When SHTF, protecting your family is of the utmost importance. But, while many people think that their homes are bulletproof, most walls aren’t designed to shield you from gunfire.
In fact, thick furniture, drywall, and most home appliances aren’t going to do much to protect you and your family from an intruder, particularly if they’re armed with a large caliber weapon. So, finding ways to fortify your home in the event of an emergency is critical.
To help you protect your family when it matters most, here’s all the information you need on how to bulletproof your walls.
Table of Contents
The Need To Bulletproof Your Home
If you live in a calm neighborhood or out in the countryside, you probably don’t get many unwanted visitors. So, bulletproofing your entire house might be pretty low on your to-do list.
However, investing the time and resources into bulletproofing your home can make a real difference in a life-or-death situation when SHTF. Even if your town is safe you never know when someone will go on a rampage through your neighborhood.
Ultimately, spending time and money on reinforcing your home with bulletproof materials is better than losing a loved one at the hands of a violent thug.
Determining the Adequate Level of Protection
How do you determine what level of protection is adequate for your home and your situation? It seems like an obvious answer: of course you want to armor everything– bulletproof everything- to that you can to the degree that is financially possible. Easy!
If you do a proper job of it, your home will be a literal fortress that is impervious to pretty much any small arms fire and even fragments from small explosives.
It’s a nice thought, but there’s just one problem. Bullet-resistant materials tend to be very expensive, and purpose-made boutique armor solutions are even more expensive. It is easy to spend as much on bullet-resistant panels as you spent on your entire house. It’s true!
Chances are you aren’t in a position to drop that much money on bulletproofing your home. Luckily, you don’t have to in order to get meaningful levels of protection where it matters most.
Before we get to the different kinds of armor and bullet-resistant walls that you might install, ask yourself the following question and keep it in mind as you read.
What is the Most Likely Threat?
Before you jump on board with the first solution that you find, ask yourself what the threat potential really is: What is the precise nature of the attack you are most likely to face? This is a multifaceted question that is worth significant thought and reflection.
On one hand, the threat is the bad guys themselves: Dynamic, thinking, unpredictable. Are you worried about a riot or civil unrest? Maybe people are shooting at or into your home from the outside? Are you worried about home invasion robberies?
Anything can happen, of course, including the pure rotten luck of a stray bullet, but it’s worth researching what the most common kinds of crime are in your area, and then comparing that against your lifestyle and other risk factors.
If you are a wealthy person with a high-profile job, your chances of a home invasion or even kidnapping are much higher, and that threat looks very different from that posed by rioters.
Then we must consider the threat that is the bullet itself and what kind of gun it came from. Handgun rounds as a rule are much easier to defeat compared to typical rifle rounds. Shotguns can be easier or harder than handguns depending on the type of shell: birdshot is easier, buckshot is about the same, slugs are tougher.
What kinds of guns are the most commonly used in crimes in your area? This information should be publicly accessible. Do you want to protect your home against the most likely threat, or against a worst-case scenario within reason?
Armor that can reliably stop rifle fire, and then do it over and over again (what is called multi-hit protection or capability) is going to be far more expensive and typically more involved than armor that can only stop a handful of handgun rounds.
It’s easy enough to determine what a given armor solution will do if you understand UL level (Underwriters Laboratories) and NIJ standard (National Institute of Justice) standards for ballistic protection.
Bulletproofing Your Home Defense Plan
Something else to consider before installing bullet-resistant materials is your home defense plan and how the threat you are preparing for interfaces with that plan.
Start with how many other people occupy the home with you, and where they usually reside inside the home. Do your children have bedrooms on the opposite side of the house, directly opposite the hallway from the master bedroom?
If they do, consider that you might engage a home invader with that area of the home where your kids reside as your backstop, or downrange area. That means if you miss the bullets will be heading into your child’s’ walls and rooms!
The pressure will definitely be on to make sure your rounds get home in the bad guys, and nowhere else, so armoring those walls in anticipation of such a scenario could help keep your children safe in case of misses, and greatly improve your confidence in such circumstances.
Speaking of, what kind of firearm do you use for home defense? Is it the only one or do you have a “rotation” or various kinds of guns stashed here and there? Any armor you installed according to the theoretical scenario I just explained would have to be proof against your own firearm(s), not necessarily just the bad guys’ guns!
