Do Buried Shipping Containers Work Well as Bunkers? NO, and Here’s the Reason Why!

Initially using a shipping container as a shelter may seem like a great idea. After all, it's a very resourceful way to use something, re-purpose it, and use it for a SHTF situation.

Preppers are all for the idea of multi-purposing tools and ordinary everyday items and transforming them into whatever else they need them for.

However, you may want to think twice before turning a shipping container into a bunker for yourself and your family. Why?

It turns out a shipment container may not be as stable as you may think; it is not designed well for bunker purposes. There are other issues that you should be aware of prior to SHTF as well.

On the next page, check out the alarming reasons why a shipping container may not be the best idea for your bug out emergency home. 

We promise we're not overly skeptical — there are important things everyone should know!

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  1. Matthew Unger said:

    All great points. However, I have seen some examples where people have used these to build above-ground homes, or had only one side biuried.

  2. William Yzerman said:

    They are still extremely useful even if not as a below grade shelter. fewer than 40 of the larger units is all it would take to fully enclose a multi-acre compound behind an 8 foot tall steel wall as well as giving you a massive amount of storage space/ animal housing/ temporary group shelters. that is assuming that the funds are available for that sort of expense of course.

  3. John Sheean said:

    They’re easily reinforced and a few coats of a standard bathroom waterproof coating seals them well. No they are not ready to go bunkers

  4. James Allen said:

    If done properly they will not collapse if buried, I’ve seen it done and then park a full size simi on top of it ., The way they are the strongest is if they are turned upside down,

  5. Chris Brown said:

    Sounds like this was written by so.eone who owns a bunker building company.

  6. Stephen Carter said:

    I worked for a contractor and we used to do this for people. The only modification they needed (after removal of paint and wood) was shoring up inside with a better frame. It was literally just angle iron welded in the right spotsalong the corners with cross pieces and then usually both entrances welded shut. The amount of force they could take then was astronomical. So while this article has valid points of them not being user friendly out of the gate, it is wrong. For $1000 worth of welding, materials, and time, it became perfect (so approximately $4-6K). Where as a properly poured cement foundation and built or poured walls and roof would cost you a minimum of 12-20k.

  7. Will Maples said:

    If you are gonna built an easy bake oven might as well do it as cheap as possible

  8. Danny Hack said:

    If everyone could afford to hire an underground bunker contractor (as the article states) in sure they would but that’s just not financially feasible for a lot of the population. Most people have to use what they have access to and make that work to the best of their abilities.

  9. William Yzerman said:

    They may not function well underground (and I get the reasons why they wouldnt) but they are great when used above ground. a little ground preparation and you have instant warehousing or housing for large intakes of people into your survival compound. If you have enough of them, arranged end to end you can create an 8 foot wall around your compound that doubles as storage or even stables for livestock.

  10. Don McGee said:

    For the money, why not build a nice log cabin on your farm? You do have a farm, right? Those who plan to, you know, actually survive do.

  11. Michael Hoel said:

    They would work great if properly supported and designed. You can turn a shipping container into just about anything.

  12. Jason Cory Nizer said:

    Soft flexing sheet metal isn’t even remotely close to reinforced concrete. The only time a container is useful is as a quick short term option until better materials arrive.

  13. Jeanni Guise said:

    I liked this guy’s comment after the article.

    “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!!”

  14. Kurt Hash said:

    If you don’t mind me asking what is the ballpark figure for all of the supplies and materials you used/listed here? Block, container, the rhino lining, etc.

  15. Jason Cory Nizer said:

    You wouldn’t want to, the problem with the containers is that they use untreated materials to keep costs down. Most will fall apart in just a few years. Even with only the inside exposed to atmosphere they will degrade. Also if you have the concrete ready for use, then you’d be better off custom building your bunker to match your needs.

  16. Keiron Phillips said:

    They can be perfectly grand if converted properly, i.e. Put in upside down with internal bracing welded in etc

  17. Mike Lehman said:

    Some guy on another site is making in ground pools out of them

  18. David Trevillian said:

    Depending on the application, it’ll work just fine, there’s nothing “soft/ flexing” about these things they’re pretty durable given the zig zag pattern, just don’t expect to be able to drive a truck over the top of it.

