal -- I actually know someone that has almost this exact setup. It's impossible to tell that they have an additional room or two under the main house, because having 4 levels in a house that small is counter-intuitive (think 1.5 floor, ground floor, .5 sub floor under 1.5 floor, and then hidden basement under ground floor.

Sly FoxMay 28, 2006 12:23 AM

Why not design a double function safe room. Here's the set up. A door that opens into an obvious utility closet, no big deal. Next, a "concealed"(but obvious) passageway entry that opens into a seemingly empty room. The empty room must butt up against the utility closet. --Now, the perp knows you went into the "concealed" doorway. Only to spend alittle bit of time to follow(or maybe he finds it only to think its a safe). Once inside, the door is locked. For your convenience, another hidden door out of the room opens to your utility closet. Both are locked capturing the perp inside. Only to be opened when authorities are on site. Maybe one time use, but hey, buy a gun for the next guy.

Zen_CopJune 2, 2006 6:49 AM

I'm a police officer and we hear about all sorts of hiden places criminals use. One of my favourite I ever saw appeared to be an old 50's style backyard bomb shelter. The kind with a manhole type tube leading underground (via a ladder) to an open space under the back yard. The thing abou this one was they had built a dog house over the opening and put a hinge on it. Add a secret latch you not only have a secret room...but a secret lair. Maybe a tunnel to the house and a hidden door? (Granted that takes more work and foundation altering but cool!) I'd love something like this for my kids one day...the ultimate "secret" clubhouse. Hey, wanna have real fun. Have a secret door coming off of the "Secret" passage between the shelter and the house....have THIS door lead to the SUPER secret room. Wow...I'm picturing a hamster Habi-Trail under my yard!

The SkulkerAugust 5, 2006 6:58 AM

Thank you ALL for telling me of your hiding places...you will never be safe ! HAHAHAHAHHAHA

DharmaAugust 11, 2006 12:29 PM

I just ordered a bookcase/secret door from www.hideadoor.com. It will hide the staircase to the attic which will be my girl's bedroom. I bought a beat up old copy of Nancy Drew: The Hidden Staircase to use for the handle. They have an unnatural love for Scooby Doo and I have always wanted to put in a secret passageway. My husband thinks it's pretty damn cool, too. I'll let you know about quality, etc. if you want.

Lion's LairAugust 20, 2006 11:18 PM

I read this complete Blog about hidden doors.
I am a 63 year young Lady and designed my own house.
I designed a 16'feet long bookcase on a second floor balcony, which has one bookcase section that opens to reveal my husbands office. ( I call it his eagle's Nest).
It was so well done that the builders inspector on one of his visits was confused and kept telling us that something was missing!!He was looking for the room behind the bookcase !!!!
I agree with someone who wrote above, you don't have to spend a fortune to get an hidden door.
Find yourself a good trim guy, and he will build you a hidden door.
It is kind of cool; I wanted one just to keep the decorative full lengt bookcase looking grand!!
Everything is possible, I want now to design a hidden door/bookcase in my kitchen leading to the pantry.
It will be just perfect for my cookbooks!!!
It's not just for security !!!! Enjoy the ideas

AnonymousNovember 15, 2006 8:56 PM

hidden rooms and stair cases should only be built by people who have done a lot of research or are professionals there was a report in my newspaper about a docter who owned a drug lab he dug 18x12 space under his house which collapased recently after a rainstorm also famous are little kids woh suffocated in a hidden room for which the ventilation had been removed in remodeling

ps for a easy hidden room put a floor vent in with a false bottom to a basement to lower floor or ceiling vent with a rope latter, whats really good is a deep outhouse put something in there that smells bad and a pile of fake poo and nobody would suspect a thing

Security values are useless if they find anything hidden as they know you hide stuff people would probley just start breaking walls

Zuzanna HartleyNovember 27, 2006 10:44 PM

That would be soooo cool!
You could just explore your house at night and pretent it's like a horror movie or something!

