SHTFDad may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page.
Whether you plan to research DIY underground bunkers, invest in professional bunker plans and build it yourself, or purchase a fully designed, installed, and assembled structure I will have information that will move you down the path of this exciting, but necessary, project.
This type of construction project cannot be taken lightly, and a considerable amount of thought must be put into each aspect.
But let’s start outside of the details. At the 100,000 foot level the primary considerations are: why build a bunker, what to build (how big to build, what are the primary size considerations), where to build, how to build one, how much do they cost, where do I buy one (who currently sells them), what are my resources for finding a bunker near me, and what are all the goodies I can stock my bunker with?
Why Build Underground Bunkers
To get to the “how to build an underground bunker” you must first have passed through the “Why build an underground bunker” gate. First, let’s take a look at what would literally drive us underground.
Events Requiring Underground Bunkers
There are reasons beyond number that could spark the next major world crisis.
Mother Nature seems ready to launch the next Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) our way or infect us with the next deadly pandemic. World politics is ripe with opportunities for an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) or a cyber event designed to take down the financial system or electrical grid.
And don’t forget natural disasters like tornadoes, hurricanes i.e. storm shelter), earthquakes (bomb-proof bunker), and wildfires (fire bunker) that you and your family will require protection from.
Any one of these events, or even more minor events, could push society over the edge of civility. Furthermore, almost daily we see examples of our fellow humans destroying their own towns and threatening each other. And that’s just Oregon.
Move outside of the US and the atrocities are the things of nightmares. It doesn’t take much imagination to find a scenario where staying above ground makes you and your family a target. Accordingly, underground bunkers are uniquely positioned in the world of prepping to keep you out of sight.
Benefits of Underground Bunkers
There are a thousand and one benefits when you have considered how to build an underground bunker. What hardcore prepper wouldn’t want the ultimate protection from zombies and golden hordes alike.
Buried deep and protected by fifty of feet of mother earth’s radiation blocking, constant temperature providing, loving soil – what’s not to love!
It’s the stuff that novels are made of… Well, not the good ones with lots of action and chase scenes and shootouts. More like the safe and boring ones where the family waits out the bad times with plenty of food, water, entertainment, and enough COMMs equipment to make the NSA jealous.
Back to reality! There are numerous well-grounded reasons to build an emergency storm shelter, bomb shelter, nuclear fallout shelter, or whatever you want to call your little place away from it all.
After all, a bunker represents a logical addition to your survival plan. Or they can be an excellent extension to an existing bug out location.
Security & Discretion
Underground shelters provide a level of security, through obfuscation, not achievable by the standard above ground structure.
Hiding in plain sight is the only option for an above-ground bunker. You may camouflage its true purpose (e.g. a stack of shipping containers in an urban lot) but no building can be hidden quite like a hole in the ground.
Beyond security, bunkers provide stable temperatures and humidity. This is a key factor for long term storage of food, medicines, and ammunition.
Two is One, One is None
Lastly, you may use your bunker not only as a zombie fortress but also for many mundane purposes as well. The survival mantra of “two is one, one is none” also applies to shelters.
During normal times use your underground bunker as a storm shelter or simple “extension” in your basement.
Alternatively, in times of hardship, that basement extension has a very different peacetime purpose.
Within this series, we will take a full trip down Reason Lane exploring “Why” build an underground bunker, and the process of “How” to build it.
What to Build
This is where the fun starts. When considering how to build an underground bunker you must consider your intended build target. The possibilities of what to build are as numerous as the reasons to build.
Is your primary concern nuclear exchange between countries and your goal to build a fallout shelter – just like mom and dad used to have?
Do you live in a region that experiences extreme weather? You may want an emergency shelter capable of sustaining you for only a few days.
Are you planning for full-on zombification of the masses? Then you want a full-blown, state of the art, ready to re-start humanity doomsday bunker.
Before that first shovel full is freed from the earth you must identify your bunker’s purpose. With your primary purpose decided you will need to choose the specifics of the bunker.
The design of a simple multi-day emergency shelter will be significantly different from that of a doomsday bunker.
The emergency shelter design may incorporate a simple shelving system for storing food and water and a 5-gallon bucket for waste.
The doomsday shelter is designed for the long game. It requires a sustainable water source and a long term method for handling waste.
These design considerations also extend to power, communications, and even entertainment.
As with most decisions in life, you must also decide between needs and wants. What are your critical needs?
Bunker Design and Size
Once we have the primary purpose identified, then we must consider the bunker design, layout, and overall size.
Like my dad said about building a shed “Figure out how big you need it… Then double it… Then double it again.. And it still won’t be big enough.”
As sage as that advice is, dad, it’s a little more difficult (and expensive) with a bunker.
