How To Build An Underground Survival Bunker From Scratch

Whether you want to make yourself safe from “Resident Evil” like a zombie apocalypse, nuclear explosion, pandemic like CoronaVirus, or weather-related phenomena like hurricanes, or tornadoes, your survival bunker can go a long way to keep you and your family protected for a considerable period.

This underground bunker may not be as safe as the bunker for the heads of states or the filthy rich, but it can still protect you and your family from a disaster.

I have to admit, the cost of making a bunker can be very high, but it is doable if planned well.

A bunker is a time consuming and cost-intensive project which takes a lot of planning, multiple permission from the government, and a lot of hard work to build.

But it also serves a dual purpose of an alternate storage site for essential supplies, food, and medicines, as well as ammunition.

Getting Started For Underground Survival Bunker

You have now decided to make a bunker. Now, the next step is to determine:

  • The purpose of the bunker, viz,
    • Protection against nuclear fallout.
    • Protection against hurricanes and tornadoes.
    • Civil Unrest and breakdown of law and order.
  • The time you plan to stay in the Bunker.
  • The number of people staying in the bunker.

All these factors will determine your bunker’s size, the amount of food, supplies, water, and medicine needed.

After considering the above factors, the steps to making the bunker are:

Permits From The Local Authorities For Construction

Whether you are making the bunker in your backyard, or the woods, you need local authorities permit.

You cannot just go ahead and dig a big hole, even on your property. There are electric wires, water pipes, and gas lines going underground. You can rupture them while digging.

You need to present the blueprint and the bunker’s floor plan to the authorities and get it approved. 

Even if you are making your bunker in the woods, a permit is highly recommended. You don’t want to be in trouble later and pay hefty fines.

Before you start digging, Call 811. They will identify the location of any underground utility lines.

Location Of The Bunker

Once you have the approval and identified underground utility lines, you need to choose your location. Selecting the location will entail some questions like:

  • Are you constructing it in your backyard or somewhere else
  • Type of soil you are working with
  • Depth of the bedrock
  • Depth of the water table

Building your bunker in your basement or backyard is the best. In an emergency, you can just walk into your bunker unnoticed and be discreet.

If you cannot make it in your basement or backyard, the next best location can be in the woods, away from prying eyes. However, you have to give a thought about transportation from your home to the bunker.

The next objective is to know the water table of your planned location. You don’t want your bunker to be flooded with groundwater.

You can consult geologists to ascertain whether your soil is suitable for constructing a bunker or not.

The Blueprint

You have decided the location, have a clear idea of the water table, the soil at the site is suitable for construction. The next thing you need is a blueprint of the area.

You don’t need your bunker to be a luxury underground apartment, but there should be a decent space for everyone so that they don’t feel claustrophobic.

8-10 square feet of space is recommended for every individual.

Some things to be kept in mind are:

  • Vertical space should be used for storage.
  • Wall-mounted furniture will give an impression of increased space.  

The Excavation

You have your blueprint, and you are ready for the next step, which is digging.

If you don’t want to dig it yourself, you can ask a contractor to do the job. The contractors who specifically build these bunkers can build the bunker with all the amenities required, viz, air, water, sanitation, power, and that too, discreetly.

You can also act as a general contractor, coordinating work with other contractors like plumbers, electricians, etc.? 

If you want to dig it all by yourself, then you can start digging it with a shovel, but it will take a lot of time and effort, although it can save you a lot of cash.

You can also buy or rent an excavator, which will ease your job and cut the time. Mind you; this will burn through your cash fast.

Some things that should be kept in mind while excavating are…


In an underground site, clean air circulation is always desirable, particularly when you are planning to live in the bunker for an extended period. 

You will not want yourself breathing in stale air for extended periods.

Therefore while digging, leave at least two air vents for air circulation. You can also hide the air vents with undergrowth or vegetation.

For nuclear events, it’s good to invest in a good quality air filtration system. Stock adequate quantities of air filters in the meantime. The last thing you want is running out of air filters in an emergency.


You cannot live without water for more than 24 to 48 hours. So the plumbing and water filtration system become a necessity.

You had identified the water table in the previous step. You can simply tap into that water table. 

Or you can build a water tank below the site. But it requires a permit from the government. It is not advisable to have just a tank as your single water source.

Although, it can act as a backup if your electricity goes out. 

You can also use a rainwater harvesting system.

Food Supply

Food should be stocked beforehand for a month or two. You never know when you will get a chance to come out and restock. A nuclear scenario will require stocking up of at least 90 days.

Dry foods, dehydrated foods, eatables with a long shelf life should be stocked.

Non-perishable items like rice, potato, onion, wheat flour, pulses should be stocked up. They provide nutrients that are essential for human bodily functions.

Also read our guide on how you can prepare food in survival situations.


Sanitary hygiene is essential if living underground for an extended period.

Some options for sanitation can be:

  • Making an outhouse with a trench. This is simple but cannot be used for extended periods.
  • A septic tank is a good alternative that can be used for extended periods as well.

These small things are crucial, and you shouldn’t cut costs on these simple items. These, if done incorrectly, will make your stay hell.

Escape Route

An escape route needs to be preplanned into the construction. You don’t want yourself to be stuck in your survival bunker if debris falls over your main door.

The escape route is your route to freedom in case bad luck befalls on your main entrance. So do yourself a favor and make an alternative exit. 


Electricity is the most critical thing in your bunker. It will run all the water pumps, air filters, and lights of the bunker. 