SculptorDecember 3, 2006 2:57 PM

I was checking out the web site you have above (Creative Home Engineering) and saw a 'rising stairway' giving way to another room below. A movie made in 1953-54 with Clark Gable, Lana Turner, and Victor Mature entitled "Betrayed" had exactly that - a rising stairway that opened to a hidden room. Gable, playing a spy in Europe during WW2, was hidden there at the very beginning of the movie. It was shown on Turner Classic Movie - so it must be rentable every- where. It was a really neat design.

trooperDecember 10, 2006 1:44 PM

does any one have a good idea for a good non mold produceing material, that is inexpensive to build two underground rooms connected by tunnels with three seperate escape tunnels. I am planning on building my hose with a cinderblock center wall and putting in vault doors off of each room(hidden of course).This false wall will contain a stair well that leads from the 2nd floor to the basement and directly into the start of my tunnels.
I would like to have one main tunnel that goes from the house to the garage with a hidden door in to the garage, then two hidden rooms off of the main tunnel with vault doors. Also the three hidden escape tunnels off of the main tunnel also with hidden vault doors, and at each exit of the escape tunnels have small rounded vault doors that come up in different areas on my proprety.
I really want to do this, and i am not sure if i should attempt to build it all my self or get a contractor. If i do it my self, i need some ideas on a good dependable material to build everything under the ground.
I do not frrl to safe with block or concrete because it is pourus and i think it would eventuall start growing mold.So if any one has a good idea on a water tight material That would be awsome...
Bruce, maybe you have a good idea....

davidJanuary 2, 2007 3:46 AM

I'm looking at doing something like this when I build my on house in the next few years, for the underground tunnel I was thinking of using culvert, I was in an old missile site once that used 8' culvert with concrete poured in the bottom to make it flat, I found pricing estimates online saying 78" culvert would be about $45/foot, I was thinking of running 2 of them to the garage one that was used and not hidden and the other going from a vault room (access from my office) to a secure room (reloading room/crazy science lab) in the garage, the tunnel side of the door to the garage would lock creating an in-door 50 foot shooting range. let me know if anyone has any other good ideas jen@nwadv.com

StripedSocksGirlJanuary 31, 2007 3:41 PM

I have been in love with Nancy Drew ever since I read my first book! The first one I ever read was the Crooked Banister so I've always wanted a hidden staircase. I'm an avid murder mystery reader so I'm definitely going to have hidden passageways!!!!!!! WOOPWOOP.

My friends just dont understand how AMAZING that would be...

ANGELAFebruary 9, 2007 10:46 AM

I would like to know where to buy the mechanisms for a hidden door. The book and candelstick methods for opening a hidden door. The company you mentioned does not sell the plans or mechanisms. They only custom install.

ShaunFebruary 9, 2007 12:30 PM

Hi, anyone know how to get hold of some plans of how to build your own hidden secret bookcase door. Shaun. UK

Nos VeratuFebruary 13, 2007 1:39 AM

I do like this thread. I am currently toying with the idea of making a hidden closet. I just bought a new house and am redoing all of it. So now would be the time. I can cut a hole in the floor of the closet so I can gain access to the crawl space which I could deepen to some extent. I thought well if escape were a goal. Then that would suffice, I could also hang a pistol inside the closet. Which I could grab on the way out the hidey hole. Then when the burglar or assailent came out of my house I could whack him as he came out the door. I do think though that starting out with a fresh house under construction would give you a better opportunity to make it like you desire. You could make a hidden room with escape passage. That way you could keep your batman get -up near the tunnel to your Batmobile. Passageways would not be difficult. If you build a wall 3 or 4 feet parallel to an existing wall perhaps backing into a closet with a false wall. If your concerned that someone would punch through the sheetrock you can screw plywood to the inside of your chamber or passageway. The concealment of hidden doors can be obvated by using a long piano hinge if it's a single bookcase or mirror. You can mount a toolbox swiveling castor to the opposite side of the hinge side if a lot of weight is involded. It would prevent your floor from getting scratched from extended use. Using a simple magnetic latch will keep it closed and a slight tug should open it. Or perhaps a ball dentent latch will work as well. Mine will be open out type, not swing in. It's a small closet. I thought about a booby trap as well. But dismissed the idea because well if my son found it he would die accidently,can't have that. LOL. Also if you do the work yourself only you will know that it is there. If you have to hier a contractor you can have a legal document drawn up and have him sign it. That would be a Non-Disclosure form. If he violated it he would have to buy your house or go to prison. I am a contractor with an awesome set of tools so I do have a leg up in some ways from the rest of the herd. Still a lot of work unless you buy a premade assembly then you get into the money factor. The most economical way I think would be to buy a prefab Shelf and mount it to a door. Inlet for the hinges and your done. Or a mirror would work as well. Good luck to all of you though.

magicMarch 5, 2007 2:58 AM

I havent seen anything about optical illusions.Possible ways to counter visual faults or to hide the missing space! Where is the magician scooby?

