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How To Build A Bunker 

 November 10, 2020

By  Mike Millerson

If you want to know how to build a bunker, this article will inform you. At times, the situation you find yourself in requires immediate and long-term sheltering. If the nuclear attack is the case, a properly-built underground bunker will be your chance of survival and save you from harmful particles sedimenting the outer world. Read this article and find out the top features of a concrete or clay bunker, learn how to perform drainage and avoid radiation, how to dig a proper trench, and what shovel to use to make a bunker in your garden.

Have you thought about building your own bunker? We are sure that the answer is yes if you have ever thought about the threats to humanity and your security.

Apocalypse, nuclear war, the end of the world as we know it, tsunami, tornado, in all these cases, which no longer seem so impossible, you will definitely need a bunker.

The world’s richest people, presidents, important politicians have fancy bunkers with expensive equipment and food supplies for a long time. As for you and me, we have to take care of ourselves. It will not be possible to quickly build a bunker and on a small budget, but this project will very quickly pay off with its usefulness when one of the critical situations occurs. After all, if you do not need it as a fallout shelter, bomb shelter, or survival bunker, you can use it as a perfect place to store your ammunition, food storage, special supplies for survival situations.

The presence of a bunker will increase your chances of survival in an apocalyptic situation at times. It will be useful both during natural disasters and during military operations.

Prepper checklist

bunker

Planning Stage

You cannot just decide to build a bunker and go to build it from scrap materials.

Building a bunker is a time-consuming process that requires careful planning. In addition to the idea itself, first of all, you need to take care of the following tasks:

  • find a suitable place
  • make blueprints, floor plans
  • get approvals and permits.

All this must be done before the construction phase.

You must find a suitable location, consider the area starting from half an acre. We think this is the minimum you can use. It is great if you can afford more, but half an acre will be enough too.

You may be surprised that you need to confirm the construction of something on your site with the authorities, but there is an explanation for this. Communications, wires, pipes can pass underground, and if you touch them during construction, it will not be good for anyone. Therefore, obtaining a permit is very important and will save you from heavy fines or an emergency.

After obtaining permission and finding a suitable place, you can safely proceed to developing drawings, planning, and construction itself.

Prepper checklist

backyard outhouse

Finding the Sight place

Before getting permits and digging, you must understand that the place where you want to build your underground bunker is suitable for this purpose.

To make a decision, you need to know if there are important communications below, find out if the soil is suitable for construction, if there is water below, gas pockets, how deep is the bedrock.

The location should not be far from your house, so it is ideal to be your backyard bunker.

Make sure that you know the depth of the water table. We were told about a case when a man stumbled upon several underground bunkers dating back to the Cold War, filled with water. A bunker-like this can be a deadly place, so take it seriously. If you have a sump pump, then most likely, the water table is too high to build an underground bunker on site.

After you have decided on the place, you can plan the construction. If you live in a northern region with cold winters, do not start digging in winter, as frozen soil is more difficult to dig. You will simply spend more time, money, and effort on construction in winter, so it is better to wait for the warmer months.

Prepper checklist

Excavation And Structure Planning
Excavation

There are two ways of digging:

  • the old-fashioned shovel style;
  • using an excavator or similar technique.

The first case is suitable only if you have a lot of free time and you do not need to rush, or if you have good helpers, and you have a small bunker in mind. But we would still choose an excavator. Yes, this will take a significant part of the bunker’s construction budget, but for this, we plan everything.

You can hire a contractor who will excavate with their own equipment, or you can rent only the equipment itself if you know how to handle it.

Please note that there are important factors to consider in building an underground shelter.

Clean water

Think about how clean water will flow into the bunker. There are several options:

  • rainwater harvesting and water filtration system;
  • tap into the water table;
  • set up a way to channel water near your shelter.

For the second and third points, you will need to obtain separate permits, but they will ideally solve the flow of clean water into your underground bunker.

You can also put it in a large water tank. But this method has two drawbacks. The water will run out quickly, no matter how you stretch its consumption, and the container will take up a lot of space. We would advise not to completely abandon the idea of the large reservoir of drinkable water, but to put it as a backup in case of breakdowns in the main water system. If the size of your bunker allows, then it is better to provide for this option.

