Are Buried Shipping Containers a Good Idea for a Bunker? NO, and Here is Why!

It is almost impossible to visit a survival or preparation oriented website and not see either an article or advertisement for using shipping containers as underground bunkers.

They always look amazing – finished floors, a happy family inside, clean with more than ample supplies to last a veritable lifetime; some even have their own air circulation systems so you can control the climate.

That is great if you live in a fantasy where actual life rarely interrupts your fanciful bliss!

If, however, you reside on planet earth with the rest of us, you may want to view the articles and advertisements with a bit of skepticism.

The simplest reason is that shipping containers are simply not meant to have tons of dirt heaped on them and have pressure exerted on them from all sides.

But there are a few other reasons you may want to curb your enthusiasm and on the next page, we cover them.

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  1. Wayne Downey said:

    One must remember that this article was written by someone that has no clue what structural engineers are and also never met a construction contractor. I just happen to be both and I used three shipping containers to build my bug out bunker 6 years ago and after last months inspection it looks as good as the day I built it.

    “IF” you want to use a container, several thinks must take place to be safe and have them work to your advantage. Site prep means everything in a project such as this. The details are important but for the purpose of informing people, I will just gloss over a few things that make the most difference.

    First item in site prep is not just location, but the ability to camouflage and conceal. Yes, you want the bunker 100% under ground, with at least a 6 foot top layer when possible. That being said here comes the important stuff. You really need to keep the container from touching the earth elements. REALLY! You do! If you don’t, it will just speed up the rusting process and eventual failure. A concrete floor is a good start. Then block walls filled with cement is preferred. (This is to not only keep dirt from coming in direct contact, but also to eliminate side loading of the walls). So now is the time for the critical thinking part. How much room do I need between the block walls and the container? Think air filtration system, Electric source, water storage, other storage that may not need to be inside of the container. Once you have that in mind, put up the block walls and fill with cement to the top. Just the air space alone will help add a thermal layer of insulation for climate control.

    Before inserting the container, (This was my biggest impact on the whole system), Spray everything, block walls and container, with a truck bed liner. Rhino Liner is a great one. It will not only protect your container from the elements but will make everything bomb proof! Yes, it will actually be bomb proof. A test was done using 1 LB block of C-4 set 1 foot away from a hollow block wall. Of course it blew the wall to kingdom come. Same test but sprayed the wall with Rhino Liner. Not a scratch! So spray everything with it. It is well worth the cost!! Building a fiberglass entry seemed the best way for my situation to built the entry way. The elements will not be as effected as steal would be or wood for that matter.

    As I said, 6 years later and it looks a good as it did on day 1. Remember, when it comes to preparing for your future, never listen to someone that has no clue what they are talking about!!

  2. Michael Taylor said:

    Ohhh…. This whole article is a Ad for the contractor who builds bunkers…… I

  3. Scott Brown said:

    If you’re going to encase it in concrete and blocks why bother with the container?

  4. Scott Brown said:

    If you’re going to encase it in concrete and blocks why bother with the container?

  5. Wayne Downey said:

    Several reasons. The container acts as a third layer of protection from intruders, it acts as your living quarters where the block and air space out side act as the insulating layers. Less cost of heat and air conditioning, less demand on your limited electrical system ! Less overall cost of construction. While adding the block is a cost factor, doubling it is even that much more. The containers are 1/8th the cost of the block and concrete. But then you would have already known this had you read what I posted!

  6. Keith Scottsman said:

    Except you don’t know much about thermodynamics. Airspace only acts as an insulator if the space is void of air. Air is an excellent conductor of heat and cold. To say the space is good for insulation is asinine. Additionally, you should apply some critical thinking skills to the article. It’s obvious this was geared for the$#%&!@*hats who buy a container and drop it in a hole, cover it up, and call it a day.

  7. Sam Register said:

    No they r not they were built to b put on ship’s & not opened until destination& usually a ship will lose 14-28 transit so they r not meant for survival bunkers

  8. Peter Wilhelm said:

    used to build both these and drill mud tankers good one are 1/4 inch mild steel so are drill mud tanks anyone with even farm hand welding skills would be able to reinforce one to do the job which you would have to do anyway i.e. water, sewage, air flow ,multiple ingress, egress, etc.