FunmumMarch 29, 2007 7:59 PM

We are adding an addition onto the house and we are adding three bedrooms on to our house, my two children wil be side by side and i want a secret passage way for them to get back and forth thru to each others rooms the rooms. Like thru the closet or thru a bench or . . . . .

LuLuJune 26, 2007 1:37 PM

fantastic site. some of the greatest ideas from wonderfully imaginitive people. when my parent built their house from a kit (a "Capp"home, if you know what that is), they hid several passageways in it. Upstairs if you laid down in the giant built-in dresser/window seat, closed yourself inside, you could escape underneath the eves where you could re-appear into any room on one side of the house through its secret door in the closet. Some areas "under the eves" you'd have to crawl and some were full on furniture-filled, clubhouse-like rooms. That house was a gas. My sister and I played tricks on people like you wouldn't believe. I'm sure people got very tired of those tricks, but she and I never did!

KeithJuly 10, 2007 10:07 AM

I built my own house 4 years ago and built a secret room in my master bedroom closet. It's small, only 3ft wide by 7 ft long. I have a safe in there. I also wired exterior camaras on all sides of the house that start recording on motion sensors. The monitor screen and VCR are in the secret room. The room has a light,electrical sockets and a phone. I originally wanted several secrets rooms and passage ways in my house, but was on a limited budget and ability, so had to settle for what Ive got.

WilburtAugust 21, 2007 8:29 PM

OMG! U have a cool idea. But u have an awful glitch in ur sight. U crashed my computer!!!!!!!!!! noooooooooo!!! U SUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Judy Parmesion Judy ParmesAugust 21, 2007 8:33 PM

HI!Your secret door idea was a great idea, until it destroyed my home. I know its not your fault but im takeing uyou for the blame. IM VERY CLOSE TO SUING U!
Judy Parmesion

PS My kids said"You suck eggs"

JoelAugust 21, 2007 10:51 PM

Hello. The subject of secret doors and rooms has always fascinated me. I made a secret room in a old closet space and constructed a door that looks like a full lenght framed mirror hanging on the wall. No one has ever suspected there is a hidden space there. I have a extra secret door of the same type I'm considering selling. Anyone interested?

burnsOctober 3, 2007 10:25 AM

if you are worried about the secret room being discovered in your house then move it away from your house. if you are worried that they might find it because of dead space in the plans then that is the key. anyone with a tape measure can find out if there is an extra room in the house no matter how well the entrance is hidden.

my idea is to put a door of some sort in the basement that opens to a passage that leads to a buried room. but if you are like me and don't have much money how are you going to make that possible?
the idea that david had, had crossed my mind about useing a culvert. though i had no idea how much it would have cost until reading it from him. you could have a 22 foot walk way for roughly $1000. pretty good deal. plus no plans needed. just bury it. then the room. my idea is to bury those metal storage trailers. if you needed more space you could cut a hole in the sides of two and put them together giveing you 2 seperate rooms of decent size. the only problems that i can see with this idea so far is that dirt weighs quite a bit. the culvert would stand up to it because that is what is made for but the trailers i'm not so sure about. but it shouldn't be to hard to put in support beams. either welding in a metal skeleton or puting in wooden ones. ventilation would be solved by cutting a hole and running pvc up through the dirt, haveing it come out wherever you decide... ie, a fence pole or a bush..wherever it is not recognized.

the problem with this idea is that you would need space to do it. you can't just start digging in your backyard to put somthing like this in. you stand a good chance of maybe hiting a water main... not to mention buried wires. you could get info on what is buried and where for free from local agencies. then also are the the problems of the neihbors wondering why the hell you digging that gigantic hole in the ground then burying things for no apparent reason. things like that are not easily forgotten. but you would not have any records of anything being built and you could probably do most of it yourself.

if anyone has any other ideas why this would not work, or how to make it better i would be very much interested in learning what others have to say.

