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How Much Does a Survival Bunker Cost? Build vs. Buy

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These days, it’s hard not to worry about protecting your family from catastrophic events. From record-breaking natural disasters to the possible threat of war, there are many scenarios that we should prepare for. When it comes to building a survival bunker, what are the most cost-effective ways of getting it done?

Depending on size and specifications, building a survival bunker for your home will cost between $39,000 and $65,000. A custom-built bunker can go for as much as $4.5 million. Whether you should build a custom bunker or order a prefabricated bunker depends on your budget.

In most cases, ordering a prefabricated bunker and DIYing the installation process will be the most cost-effective option. If you don’t have experience with construction, you may want to hire professionals to install your bunker kit to keep the costs down. Read on to learn more about the cost of installing a survival bunker in your home.

How Much Does It Cost To Build a Survival Bunker?

To build a survival bunker, it might cost as little as $39,000 and as much as $65,000. The price depends on the size and how deep underground the bunker is. Prefab bunker kits cost as little as $20,000 plus shipping and installation, making these the most affordable option for smart preppers.

Survival bunkers have become more and more popular since the Covid-19 pandemic began. 

Bunker manufacturers have seen a surge in people who want to be prepared to protect themselves and their families if a pandemic or another catastrophic event becomes an extinction-level catastrophe.

This has led to survival condos, which are luxurious underground bunkers equipped with pools, fake windows, gyms, and even spas. A luxury survival condo can easily cost $3 million, and a survival penthouse can go for $4.5 million.

Luckily for you, there are significantly more affordable ways to guarantee your and your family’s safety in the event of a nuclear explosion or a natural disaster.

Custom Bunker

Building a custom bunker from scratch will cost you around $60,000. The costs here are highly variable as a lot will depend on construction costs in your area. For reference, a storm shelter can cost between $2,565 and $10,240 on average. Check out how much it would cost in your zip code to get a reference.

When building from scratch, you need to consider the following costs:

  • Hiring an architect to design your bunker.
  • Procure all the necessary permits from your city government.
  • Building materials, such as concrete, metal, and bricks. 
  • Excavation equipment rentals.
  • Living materials such as filter and ventilation, electricity generator, water filter, and a waste removal system. 
  • Labor costs.
  • Provisions to last you for at least two weeks

These costs can add up pretty quickly, especially if you live in an area where construction costs are high. 

Prefabricated Bunker

Prefabricated bunkers are the most cost-effective alternatives to building a custom bunker. Although you will still need professionals to handle the excavation and construction of the bunker, getting a kit will save you a good chunk of time and money.

The cheapest survival bunker kits will go for as low as $20,000 plus shipping. These will come with the bare essentials for quickly getting your bunker up and running. 

Do not expect a fancy toilet or even a kitchen. 

High-end bunker kits will go for as little as $250,000 and may include a kitchen, a full bathroom, indoor aquaponics gardens, living and recreational rooms, and more. Although $250,000 may seem like a high price, getting a prefab luxury bunker kit is still significantly lower than buying a $1.5 million survival condo.

Can You DIY a Survival Bunker?

Family in home basement bunker or survival shelter safe room food supplies

If you have experience in construction, you can DIY a survival bunker. Depending on your skills, you may DIY the excavation, construction, mechanical systems, and finish work of your bunker.

Building a bunker is just as complicated as building a house, so if you wouldn’t be comfortable building your own house, we do not recommend that you attempt to build your own survival bunker. 

If you build an extended stay bunker, you will want to install plumbing and electricity. You should not try to do these on your own unless you have professional experience installing such systems. 

A happy medium is to order a survival bunker kit online and handle the installation yourself. You will have to be comfortable with the excavation process, pouring concrete for the floor, walls, and roof, and assembling your kit. 

Ordering a prefab kit will save you a lot of time and money while reducing the risks of messing up your bunker during construction. 

What Is the Cheapest Way To Build a Survival Doomsday Bunker?

The cheapest way to get a survival bunker is to plan the bunker into a new home build design, dig your bunker directly into a hill, or dig a sea shipping container underground. Cost is not necessarily correlated with quality when it comes to survival bunkers.

Here are some ways to lower the cost of your brand-new survival doomsday bunker.

Plan Your Bunker With Your New Home

If you’re thinking about building a new home, you should work the bunker into your plans. That way, you won’t have to worry about getting too many additional permits, as you can just include the bunker with the rest of your paperwork. 

You can also save a lot of time and money by already having the construction crew there. 

They can plan for the construction of your bunker along with the construction of your home. This can save money on materials, machinery, and labor. 

Dig Your Bunker Into a Nearby Hill

If you’re not thinking about building a new home, you might be able to use a nearby hill. If you’re lucky enough to have a hill on your property, then this could be a no-brainer solution for you. 

Remember that the most important part of building a safe bunker is putting as much mass between your bunker and the surface as possible. Digging a bunker underground means that the deeper you go, the safer you are. 

However, building a bunker into a hill can be a great way to take advantage of your natural environment. By building directly into a hill, you will be placing the hill’s above-ground mass between your bunker and the blast zone. 

This can help you save time and money by not digging deep underground.

Camouflaged bunker in the forest
Partially underground is a solid option.

Dig a Shipping Container Underground

Digging a shipping container underground can be a good way to get a cheap bunker quickly. 

