How to Build a Backyard Bunker to Safeguard Your Family

Bill Taylor
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Step 1: Contact Your City About the Necessary Permits

Before you go and build a backyard bunker, you’re going to need to know what the zoning laws are where you live. Many cities have very strict codes about styles of construction, and you might need to get a variance before building the bunker. Each city has different zoning codes, and it’s your responsibility to make sure the backyard bunker you want to build fits within those codes.

Hire an Attorney

If you find out that your city has very strict rules about building underground structures, it’s your responsibility to contact an attorney to find out whether you are in compliance and if there’s any way for you to get a variance from the city. An attorney will be familiar with these types of codes, since they represent cities and will know what steps to take in order to make sure that your bunker is built according to the city’s standards.

Step 2: Choose a Site

Step 2: Choose a Site for Your Bunker

Your backyard bunker is going to be your family's safe house during a crisis, so it needs to be fully functional. This means it should be located in a sheltered location, away from prying eyes and critical dangers.

The first questions to ask are whether there is a nice covered porch overhang or another good covered spot that will provide protection from sun, rain, and snow, and can be easily accessed?

One of the best locations is in the back corner of the home, near the main entrance door.

The second step is to scout out the outside of the home for critical danger areas. Ideally, if possible, locate the bunker so that no one can see inside.

If you have a fire pit, you may be able to place it behind the fire pit. If you have a swimming pool, locate it near the pool to give yourself increased protection from intruders who might target your home.

If you cannot find a good location, consider removing part of the wall to the left of the main entrance to allow you to enter the bunker. This way, someone could have to enter the house to actually find the hidden room, although if you don't plan to escape from the house, this may not be critical.

Step 3: Make a Plan

The next step is to flesh out the details of the bunker. You'll need to ask yourself a series of questions in order to get to this point, such as the following:

What Does Your Family Need to Be Safe?

There is a peculiar thing about the human mind: we think that things are more important and vital than they really are. For instance, you may think that if you continue to eat the same way you've been eating, then you will continue to have the same ailments. The health habits of your family now are the habits they will keep in a SHTF scenario.

Another thing you might think is critical is guns and ammo. Really, though, if what your family needs is clean water, food, and a safe place to sleep, then those things are of greater value to you than an armory's worth of weapons. It sounds harsh to put the weapons aside, but they are not actually important to your family. If the SHTF and you and your family are starving to death, you're not going to have the time or energy to target practice, or the ability to kill game anyway.

Step 4: Dig the Hole

If you are burying a cement bunker, dig a deep hole in the shape of a square or rectangle, slightly smaller than the shape of the bunker. The bunker should be able to fit in with space at the top and to the sides for a cement ring to go. If you are burying a metal bunker, dig a hole in the shape of a triangle, slanted sides and a point at the bottom. Place a sheath of plastic, a sheet of plywood, or a layer of plastic between the hole and the hole liner to help keep water out. If you are burying a wooden bunker, dig the hole deep and wide enough for the top shelf to be level with the ground. Place a sheath of plastic, or a sheet of plywood, under the bunker to help keep water out.

Once you have dug your hole, backfill the hole and build the shelter above ground. You can use the same guidelines used to follow above, only you will need to confirm that the bunker is sturdy enough to support the soil above it as well as your bunker!

Step 5: Put in Footers

After you've finished marking your footers and stations where your foundation will be built, you can start digging. If you need to dig a trench, simply start digging about two feet deep a four to five feet out. You can begin by making a two-foot deep trench just in case something needs to be located underneath. Dig out the bottom of the trench to make it two feet deep and four feet wide. Put gravel between the bottom of the trench and the ground for drainage.

To ensure your shelter is as reinforced as possible, make sure you dig your footers and columns with reinforced and treated lumber.

If you are planning on adding an extra bunker, you can wait to dig the northern footer and column until next year. As you can tell, a bunker can be built in stages, as needs arise or funds allow. All you need to do is to revisit your design and make any changes necessary.

For example, your family may grow by one or two people due to relationship–or you may have one less person to take into account. Plan ahead and build with enough space to accomodate these changes. As you finish the bunker and grow your family, you can add on as you see fit. Making everything fit and look uniform is crucial to your families continued peace of mind.

Step 6: Build the Walls

The walls will be comprised of 6’x6’ pressure-treated wood. I used pre-cut wood for ease, but sometimes it’s cheaper to buy a whole 4’x8’ sheet and cut it into 4’x4’ by 6’ pieces. Have a friend hold up one of the 4’x4’ while you mark a 6’x6’ square on the wood.

Mark and cut 4 pieces of wood (2 of the 4’x4’ and 2 of the 4’x6’). Repeat this until you have 8 pieces of wood for the walls.

Keep two pieces of 2’x6’ wood for the door frame on the back wall and two pieces left over for the door frame on the front wall.