If you are planning for a home-under-siege type scenario during civil unrest, rioting or anything like that consider that you might be taking up advantageous positions near doors or windows.
If that area of the home is going to be the point where you defend your property, it would make sense to install armor there so you have legitimate cover from return fire, and not just concealment.
Thinking about ballistic protection in the context of defending your home from various threats, and also defending the people in it from flying bullets originating from any source, is definitely a mental exercise but one that is easy enough when you start walking through the variables.
The following sections will tell you about all your many options for bulletproofing your home, and how they can fit together to form a comprehensive protective package.
What Makes A Material Bulletproof?
Bulletproof materials (also known as ballistic materials) are gaining increasing popularity among non-military and non-law enforcement civilians because of their ability to save lives.
However, when most people think of something bulletproof, they often think of thick steel walls or a massive tank, not fabrics and fibers. In reality, though, there are many different ballistic materials, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.
For metals, bulletproof-ness comes down to thickness. Each type of metal, depending on its density, requires a certain thickness to protect you from gunfire.
For example, it takes around 1/4”-1/2” (0.6 – 1.27 cm) of steel or upwards 3/4” (1.9 cm) of aluminum to stop a 9mm round, depending on the angle of the shot.
For a fabric to stop a bullet, though it’s as much about the microscopic construction of each fiber as it is about the thickness of the material.
Kevlar, one of the most popular fabrics in ballistic vests, has bulletproof properties because of how parallel and organized its tiny molecules are.
Additionally, Kevlar fabrics are made with very tightly knit fibers with incredibly high tensile strength. This gives them the ability to stop a decently large caliber weapon, especially when reinforced with steel rifle plates.
Since the fibers in Kevlar are woven so tightly together, a bullet can’t physically push them apart, helping to absorb the energy of the impact. Other non-metal ballistic fabrics work in a similar manner.
Bulletproof glass is usually made from layers of alternating hard and soft glass. The softer glass layer provides a decent amount of elasticity, which gives the window the ability to flex instead of shattering on impact. Meanwhile, the harder glass provides more stopping power against a bullet.
Bulletproof glass varies quite a bit in thickness, depending on what it’s being used for. Glass rated to stop a 9mm round (UL 752 Level 1) is usually about 1.25” (3.175cm) thick.
Meanwhile, glass that can stop .44 Magnum rounds (UL 752 Level 3) is generally around 2.01” (5.3cm) thick. However, these thicknesses vary based on the precise type of glass laminate that’s being used.
Fiberglass is often included as a laminate in a variety of different bulletproof materials because of its ability to dissipate energy. Most ballistic fiberglass panels will layer sheets of kevlar with synthetic resin for maximum protection.
When a bullet hits a panel that’s reinforced with fiberglass, the energy of the projectile is spread out across the surface of the panel, preventing it from penetrating through to the other side.
Fiberglass also has the additional benefit of reducing ricochet, which can be just as dangerous as a direct shot.
Bulletproofing Your Walls
Thankfully, when it comes to protecting your home against gunfire, you have quite a few options for bulletproof walls. Here’s what you need to know:
Brick, Poured Concrete, And Cinderblock
Technically, brick, poured concrete, and cinderblock aren’t truly bulletproof because they won’t necessarily withstand the impact of high-caliber weapons. But, they offer a good amount of bullet resistance, particularly against smaller rounds.
Plus, these materials tend to be quite affordable, which is why people often use them to externally reinforce the structure of their homes.
While I wouldn’t recommend that brick, poured concrete, and cinderblock as your only line of defense against a bullet, they’re a decent place to start if you’re on a budget.
Sandbags are an often overlooked method of bulletproofing an area, but they are quite effective. In fact, sandbags have been used by militaries for decades as protection because they are so good at stopping a bullet in their tracks.
Sand works well to stop a bullet because it absorbs energy. Although the particles in sand will move out of the way when you stick your hand in the ground at the beach, a bullet travels so quickly that these particles can’t move fast enough to get out of the way.
So, the sand ends up acting like a solid that most bullets can’t penetrate.
While sandbags are quite effective at stopping bullets, it’s not necessarily the most practical thing in terms of bulletproofing all the walls in your home because they are quite bulky.