TomOctober 8, 2007 6:16 PM

I have been contemplating this same problem for some time, and I think I found a valid solution for the "missing space" problem. My solution is probably only feasable on a new build. In the house I'm getting ready to build (in the next year or two) I wanted a gun vault room. That is a secure room behind a vault door. But at the same time, I didn't want a visible vault door. My house plans are for a 2100 sqft rancher with a full basement. The area I found that wouldn't be missed inside the house is actually under the porch. The front porch is roughly 7' x 34' poured slab on poured stem walls. Instead of only pouring the front porch stem walls to just below the freeze line, for minimal cost, I can make it part of the basement, cap it off with steel plating and pour the porch over the top of it. In the basement I will have a bookshelf/cabinet hidden door that reveals the vault door behind it. If someone were to take the time to measure the basement, they would find absolutely no difference between the basement and the main floor (give or take the usuall variances for insulation in the basement). The really bad part is that the vault door should be installed as part of the foundation pour, so anyone involved in building the forms and/or delivery of the concrete would see what you have going on. (And of course all the other things have to be taken into account like ventilation, electrical conduits etc).

oh yeah, if you do make a secret room / vault room / safe room in the basement, and you plan on storing anything remotely valuable in there, make sure it has it's own floor drain, and consider installing a dehumidifier in the room. Also don't store anything of value on the floor itself. But that goes for just about any part of the basement.

jamJanuary 10, 2008 11:14 AM

I'm looking for a way to conceal a regular closet door.no secret rooms or passages.the problem is that the door will be on one side of the fireplace. i want it to look like plain wall (with chair rail ) so my fireplace wall doesn't look lop-sided. The bookcase idea dosn't work here,it would take up too much of the interior closet space.

jamJanuary 10, 2008 11:55 AM

Jam again Think of the TV show Spin City with MJFox where he worked in the office of a politiction. they had a"nearly" invisible door on the back wall.It was not invisible but blended into the wall -no trim boards outlined the door.

Marcia in MissouriFebruary 24, 2008 12:51 AM

Jib Door--doors that blend in with the wall. Just google "jib door" and you can read about it. I'm trying to incorporate one in the home we're building.

We did build a safe room under our front porch, as described above. I was searching for information on the doors as our builder has never put one in before and was surprised there is so much information out there.(www.wikihow.com) gives instructions for building a hiding bookshelf door.

I have learned so much from reading the posts here! (Sure wish I would have found this site earlier in our construction!) I would love to think we can construct our own bookcase doors, but have a couple of sites where hiding doors can be purchased just in case.
www.nichedoors.com and www.hideadoor.com.

I love the 'culvert' idea and wish we would have connected one to our saferoom!

Rascal164March 19, 2008 8:39 AM

All these people are they really worried that someone who breaks in to steal will have taken the trouble to try and find a building plan? when I bought my house I asked for an "as built" building plan and was told that .... "they only do that for commercial buildings". What I got was practically an artists conception of what it should have be constructed as. lol I had a friend whose house was broken into. The thief went to the master bedroom and ransacked it looking for valuables. The thief was eventually caught ... it was a kid of 18 who didn't plan .... most burglaries are crimes of opportunity. When you're not home someone breaks in and steals what they see! A "secret" room doesn't have to be a real secret... it just has to be out of sight!
Like everyone else I think that a secret room would be ultra-cool and I, like them, really would like to have one. As far as resale value goes... you can advertise the "secret room" and that will draw a larger crowd. The more people that are interested... the more you can ask. It's a supply and demand feature. And while the secret room isn't a secret if you've advertised it.... or if you're the buyer and so many other people now know about it, it still keeps some things our of sight remembering that most burglaries are crimes of opportunity they won't know about it... so your room is safe!
At present I'm adding 6 security camera's to the outside of my home and I like the idea of having them funneled into a monitor in the secret room. and if I ever put a secret room in... it will also double as an office/safe room/ and curio.
This is just a pipe dream at present but certainly possible... but I have a house with an attached 25X60 garage that is in an "ell" shape.... I would like to build a second floor on top of that garage, attach it to the main house and with all the additional space I'm sure I could find a place for a secret room. :)
Rascal164@yahoo.com

ChrisApril 15, 2008 9:13 PM

I have actually been in a house with a secret door. The house was an older (and very expensive) house where I live (A small town somewhere in the area of northern Kentucky).

For the "Butler" to sneak around unnoticed, secret doors were everywhere. In the small time I was in the house (it was an estate auction) I found that I could get from one end to the other end of the house -- in and out of almost every room -- unnoticed by anyone else in the house. One example was a small linen closet off the Foyer. It looked extraordinarily plain, but I knew there was something strange about it. Later, when in the master bathroom (which coincidently shares a wall with the foyer) I found a walk-in closet that butted against the small linen closet. There were no clothes hanging in front of the wall to the linen closet, which seemed strange to me. Then I noticed a small gap in the corner between the drywall. With a small tug, the drywall slid open, revealing the back of the drywall in the linen closet. It was a cramped opening (2' 6" to 3' at the most) but a small or medium sized man could fit though without a problem.

