To hedge your bets on the eve of oblivion, browse this gallery from This Old House in preparation for one of the most frequently cited end-of-days scenarios: zombie home invasion. (Click the thumbnails to start the gallery.)
How to Protect Your Home in a Zombie Invasion
Zombie-Proof Your Home Before Friday's Rapture
If the slew of recent TV shows, movies, and books are any indication, zombies are everywhere these days. So whether they're fast, slow, or riddled with rigor mortis, here's a step-by-step guide to keeping the undead out of your house.
When dealing with old-school, "Night of the Living Dead"-type zombies (also known as "Romero zombies," after that 1968 film's director) keep in mind that -- since rapid muscle deterioration is par for the postmortem course -- these guys have less muscular strength than Keith Richards on a bad day. One of the simplest ways to combat them is to retrofit your house with stainless-steel doors. Affordable and impenetrable, steel doors can be a living-dead dude's worst enemy. Best of all, any dents or dings caused by your heathen invaders can be pulled and puttied with an auto-body repair kit. For added security, forgo sidelights or transoms and install triple-point locks. Zombies friggin' hate triple-point locks.
While the Winchester Pub seemed like the perfect safe house in 2004's "Shaun of the Dead," it didn't take more than a few broken windows to cause one buzz kill of a safety breach. Houses with tempered-glass windows rated for hurricane zones, or wrought-iron security bars, will be far better off than those with unguarded single-pane windows. Either way it's never a bad idea to reinforce windows with plywood for maximum zombie protection.
Along with Pittsburgh's three rivers, the only thing that protected the living from the undead in George Romero's 2005 film "Land of the Dead" was a giant electric fence. Well, if it's good enough for the Iron City, it's good enough for your house, too. If you can't afford an electric fence, consider building a tough, tall chain-link, wrought-iron, or cinderblock version (at least eight to twelve feet high) around your property. The local zoning board might take offence, but, seriously, man; this is a zombie invasion. Who cares about zoning?
Unless you're dealing with those rare, agile zombies of the "28 Days Later" variety, anyone who lives in a two-story house has a better-than-average chance of survival. Most zombies are pathetic climbers, so eluding them means little more than moving upstairs and removing your staircase. Faced with zombie invasion, many frantic homeowners freak out, mindlessly smashing their staircases with a sledgehammer. However, the more preservation-minded among us prefer dismantling and storing them until the invasion is over. Start by unscrewing the newel posts and banisters, then use a flat crowbar to gently pull up the treads and risers. Temporary access in and out of your house can be provided by either a portable fire ladder or a rope. Those living in one-story houses should take to the attic, then pull up the retractable ladder. Anyone unfortunate enough not to have an attic might have to wait the invasion out on the roof until the undead are returned to the hellmouth from whence they came, or rescue crews arrive.
As Woody Harrelson's gun-toting Tallahassee taught us in the 2009 blockbuster, "Zombieland," a sharp set of hedge clippers can lop a zombie's head off, no problem. But there are plenty of other zombie-zapping alternatives right in your workshop or garage. As a rule of thumb, the best way to kill a zombie is to destroy its brain. So your best line of defense is a blunt tool equipped with a long handle, such as an ax or tire iron. The latter is especially helpful, since it can also be jabbed into the zombie's eye socket, gouging its brain. Shovels serve a dual purpose as a blunt weapon and a means of properly burying dead zombies once they've (finally) met their maker.