Solar based electricity is your best bet. It will do away with the stockpiling of fuel for fossil fuel-based generators.

But fossil fuel-based generators act as a good alternative.

Materials Needed For Construction

The integrity of the bunker depends on the materials used in the construction process. Materials that are generally used for construction are:

  • Concrete
  • Brick
  • Metals like Steel
  • Wood


The usage of wood is not advisable since it is susceptible to rotting. As the wood gets wet, it starts decomposing. 

Wood is cheap, easy to handle, but it compromises the integrity of the structure. Wood also gets infested with insects. 


Metals are incredibly sturdy and strong on top of being water-resistant. Additionally, you don’t need to bother about infestation from insects.

You can weld metal sheets together to make a stable shelter, the only downside being its cost.

You are better off using other materials if you do not have a big budget.


Concrete is relatively cheap and can handle a lot of weight. 

Its strength and sturdiness are why concrete is used to make military bunkers. Our homes also use concrete as construction materials.

It is easy to handle, has no issues of insect infestation, and is not susceptible to moisture as well. 

Although concrete is prone to cracking, therefore the use of Reinforced concrete is advisable.

After the construction, you have to spray water 2-3 times every day for a week. This will limit the cracking of concrete. 

Concrete is recommended when constructing an underground bunker, provided that it is sprayed as described.


Bricks are cheap, easy to handle, water-resistant, and strong. Bricks are good insulators as well.

They can be reinforced by concrete to make your already strong bunker even stronger.

All in all, bricks and concrete are both excellent options. Both are sturdy, strong, and weather-proof.

After construction, you just have to cover your bunker with a waterproof shed or rubberized asphalt to keep away water and unsanitary conditions.

The Digging

Now that you’ve gotten the bunker’s blueprint decided whether you will build the bunker yourself, or give it to a contractor, bought the construction materials, it is time to dig.

After digging, whether by a shovel or by heavy machinery (Excavator), you have to make a foundation that can withstand heavy loads. After all, the foundation has to bear the weight of the bunker and dirt, sand, and vegetation.

The best material to build a foundation is concrete, although reinforced concrete is advised to prevent cracking.

The walls of the bunker should be 1.5 – 3 feet thick. You should add some water-resistant coating to prevent water and moisture from entering your bunker.

Make sure that you put only 7-10 feet of dirt on top of the bunker. This will allow you to dig and reach the top if an unforeseen situation occurs. 

Finishing Up Underground Survival Bunker

Now that we have built the bunker, we need to care for small things such as:


Concealing your bunker entry is every bit as important as constructing the bunker.

You don’t want a stranger to steal your survival cache. Therefore concealing should be done effectively.

You can conceal the entrance, air vents with undergrowth, dirt, and local plants.

If your bunker is below your house, you should make an underground tunnel/ hallway to your bunker. This will allow you to discreetly reach your bunker when shit hits the fan.

You can also build your bunker entrance inside an outhouse.

Stocking Up

Some essential and non-essential supplies should also be stocked up over time if you decide to live longer inside the bunker. They are:

  1. Medicine: Medicines are essential in your survival bunker. You need to stock a healthy dose of painkillers, cotton, bandages, antibacterial and antifungal ointments, etc. You never know when you will need them.
  2. Weapon And Ammunition: You should keep at least a gun and its cartridges ready for your self-defense (with a flashlight). But don’t trade the space for food, water, and supply for weapons and ammunition. You don’t need to make an armory out of your survival bunker.
  3. Radio And Communication Equipment: You should also have some sort of communication equipment, like a Ham Radio, if communication systems and satellites go out of order. This will help you to communicate with others if things go from bad to worse.
  4. Health And Entertainment: If your stay gets extended for a reason, you need some entertainment. You should keep some Books, TV, and some sort of storage device with your favorite playlist or movies to ride your time out.

You can also have a treadmill or an elliptical to exercise. This will help your body get some work in an otherwise sedentary stay in the bunker.

Is There An Easy Way To Build Survival Bunkers?

As we have established, an underground bunker is not something easy to build. It takes time, energy, and money.

If You don’t want to make the bunker yourself, you can buy one. There are bunker manufacturers who sell you ready-made bunkers but at inflated prices. A ready-made bunker can cost you anywhere between $10000 to $2 million. 

Luxury Bunkers

If you have lots of cash to burn, and you want your underground stay to be luxurious, you can buy nuclear missile silos converted into luxury bunkers. 

They will cost you above $250,000. 

You can get an idea of what’s inside a bunker by watching this YouTube Video.

Mid and Budget Range Bunkers

If you want your bunker to be on the lower side of the price spectrum, you can opt for smaller 150-250 square ft bunkers. 

They will cost $50,000 to $75,000. Although the cost does not include the installation and finishing charges. For that, you have to pay extra.

You may get even cheaper nuclear bunkers, but they will be smaller and will have even lower installation and finishing costs. 

Summing Up

Making an underground survival bunker is a costly and time-consuming process. It is not a cakewalk. It could be done, but with proper planning and forethought.

Preparation is better than survival, but we hope that you never get into a situation where you have to use the bunker.

You can also read our guide on how to build a survival shelter in wild.

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Article by:

Eric Birch

Eric Birch is a survival specialist trained in the U.S. military's Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) program. When he’s not ferociously learning new survival tactics, he enjoys the great outdoors, and/or cheering on one of his favorite sports teams.

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