Another house I've been in (This time one of my friend's houses) has a secret door into the garage, and they've actually used it when someone broke into their house. The house is just a small, "cookie-cutter" house. An entry / Living room, with a kitchen just behind it. A hallway goes down to the left, to 3 bedrooms, a bathroom, and a laundry room. In the back of the laundry room, a small door led to a back closet where the water heater and furnace were kept -- perfectly normal in these style houses. Getting behind the water heater was a tight squeeze, but behind it was just enough room to move around, and a smaller door that was COMPLETELY hidden from view from the first door by the water heater and furnace. It's just another version of 'Security by Obscurity'. When you open the first door, you don't have enough room to really move around and get a better view of what is behind the water heater and furnace. Plus, the dimly-lit room doesn't reveal much space behind them. The door led into a small, 1 car garage that had been added on later. When I asked about the door, I was told it was originally made for maintenance purposes on the water heater and furnace, however those facts have mostly been forgotten, and when the garage was added on, the door was well hidden in the back of a small closet.

So really these "Secret doors and passageways" don't have to lead to secret rooms, where all sorts of valuables can be kept -- instead, just a well-hidden door can serve as an escape route when in danger. Though even if it can sometimes be cost effective, hard to hide, and hard for other people to forget about, secret rooms are cool. :)

Though I've always thought a great way to hide a secret room would be in a large fireplace. Imagine a very grand, stone fireplace easily 10-12 feet wide (from one edge of the stone to the other). The actual fireplace would sit in the middle of this, 4-6 feet wide. On each side of the fireplace would be two narrow book cases. I've seen plenty of these in larger homes -- in extravagant libraries and in other massive rooms...OK! OK! So they're usually found in big, expensive houses. But it couldn't be too hard to put one of the bookcases on hinges and have a small, narrow staircase go up to the next level, on the outer edge of the chimney! Such a staircase could let out in a hidden annex of a sprawling attic, or into the opposite side bookcase of an equally grand fireplace on the next floor (A secret way to get from your luxurious upstairs study, down to the living room to meet your guests?).

Well, I think anyone can dream of fantastic secret rooms -- and ANYTHING is truly possible. So maybe when I'm ready to custom-build a home, I could try out one of these ideas for a secret room.

P.S. -- To the "under the porch" idea: If you were to tell the concrete workers that it was a 'Storm Shelter' for severe weather, no questions would be asked. A normal door could be put in at first, that could VERY EASILY be covered with a bookshelf, mirror, or even plain drywall. Even if a concrete worker sees it during pouring, nobody is actually going to ask many questions.

DwellynApril 18, 2008 1:24 PM

In response to the comment about the House of Seven Gables, the hidden staircase is not alledged. I have been up it myself, and seen the hidden room. It's part of the tour. And the staircase is not spiral but rather dog-legged. And t look at it, a wonder it's still standing. Just a bit of information.

KevinApril 29, 2008 12:21 PM

When selling a house with a "secret room", you can advertise it but promise only to reveal it to the buyer.

AndrewJune 20, 2008 11:22 AM

I want a secret room but untill then im going to stick to my buck shot beside my bed

JoelJune 24, 2008 11:13 PM

I have a secret space that used to be a closet between two of my bedrooms. I made most of the closet inside area a pass thru between rooms and built a full length mirror/door with a steel frame on the remainder of the closet space. The inside hidden space is only 3 by 5 ft. but you can step in there and close the door very quickly. The mirror door looks like a full length framed mirror hanging on the wall. I had thought about making these doors for sale but I think the shipping costs would be high due to the steel frame of the door. Do any of you have a similar entry to your secret space?