However, you will need to strongly reinforce the walls and roof to prevent them from caving in due to the constant pressure from the ground. 

If properly reinforced, a used shipping container could be a good way to save some money on your survival bunker. Watch the following YouTube video for more information on reinforcing a shipping container to be buried underground:

Can You Build a Bunker in Your Backyard?

You can build a bunker in your backyard. In fact, your backyard may be the most convenient place for you to build it. Since you’re going to have to build your bunker at least 3’ (0.91m) underground, your backyard may be the best place to dig. 

Keep in mind that survival bunkers need to have a lot of mass between them and the surface. The denser the mass, the better, which means that you will likely have to pour reinforced concrete between your bunker and the surface.

If reinforced concrete is not an option, then compacted soil will also work. You can compact dirt pretty easily with a compactor machine. Watch the following YouTube video for more information on compacting dirt:

Do You Need a Permit To Build an Underground Bunker?

You need a permit to build an underground bunker, even if it’s wholly within your property. Go to your local building department to inquire about which permits you will need to get before you can begin construction. 

The types of permits you will need depend heavily on your location. In general, you will likely need most or all of the following permits:

  • Grading permits for the bunker’s excavation.
  • Building permits for the construction itself.
  • Discretionary permits in case your bunker affects the surrounding area.
  • Plumbing permits if you’re installing plumbing in your bunker.
  • Electrical permits if you’re installing electrical wiring in your bunker.

This is another area where hiring a contractor to build your bunker can save you plenty of time. 

Not only are you probably unfamiliar with which permits you will need, but you are also inexperienced in filling out the required forms and submitting all the necessary documents. Even a simple mistake could delay your permits for weeks or even months. 

Hiring a contractor will ensure that all your permits are obtained swiftly. Make sure you hire someone who has experience building bunkers in your area and knows how to get all the necessary paperwork in order.

3D rendering of a section of a bunker showing the interior

Are There Underground Bunker Kits?

There are underground bunker kits from many different companies online that you can buy. Prices for bunker kits start at $20,000 plus shipping, which can add $5,000 to $10,000 to the cost depending on your location. 

Most underground bunker kits include everything you will need to build your survival bunker, like:

  • Steel trusses for construction.
  • A blast hatch for bunker entry/exit.
  • An air filtration system.
  • Ventilation pipes.

Keep in mind that you will likely need to hire professionals to handle the excavation and pour all the concrete for the floors, walls, and roof. If you’re looking for an extended stay bunker, you will also want to install plumbing and electricity, which should always be handled by professionals.

How Deep Does a Bunker Have To Be To Survive a Nuke?

Your bunker should be at least 3’ (0.91 m) deep underground to survive a nuclear blast. How strong the bomb is and how far away from you it detonates will also significantly impact whether 3’ (0.91 m) will be enough to keep your bunker safe.

A bunker this far underground should provide enough protection for civilians, as the bomb will likely not target your house specifically. If you believe that your home is more likely to be near a detonation site, then you should build your bunker as much as 15’ (4.57 m) underground to increase survival odds. 

Keep in mind that by placing the bunker underground, you’re trying to add mass between you and the blast. Tightly packed soil or reinforced concrete are great ways to add study mass above your bunker.

Cross section of shelter interior of fortified bunker with ventilation system and nuclear blast

How Long Can You Live in an Underground Bunker?

You can live in an underground bunker for up to 5 years after a disaster event. However, you only need to plan for 24 hours up to 14 days if you are worried about a nuclear bomb. Nuclear radiation will be deadly for many hours after the initial blast. 

If you are building a survival bunker to protect yourself and your family from a possible nuclear war, you should stock it with enough supplies for at least two weeks. If you’re worried about other possible extinction-level events, such as superbugs or climate disasters, then you should look for alternatives that allow you to stay underground longer. 

How Do You Supply Air to an Underground Bunker?

To supply air to an underground bunker, you will need an intake vent and an exhaust vent. You will also need an air pump to cycle the air in and out of your bunker. Finally, you will need a filter, ideally an NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) filter, to protect you from harmful chemicals. 

You can find NBC filtration systems online that come with all the vents and pumps that you need. A complete NBC filtration package will usually come with the following:

  • NPC filter
  • AC and/or DC power cords
  • Air intake hose or pipe
  • Blast valve for intake hose
  • Overpressure valve
  • Ventilation blower
  • User’s manual

Although an NBC filter can be expensive, they are a necessary feature of every smart prepper’s bunker.

If you’re not trying to protect yourself from a nuclear event, then a regular HEPA filter can be used instead of the NBC filter. HEPA filters are much more affordable than NBC filters, so if you’re not worried about nuclear bombs, you can find an affordable HEPA filtration system for your bunker.

Whatever the scenario is, there is likely to be plenty of dust and other particles in the air that could clog your air intake system. 

You must always install a filter as a part of your bunker’s air supply.

Ventilation shaft on top of the ground over an old survival bunker or bomb shelter

Key Takeaways

Building a survival bunker is a smart thing any prepper should consider in 2022. Depending on size and specifications, an extended stay underground survival bunker will cost you between $39,000 and $65,000, on average. 

If you’re looking to minimize the cost of your bunker, you should look into ordering a survival bunker kit online and handling the installation on your own. This will reduce labor costs significantly, ultimately dropping the final price tag of your bunker.

For more, check out Where Smart Preppers Store Survival Supplies.

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