Sevierville couple upset after above-ground storm shelter floods

Sevierville couple upset after above-ground storm shelter floods

Several inches of water have flooded the shelter. Several inches of water have flooded the shelter.
The above-ground shelter. The above-ground shelter.
"I want the problem fixed, so it will be usable in case we need it," Mary Smith said. "I want the problem fixed, so it will be usable in case we need it," Mary Smith said.

6 On Your Side Consumer Investigator

SEVIERVILLE (WATE) - Over the last few years, violent tornados have swept through East Tennessee, causing lots of damage.

Those storms frightened a Sevierville couple after homes in their neighborhood were damaged. So, the two decided to have a storm shelter installed.

But there are problems with it, it leaks.

Many people know first hand how devastating and terrifying twisters can be.

As a result, a new business has sprung up - independent contractors who install storm shelters.

And, if you had to use it, the last thing you'd want is water in the shelter.

The storm shelter Tony Smith had installed on his Sevierville property last April is an above-ground unit. It cost more $5,000.

But after heavy rains came through the area, the shelter was flooded with about two inches of standing water.

"It started leaking right after they installed it. And I called and told them," Tony Smith said.

He called the installer, Tennessee Storm Shelters in Maryville. They came and looked, but made no repairs.

Tony's wife, Mary, says as it is, the shelter is totally useless.

Many underground storm shelters in Tennessee are designed to fit under a garage floor. The Smiths chose not to buy that design, fearing they may get trapped by debris on top of the unit.

They chose an above-ground shelter - a big one that's five feet wide, ten feet long, and six feet high.

Smith outlined several leaky cracks in the structure. They stretch the entire width of the shelter's floor.

"You see, this thing is put together in two sections. It's put together at the bottom," Tony said. "And it's not level." 

"This is really a poor job," he continued. "I bought it so we would be safe and dry."

Tony wants the shelter company to seal the unit's floor.

"I want them to repair it. The warranty says it's not supposed to leak," he said.

The guarantee clearly says it provides, "a lifetime warranty against workmanship and leakage."

"If there is a warranty, then it should not leak," Mary said.
The Smiths say they called Tennessee Storm Shelters about the problem.

"They came out one time and looked, they went back and said they'd be in touch. Never heard a word," he said.

"It's been several months ago when we were out there," said Jenny Willis, who owns Tennessee Storm Shelters with her husband.

Willis says they weren't aware of the water in the Smiths' shelter because it was dry when they checked it last year.

She also says the warranty the Smiths signed does not cover external shelters. It only refers to safe rooms and indoor garage storm shelters.

"These two models do have the lifetime warranty, but the shelter they bought does not. I told them upfront, you will get water in it because there is a turbine vent," Willis said.

But the contract has no reference to either a garage shelter or external shelter.

"That should have been, that was explained thoroughly, I thought," she said. "I know it's not on the contract, but it was explained thoroughly."
Willis says her company will soon get a workman to the couple's shelter to see how the leaks can be plugged.

"The manufacturer is going to go out there to look for himself what needs to be fixed," she added.

That's exactly what the couple has been waiting to hear.

"I want the problem fixed, so it will be usable in case we need it," Mary said.

Tennessee Storm Shelters expects the manufacturer to check the couple's shelter this week, perhaps as early as Wednesday.

If you have a consumer issue, call the 6 On Your Side Hotline at 865-633-5974 or email

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