Escape

An important point if you are not planning to dig your own grave. An emergency exit should be available everywhere, even in an underground bunker. Always plan at least one entrance and one exit.

If you provide only one entrance, then your chances of survival will be greatly reduced. The entrance can be blocked, and you cut yourself off the path to escape from the bunker. Make at least two doors to the bunker. But do not forget that you will need to watch the doors.

Air Filtration

It is imperative to think about the air systems of your underground shelter. If you have to stay in the bunker for a long period in an emergency, then the bunker will not have enough air reserves.

Build your bunker, leaving room for air vents. You will need them not only to get fresh air but also to cool the shelter.

Choose and buy an air filtration system before you build your bunker. This way, you can build according to the baseline of your air filtration unit. Remember just one air filter will not be enough, buy spare ones too.

Make sure you mask the vents on the surface so that any enemies cannot find them.

Plan to buy gas masks. They can be useful if you have to leave a safe shelter while the air outside is dangerous to breathe, such as during a nuclear attack.

Food cache

Be sure to stock up on food for your survival bunker. The ideal option would be to set aside a separate room for food storage. Being underground, the products will be well preserved, and there will be no need to worry about their safety. So it is a good idea to store your emergency cache of food in the underground bunker. Make sure the underground bunker is dry.

Choose non-perishable food with a long shelf life. We recommend stocking up on foods such as:

Plan for the worst-case scenario of being stuck in a bunker for a long time and picking up the appropriate food. Food should also saturate well with calories and essential micronutrients. Staying in the bunker is stressful for the body, so try to please it with delicious food.

Prepper checklist

Decide on materials

After you have dug a pit for your future shelter, it is time to decide what materials you will use to build an underground bunker. There are tons of options, but you need to stick to your budget. It is even possible to use hardened steel, like in banks, but the cost will also be the same as in banks.

Let’s take a look at several material options to understand better what is right for you.

Concrete

Let’s start with the best material in many ways. The concrete is safe, strong, and durable. Simultaneously, casting concrete will be relatively cheap, so this is the best price-to-quality ratio. It is also the best choice for underground shelters because the process of casting concrete is speedy.

Concrete has historically been used to build military bunkers and is used for foundations in almost all houses.

We can safely recommend this material for building a bunker.

Metal

The bunker building from this material has one big drawback, and that is its price. If your budget allows you to make big expenses, then choose it.

For the bunker, you need to choose thick sheets of metal, which will be welded together in the future. It is also necessary to provide support with steel pipes.

The advantages of metal are that moisture will not be terrible for you, but the high price limits the circle of those who can use it.

Blocks or Bricks

Also a good choice for an underground bunker. This is an effective material that will successfully cope with the task. Their installation is not difficult, but it will take a little longer than building your bunker from concrete.

It is not for nothing that people choose brick as a material for their house. This material perfectly retains heat in cold weather and cools the room in warm weather.

The price is also attractive. The brick structure will be durable and not subject to decomposition.

Wood

We do not recommend this material for constructing an underground bunker, and now we will tell you why. Although the wood is relatively cheap and easy to handle, it is too susceptible to destruction, decay, and insect infestation. Yes, you can process wood, but even then, the wood will decay over time. And when it gets wet, the wood will begin to decompose. If you are building a bunker for the long term, we strongly advise you not to choose this option.

Once you have selected the right material and installed the structure, it is time to install the awning. It must protect the bunker from moisture and water. After installing a durable, moisture-resistant awning, the bunker can be buried.

Prepper checklist

Purchase additional equipment for the bunker

Besides stocking food, water, and basic ammunition, you will want to stock up on something else for the bunker. You can do this with almost no restrictions. Just plan the free space in the bunker. Also, pay attention to the law that prohibits the storage of certain chemicals or fuels underground. If you do not want to receive heavy fines and confiscation of stored fuel, then study the law.

But there is a lot that can be placed in an underground bunker. We have compiled a list of important things, in our opinion, but it is by no means limited to this. You may have your own ideas of what will be useful to you in the underground shelter.

Medicines

This is an absolute must-have, especially if you have people with chronic diseases in your family.

