Building a Secret Room for Privacy and Surprises

Building a Secret Room for Privacy and Surprises

Additions and Remodels
By Alex Mikayelyan December 13, 2021

Everyone loves a little secret. Whether for the sake of added privacy or to be a pleasant surprise for your guests, secret rooms introduce depth and intrigue to your home, turning it into something akin to a puzzle that guests can try to unravel. From hidden doors in the walls to clandestine nooks and crannies where you stash your most valuable possessions, these rooms can be a safe and fun addition to your living spaces.

Secret rooms are an uncommon feature in home planning and a small percentage of houses across the country have them. But this does not mean that your options are limited. There is a wide range of DIY secret rooms out there for you to design and incorporate into your home. 

What Is a Secret Room?

Before you consider building a secret room it helps to know what exactly qualifies as one. The answer may be quite obvious considering the name, but there is more than meets the eye with hidden rooms.

What makes a secret room unique and differentiates it from other areas in the house is its concealed or inconspicuous entryway. Most rooms in the house will have a door or a simple passageway that is straightforward to navigate. Hidden rooms should be much trickier to gain access to. They must not be easily visible or discoverable by guests and should require a trick or two to enter. A common hidden room entryway, for example, is a secret room door behind a sliding bookcase. Another clandestine entryway idea is a hatch on the floor that is concealed under a rug. 

What Are Secret Rooms for?

A secret room should fulfill a specific task in your home. You can create a hidden library where you can flip through pages in private, a little sports shrine for your favorite pastimes, and even a cellar to spice up the dinner parties. Sure, you can also have a secret room just for the sake of having one or to show off to your guests. But why miss out on the practical benefits of having one?

A Hidden Library Can Make for an Ideal Secret Room

A Hidden Library Can Make for an Ideal Secret Room

Creating a Safe Room

For example, homeowners looking to protect themselves and their households in cases of intrusions can turn their secret room into a concealed safe room. While something like a hurricane or tornado shelter doesn’t need to be concealed, a safe room should not be visible to intruders for the sake of your and your household’s safety. Common areas for safe rooms include bedrooms, offices, or any room that is easily accessible from common areas in the house.

A Safe Room Can Prevent the Stealing of Important Documents During a Burglary

A Safe Room Can Prevent the Stealing of Important Documents During a Burglary

Hidden Locker Room

Another reason you may need a secret safe room is for your most valuable possessions. We all have something of great value that we would hate having stolen or damaged. So, a secret locker where you can hide your most prized possessions is a great way to protect them. A secret locker room doesn’t even have to protect your possessions from intruders. If you have resourceful kids at home who can David Copperfield their way into any locked drawer and get their hands on something very dangerous, then a hidden locker is a great way to keep them from hurting themselves.

Hidden Locker Rooms Can Solve the Problem of Your Children Digging Into Your Stuff

Hidden Locker Rooms Can Solve the Problem of Your Children Digging Into Your Stuff

Fun Kids’ Lair

Speaking of children, there are more innocent reasons for building a secret room. Create the playroom of your kids’ dreams by keeping it hidden, giving your kids the privacy they crave, and the overall joy of having their own secret nook they can crawl into. It can even be built like a crawlspace to allow your kids to sneak into their lair to have fun without the fear of nagging parents barging in.

Small Playrooms Can Give Your Children the Privacy to Have Fun Away From Distractions

Small Playrooms Can Give Your Children the Privacy to Have Fun Away From Distractions

How Much Does It Cost to Build a Hidden Room?

Designing a secret room is all fun and games until your childlike excitement wanes as you think about the budget you’ll need to build one. The price mostly depends on the functionality of your secret room. For example, a safe room for emergencies can cost upwards of $15,000. A concrete bunker meant to be a safe haven during storms and intrusions can go up to $30,000 to build with all its necessary functions — like temperature control and utilities.

On the other hand, if you already have a space picked out that can house a secret or hidden room, be it an empty closet or pantry, the cost of building one is significantly cheaper. You’d have to spend money on creating a hidden entryway and outfitting the room with the essentials, like electricity and air conditioning. All of this plus labor costs could cost anywhere from $5,000 to $8,000.

What Professionals to Hire for a Secret Room?

Depending on the functionality of your secret room, you may need to hire different professionals. For example, if you’re building a secret bathroom or sauna, you’d have to talk to a bathroom contractor and plumbers who can design and implement all the features you’re looking for. If you’re creating a safe room, a home security expert will have the answers you need.

As for the entrance and the hidden passageways — mechanical engineers and carpenters are your best pick. A few construction companies actually specialize in secret room and passage building, so you may have to get their specific service packages. But if you’re thinking of designing the hidden entryway yourself instead of relying on pre-built models, a mechanical engineer will tell you if the plan you have in mind is possible. They know all the ins and outs of hidden room doors, hinges, joints, and other mechanical parts that can make your covert entrance work the way you pictured it. 

If you want your secret room to have an automated passageway, then you should also contact an electrical engineer. They will need to draw up a design of how the electrics will function for your hidden entrance. You can even connect your hidden room entrance to your home automation system and activate it via a smart speaker. With just a codeword you can have access to your hidden room in case of break-ins. For this addition, you would also need to hire a home automation specialist to connect the secret room entrance to the smart network. 

What Permits Should You Have for a Secret Room?

Aside from the price, another jolt of reality when building the secret room of your childhood dreams is the oftentimes disliked process of getting the permits. While they may seem unnecessary and annoying, permits are there to ensure that all the safety standards of your construction project are met and that your “secret room” does not turn into a “danger room”.

Depending on where you live, your local governing body may not require a building permit for a secret room. You may even be able to build a hidden room in secret without anyone knowing about it, which one would say is the point of the room, to begin with. But for the sake of safety and to avoid getting in trouble with the authorities, this is not recommended. To avoid any complications with the law, simply check your local government and see if they demand any permits for building a DIY hidden room.

Make Sure Your Secret Room Is Completely Legal

Make Sure Your Secret Room Is Completely Legal

Your local government most likely does not care why or how you keep your hidden room a secret, nor would they care to know what’s inside it — unless you’re housing something illegal. They only care that all the building safety laws are upheld and that you have all the paperwork for your secret room. For example, you will not get a permit if your building plans do not accommodate for an easy fire escape, proper ventilation, and basic structural integrity standards to ensure that your home doesn’t collapse under the extra weight. 

It’s unlikely that there are regular police raids in your local area where the authorities check for hidden rooms in houses. But since you’ll be hiring licensed contractors, there is a possibility that your local government will know about your construction project. So, if your hidden room is not up to code you will be held responsible and that can be costly.


Written by
Alex Mikayelyan

Written by Alex Mikayelyan