  9. Kenny L. Cobb Jr. said:

    Stupid. Someone is trying to make you spend thousands of dollars on traditional construction to which in some States requires Union Workers at a higher rate of pay and that’s more your hard earned money out of your pocket. You can make a shipping container work folks, it just like a Military Conex. Iraqis drive over hundreds in the desert and don’t even know it. I guess Conexes are now dangerous too. LOL!

  10. Gary Ford said:

    They work fine.
    I’m guessing the writer of this article is trying to sell some sophisticated,outrageously priced bunker to preppers

  11. Ron Sharp said:

    They work fine with simple wooden bulkheads installed on the inside. The military uses them for bunkers all the time. They turn them upside down in desert climates where moisture isn’t an issue since the floor is many times stronger than the roof.

  12. Dave Sabelfeldt said:

    Only if they are greatly reinforced. The span of the floors are designed to carry weight but not the span of the walls and top…only the floor and corners are load bearing!

  13. Doug Las said:

    I watched one dropped from over 100 foot at the shipyard, once. Probably closer to 150 feet since it was nearly to ship level when the crane lost it. The only damage was a slight bowing of the sides. If it can take that, I’m pretty sure its as strong as a thin walled underground gas tank and they hold up fine when buried

  14. Robert Dettrey said:

    If a steel container is properly coated it cam withstand decades under ground

  15. Nick Perri said:

    Dan Maas this is why I said, burying these underground is bad, the word trapped like a rat has a whole new meaning.

  16. Ed Horton said:

    Shipping containers are designed for pressure to be applied from the top down from stacking not side load. You start backfilling a hole with one in it and the sides will cave in.

  17. James Allen said:

    I have done some research on using them, and the best way to use them is to turn it upside down, because the floor is designed to hold the weight you put inside, you have to weld steel on the bottom to seal it but the one I seen done he could drive a semi on it , and a steel I beam down the side would reinforce it just fine , the down force strength is in the corner posts because of stacking , so it takes a little work but can be done

  18. George Eccleston said:

    This article is absolute bullshit. These containers are designed to withstand heavy pressure. They stack them 11 high on a container ship. Each one of those containers is about 80,000 pounds each. So about 6 feet or 10 feet of dirt isn’t going to hurt these one bit. They are built to withstand pressure. Whoever wrote this article to get his facts straight

  19. Brian Kirchman said:

    U only have to know the load structure
    And reinforce accordingly
    They make great bunkers

  20. Bill Smith said:

    You have to build an exoskeleton to strengthen the lateral force. Or modify your hole accordingly

  21. Stephen Carter said:

    I worked for a contractor while in college and we buried these all the time. The contractor was also a structural engineer. Yes they are built for downward forces but all that needs done is some fairly inexpensive welding and shoring up on the inside. Yes it kind of gives it a skeleton I side but it is one that is a basic box structure. Furthermore they need waterproofed as well depending on how you plan to access it once it is in the ground. They may not be made for that but they do work for it quite well with a little prep work.

  22. Carl Roark said:

    Well another stupid article/ Ad. I have never seen anyone bury a container without shoring up the sides and roof and also water proofing it. Really who would throw just a container in the ground.

  23. Trent Long said:

    Indescribably bag info Stephen. There are many types of shipping containers, and only two of them can handle only having a skeletal infrastructure.

    ..and I’ve seen three examples of those where the sides caved in all the way to the skeleton.

  24. Trent Long said:

    The really real point is.. by the time you do all of that shoring up, step back and ask yourself what the point was of sticking a shipping container in the middle of a perfectly good self contained underground facility. 😉

  25. Trent Long said:

    The really real point is.. by the time you do all of that shoring up, step back and ask yourself what the point was of sticking a shipping container in the middle of a perfectly good self contained underground facility. 😉

  26. Stephen Carter said:

    Benny clearly they were fabricated properly or retro crick Benny clearly they were fabricated properly or retrofitted properly

  27. Stephen Carter said:

    Considering most shipping containers are made exactly the same way, then the ones you saw cave in were not properly retrofitted with an internal skeleton… I know whether that is due to bad welding and bad steel or poor design call Mark is not something I’m going to comment on… But I have literally seen dozens buried and they are all still fully functional. Clearly the ones you saw, someone did not know what they were doing