The length of stay in your bunker will be directly linked to its primary purpose. As discussed above pick your purpose and determine the maximum length of stay. This will be the key determinant of size.
Personal And Mission Spaces
Let’s start layering the various spaces within the bunker.
First is living spaces.
This includes sleeping space, cooking space, communal space (social quarters), and private or (shudder) public bathroom space.
The next layer is mission space.
These spaces include medical, communications, planning or intelligence, physical workspace (e.g. motor pool, armory, and other shop spaces). With careful planning and considerations, mission spaces can overlap with personal spaces (raise your hand if you’ve cleaned at least one gun at the kitchen table).
Finally, the size of your bunker must accommodate storage space. Depending on your total length of stay you may need more of it than you think.
Starting with the basics, plan on space for water, food, clothes, toilet paper, other personal supplies, and medical supplies. Then you will need to consider your mission supplies optionally including communications equipment, guns, ammo, trauma medical supplies, tooling, maps, journals, and computer equipment.
And more guns. And lots more ammo.
With storage, you can really let your creative juices flow. Store stuff under, above, and behind everything. Leave no nook or cranny un-stuffed.
Don’t forget about off-site storage. It is not necessary to have everything stored in your deep earth bunker.
Likewise, it is often not recommended to store much in your bug out location at all.
Consider the items on your threat matrix. If they allow for leaving your bunker with any regularity, I highly recommend that you consider multiple off-site storage locations to deposit the bulk of your supplies.
Where to Build Underground Bunkers
With the perfect plan in hand for how big to build your underground bunker project, the next major step is to find the perfect location.
Location, Location, Location
“Where” you build will require just as much if not more research as “what” you decide to build.
During any construction project, designs change. This may come from unforeseen situations.
The rock where you were positive there was only sand. The building material you had your heart set on, but your builder had significant bad experiences with.
As a result, design changes are to be expected; however, once you have secured property for your underground bunker, changing your mind can be difficult or prohibitively expensive.
First, you must decide on the general location. You may have selected a simple set of DIY underground bunker plans and are comfortable building it openly in your backyard.
In contrast, financial factors may require you build in your backyard and environmental factors (your nosy neighbor) require you to be very discrete about its construction.
In most cases however you will be looking for property.
Home Away From Home
How far from home should you search? Is suburbia an option or should you go to the deep dark woods? If you use the strictest secrecy or discretion, is it possible to get away with urban development?
Both distance from your home as well as access routes matter. Can you avoid major highways? Additionally, can you completely avoid urban areas? Finally, are you able to identify a minimum of three routes?
All of these factors must be considered. You must also consider practical travel to the location. Can you find a location that is close enough to visit on a Friday night after work, or must you plan for a few days off to visit?
Take an honest assessment. If it is too far away will you visit often enough to make sure that everything is still in good working order?
Will you be purchasing the land just for an underground bunker or will you have the land with a second purpose in mind (homesteading and gardening, hunting plot, vacation home). Choosing the right location is just as important if not more so than selecting the right design.
Consequently, we will spend a great deal of time on these deciding factors.
How to Build Underground Bunkers
So now you’ve made the investment in the perfect prepper property and have a well thought out design on your way to building a bunker.
It’s Go Time! Well, not quite Go Time yet, but close enough. What path will you take your underground bunker from dream to reality?
Unless you have all the skills necessary, as well as in-depth knowledge of all the materials and construction methods – you will need assistance. There are still a variety of options based on your abilities and resources.
Some readers will be able to afford a complete bunker. Conversely, others will choose to go the DIY deep earth bunker route. Finally, some of our more creative readers may decide to take the unconventional route with novel building materials like shipping containers, buses, RVs, etc.
If your plans include a ready-made shelter, then consult with the manufacturer for contractors familiar with the tools and techniques required to bury your new home away from home. They will have the requisite skills to perform the site evaluation, dig the pit (deep enough and level), set the structure, install the air, power, water, septic, and communications, then cover and conceal it. All carried out in a discrete manner (financially and physically).
Going It Alone
If this is not the route you are taking then you will need to consider how to get your dream-bunker built.
Will you be working as the general contractor with the job of coordinating the excavation team, concrete team, builders, electricians, HVAC, etc.?
Or will you hire a general contractor so that you can sit back, enjoy a freeze-dried beer and pick out color swatches (Bio-hazard yellow anyone)?
Any time a contractor is involved you will need to consider operational security. How you will ensure their silence in the matter?
Do you have a good cover story? Or will you request they sign a non-disclosure statement? Additionally, how will you limit the number of contractors on site? Further, do you have a friend, neighbor, or MAG member that is willing to help – and keep your secret?
Build a Root Cellar Bunker
Another option you can look into is building a root cellar bunker that can be used as a short term shelter.
