Preparedness blog

How to Build an Underground Bunker

By Emily Hutchison
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Underground bunkers became extremely popular during the Cold War Era. Today, we still have a need to protect ourselves from unforeseen dangers. A backyard bunker may be exactly what you need to protect your family.

When building an underground shelter make sure to have at least 2 feet of dirt over the top. This layer of Earth will protect your family from gamma radiation in the event of a nuclear attack. The deeper the bunker the better. Keep in mind air can get stale quickly underground. Invest in a good air exchanger and filtration system. Make sure the door opens towards the inside so you can still get out if something falls and blocks the door. Having a second emergency exit is recommended.

Shipping Container Shelter

Shipping containers come in a variety of sizes, 20ft and 40ft long for example. Many large companies sell used containers for a discounted price. Reinforcement is a must because containers were designed to take a load on the 4 corners, not on the top or sides. They won't withstand a car or tractor driving over the top. Combine several containers for a larger shelter to house more people and allow for more storage.

  1. Dig a hole a least 2 feet deeper than the height of the shipping container.
  2. Pour concrete stairs leading down to the bunker.
  3. Use I-beams to support the entryway roof.
  4. Place corrugated steel across the top of the container as a base for the concrete roof.
  5. Weld a re-bar frame around the stairs.
  6. Add blocks to the rebar and fill with concrete.
  7. Install air vents and PVC pipes for utilities.
  8. Pour a 6-inch layer of concrete over the top to insulate and strength the roof.
  9. Backfill with topsoil in order to plant grass and bushes on top of the bunker, thereby camouflaging it.
  10. Add food storage, bunk beds, and a gun rack if desired.

Tube Survival Shelter

Tube shelter won't need as much reinforcing as they are designed to take a load on on sides. It is a bit like living in a submarine. Atlas Survival Shelters has premade bunkers, just pick a site to install them. They are made out of 12-foot diameter galvanized corrugated pipe. They are 11 times stronger than a square design and they can last for 200 years underground. They can even be buried up to 42 feet below the Earth's surface. Here are some tips for building your own tube bunker. It will probably be easier to construct the bunker above ground and then simply drop in into place.

  1. Build a frame for the frame for the floor out of 2x4's, allow for 3-feet of storage.
  2. Add plywood over the frame to create a level floor.
  3. Cut holes and add doors in the plywood down the middle of the tube to allow access to the underfloor storage.
  4. Add bunk beds and the comforts of home.
  5. Dig a hole large enough to fit the pipe at the desired depth.
  6. Place the pipe in the hole.
  7. Weld a smaller pipe to the outer door area and add an access ladder to the surface.
  8. Connect water and utilities.
  9. Install a generator and air filter.
  10.  Weld an additional small pipe at the back for an emergency exit.


3 years ago
2 years ago at 12:16 PM
Cold N. Holefield
2 years ago at 8:34 PM
Well thought out take on the tube shelter style. Comfort and compatibility, but how is it expected to hold up in the long run? My concern would be pressure points due to the cylindrical shape. Over four months I have been working on building a self contained bunker. I have purchased food and rations to last 10 years but it is being recommended 20 years. Do you have a view on this? I have a Yurt in my backyard I have been practicing living in, building the bunker with a similar model in mind. I went eco friendly after Y2K and have practiced self dependency including no longer receiving postal mail and have weened off indoor plumbing, using a compost toilet. I use the internet sparingly, primarily for writing and sharing truths and (sigh) news, though media can no longer be trusted. The US population have become sheep, walking themselves to have more wool sheered off every day until they realize they have no protection left. Self dependency is crucial. I have deep respect for those who live off the grid and survivalists, something I enjoy learning and practicing daily. I also do not use a TV but do have a CB radio. Went from car to scooter and next is bike. Have tried to stop wearing shoes and consumerable rubber my footwear is natural based from plant fiber found and woven. Cold N. Holefield
2 years ago at 5:05 AM
WOW ! and that's it folks , just do these 10 things and BINGO ..... if this isn't the most basic non-sense if ever here of , I would think a 7 year old was doing a school project . who ever let this person put this crap down should find employment at a walmart
Robert Trollman
2 years ago at 3:04 PM
Shipping containers also do not have reinforced walls to distribute hydro-static pressure from the dirt backfill. The Walls WILL collapse. Consequently, shipping containers are NOT recommended for buried shelters.
Jude Mautz
1 year ago at 6:47 PM
Well... Oof. First of all, don't do a shipping container bunker look it up why you shouldn't. Second of all, utilities will likely not be running in the Apocalypse, so don't run it too your bunker unless you plan to regularly use it, for water get a rainwater collecting device and a water filter.Also you should list things you need like water/food storage, entertainment, a generator, weapons etc. Another good idea would be to add a wood gasifier. Brick is also another good material for a bunker. That's about it
Horace Komosinski
4 months ago at 8:18 AM
Our crew uses Inland products for our formwork. Haven’t had a problem to date. What do you recommend for concrete sealant?