Many people use secret rooms to store valuables like chequebooks and passports, while others use them as personal oases, concealing a study or additional bathroom. Courtesy Nulock Builders Inc.

Hide and seek

The broad appeal of secret-room renovations

If you love those scenes from old movies where a wall opens to reveal a secret room, you can now put yourself squarely in the picture. Hidden rooms in houses – usually custom-built homes, rather than existing structures – are growing in popularity, and for good reason.

“The demand for these rooms is huge right now, partly because thieves aren’t taking televisions or stereos anymore – they’re going after your identity,” said Sandy Scheiris, CEO of Nulock Builders Inc.

As a result, many people use secret rooms to stash chequebooks, passports and other personal items that used to be stored in home safes, until burglars started taking the entire safe and forcing it open later. About 70 per cent of Scheiris’s clients are hunters and gun collectors, while others use the space as a panic room or to store wine, artifacts or family heirlooms.

The doors come lockable with different types of hardware, to keep the space hidden and the valuables inside secure. A secret room can be custom made to fit any opening.

“You can get really creative with the design.” – Sandy Scheiris, Nulock Builders Inc. CEO

“You can get really creative with the design,” said Scheiris. “We have bookcases, block walls or stack-stone walls that look just like a feature wall in a house, but opens into another room behind it. There are also wainscoted walls that are like panels where one part opens, and closet doors where the whole closet retracts when you open it and you enter through the right or left. These days, the only limit on what you can do is your imagination.”

Another limit could be price, though there are options to fit almost any budget.

“Hidden rooms start at about $1,399 and climb from there,” said Scheiris. “For $43,000, we put a door in hardwood flooring over a wine cellar using stainless steel and hydraulics. You would never know it’s there until the owner pushes a button and the door opens to reveal a staircase down to the cellar.”

According to a journeyman cabinetmaker with BF Woodwork in Rocky View County, most jobs of this nature can be completed in six to eight weeks. Before you put the wheels in motion, however, he has some advice.

“Think about the design aesthetic and how your hidden room fits into the space,” he said.

“Will it feel like it’s hidden or just like the rest of the room got smaller? Consider the purpose behind it and ensure that the overall look is what you want.”

That said, he encourages homeowners to adopt his personal building philosophy when approaching their own hidden-room projects.

“Be realistic in your expectations, but it doesn’t hurt to dream.”

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