Burying a Shipping Container for a Bunker

Sharing is caring!

In times of political unrest and the threat of a nuclear bomb being dropped in your neighborhood, the thought of building a bunker for yourself is actually a smart one. To go about building a livable survival bunker, many people simply choose to bury a shipping container. This is not only extremely inexpensive but it is also super simple.

However, simple doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the safest thing to do. In this article, we’ll explore why burying a shipping container is a bad idea. But first, let’s talk about what’s it’s like to live in a shipping container bunker.

Let’s Explore Bunker Living

Living in a bunker isn’t just as simple as burying a bunker underground and living there. There’s a lot of prep that goes into it. You need to take into account your family dynamics, how you will get the supplies that you need to live there, your mental health, and your own well being.

Along with this, you need to think of all the possible worst-case scenarios before you decide to live in an underground bunker. What if the roof caves in? What if there’s an underground water leak and the water starts to fill the bunker? What if the only bunker exit gets caved in? These are all questions that you have to ask before you build a survival bunker for you and your family.

Shipping containers used for export purposes

Why People Consider Underground Bunkers for Survival Situations

The main reason why people consider underground bunkers for survival situations is that the underground is likely going to be the safest place in the event of a major catastrophe. If they have to hide in a place where they really don’t want anyone to find them, going underground is the best way to do so. Also, the amount of earth between you and the surface acts as a layer of protection from whatever is happening above you.

Why Burying a Shipping Container Bunker Underground Isn’t a Good Idea

Now, let’s talk about why burying a shipping container is a bad idea. If you’ve seen that episode where the Mythbusters bury a shipping container, you’ll know why doing so is a bad idea. For starters, shipping containers were not designed to be survival bunkers. They weren’t certainly made to be buried in the ground. You might think that shipping containers are super strong, and they are, but only in ideal circumstances.

The accordion design of shipping containers makes them really sturdy when the weight is pushing down on the base of the container (as is the case when they’re being used to transport cargo). However, burying a shipping container means that force will be applied to the container at all the wrong angles.

What really happens when you bury a shipping container?

Because of the way shipping containers are designed, if you don’t take the correct precautions and reinforce the shipping container, it will cush when buried. A shipping container will cave in with as little as 18 inches of dirt above it.

Let’s face it, 18 inches is not very much dirt. Shipping containers were made with sturdy corners but the actual surface wasn’t made to support any weight. Think of the shipping container as a soda can. A can of soda can support quite a bit of weight, but if the sides buckle slightly, they get crushed really easy.

So What Can You Do If You Find an Old Shipping Container?

So if you’re set on using a shipping container as a survival bunker, there are some things you can do to make it safer for you and your family. You will want to keep in mind that burying a shipping container can be quite dangerous. So you will want to make sure you take the correct precautions.

Start by making sure you get a decent one to start with. The newer the better. These shipping containers travel back and forth a ton of time on ships with cargo. This causes them to start wearing and eventually they will start to get holes in them. Holes in shipping containers can turn out to be catastrophic in the long run.

How to Reinforce a Shipping Container

The first thing you can do to reinforce your shipping container is to reinforce the roof. Weld strong steel bars to the roof of the container and cover it with concrete. This will provide a level of structural strength and will stop the roof from caving in under the weight of the dirt above it.

Another thing you can do is start by burying the shipping container upside down. The reason for this is that the floor is thicker than the roof so it will help to deal with some of the weight.

You will still want to make sure that you reinforce the roof with steel bars even if you bury it upside down. This will help you have the most protection.

The next thing you will want to do is make sure you reinforce the sides. Like the top, the sides of a shipping container are not very strong and will need to be reinforced with steel bars.

Things to Remember

If you’re using the shipping container as an underground storage container, you need to make sure that it’s EMP proof. You can do this by properly grounding the container and then placing mats or rugs on the floor to reduce the chances of your electronics being affected by the EMP blast.

Most shipping containers are made from corten steel. Corten steel (also known as “weathering steel”) is a strong steel alloy that is extremely rust-resistant. If the paint on a container (which is also rust-resistant) is damaged the exposed area will develop a thick oxide film that will prevent it from rusting any further.


Building a shipping container bunker is not as simple as looking up “how to build a storm shelter out of a shipping container” on the internet. The structural integrity of the container needs to be taken into consideration before you bury it in the earth. Even after reinforcing it, it’s still possible for the roof to cave in due to the shifting of the soil around it. However, if you’re intent on burying a shipping container to use it as a survival bunker, the best thing to do is to reinforce it in the way that’s been mentioned in this article.

Other Posts you may be interested in:
Dollar Tree Bug Out Bag List

How to Bury a Shipping Container Pinterest Pin


Shanna is the 2nd half of Top Outdoor Survival. Like Forest, she has a passion for guns and knives. They love to go on a survival trip at least once a year. They love to go camping, hiking, and traveling.

Recent Posts