The pieces for the walls will be placed on the door frame at a distance of 12’ apart and pointing out from the center in 6’ increments.

Step 7: Leave Room for Ventilation

Dust, smoke and the resulting fumes can be trapped by walls, requiring only a small flaw in your safety system for everything to go wrong. If possible, you need to leave room for a ventilation system to vent off gases and help clear chemicals from the air.

You’ll need an outside wall to a building or a concrete foundation for a ventilation system. If both are unavailable, consider adding in a ventilation system.

If you think you might need your bunker to shelter you for a long period of time, you should consider getting a gas mask, which can filter out particles. Remember that these masks won’t protect your lungs from gases.

The rudimentary systems you’ll find on this website are sufficient for short-term emergencies. For use in longer-term crises, you’ll need to do more research on gas masks and ventilation systems.

Step 8: Add a Floor

In this step, you will be adding a floor frame. The frame is built with 4x4x10 and 4x4x8s for the support beams and the 12 ply 3/4" plywood subfloor. It is held in place using 3-1/2" screws.

Using the 4x4x10 and 4 x4x8s as a frame, place the plywood on top and use the 3-1/2" screws to secure it. This is very important because it will help to strengthen the bunker.

Make sure to have the frame on the inside of the plywood so that you don't see the frame once it is completed.

Step 9: Install a Door

There are two doors for the first shelter. Drill holes 3/4" from the top and the bottom, and 7/8" from the left and the right sides, and then drive the bolts from the bunker's interior. Simultaneously, tighten the nuts. This is the ideal way to square the rectangular shelter. Before placing the second door, screw it to the hinges. Put the door in place by drilling pilot holes and then fasten it with a nut and a bolt. You will need a door stopper and a door latch to finish the project.

Use a solid wood in order to make a sturdy door. Drill pilot holes for the hinge and place the gasket. Cover the door with a good waterproof primer and cover it again with a high-quality latex paint. You may also use an oil-based paint to avoid rain seepage in the interior.

The shelter is a great addition to the first shack. It will help you protect your family from attacks of the undead and other crisis situations. Also, think about reinforcing the roof and using thinner steel sheets. This small but important step will save you time, energy and money in the long run.

Step 10: Add a Roof

Once you have built the walls, it's time to create the roof. You can use standard plywood for the roof, but because a bunker is relatively small, and you will be transporting it home in sections, you may decide to forgo the plywood entirely. Instead, use a bunker tarp, which resembles a sturdy canvas, and last much longer than plywood.

The roof is a simple structure … to construct, just make a rectangle, and join the sides to the four corners of the bunker. Use wood struts to join the beams.

Step 11: Sod the Roof

Once you have finished the framing and shingling, you can begin putting down the sod. This will happen the same time you add the doorways and window frames. These items will be covered with wooden pieces just to help speed up the process. However, you are going to want to have your sod leveled as you lay it down. This will be a little more tricky to do now, instead of waiting to do it later.

Laying the sod can be done in different ways, but the most common is to roll the sod sheets out along with an under-layer of plastic. Make sure you have the plastic layer in place, then roll the sod on it. By rolling, you will be able to keep the sod in place while you lay it down. After you have done this to the entire area, you will need to break away the seams. You can do this by simply rolling a hoe blade over the seams to break them up.

Another way to lay the sod down is to use sod staples. You can use these to hold the pieces of sod together. Since you will be working with a wooden structure, you will not be able to bury the rods far enough into them to make them work. You will lay down a plastic under-layer and then lay down the pieces of sod. Place a staple in the middle of the seam of every piece of sod. This will hold the sod together as it dries.

Step 12: Stock Your Bunker

Stock your bunker with all the items that you don't want your family using and keep outside. These can include household cleaners, insecticides, and poisons, all of which can be toxic not only to your children, but also to you as owner of your home.

Your bunker may not be well-protected against attacks of any kind and it may not have a lavatory facility. Be prepared for that. The whole idea of a bunker is to provide temporary safety during an emergency, not a luxurious retreat.

Final Thoughts

You must be aware of the dangers and threats lurking in your local community or state even if everyone around you is ignorant of its existence. There is much you can learn from the competition, and it is easy to obtain information and your plans can be as sophisticated as a multi-level complex or as simple as a hole in the ground. A bunker may not be possible to build in certain areas of your town, especially the high-population density areas. It is much easier to build it in remote locations where you would be able to operate undetected for a much longer period of time.

Your prepping and survival mindset should not be working against you at this crucial time. You must have some type of bunker construction in order to stay hidden and to keep yourself as well as those who are with you, safe. Do not waste your time or resources any longer being a victim throughout the duration of a crisis. You can do something now that will contribute to your entire well-being! Don’t you want to be safe in the eyes of your relatives, friends and neighbors? Just as importantly, don’t you want to be assured of your survival!