Some people have placed them in the space in between walls for protection from gunfire, but this will be effective only against smaller rounds.
However, sandbags are fairly affordable (especially when compared to other more high-tech options), and having a cache of sandbags in your basement ready to go in an emergency can be helpful.
Sandbags can also be helpful for preventing flooding (among other things), so they’re a good multi-purpose thing to add to your stockpile of supplies.
Many ballistics materials companies now make bullet-resistant fiberglass panels that are solid enough to reinforce your walls against a bullet. These panels are made from super-tough fibers, such as Kevlar, which are then woven and layered onto a mat using a synthetic resin.
When a bullet hits these panels, they absorb the energy and stop it from passing through. Ballistic fiberglass panels need to be mounted directly onto the studs of your walls, so installing them will involve removing your current drywall.
But, once the fiberglass is installed, it can be covered with either paneling or drywall and finished however you want. So, fiberglass panels are a good way to bulletproof walls without compromising the look of your home.
In fact, unless someone opened up the drywall in your house, they’d never know the paneling was there.
The downside to fiberglass paneling is the cost. As you can imagine, this paneling costs more than your average sheet of drywall. Panels that are rated to withstand larger, more powerful rounds, are also more expensive.
You can expect to pay between $13-$50 per square foot for ballistic fiberglass paneling. However, these panels will generally be shipped via freight in the form of pallets, so you’ll also want to factor in the cost of shipping when you make your budget.
Additionally, you’ll have to remove and then re-install your drywall to mount these panels, which is a labor-intensive process. So, this method is best used when you’re already planning to renovate your home…
Ballistic Concrete (BallistiCrete)
If you’re not interested in completely renovating your home and taking down your drywall to install ballistic paneling or steel, then ballistic concrete might be a solid option.
Ballistic concrete, also known as “BallistiCrete” is a type of protective coating that can actually be sprayed onto your existing wall or walls.
BallistiCrete can be applied at a variety of thickness levels. As you can imagine, the thicker the coating, the more protection you get from bullets. It can protect you from all handgun bullets and most rifle rounds, even those that are designed to pierce through body armor.
The company that produces BallistiCrete is also doing some testing to see how much protection it can offer against blasts, and early results are looking quite promising.
The major advantage of BallistiCrete is that it can be applied to nearly any surface, including drywall, masonry, cinderblock, stucco, cement, and other building materials.
The only thing BallistiCrete can’t be applied to is metal. This is because it actually bonds to the surface it’s applied to, providing you with maximum protection from bullets.
Additionally, BallistiCrete doesn’t affect how you can design or decorate your home. Once it’s cured, you can paint over it or just leave it as-is.
You can also drill right into BallistiCrete if you want to hang up artwork or photos, so it has minimal, if any effect, on the actual layout of your home. Plus, BallistiCrete is fire-proof so it doesn’t produce smoke if there’s a fire. It’s also mold and mildew resistant.
Like fiberglass paneling, BallistiCrete is expensive. It starts at about $12 per square foot, but the final cost will vary based on the thickness of the concrete and any associated labor. But, if you want ballistic protection that doesn’t involve major renovations to your home, this is a solid option.
Ballistic steel armor plates are often used to make safe rooms and guard booths, and reinforce vehicles. It is highly effective at bulletproofing your walls, but it is not as popular as fiberglass paneling or BallistiCrete.
This is because steel armor plates are expensive, heavy, and difficult to install. They also can’t be trimmed on-site and need to be sent back to a shop for any alterations.
A more affordable option is to mount stainless steel sheets to your walls’ studs. But, these aren’t specifically tested to stop a bullet, and most steel sheets will have microscopic variations within the metal that can limit their ability to protect you.
Additionally, if you’re installing steel thick enough to stop a bullet in your walls, you’ll probably need to reinforce them so they’re strong enough to support this extra weight: simply hanging them with screws is not an option with the thicker panels.
All these reinforcements could rack up costs similar to what you’d find if you used either fiberglass or BallistiCrete, so steel isn’t always the best option for bulletproofing large areas of your home.
Instead of purpose-built ballistic paneling, many people opt for DIY methods to bulletproof their walls. Some options include filling the space in between walls with gravel, sand, or bricks.
