Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Could I install a hidden passageway in my home?


Building Your Own Batcave: Installing Hidden Passageways
Hmm, who knew this room was behind the cupboard?
Hmm, who knew this room was behind the cupboard?
Dan Burn-Forti/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Hidden passageways can be anywhere in the home. What may look like an ordinary grandfather clock could slide to the side to expose a hidden passageway. A perfectly normal staircase could swing up from the bottom, like a garage door opening, to reveal a hidden hallway. And your favorite armchair may be a comfortable place to watch sitcoms, but lift up that cushion and instead of finding crumbs and loose change, you could encounter a slide to a secret room below.

Hidden passageways don't work that differently from what we've seen in the movies. Their entry is camouflaged with an everyday object. You may press on a book or twist a candlestick and voila! A bookcase turns or a fireplace rotates to reveal space you didn't know existed. Because thieves may not be looking twice at those commonplace objects, the feature can be great for safety. Say you have two wall niches with a painting in the middle. If you move a vase in one of the niches, the painting will slide upward. Below the painting is a fingerprint scanner, and if the prints match, the other niche will slide open to reveal a safe. Or perhaps you have a certain knock code, an optical sensor or a voice recognition system that activates the door to your hidden passageway -- all of these security features are available.

If you're ready to install a secret passageway, then any architect could design and install it, though you might have to endure some sober fuddy-duddies rolling their eyes. If you're seeking a creative door, then a company such as Hide A Door or the Hidden Door Company can provide custom entrances. There's even at least one company -- Creative Home Engineering in Tempe, Ariz. -- that specializes in designing and installing hidden passageways for the home.

If you were to enlist the services of Creative Home Engineering, then you're only limited by the size of your imagination and your wallet. Want a hidden passageway that would do Batman, James Bond or even Scooby-Doo proud? Then feel free to suggest it. The owner of the firm, Steve Humble, was inspired by the hidden staircases and revolving fireplaces of "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" [source: Casey].

Installing a hidden passageway could cost anywhere from $5,000 to $25,000 [source: Summers-Sparks]. A cool activation mechanism, like a clock that will open doors when the hands are moved to midnight, will cost an extra $200 [source: Casey]. Creative Home Engineering does sell a do-it-yourself kit for those who want absolutely no one to know about their secret rooms, but the firm will also send staff all over the world for installation.

For an elaborate series of hidden tunnels, it's better to do the work as part of new construction because an existing home may not be able to meet the structural demands [source: CNBC]. A retrofit may be possible, but there are plenty of small additions, such as a revolving bookcase or a unique doorway, that can be made to homes.

And what does this hard work get you, besides hours of adventure? As we mentioned, hidden passageways can be used for safety and security or something as simple as storage. You're also adding a whimsical touch to the home that may pay off when you're ready to sell. Some real estate agents say that hidden passageways can increase the value of your home, and at the very least, you'll attract more house hunters interested in viewing the property [source: Quinn].

But is there a downside to this kind of secrecy? Turn the page to read about how hidden passageways have been used throughout history.

­