Today’s lesson is actually a reprint of an article first submitted to Survivalist Magazine. Given that I’ve cut ties with that publication and thus am not clear on whether it will ever actually see the light of day there, I’ve decided to incorporate it into the Countdown to Preparedness.
There are any number of reasons why one may wish to hide things within the home. For example, let’s say you’ve invested a substantial amount of funds into gold and silver coins. Obviously you’d like to keep these from growing legs in the event your home is searched.
Of course, there are several ready-made items available to purchase that will do well to hide your goodies. Hollowed out books, shaving cream cans that open on the bottom, even clocks with a shelf inside for a handgun. All are great ideas and will probably serve you well. But, let’s look at a few DIY approaches to hidden storage. With just a few common hand tools and a bit of work, there are several places in the average home where items may be hidden and are all but impossible to find.
If your home has a crawl space or unfinished basement, go down there and look up. Odds are pretty good you’ll see a large PVC pipe for waste coming from your bathroom. A casual observer probably wouldn’t think twice if they glanced up and saw one extra pipe. This pipe is extremely cheap and can be purchased at any hardware store. Take a look at your existing ones and get the same type of hangers, couplings, and other accessories to make your new one look identical to the old. These are plenty large enough to store extra ammo, coins, even a slim rifle or two. Just be sure the hangers you use are able to support the weight. This is the same type of PVC pipe that is often used when building a supply cache suitable for burying. However, in this instance, you don’t want to cement the pipe ends on. Just screw them down hand tight so you’ll be able to open them easily when needed.
When you’re done in the basement, head up to the attic. If you have items that will not suffer ill effects from temperature and humidity extremes, bury them in the insulation between the joists. Just be sure you don’t store things here that are extremely heavy. You don’t want them falling through the ceiling below.
The ventilation system is a suitable place for keeping items that are not damaged by heat or cold. Locate the horizontal runs of your ductwork, remove one of the vent covers, and place your goodies inside. Don’t use this for large objects as you don’t want to impede the airflow.
One rather ingenious place to store small items, such as the key to a gun safe, is inside a door. If you have a solid wood interior door, take it off the hinges and carry it into your workshop. Carefully drill or chisel a small hole or nook into the top edge of the door. Be careful you don’t make the opening too big, you don’t want to damage the visible sides of the door. Also don’t make it very deep, just a couple inches at the most. Replace the door on the hinges, then place your key into the hole you made. Pad the key with some cotton balls so it doesn’t rattle around.
For non-metallic items, you can hide them inside power outlets. Turn off the juice to the outlet at the breaker or fuse box. Take off the cover, then unscrew and take out the outlet box itself. Most are located close enough to the floor that you can just drop your treasure into the space in the wall and still be able to reach it. Replace the outlet box and cover.
In most closets, there is space on the inside just above the door. This is an area often overlooked by amateur searchers. You could use this space to hang a firearm or even use a small shelf for other goodies. If you’re particularly handy, you can create a false wall in the back of the closet. Attach two-by-fours to the sides of the existing wall as a frame, place your goodies behind them, then hang the drywall. Tape, mud, and paint the drywall and only a very keen eye will know the difference.
Interior walls in an average home have a large amount of unused space inside. The walls are usually constructed of two-by-four studs covered with drywall. There are a couple of different approaches to using the dead space between the studs for hidden storage. You can cut out a square of the drywall between the studs and use two-by-fours to create shelves running between the studs. If you cut the drywall such that the cut falls in the middle of the studs, you can use Velcro or magnets to reattach the drywall square. If you do this, you’ll have to cover that square with a bookcase or other large object to hide the cut marks. Or you can simply replace the drywall, complete with tape and mud, and paint it to match the rest of the room. Then, when the times comes you really need what you’ve stored, cut or smash the drywall. Naturally, you wouldn’t use this method to store anything you might need to access repeatedly. Rather than using makeshift shelving between the studs, you can make your storage space closer to the floor and just rest the items inside the wall.
While we’re talking about walls, you can hide things behind molding as well. Carefully remove a section of molding and cut out a slim section of the wall behind it. Use that to store your items and replace the molding.
Remember when we talked about hiding things in the ventilation ducts earlier? You could use a variation of that in your walls. Cut open a hole in the drywall and place your items inside, then cover the hole with a vent grill. You can screw it in place or just use nails that will hold it securely, yet easily pull out from the wall to access your stuff inside.
Removing the kick plate at the bottom of your kitchen cabinets will expose empty space you can use for storage. Use Velcro or magnets to reattach the kick plate so you can have easy access to your stuff.
Moving over to household item that can be used for hidden storage, who among us hasn’t ever wanted to have a hollowed out book? I know when I was a kid I thought those were the coolest things ever. A couple years back, I bought a pre-made one just to have for kicks. Imagine how tickled I was to receive a book called “Inside the Mind of George W. Bush” and seeing the book was empty inside. It doesn’t take a lot of work to make your own hollow book, though it is a bit time consuming. The book you use should be a hardcover and reasonably thick. It makes little sense to make a hollow book that will give you less than an inch of space. Make a solution of about half white glue and half water. Open your book and turn to about the fifth page or so. Holding the top cover and these first few pages straight up in the air, so the rest of the pages lay flat and not angled, brush the glue solution on all three edges of the flat pages. Don’t lay it on real thick as you don’t want the pages to look like they are covered in varnish. Place a piece of wood and a paperweight on the pages to weigh them down while they dry for a half hour or so. You can take a large plastic bag and slip it over the top cover and the first few pages to keep them separate from everything else. Once the glue is dry, take a razor knife and a metal ruler to cut through the glued pages. Leave at least a half inch or more border around the cuts. Slice through a few pages at a time, gradually working your way deeper into the book. Once you’ve reach the desired depth, shake or tap out all the little bits of paper fuzz inside the storage space. Brush your glue solution on all the page edges inside that space, as well as the outer edges again. Then, glue down the first loose page that falls onto the space you created. Let it all sit for a half hour to dry. Carefully use your razor knife to cut through that top page to open your storage space. This top page serves to cover any pencil marks you made before cutting into the book. The book is now ready to keep your valuables hidden and safe.
Flat items, such as paper currency, can be hidden inside picture frames. Remove the back of the frame as though you were going to change the picture in the frame. Tape the bills to the inside of this back plate and replace.
I know a few people who have precious gems and other such items hidden in their freezers. They put them inside containers labeled with lima beans, beef hearts, or other little favored food names.
Items can be buried inside containers of powder laundry detergent, pet food, water softener salt pellets, or bird seed.
Any of the above suggestions will go a long way toward keeping your stuff safe and secure from most searches. As you go about looking for good hiding spots in your home, don’t be surprised if you come up with your own ideas as well. It can be rather fun, actually, sort of like playing “spy” when you were a kid. Use your imagination, as well as common sense, and be safe.
Your assignments this week:
1) Explore your own options for hidden storage and begin implementing them. Use these techniques to keep your goodies hidden from prying eyes and fingers.
2) Add to your food storage canned meats this week. Included in this category are tuna, chicken, and beef as well as things like chili and beef stew. Add enough for at least three full meals for your family.
3) Have you acquired water filtration equipment yet? If not, make that a priority this week.