How to Build a Bunker

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Another guest contribution from Scott to The Prepper Journal.

Serious survivalists are becoming more prominent in modern society, especially as nuclear treaties change and the threat of war is omnipresent in everyone’s minds. Having a household bunker became popular during the Cold War, and while they have fallen out of favor in recent years, with the present state of the world, it might be a good idea to consider building one. Assembling one of these safety refuges is easier than you might think, even if you’re not an engineer. Here are some simple ways to build a backyard bunker to protect yourself and your family.

Why Do You Need a Bunker?

First, consider why you need a bunker. Do you live in a tornado-prone area, or do you want to make sure you’re prepared in the event of a catastrophe? A backyard bunker can protect you from a variety of threats, from nuclear attacks to the next world war.

The question you should be asking yourself isn’t why you need a bunker. It’s what you will do without one.

Choosing a Location

Once you’ve decided to build a bunker, your first step is to select a location. Ideally, you’ll want something close to your home where you can retreat in the event of a catastrophe. Take a close look — or conduct a geological survey — of your potential build locations to determine if they are conducive to house a bunker. Some areas — such as Florida, where the water table is close to the surface — require additional care and may even need surface bunkers. It is possible: Explorers found an old World War II bunker in Florida in 2017 that is still intact after all these years.

You will have to be aware of any underground pipes or wires in your digging location. If any utilities run through your yard, you’ll have to choose a new location or pay the city to relocate the services.

Don’t Forget Building Permits

Speaking of the city you call home, you will need to obtain building permits before you’re allowed to begin construction. Speak to the local city council or permitting office and ensure you are allowed to build a bunker on your property, and find out what it will cost to obtain those permits.

Don’t start building before you’ve obtained a permit, though. Violating local building code could cost you a lot of money in the long run.

Pre-built or Custom Bunkers

Once you have a location chosen and have obtained the proper building permits, you have another decision to make. You have to decide whether you’re going to build a custom bunker or install a pre-built option.

You can design a pre-built bunker with a steel cargo container or a large piece of underground piping. Both will have to be customized to be comfortable for extended stays, but they can serve as a foundation for a bunker to reduce construction time.

The other option is to build your bunker in place, using cement or concrete. The two terms are often used interchangeably, but they’re two separate materials. Concrete is one of the primary ingredients in cement. It is mixed with water and other elements to create cement.

Of the two materials, cement is the better option. However, you will need to build frames to hold the vertical portions of the shelter, as well as the ceiling once you’re ready to pour it in place.

Time to Dig

By this point, you should already have a building permit and all the supplies you need for construction. Your next step, once you’ve chosen the bunker materials, will be to dig a hole. This isn’t something you’ll be able to tackle with a shovel and a couple of buddies, though. Be prepared to rent a backhoe or pay a company to dig the hole to your preferred dimensions.

Make sure you’ll have at least 2 feet of soil above you once you’ve finished — this serves as a buffer to protect you from gamma radiation in the event of a nuclear strike. If your bunker is 10 feet high, you’ll need to dig down at least 12 feet.

The exact details of the construction will depend on the materials and size of your bunker, so we can’t offer detailed instructions for this step. Stick to the plan you’ve created — whether you’re building it from scratch or relying on pre-built options — and take your time during construction.

A Method of Entry

One thing you can’t afford to forget when you’re building a bunker is a way to get in and out. Ideally, you want to have at least two entrances or exits. If one is blocked, you don’t want to be trapped in the bunker, especially if supplies or oxygen are running low.

Secure steel doors or bulkheads are ideal for this application, especially if they can be lined with lead to protect you from nuclear radiation and other contaminants.

Power and Supplies

Once you’ve completed the construction, it’s time to start considering supplies and electricity. You won’t be able to rely on local power and utility grids for energy or water. You also won’t be able to drive to the grocery store for food or head to the hospital for medical supplies. A bunker needs to be self-sustaining, which means you’ll need power, food, water, medicine and other supplies inside the shelter.

For power, you have a few options. You can utilize generators — in which case you will need a supply of fuel to last you until the infrastructure is restored — or you can rely on solar power. While it is true that the electronic components of the solar system may be susceptible to the electromagnetic pulse released by a nuclear strike, with some necessary repairs, it may be able to provide power through an emergency.

Once the bunker is ready for an emergency, make sure you stock it with enough food and water to last throughout any crisis. Depending on the situation, this could be as short as days, or as long as months.

One other supply that you need to consider is oxygen. A bunker is a contained system, which means that eventually, the air inside will run out. You will need to install a ventilation system as well as air scrubbers to remove carbon dioxide and other contaminants to ensure your air is safe.

It Never Hurts to Be Prepared

You may think you’ll never need a bunker of your own, but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared. In cases like these, it’s better to have a shelter and never need it, than to need one and not have it. Building a bunker is not a small endeavor, nor one that should be taken lightly. Make sure you have all your plans in place before you break ground.

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A former rocket scientist (really) who has traveled the world, father, freedom lover, hates to stay indoors, and loves wild places, people and things. PC challenged, irreverent but always relevant and always looking to learn new things.

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Ray White
Guest

When you go to apply for a permit do not call it a bunker. Call it a storm shelter, which most towns in tornado prone zones won’t object to. Also, if you live in an area with a high water table or that is prone to flooding you won’t be able to go underground so be sure to check that out before you build. Above ground “storm shelters” or “rooms” are common in some areas of Kansas and Oklahoma where the water tables are too high to permit underground shelters. Though it’s an added expense it’s a very good idea… Read more »

David Tuttle
Guest
David Tuttle

I believe you have your facts bass akwards on cement and concrete.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Cement powder, here conditioned in bag, is mixed with fine and coarse aggregates and water.
A cement is a binder, a substance used for construction that sets, hardens, and adheres to other materials to bind them together. Cement is seldom used on its own, but rather to bind sand and gravel (aggregate) together. Cement mixed with fine aggregate produces mortar for masonry, or with sand and gravel, produces concrete.

Ethan
Guest
Ethan

Had the right idea on concrete and cement, only backward. I know because I’m a construction inspector. Concrete is a mixture of aggregate (rocks) and cement.

Glen Kemerling
Guest
Glen Kemerling

Cement is a component of concrete, not the other way around. Otherwise a good article.

David Vigliotti
Guest
David Vigliotti

Did I miss the provision for waste? Trash and sewage would be a concern even after only the first day of occupation…

ASHLEYY
Guest
ASHLEYY

NOW I AM LOOKING TO MAKE A LIVING BUNKER, NOT A BUNKER TO HIDE OUT AND STORE FOOD, BUT ONE I COULD POTENTIAL SURVIVE IN THOUSANDS OF YEARS UNDERGROUND INCASE OF A MASSALIENINVASION THOUSANDS OF YEARS IN THE FUTURE. SO I WOULD MAKE AN AIRVENT HIDDEN BY A CUTOUT GROWING TREE, THEN HAVE A GROW ROOM WHICH GROWS TURNIPS, RUTABAGAS, AND POTATOES, IN WHICH THE RUTABAGAS AREPICKEDUNDERGROUND WHILE THE PLANTS REMAIN ABOVE GROUND AND THE WHOLE SCENERY LOOKS LIKE AN ABANADONED HOUSE, THEN I WOULD HAVE HONEY HIVES WHICH DRIP INTO THE UNDERGROUND BASE HIDDEN BY OLD TREESTUMPS. THEN HAVE… Read more »