Cheap DIY Underground Bunker: 5 Ways To Create One & What You Need To Know

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By Bryan Lynch •  13 min read

For several decades now, survival bunkers have been one of those topics that remains fascinating among certain circles. I am not sure if the interest surrounding them has to do with the idea of ultimate protection or how they have been portrayed in modern media, television, and the movies. 

Survival Bunkers Guide

Either way, emergency bunkers/underground bunkers/underground shelter/backyard bunker/panic room – or whatever you want to call it – certainly have their ups and their downs, especially if they are underground.

I wanted to take a moment to lay out some of the aspects that I think are important to consider when it comes to these vaults of security, as well as some cheap – or at least more affordable – options for constructing one yourself.

You should know that this article is not going to be a step-by-step guide for building an underground bunker, but rather a list of underground bunker options, as well as their pros and cons.

Let’s start off by go over a few underground bunker options: 

5 Ways To Build A Survival Bunker

DIY projects are great for a lot of reasons. They are a learning process, you get to learn new skills, the project can be customized, and (the number one reason for most people) and they will save you more money than hiring someone else.

However, when it comes to building a structure, especially an underground bunker, there is a lot more to just digging a large hole in the ground. You should really consult a professional before using heavy equipment and moving any soil.

Option 1: Completely Build it Yourself

These can be as simple or as elaborate as you like. I have seen a few where someone simply dug a hole into the side of a hill and excavated it to the size they desired. This may be one of the cheapest options, but you certainly need to know a few things before attempting this, especially how to reinforce such a structure.  

I consider myself a pretty handy guy, but I know there are some things I do not know about construction and how those things would relate to putting a structure underground. It would be a pretty bad day to put all your time and money into a project only to run into a big problem down the road.

Note: It’s a good idea to consult an engineer before undertaking a DIY underground bunker project.

Shipping Containers 

In recent years, metal shipping containers have become available to the general public as “affordable” building material for bunkers and other structures. I use the term affordable a bit loosely because, depending on the size of the container, it can cost many thousands of dollars. 

Shipping containers are a neat idea because they are a bare-bones framework that you can put together as you choose, kind of like building something out of Lego.

These are very easy to customize and you can make the structure as big as you want by adding multiple containers.

The biggest downfall of shipping containers is that they were not designed to be buried underground. So, they may not be able to hold up to the stresses of being underground, and they are prone to rust.

Option 2: Prefabricated Survival Bunker 

When it comes to building a DIY underground bunker, sometimes you just can’t do everything yourself.

Several reputable companies specialize in building and installing smaller scale bunkers. Almost everything that is needed to live underground is thought out, designed, and installed by the manufacturer.

To me, this seems like one of the best options available in terms of affordability and making sure the project is done right. 

If you are interested in this option, Atlas Survival Shelters is one of the premier builders of an underground shelter for the average person. They have a lot of different styles, floor plans, and they deliver anywhere in the world.

Click here for more information on Atlas Survival Shelters.

Option 3. Silos 

There are many underground silos and other military installations that over time, became abandoned and were eventually put up for sale.

Interesting side note: there are probably a lot more of these than you think!

For those with the means, these installations can be quite the deal. Millions of dollars were initially spent to create such underground structures.

But after they were abandoned, given their locations and years of neglect, they can be purchased “cheaply.” Again, the word cheap is probably not the right word, but replicating such a structure today would be an astronomical cost for the average person.

Usually, the biggest downside to preexisting underground complexes is the years of neglect in upkeep and maintenance. All of the excavation has been done, and the shell of the structure is there, but more than likely a large amount of money will have to be invested for cleaning, restoration purposes, and shoring up any structural integrity issues.

However, if you have the funds, this could be one of the best bunker ideas around.   

Option 4: Rented Space and Luxury Bunker

For those that truly have the means and want nothing to do with building a shelter or DIY bunkers, don’t fret. There is an option for you.

Survival and emergency products have become big business, and bunkers have not been forgotten about. 

When it comes to bunkers, there are some individuals out there that have done all of the leg work for you. They have purchased preexisting underground structures (or are building new ones) and are turning them into luxury bunkers in case the worst happens. All you have to do is have a deep enough pocketbook to cover the entrance fee. 

Some of the costs I have heard for entry into these luxury spaces are well above six figures. But considering that all you have to do is to walk through the door, that price may be worth it to some.

Below is a video tour of one of these luxury bunker ideas.

Doomsday Bunkers Built For Billionaires – YouTube

4 Pros of Survival Bunkers 

So, I have talked a little bit about some of the popular bunker options available, but now I am going to go into a little more detail about the pros and cons concerning bunkers as a whole.

Instant security

For locations where a bunker can be placed right in the backyard or very close to home, the idea of instant security is pretty appealing. No matter what situation arises, the ability to climb in and shut the door quickly and effectively protect you and yours is hard to beat. 


A bunker doesn’t have to be used just for Armageddon. It can be used as cold storage for food items and a secure location for other supplies. It can also be a haven during times of war, civil unrest, and protection against mother nature, such as severe storms and tornados. 

Camouflage and Security 

Given that most bunkers are located underground, they are out of sight and out of mind. Meaning that would-be threats could walk on top of you and not even know it. An underground bunker is about as discreet as they come when it comes to a bug out location. 

As far as security goes, most bunkers only have one, maybe two points of entry, a main entrance and an emergency escape. No windows, a limited number of entry points, and being underground is a location that can be easier to protect against would-be threats.