If you want to learn how to build a backyard bunker like your grandparents had, without breaking the bank, then check out Easy Cellar. Easy Cellar will show you:
- How to choose the ideal site
- Cost-effective building methods
- How to protect your bunker from nuclear blast and fallout
- How to conceal your bunker
- Affordable basic life support options
Easy Cellar will also show you how a veteran built a small root cellar bunker in his backyard with only $421.
How Much Do Underground Bunkers Cost
Now is the time for the reality hammer to have its way.
It is all fun and games to dream about having a bunker. The mental imagery of lifting the hatch while the mushroom cloud grows in the distant background and shuttling your family to safety is the ultimate prepper dream. But all good things must come to an end and we need to crack open the wallet.
Nevertheless, the good news is that there is a dramatic range of underground bunker prices. You can purchase a small storm shelter for a modest sum, or even the bare essential building supplies for an even cheaper solution.
By the same token as with all home projects, sweat equity can greatly reduce your cost. It all depends on your underground bunker plans.
So first look at the extent of the project and marry that to your skill set to make the build vs buy decision.
If you choose to build then your primary costs will include the materials for the primary structure and the mechanical systems.
Material costs include concrete, concrete block, and trusses, or more “unique” approaches (spelled buried bus).
Mechanical systems minimally include air, water, and waste.
- Air – you may choose to purchase and install a Nuclear, Biological, Chemical (NBC) air filtration system.
- Water – you can dig a well and install a pump.
- Waste – your options include the bucket brigade (hopefully not), or a septic system.
The next major system for the DIY-er is the power system. Options range from hand or pedal crank to powered generator (which may violate OPSEC depending on how you muffle the noise) or solar. There are numerous articles on the web for determining your power needs based on the various lights, heaters, and appliances in your bunker.
Whether you have a small amount of cash to dedicate to this project or an astronomically large amount of free cash (compared at least to my bank account) there is an option for you. Ultimately, there are several different classifications of underground bunkers for sale.
Affordable Underground Bunkers
On the affordable underground bunkers end, you can purchase a storm shelter kit for as little as $5,000. These shelters are little more than an underground concrete or steel box. However, they will protect you effectively from a tornado.
Mid-Level to Luxury Underground Bunkers
On the mid to upper end of the scale are larger bunkers that cost several hundred thousand, to several million, dollars and can include multiple living spaces, sleeping bunks for 10+ of your friends and families, and complete air, water, and waste systems. The complete luxury underground bunker!
Likewise, there are houses with bunkers for sale (see the next section!).
The final option for purchasing a bunker is to buy into complete communities. Some are in retired ammunition depots, others in old missile silos. With some searching, you can find underground military bases for sale.
Here too, you can spend anywhere from $35,000 to several million to secure your spot with these like-minded communities of survivalists.
All come with various levels of community support including common areas, entertainment options, and communal dining. No matter your budget there is an underground option for you.
Terra Vivos Survival Community
Terra Vivos is a survival community billed as “The Backup Plan For Humanity.” This repurposed military ammo depot offers 2,200 square feet of floor space for $35,000. And if you have extra funds, you can also purchase or rent additional finished space.
Their inaugural location (they have several) is located in the central United States, and it includes 575 bunkers spread across 18 square miles.
Where to Find Underground Bunkers Near Me
So now you are asking yourself, “How do I find an underground bunker near me?” There are many resources for finding an underground bunker for sale.
Occasionally you will find a shelter on the normal real estate websites like Redfin or Zillow. Yes, underground bunker house is a valid keyword search!
There are two issues with these sites. The first is operational security. The listings are literally broadcast to the world. The second is they are very very rare. So using the search term “Underground Bunker” is not likely to yield many to choose from.
Craigslist is a better option as it is more niche and the listings are usually “for sale by owner.” Be prepared for more secrecy in the transaction. It’s not like you are buying an old tricycle.
Thankfully, there are dedicated manufacturers of underground bunkers that will assist you in your search and installation. These include Atlas Survival Shelters, American Safe Room, and Ultimate Bunker.
Each of these vendors will assist you in matching the best possible bunker to your needs, your budget, and your location. It is also possible that they may also know of prior installations that would be for sale so it is worth talking to them regardless of your situation.
Stocking Your Bunker
Congrats! You’ve done it! You’ve progressed from how to build an underground bunker to I’ve BUILT and underground bunker. There it is, deep in the woods, far from civilization, safe and sound. Now what?
The process does not stop here. Your shelter will need to be stocked with bunker supplies. Namely water, food, medical supplies, clothes, entertainment, etc.
The first priority for bunker stocking is your survival basics. Air: without clean air bunker living will be unpleasant and short. Be sure to stock consumable parts (e.g. filters), any wear parts, and be sure to stock spare critical parts.
