Should You Construct A Shipping Container Bunker?

Shipping Container Bunker - is it worth it?

In the event of an emergency, your best bet is to head underground for safety.

That’s where a shipping container bunker can come to the rescue and give you a DIY solution for removing yourself from a dangerous situation.

What’s a shipping container bunker, exactly? A shipping container bunker is basically a shipping container that’s used as a survival shelter. It gets buried underground.

But, how would you set it up? And is it a good idea to bury a shipping container? Let’s find out!

Shipping Container Bunker: What Are Its Pros And Cons? 

shipping container pros and cons

Let’s check out the pros and cons of using a shipping container as a bunker.


  • It’s safe and solid. A shipping container is usually made of steel. It’s strong and durable, while being locked for the ultimate safety. However, you can also find shipping containers that are made of other materials, such as aluminum or fiber-reinforced polymer. Sometimes the containers are made out of a blend of materials.
  • It’s (almost) airtight. There are many threats that can occur during a threat or crisis, such as gas and chemical contamination of the outside air. If you need to shelter in place, you’ll want to be in a secure construction that doesn’t let much air inside it.
  • It can be invisible. You can make your shipping container invisible by burying it underground, but you will have to consider how you will access it. Or, you can build it into the landscape, which gives you many ways to hide it from view.


  • It’s expensive. Shipping containers are not cheap. You will have to pay a few thousand dollars for them, and you’ll also have to factor in extra money for a foundation that will ensure the shipping container is secure. There are many other costs you will have to consider – we will explore these later in this article.
  • It has an external lock. The problem with a shipping container door is that it has an external lock. You will have to adjust it, such as with a second door, to bypass this problem. A bunker is not safe enough if you can’t open, close, and lock it from the inside.
  • It requires a foundation. While you might think a foundation isn’t essential for your shipping container bunker, that’s faulty thinking. Lots of things, such as strong winds and moving water, can shift the ground and make the shipping container unstable. 

So, Can You Use A Shipping Container As A Bunker?


As we’ve seen from our pros and cons, there are many important things to bear in mind before you go ahead and purchase a shipping container to use as a bunker.

Bunkers can be buried deep in the ground – up to six feet deep – and that means they’re covered by lots of dirt. When the ground and dirt become wet, this adds to the weight that’s put on the bunker.

The problem with shipping containers is that, although they are durable and strong, they were not designed to be buried. They are simply not hefty enough to deal with the pressure of all that dirt pressing on them. This heavy weight can cause the shipping container to cave in a bit, and can lead to water, pests, and dirt finding their way into the bunker.

Does this mean you can’t use a shipping container as a bunker?

No – it means that you need to reinforce the shipping container. You also need to consider other construction and safety concerns so that it’s strong, durable, and safe. 

Essentials For Constructing A Shipping Container Bunker

how to bury shipping container
  1. You must hire a structural engineer. While this might seem OTT, it’s not something you should try to avoid. You want to ensure that the project is safe and will be durable enough to last for many years.
  2. You must make the container rust-proof. The container might start to rust and corrode over time. To prevent this, you must cover the container’s exterior with asphalt or tar.
  3. You should consider gabion baskets. These are steel cages that are filled with rocks to provide support to the landscape and they’re also used for road building purposes. They can be used to bury your shipping container. The cages will create a barrier between the sides of the container and any backfill. They will also help to hold more of the weight underground. 
  4. You need to factor in your entry and exit points. Setting your shipping container into the hillside might allow you to use its original doors, but this obviously won’t work if you want to bury the container underground. Again, this is where an engineer will come in handy! 
  5. You need to reinforce the sides of the container. You can do this with steel poles, concrete blocks, and concrete around the sides of the container.
  6. You also need to reinforce the roof. This should be done with rebar (rods in concrete) as well as a few inches of concrete that’s placed on top of it. Then, you can put topsoil on top of the concrete. You can also plant grass in the soil to hide the shelter and make it look like part of the landscape.
  7. You need to ventilate the container. You don’t want your shipping container bunker to become a death trap. You need to install a ventilator or air vents to get air moving through the bunker. Don’t forget about piping for your water and power, which can be connected to your underground storage tanks. The plumbing will need to be connected to an external septic tank and plumbing. 
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How To Bury A Shipping Container

You will need to dig a large hole to accommodate the container. It’s essential to leave about four feet on either side of the shipping container – this includes the front and back.

So, it’s a really large hole. When it comes to the depth you’ll need, this depends on how much of the container you want to leave above the ground surface. 

Don’t just put the shipping container into the hole that’s been made. You need to ensure that it is placed on a concrete foundation so that the container won’t dig into and sink into the ground.

Once you’ve got the large hole and foundation, you will need a crane to lift the container off the ground and place it into the hole. This is essential, especially if you consider how much shipping containers weigh. A typical 20-foot shipping container that’s empty will weigh around 1.8 to 2.2 metric tonnes. That’s approximately 3,900 to 4,800 pounds!

Do You Need Permission For Burying A Shipping Container? 

burying shipping container

If you’re just placing the shipping container on the ground and you’re not digging into the ground, you won’t need supports for the container

This means you might not need to get permission from your local government to have the container on your property. Burying a shipping container will result in lots of digging and required reinforcements, so you will need to check with them.

In addition, some local governments state that making any changes to a home made out of a shipping container will require an engineer to oversee the work.

Since you intend on burying the home (or bunker) into the ground, you’ll definitely need to hire an engineer to ensure that it’s done properly. We really can’t stress that enough. 

Related Questions 

Can you buy a used shipping container?

If you’re interested in purchasing a shipping container to use as a bunker, make sure you buy one that’s in excellent condition. If the shipping container has been used a lot, it will have experienced some wear and tear. This will make it unsafe. 

Are shipping containers dangerous? 

Another good reason to look for new containers instead of used ones is that approximately 20 percent of shipping containers have concentrations of gases in them that are not within the occupational hygiene limits, therefore making them toxic. 


If you want to have a safe and secure bunker on your property, you might be intrigued by the idea of using a shipping container as a bunker.

Is this a good idea? In this article, we’ve looked at shipping container bunkers from all sides, providing you with information you need to make an informed decision. 

While you can use a shipping container as a safe and sealed shelter above ground, it’s not always practical to use it as a bunker. Not only are there many things to consider, but it can be a very expensive DIY project.


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