FreenJune 25, 2008 10:56 AM

Underground rooms or passageways via culvert construction will most likely not meet local building codes. I say this only because some people are not as interested in secret rooms as we are and although secret room equipped houses can fetch more on the market, you limit the resale-ability of your home if your secret room will invite a code violation and the necessary improvement or removal should a complaint be lodged. And don't fool yourself, there are those who tour homes for sale looking for code violations, report them to the inspectors and then hope to low ball the seller when other potential buyers are put off by the pending permitting violations that show up on property and title searches. I speak from experience and an already built construction permit is an expensive and time consuming thing which will scare off all but the most serious potential buyers. So remember, secret rooms, passageways and so forth are fun and fantasy fueled, but the reality of a real estate buying population does not match ours and the ease and value of a house resale should always be considered when adding your dream structure to your largest investment. So all of you culvert planners out there, remember, when you sell your house (as most of us do with seven years) the specter of the low baller, the code enforcer and general mindset of the average buyer is waiting.

JoshJuly 8, 2008 2:24 PM

Judy Parmes:

Actually the court would be against you
You're probably some little kid

Mark August 20, 2008 10:52 AM

This is cool, i just met a guy who builds bedroom furniture that has secret mechanisms built into it. The furniture is brilliant made from beautiful hard woods and looks better than anything ive ever seen. In one piece he has 3 secret compartments built into it and you would never know its there unless someone shows you. The concealment is perfected you must see to believe it. Im currently working on his website to market the furniture. i have never seen anything like this this guys a woodworking mechanical genius.

JJAugust 21, 2008 11:23 AM

Mark:

This is cool, i just met a guy who builds bedroom furniture that has secret mechanisms built into it.

-----

What's the name of the company or the URL to the website?

JJAugust 21, 2008 11:26 AM

The problem with secret doors and hidden passageways in a home is the user.

Can you keep your mouth shut and NOT show the neighbor what you got built in your house?

TylerAugust 23, 2008 3:59 PM

I knew a couple who had an awesome secret passage in their house, though I guess it would have been quite easy to find with a thorough search... Their closet's wall had a secret staircase behind it which lead to a hidden hot tub.

A little work and you can build your ownMay 18, 2009 1:20 PM

You may be surprised at how easily you can build a secret door/room yourself.
My brother and I are remodeling our home and an under-stair access door used to be located in the downstairs bedroom. Rather than keeping a door in a bedroom that leads to a dusty, musty storage area we are building a small, shallow bookcase (less books that can be stored on it= less weight... the overall size will be 4' by 2'6" with maybe 6" in depth) and hinging it to swing inward (toward the storage area). The idea is to set the bookcase flush with the wall and then have some wood trim placed around all the edges (so it looks like a built-in feature) to cover the fact it is not really sitting on the ground or nailed in anywhere.
To latch it shut I will use a simple garden gate latch (a gravity one, where you can have a pull-string to raise the latch and let it swing open). The brilliance in this latch system is that if you have a simple metal washer at the end of the pull string you can leave the entire assembly on the other, hidden side of the door and use a magnet to pull the washer down from bookcase side.
End result? A built-in feature for a room that makes more sense than a real door. Low cost & easily built. Hidden, mechanical opening method for ultimate secrecy!

Oregon Tunnel RatAugust 27, 2010 1:13 AM

We can all agree that the biggest problem facing a new owner of a "secret" room or vault is the urge to share its coolness.
Personally, I would prefer an underground structure with a long stone hallway or passage leading to it. Entering the passageway would be most practical through a basement. Ventilation could be as simple as a filtered vent through the ground that blends into the landscape. A buddy recommended making a fake tree stump out of shotcrete (blown concrete) on a re-bar frame to simulate a stump and embed the ventilation pipe that would lead down to your evil lair. Heck, moss would grow on the stump and everything.
You get what you pay for in concealment. If you want something to survive in for the duration of a hurricane or local government meltdown (or both in the case of Katrina) you'd best look at all your options and select with care. Also look at the "reasonableness" of it. Are you thinking of keeping loved ones safe from burglars, or that fictitious zombie apocalypse? We'd all like to have our Sactus Sactorum, but before we run for our shovels or hammers and nails
"...why, again, are we tearing down this wall of the house Dear?"

Greeneyetech.com and hiddenpassageway.com are both good for ideas for any level of security. Also, and take this with a grain of salt, look into some of the blogs of those half-crazed zombie apocalypse guys. They tend to have pretty good ideas sometimes, seeing as they're so committed! Haha.

epic failMay 18, 2012 9:56 AM

I really like this concept too. it must be more attractive in an age where corporate internet spys put tracking ware on everyones computer and privacy is dead.

I noticed that many posters self identify themselves in this thread as female,
I never knew that so many readers of bruces site were women.

the concept seems to really appeal to them too.

Jody foster has a movie out with a safe room.

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