It is straightforward to get various wounds during critical situations, so you should have a first aid survival kit ready, including survival antibiotics, pain killers, bandages, disinfectants, and so on.

You do not need to have too much, because medicines also have a limited shelf life, but you should have your company’s supplies.

Entertainment

You may not think about it, but it is just as important as medicines or water supplies. If you have to sit in the bunker for a long time, then you can just go crazy, so you need to occupy your brain and be distracted from the situation.

You can install those entertainments that do not take up much space, such as a deck of cards, board games, chess, and checkers. A good option is to stock up on books, and you can choose survival books so you can find gent new information that is useful in the current situation but make sure that you have some entertaining books.

Entertainment will help keep your sanity and not lose your mental clarity.

Power generator

One of the most useful items in your underground bunker arsenal.

The presence of electricity will greatly facilitate your life because we can no longer imagine our everyday life without it. With the help of electricity, we store food, prepare it, light up the space, heat our home, listen to music, work on the computer, and do many other things.

A propane or kerosene generator must not be used in an underground bunker’s closed space, as the formation of gas vapors is inevitable.

It is best to plan off the grid energy for the bunker. Yes, it will be more difficult for you to disguise it, but it will also be more useful. Consider installing a solar power generator or wind generator as your best survival option.

Ammo and weapons

Yes, it’s better to have a few weapons in stock, but do not get carried away too much lest your underground bunker turns into a big gun safe. Remember that things like water, food, and medicine may be more helpful in a survival situation. But you also need to have something of a weapon for your insurance.

concealed bunker

Hiding Your Underground Bunker

Be sure to hide your underground bunker. Make sure it is not visible to passers-by, your neighbors, or other people.

The bunker should be your stronghold of safety that no one else knows about except you and your family. If curious neighbors ask, you can tell them you are building a swimming pool and then change your mind.

Firstly, people’s curiosity can attract unkind looks. Someone may want to steal food, ammunition, guns, or survival equipment that you store in the bunker.

Secondly, what will you do if, in an emergency, neighbors run to you and ask you to hide in your bunker? After all, the water, air, food, and space reserves are planned only for your family. If you hide everyone, then no one may survive as a result. And your primary task is to take care of your family and yourself.

To avoid unpleasant situations, it is better to keep the bunker secret and disguise it. To do this, you have to get creative.

The ventilation holes can be hidden by bushes, plants, add more stones, mix with nature.

Ideal when your bunker entrance goes through your house, and the bunker is connected to the house by an underground passage. So you can hide the entrance with a carpet or sofa. If this option is not suitable, then at the entrance to the bunker, you can install an old barn or survival outhouse, something that looks completely inconspicuous so that no one has the idea that there is a survivalist’s paradise below.

Prepper checklist

bomb shelter entrance

 

Small And Affordable Root Cellar Bunker

Easy Cellar

If you do not have extra funds, but you are thinking about building an underground bunker and a suitable place in the backyard, this paragraph is for you.

This structure will not look like luxury bunkers, but you will have a place where you can hide from a nuclear, biological attack, or natural disaster. This will be your personal storm shelter.

You will also need to stock up on water, food, gas masks, a sleeping pad to keep your bomb shelter stocked.

It should not take you long to get familiar with this method of building fallout shelters. The method is called Easy Cellar, by the way, and we recommend it as the best way to build a small bunker without spending a fortune on it.

Prepper checklist

Video project about building an underground bunker

Underground bunker builders are not big fans of sharing information or showing how they did it. Watching how someone has already done it is the best way to learn because it is better to see once than hear a hundred times.

We found a series of videos that we really liked and want to share with you. These interesting videos showcase the construction process of underground bunkers.

Survival Bunker Construction Project

1. The Plan

The first episode is all about planning, things to think about before building an underground bunker. To get started, you do not need to thoroughly know your whole plan, and a basic understanding is enough.

2. Excavations

Next, you need to dig a large hole using either a shovel (but this will take years of strength and energy) or using special machinery. We advise you to hire excavators to do this quickly and hassle-free. If you have big plans, then you will need a large hole in the ground.

3. Bunker formation

The next stage is putting a structure for your bunker, and you will build the floor and walls.