Power & Heat
To keep yourself at a healthy 98.6 you will need to stock your bunker with the proper supplies. This can be as simple as appropriate clothes or blankets or include fuel and spare parts for your heating system.
While water systems can be relatively simple you will still need to stock your bunker accordingly. Whether you are storing all the water you intend to use, or you have a well, you will need to still stock spare and consumable parts.
Regardless of your source, I recommend a high-quality water filter system and a stock of extra filters. There are uncountable ways for water to go bad and be unfit for consumption, filters will remedy that situation.
If you have a well water system you should still stock spare parts including pumps, valves, faucet washers, etc.
The final critical component is food. We can go three weeks without food however but after about 24 hours you don’t want to be around me. Ok fine, 4 hours.
In any case, be sure to make sure you have enough total calories for your intended stay. Secondly, diversify your food stores. Include bulk components (beans, rice, etc.) as well as more complete components such as freeze-dried meals.
Don’t forget to store ample medical supplies, sanitation supplies, and security goods.
Use of Underground Bunkers
A bunker also comes with a series of special concerns not the least of which is periodic visitation and use. Will you be visiting the property? How often?
If it is a remote property and you visit too often you may leave signs of occupation. Accordingly, vehicle tracks in a remote area may lead to unwanted attention.
What if you occupy the property as a vacation or hunting parcel? Do you leave the bunker section alone? How often is too infrequent?
Food, medical supplies, and mechanical systems will all require periodic attention or maintenance. Will you be able to get to your site to perform these reviews?
Finally, do you know how you and your family or group will react to long term occupancy in a shelter? How will the teenagers survive an electronic blackout?
Are you ready for several days/weeks in the same space as your dining room? Are you willing to carry out dry runs of bug outs, back road trips (can’t go on the highway during SHTF), and lock-ins?
Just like working your survival meals into your everyday cooking, to ease the shock to your gut, you will need to get used to a few days underground. How would it be to find out that your spouse is claustrophobic just as the pandemic hits? That would be a bridge much better to cross when you can safely leave your bunker and get fresh air.
How to build an underground bunker is a topic worth exploration for every person with a preparedness mindset. While most of us feel it’s too far out of our financial grasp, the bunker offers one solution that we can hardly deny. It’s the idea of escaping and evading the chaos above ground.
Maybe that chaos comes in the form of civil disorder or a violent and relentless planetary event. Either way, you will be protected beneath the surface in an underground bunker. From design to building, and stocking to enjoying the safety and security of the finished project, it won’t be easy but it will be worth it.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why build an underground bunker?
Protection from otherwise un-survivable events is the key reason for building an underground bunker.
During a crisis is 'Out of Sight, Out of Mind' a good policy?
Yes, individuals or groups will seek out any means to better their situation. If they cannot find you then they will not be able to compromise your supplies or threaten your life.
How big of an underground bunker do I need for a short term disaster (1-3 days)?
A minimum of 100 square feet is required for a semi-comfortable stay underground for 3 days.
How big of an underground bunker do I need for a long term disaster (more than 1 month)?
A minimum of 400 square feet (and preferably much larger) is required for 30 days or more. However, this will depend on your specific needs, group size, and tolerable cost.
Where should I build an underground bunker?
Build a bunker wherever you can. During the toughest times, it will be more important to have a secured space than risk bugging out with the masses.
What is the best way to build an underground bunker in an urban area?
Extending existing cellar space or walling off a portion of a cellar is the best way to create an underground bunker in an urban environment.
What is the best way to build an underground bunker in a suburban area?
Extending existing cellar space or creating a new space under a shed or other outbuilding is the best way to surreptitiously create an underground bunker in an urban environment.
How do I go about building an underground bunker?
Employing a bunker company, contractors, or building one yourself are the three main ways to have your bunker built.
What are the primary considerations when I use a specialty bunker company?
Companies that specialize in bunkers offer superior products to the other two options however this usually comes at a much higher cost.
What are the primary considerations when I use contractors to build my underground bunker?
Operational security and skills are the main considerations for contractors. How can you guarantee that they will keep your security in mind and do they have the specific skills required to build underground facilities.
What are the main things I will need to stock up in my underground bunker?
Water, food, medical and sanitation, clothes, entertainment, and consumable and spare parts should all be stocked in a bunker.
Bonus: Root Cellar That Can Be Used as a Bunker
If you can't afford the box culvert option you can look into is building a backyard root cellar that can be used as a bunker.
If you want to learn how to build a backyard bunker like your grandparents had, without breaking the bank, then check out Easy Cellar.
Easy Cellar will show you:
- How to choose the ideal site
- Cost-effective building methods
- How to protect your bunker from nuclear blast and fallout
- How to conceal your bunker
- Affordable basic life support options
Easy Cellar will also show you how a veteran, with only $421, built a small nuclear bunker in his backyard.