These options aren’t rated to withstand a bullet so I can’t tell you that they’re going to 100% protect you in an emergency. But, they are better than nothing, especially if ballistic paneling isn’t a viable option for you.
The main thing to consider here is the weight of all these filling materials. This added weight can damage your home if your floors aren’t properly reinforced.
So, if you choose to use alternative materials to bulletproof your walls, be cautious about where and how you do it. Try to avoid adding extra weight to the upper floors of your home to prevent any potential damage to the structure of your house.
Bulletproofing Your Windows And Doors
While bulletproofing your walls might be your top concern, none of this will matter if an intruder can break through your windows and doors. Indeed, reinforcing your home’s access points is just as important as installing bulletproof walls. Here’s what you need to know:
If you’re looking to install bulletproof windows, you have a whole lot of options. There are a lot of companies that make ballistic glass and most will offer custom-designed windows to protect your home.
You can generally choose from different glass thicknesses, depending on how much protection you’re looking for.
The glass’ UL 752 level certification will you precisely what caliber round they’re designed to stop. Anything with a UL 752 Level 1-3 will stop a handgun bullet while UL 752 Level 4 glass will stop a 30-06 round.
As you can imagine, bulletproof windows can be quite costly. These windows are usually made-to-order, so getting a ballpark price estimate for your home is tricky without requesting a quote from a manufacturer.
At an absolute minimum, you can expect to pay at least $45 per square foot, but the actual cost, including framing and labor, is likely to be a bit higher.
To help reduce your overall costs, you can consider installing bulletproof windows in just a few rooms of your home.
While it’s best to replace all your windows with ballistic glass, starting with just your bedrooms can be a good way to save money while still getting some protection from intruders.
Bulletproof doors are actually a bit more common than ballistic glass in homes because you just need to buy the door and the frame.
Unlike windows, which are almost always custom-designed, most residential doors are a fairly standard size, so getting a quote is fairly simple, and some companies will have ballistic doors in stock at their factory.
That being said, most ballistic door manufacturers offer a full range of different customizable options, and you can choose from glass, wood, steel, or even acrylic models.
Companies will generally offer a variety of design options, too, so you can get a door that looks great in your home. Like windows, bulletproof doors will have a UL 752 level rating that will tell you how much protection they offer.
When you install a bulletproof door, though, you’ll also have to install new framing. A ballistic door will do nothing for you if someone can just kick it open.
So, most companies will install a new steel frame to help reinforce the door and create a more secure barrier between you and an armed intruder.
Of course, ballistic doors aren’t cheap. The most affordable options will run you at least $3,000 and can increase quickly in price from there. So, swapping out all of your house’s doors for bulletproof options isn’t possible for most people.
If you’re limited financially but still want to reinforce your home with bulletproof doors, consider replacing just your front and backdoor.
This will help stop an intruder from getting into your home in the first place and will allow you to shelter your family elsewhere until the threat is gone.
Alternative Option: Build a Safe Room
Understandably, the cost of all these ballistic materials might make you think that bulletproofing your walls is out of the question for your budget. If this is the case, you can still protect your family without wiping out your bank account.
The solution? Build a safe room.
Instead of trying to bulletproof every wall in your home, you can turn one room into your safe haven. Ideally, this would be somewhere that your entire family can fit and where you have supplies that can help you ride out a fairly long emergency.
A spare bedroom is ideal, but a space that’s window-free is even better.
Once you identify a good place for your safe room, you can focus on making it bulletproof. Installing fiberglass paneling or using BallistiCrete is the easiest way to reinforce these walls without making the space seem conspicuous. Then, you can replace the door with a bulletproof model to keep intruders out.
Ultimately, while bulletproofing every wall, window, and door in your home is the goal, designating a specific bulletproof safe room is a great compromise if you’re working on a budget.
Bulletproofing Is The Ultimate Protection
Protecting your family and your home from an intruder is critical. Bulletproofing your walls can make a huge difference in an SHTF situation.
Ballistic fiberglass or BallistiCrete are your best options for ultimate protection, but you have a few different options when it comes to shielding your family from an armed attacker.
Gabrielle is a professional outdoor educator, mountain guide, and survival expert with a passion for helping others be prepared for whatever might come their way. She is a polar guide in the Arctic region and is an experienced wilderness medicine instructor/EMT.