  19. Tim Davis said:

    Maybe not as a bunker, worked a residential property building a house and in back he had buried 4, joined end to end on a mud slab (concrete slab) and made a shooting range. I’ll have to admit it was pretty kick a*s

  20. Dave Duty said:

    You NEVER bury a Sea container. Ive converted several for hunting lodges and such and there isnt the structural integrity to withstand the side force.

  21. Jeanni Guise said:

    I copied someone else’s comments, so I don’t know. I have seen used containers priced $4000- $7500. If you want new to make certain there aren’t​ bad chemicals used or want a little more height you could see about buying new from a place such as

    Considering how much it costs to get a truck bed sprayed with Rhino liner, that would be the most expensive material item. If a well is needed, expect it to take the largest portion of your budget.

  22. Royce Lee Colvard said:

    Most are sprayed with a coating and reinforced before they are dropped in the ground! Would work just fine for a short term shelter solution just apply a little common sense.

  23. Joseph Allen said:

    Hahahaha whoever wrote this article clearly knows very little about construction. I’ve worked on plenty of shipping containers…turning them into homes and bunkers. If you cut into the metal you have to reinforce it. Make simple brackets out of metal to reinforce the cut area. These containers are made to withstand hurricane weather. It’s a simple thing of knowing what your doing and how to do it. I bet the author of this article got paid by some bunker company to write this because people are using a shipping container that cost 5k to make their bunker instead of using an over priced premade bunker that cost close to 1mil.

  24. Royce Lee Colvard said:

    Just run for office and then you can build a nice underground house with Taxpayer money!

  25. Joseph Allen said:

    A few year? Yea okay. I’ve seen containers built back in 60s that are still in use. If you know what your doing containers are just as reliable as reinforced concrete. Paint tar over them before you bury them and they will be there long after your dead.

  26. Joseph Allen said:

    And as far as your “flexing” idea goes…I’ve never seen a container “flex”. Should probably do a wee bit of research before posting blatantly false information.

  27. Matt Powers said:

    They’re not engineered to take pressure from burial. If you reinforced them then yes, but stock, hell no!

  28. Matt Powers said:

    Hurricane weather isn’t the same as pressures exerted by being buried underground. You would have to reinforce every so many feet with an engineered structural plan.

  29. Charlie Thomas said:

    What a joke. Storage containers work find underground of course you have to change somethings. But after that it’s better than anything you can build with the exception of concrete.

  30. Grimaldo Julio said:

    Matt Powers hace you seen the cargo ships? The stack so many rows on top of a container, these things are very tough, but it wouldn’t hurt to reinforce them, I doubt that a few pounds of dirt would affect these containers

  31. Paul Sellars said:

    Go dig a hole, bury one, and see how long it takes for the top of that giant metal box to collapse from the weight of the soil covering it. These containers are designed to carry all of the weight on the steel pillars placed in the corners. There are also stack limits based on the strength rating of the container. Many of them are limited to two or three high because any more weight than that will cause the bottom container to fail and this is when they are empty, not loaded.

  32. Paul Sellars said:

    Covered with dirt they become coffins. These are not meant to be buried without serious reinforcement of the top and sides. They will not withstand the weight of the soil. As little as twelve inches of soil can collapse the top.

  33. Craig Hughes said:

    Wonder how much the author got paid by a bug out purveyor to write this. Shipping containers work great especially with a nice fresh coating on the exterior.

  34. Paul Sellars said:

    These containers are designed to take all of the weight on the corners that are reinforced with steel pillars when they are manufactured. There are no other internal supports whatsoever. If you were to bury one of these, it would not withstand the weight of the soil on its top. They will collapse with as little as twelve inches of soil placed on them.

  35. David Trevillian said:

    Anything will break of you have enough force… or have you forgotten what 2 aluminum aircraft did to concrete and steel? That’s why I said it depends on the application.