Long Term Protection

While a bunker can be used for short term protection like during a bad storm, they can also provide protection and a place to ride out a long term event. Some disastrous events are not over in a matter of hours or days. The unsafe conditions they leave behind can take time before they dissipate and it is safe for you to go above ground.

There are several variables to consider and specific threats to analyze, but if a bunker is done right and enough supplies are on hand, they can be occupied for a long time. And when I say a long time, I mean years.

6 Cons of Survival Bunkers 

Bunkers certainly have some positive attributes, but like anything, there are downsides to them as well. 


Creating a bunker for cold storage or short term protection, i.e. storms wouldn’t be terribly expensive or difficult to accomplish. But to do them right and for long term survival requires a big chunk of change. The reasons for why they are expensive are listed below. 

Air Quality

sky, clouds, forms

Clean air is one of our most important survival needs because we can only survive a few minutes without it. Air quality is not all that great when you start digging a hole in the ground and encase yourself in a closed structure. 

Fresh air needs to be brought in, filtered, and circulated. So, a well thought out ventilation system needs to be planned out.

This means a constant power supply and fans and motors. Back up replacement parts and knowledge of how to fix the system will be needed because you will not be able to call someone to come fix it for you.

An air filtration system will also be needed. And your typical furnace filter is not going to do the trick. Since we never know what a survival situation will be like, a system that is equipped to deal with biological, chemical, and radioactive materials would be best.   

Controlling Moisture

Being underground will introduce the problem of having to deal with groundwater and moisture. While we depend on water for life it also brings a few issues we must deal with. 

If there is not a way to deal with water, it could potentially flood a bunker, destroy supplies or create an environment that breeds germs and mold. 

Hidden underground bunkers are more than just digging a hole in the ground, a whole host of issues, including the elements must be thought out.

Note: Pressure treated wood can sweat over an extended period.


One of the best reasons to be in a bunker can also be one of its biggest downfalls: security. A limited number of entry points can be easier to defend, but it also offers a limited number of exits. 

An intelligent threat above the bunker or an unfortunate threat within the bunker, i.e. a fire, may make you wish you had some windows or additional exit points.

Note: A completely hidden underground bunker could can protect you from a nuclear blast, but it could also become a trap.


Unfortunately, some regions just are not conducive to placing a bunker underground. Examples include along coastlines or other locations where the water table is shallow, or areas where there is frequent seismic activity. 

Psychological Aspect

Human beings are not underground creatures. We need space to move around, fresh air, sunlight, natural sounds, and seeing the blue sky. 

Anyone who has spent time in isolation away from the above list will tell you that is not a pleasant experience. Being in a confined space for a long time will have a negative impact on your physical health as well as your mental health. 

If you plan on having a bunker for long term protection, think about ways to incorporate aspects of nature underground. Install UV lights and imitation sunlight. Hang pictures of outdoor landscapes or screens that display the natural world. Have a way to listen to recordings of natural sounds that include storms, running water, and birds.  

Survival Supplies For a DIY Bunker

Whether you have someone build a bunker for you or you do all the work yourself, the finished bunker will need supplies.

Solar Panels

You are going to need electrical power supplied to the bunker and solar panels are one of the best options available.

Air Vents

We already hit on the importance of an air filtrations system. Being underground for any amount of time is going to require a proper ventilation for you to survive.

Board Games

Activities in an underground bunker are limited, and I mentioned the psychological effect earlier. These games will provide a bit of fun, but they will also help to keep your mind busy.

Composting Toilet

This type of toilet will work best in a bunker that is meant for short term emergencies. The best thing about it is that it doesn’t require any running water.

Steel Door

A solid entrance to the bunker is a must. It will make it more difficult for threats to gain access. With proper seals, it can help protect against air borne threats and nuclear fallout.

Medical Supplies

Once you are in the bunker, leaving it may not be an option, even if someone is badly injured. It will be critical to have first aid supplies, trauma supplies, medical reference books, and some medical training so that you can take care of ill or injured members.


Stock the shelter with as much non-perishable food as possible. Having a variety of food will help you to avoid menu fatigue.


Even a short stay in a shelter is going to require an abundant source of fresh, clean water. You are going to need enough for drinking, cooking, hygiene, sanitation, and general cleaning purposes.


Information is vital, and having a way to communicate with the outside world in times of disaster will be critical, whether that be in the form of HAM radio or even just an AM/FM radio that will provide you some news.


Think about the tools you want and will need to maintain security both around the bunker and within it.

Wrap Up

Logically speaking, for most people, a short-term survival bunker is going to be the best way to go for a DIY bunker or backyard bunker.

A structure that can be put in the backyard for cold storage and a place to go during a nasty storm is realistically the most affordable option.

Space and the funds needed for someone (or multiple people) to survive underground for a long-term event just doesn’t seem like a plausible idea in my mind for the average person. Bunkers can be a great investment for you and your family, but take your time and conduct the proper research. Because there is more to them than just digging a hole in the ground and shutting the hatch.

Thanks for reading and stay prepared.

Bryan Lynch

Bryan grew up in the Midwest and spent every waking moment outdoors. Learning how to hunt, fish, read the land, and be self-reliant was part of everyday life. Eventually, he combined his passions for the outdoors, emergency preparedness, and writing. His goal was to spread positive information about this field. In 2019, Bryan authored the book Swiss Army Knife Camping and Outdoor Survival Guide. His second book, Paracord Projects For Camping and Outdoor Survival, is scheduled to be released on March 2, 2021.