How to Build A Bunker: Preppers Guide to Building an Bunker

This is what non-survivalists think of when survival or prepping is brought up.  We have all seen movies where somebody waits out the apocalypse in an underground bunker.  Many people think hiding out in a bunker is nuts, but do not be so fast to assume.  The truth of the matter is that underground shelters are a good idea for several reasons.  If you do not have a basement, a separate underground shelter is the only way to truly be safe during a tornado.  When the shelter is not being actively used, it is great for storing supplies or for keeping food cool and dry.

On the more extreme side, if you ever need to completely separate yourself from society then a bunker is the best spot to stay.  You may seek refuge from pandemics, foreign invasion, or social unrest.  If you need purified air because of nuclear fallout, poisonous gas, or ash clouds then your shelter may be your only safe haven.  It has been proven that it only takes a few feet of soil between the surface and your body to protect you from a nuclear blast.  If you have the time and resources, a bunker can be a great investment.

Keeping it Legal

I know this defeats the purpose of a secret bunker, but hear me out.  Legally you must get a permit before you can complete any major digging projects on your property.  Sure many people think that the government is compiling a list of preppers for surveillance.  If you are trying to stay off the grid then requesting a permit is a red flag.  However, you could easily draw more heat if you get reported while building without a permit.  The authorities could slap you with a nasty fine and require you to shut down your build.  You also need to have the utilities marked so you do not hit any gas, water, or power lines.  I recently saw a picture of a ranch where they did some major digging into a gas line and burned their ranch to the ground.


Understand that you cannot underestimate this project.  Soil only one foot deep spread across your shelter can collapse and kill you if the shelter is not structurally sound.  The lesson… dirt is heavy.  You will also be renting or borrowing some heavy duty digging equipment.  Make sure you are comfortable with the gear before you get started.  Keep ventilation in mind.  If it is not done properly then anybody inside will suffocate.  If you dig too close to another structure, you could cause both to collapse.  The whole purpose of a bunker is to keep you safe, so be sure not to become injured while building it.


A professional structural plan is the most important aspect of a bunker.  When you start to plan, one of the first steps is deciding on a location.  While you can build a bunker under a house, you may end up destroying the foundation or the utility lines.  In addition, having a structure on top of your bunker potentially traps you inside if the structure collapses.  The plus is that you can quickly relocate to your bunker without being seen by anybody outside your home.  You would also be able to easily tie into electrical and water lines during construction. The other choice would be to build the bunker away from your home and to give it a separate entrance.  The plan would be less complicated.  However, utilities would have to be run from your home or from another source.  You would also expose yourself when moving to your bunker from your home.

You must plan out the digging part of the process.  Have a professional analyze the soil so you know the challenges in advance.  The consistency of the soil can greatly affect how you dig and build.  Check for large slabs of rock or tree roots that could get in the way.  Also, have a spot designated away from your dig to pile up your soil.   It would be easy to pile it right next to your hole, but a cave in could kill you even if you are only buried up to your chest.  Plan out the equipment you will need to use and where you will get it.

The Structure

There are a few choices for how to actually construct the shelter.  One of the simplest options would be to buy a shipping crate or other prefabricated structure.  These are also the most expensive options.  Even premade structures should be reinforced with steel beams to prevent collapse unless they are specifically built for this purpose.  Concrete can also be used to pour your structure.  It is inexpensive, strong, and can mold into any shape.  You can pour the floor, walls, and then ceiling as long as rebar is used for reinforcement.  You can also use cinder blocks for the walls to save even more money and time.  If you have any doubts about your design, ask an expert.  You absolutely must get the structure right before you start building.

Building Considerations

Many people consider tunneling as part of their building plan.  Not a good idea.  Tunneling is time consuming, dangerous, and frustrating.  It is definitely less expensive than renting heavy equipment to dig in from above, but consider your time as money.  You have to drag your building materials in and out of the tunnel on a daily basis.  You also must continually move scaffolding to support the walls and ceiling.  In addition, you are risking your life on a daily basis.  Take the time to construct your bunker the right way.

Weather is a vital consideration for your building process. While you build, rainfall can destroy your project.  Try to find a window of dry weather during which you can complete construction.  After the shelter is built, water can cause concrete to crack and cause bricks to fall apart.  A plastic lining should be used above your bunker to protect against these concerns.  Cold can also be an opponent to a solid structure.  Consider that when you comprise your design.


Many people do not consider the inside of their bunker, but that aspect is very important.  You should consider sound-proofing to help keep your bunker concealed.  You can stay inexpensive and use egg cartons or foam padding, or you can get professional sound dampening materials.  An essential aspect of your bunker should be ventilation.  On this topic you will need to do some additional research.  Ventilation systems may only filter dust, or they could even filter out radioactive elements.

Consider how you will supply electricity through a generator, solar power, or standard utilities.  Elements of your bunker should have backup electricity such as the ventilation and emergency lighting. Water should come from a well if possible and should have a filter in case of contamination.  Sewage can be handled with a composting toilet, or a septic system can be built with a leach field.

You should also have elements inside your shelter that will give you renewable resources.  A rainwater catchment system, a hydroponic garden, or a catfish farm could all keep you going long term.  Have a storage section to keep food and other supplies safe for long periods of time.

You also need to design the inside of your bunker to keep you sane.  Make sure you have comfortable places to sit and sleep.  Have a living area with books, games, and even a television.  Have an eating area to gather with your family for meals. Supply sufficient lighting to keep the place from getting dreary despite having no natural light.  For privacy you can hang curtains to split up the space.  Even a few pictures on the wall or a throw rug will help keep the bunker livable.

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In Conclusion

When considering a bunker, think about it carefully. While it could protect you and your family, building can also be a challenging process.  If you have the funds you could have one built in a few weeks, but for most people the construction will take several years. You are facing a process of dragging equipment across your property and looking at a gaping hole in the ground.   If you do it right, it could be very beneficial.  Consider the advantages and benefits, and if you feel right then get ready to start digging.


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