The author of the video Colin Furze uses excellent but expensive material. He chose 4mm of steel plates and steel pipes. If that fits your budget, you can do the same.

If you want to save money, then take concrete to cover the walls with cinder blocks.

4. The use of concrete and the final stage of construction

If you used metal structures, then the next step is to reinforce them with concrete. Concrete gives strength to underground bunkers, and rebar throughout is used for the same purpose.

The last stage of construction is backfilling the entire structure. For this, land, gravel, and sod are used.

5. Finishing of underground shelters

Now came the most interesting stage of the project, furnishing the bunker with useful things and equipment. See how Colin did it.

6. Survival Bunker Construction Project Q&A

The host will answer the most popular questions about the construction of underground shelters. He will tell you whether building permits were needed, how the composting toilet, air exchanger are organized, how electricity is obtained, and some other questions.

The video is an example of a beautifully organized instruction for building underground shelters.

Prepper checklist

Family Bunker Plans

Family Bunker Plans If you do not want to reinvent the wheel, you can use the existing floor plan for the survival bunker. Family Bunker Plan is a detailed outline and construction guide for underground bunkers.

They will tell you about:

This unique project answers many of the questions faced by underground bunkers builders. We advise you to use its help if you want to have a quality long-term construction.

Prepper checklist

Final Word

After reading our article, most likely, you have lost the illusion that building underground bunkers is easy. You need to spend a decent amount of time preparing, planning, budgeting before the actual construction. But even with all the difficulties, this can be done at an affordable cost.

Bunkers will be useful not only for nuclear war or nuclear attack, in addition to being excellent bomb shelters, but they can also be useful in case of natural disasters, riots, tornadoes, harmful precipitation, gamma radiation, and even more other cases. From almost everything that scares people, humans can be saved in doomsday bunkers.

Survival bunkers are also a great place to store your emergency supplies. Ensure your water supplies, ammo, medicine, survival food, and survival weapons are stored in one place. And there is no better place than a bunker for this. Everything will be kept safe and exactly where it can come in handy.

Equip your hideout with the required systems, do not forget Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical (NBC) Air Filtration Systems, bunk beds, led lighting, water supply, electricity. You even can put a gun rack if there is enough space. Then you will be in a much better position than people who did not take care of the bunker beforehand.

FAQs

How do you build an underground bunker?

The first thing you need to do is make a plan. Find a suitable place to build, get the necessary permits, and start digging the ground. After excavation, install the building frame, floor, and roof, and backfill your shelter. Make sure you camouflage the bunker well so that no one else knows where it is. Place needed items, food supplies, bunk beds, and other stuff you may need in the bunker.

How deep does a nuclear bunker have to be?

The optimal bunker depth recommended by professionals is 10 feet. This depth will help save yourself from most disasters, and there will be no danger of trapping yourself or other people inside. The general rule of thumb is that the ground level to the top of your shelter should be 10 feet.

How much does a doomsday bunker cost?

This depends on many factors, primarily the materials you use and the size of the shelter. Wealthy people can afford bunkers worth millions, but it is possible to do things on a much more budgetary basis. In our article, we give an example of the most budgetary structure of the bunker.

How long would you need to stay in a nuclear bunker?

People will have to stay in the bunker for at least 24 hours in the event of a nuclear attack. But you need to follow the official statements from the authorities. They can also order a longer stay of citizens in safe places. Therefore, make sure you have enough food and water supplies for a longer period. Consider having a bed in a bunker. You can put a bunk bed to save space.

How to build a bunker on a budget?

To do this, you need to plan everything even before the construction phase carefully. Make a detailed estimate of all your expenses. Think about what you can save on (for example, use concrete instead of metal plates) and where you cannot save on. In general, you can build an underground shelter on a budget if you plan well and in advance.

Mike Millerson

A former USA Army sergeant and a highly educated survivalist and prepper with a degree and interest in Engineering and Electronics, Mike Millerson applies his extensive expertise in survivalism, homesteading, backpacking, hiking and hunting, spreading his deep knowledge about handling emergencies and prepping for them reasonably and effectively. In the core of his principal mission is a desire to be a helpful guide into the world of survival for all those who seek practical advice in the rapidly changing world.

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