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How to Build a Bomb Shelter: the 4 Phases of Construction

There is growing concern about the potential calamities the world may face in the near future. This is why knowledge about survivalists has become so crucial for many.

A bomb shelter is a great way to protect you and your family from unforeseen events. If you’ve been wondering how to build a bomb shelter to give yourself some peace of mind in uncertain times, we are here to help.

How to build a bomb shelter

In this guide, we’ll take you through the step-by-step building process for a bomb shelter so you’ll have a place to go in the worst-case scenario.

Let’s jump right in.

1. Get Permission for Excavation

An essential initial step for your bomb shelter build is getting the appropriate permits for the project. Contact your local planning or zoning office for the requirements and plans you must submit—they typically include engineered plans and a geotechnical report, to start.

These permits ensure your project is feasible and will not affect or harm nearby structures or land.

Here are all the permissions you will have to acquire for how to build a bomb shelter:

Grading Permission

Any building activity that disturbs the land requires a grading permit that involves an evaluation of your land and your project plans.

Building Permission

Building permission approves your project for compliance with local, state, and federal laws. These are only approved once you have a grading permit.

Discretionary Permission

You must obtain a discretionary permit if the construction significantly affects the surroundings.

Plumbing Permission

You will need a plumbing permit if you’re adding a plumbing installation to your project. It ensures that the minimum standards for plumbing systems are met for public health and safety.

Electrical Permission

Similar to a plumbing permit, any electrical work you’re planning to install will require an electrical permit.

2. Excavate the Soil

The next step on how to build a bomb shelter is soil excavation. This involves clearing a cavity in the earth’s surface.

Choose the Perfect Location and Excavating Equipment

You are free to choose any location you want, but ideally, it should be near your home. This ensures you can get to your nuclear fallout shelter in no time.

Do not choose a location within 18 to 24 inches of any of the following:

  • Utility lines (Call 811 if you live in the United States to figure out where the utility lines are)
  • Flammable places
  • Large bodies of water
  • Lots of trees

Use trenchers and excavators for a convenient excavation experience even in tight spaces. The trencher should help you take care of shoveling, area outlining, and clearing roots. The excavator will do all the digging.

Create a Blueprint

Once you have finalized the location of your shelter and you know its exact dimensions, you can begin creating floor plans for your structure. This blueprint must outline the project in enough detail to thoroughly plan out the construction.

Bomb shelter sample blueprint

Unlike a regular blueprint for a house, fallout shelter blueprints should optimize the use of the existing space and maximize every single object it will contain. Above all, it should reflect the safety and security considerations required from an effective bomb shelter.

You can make the most out of your space by designing multipurpose rooms, installing vertical storage, and using wall-mounted furniture.

Here is a bomb shelter design guide if you need more smart solutions on how to build a bomb shelter.

Clear the Area and Dig a Trench

Once you have all of your equipment on hand and your blueprint is complete, the next step on how to build a bomb shelter is clearing the land for digging.

Make sure to clear an additional 10 feet around your shelter to make space for your equipment.

3. Build the Bomb Shelter

Once your trench is ready, you can start learning how to build a bomb shelter.

Choose the Right Building Material

The material you use to build your bomb shelter will dictate its strength and resiliency.

Metal Sheets

Metal sheeting is a durable and water-resistant option. However, it is relatively expensive and does not provide any insulation.


In contrast to metal sheets, concrete has a long life, high compression strength, and can also take extreme temperatures. It is cheap, but its tensile strength is very low.

Concrete is a good building material for a bomb shelter


Bricks are inexpensive materials that are weatherproof and insulating. However, it has low tensile strength and will take extreme damage from seismic activity.

Steel Reinforced Concrete

This material will give you the benefits of both steel and concrete while canceling out the drawbacks of each.

If you are on a tight budget, compacted soil or packed dirt is an excellent, affordable option for your bomb shelter. It will effectively absorb explosion energy or a blast wave.

Create a Strong Waterproof Shelter Roof

Water will eventually seep down to underground fallout shelters, which means protecting the structure from water damage is incredibly important.

Waterproof materials such as rubberized asphalt and cementitious coatings are excellent options. You can use them to strengthen your roof and walls.

Create an Emergency Exit and a Crawl-Way Entrance

Your bomb shelter should have an emergency exit. Plot this exit at the end of the trench and make sure it is large enough for people to crawl through. Design steps that rest right under the surface of the soil.

Hide and Shield Your Shelter

Put at least 10 feet of soil between your shelter and the surface to protect it against potentially catastrophic events.

You can also use the following shielding methods to hide your underground shelters:

  • Build a trench shield to protect the occupants from a cave-in.
  • Use shoring to prevent dirt from collapsing onto your shelter.
  • Build a sloping entrance wall for the opening to your trench.
  • Incorporate dirt steps that travel up the sloping entrance wall.

4. Include Amenities

While a bomb shelter isn’t meant for luxurious living, that doesn’t mean comfort shouldn’t be a priority. You can add whatever you wish from this list of amenities for how to build a bomb shelter for safe living:

Hand Operated Ventilation Pump and Air Filters

NBC air filtration systems (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) are a must to ensure your underground bunker is safe from contaminants. They can be operated with a hand crank or a built-in battery backup for emergencies.

Water Filters and Access to Clean Water

With access to a fresh water inlet, you can survive months in a miniature garden bunker. But if your clean water becomes contaminated, it helps to have a water filter in your bomb shelter. A UV filter will clear out most viruses and bacteria.

Water filtration system for a bomb shelter

Power Generator

Calculate the total wattage you will need for all the furnishings and appliances in your bomb shelter. Once you know how much power you will need, get an off-grid solar generator.

You can also store power in batteries, limiting the need to stockpile fuel.

Waste Removal System

When working on how to build a bomb shelter, you must consider your waste removal system.

The best option is a composting toilet. These are dry toilets that manage your waste and turn it into compost. They may stink in enclosed spaces, so make sure to have contingencies for them.

Bedding and Other Furniture

Multipurpose, makeshift furniture is best for small backyard bomb shelters. These should also be easy to move around and put out of the way to make room.

Stock Up on Provisions

Another necessity to stock up on is food supplies that you can store for a long time, such as canned items, dry goods, and freeze-dried meals. Think of what you can consume safely without cooking.

bomb shelter provisions

For more ideas, here is our guide to freeze-dried food survival.

And if you’re worried you won’t have enough space for all your food supplies, our guide to survival food storage organization is worth checking out.

Make sure to calculate the daily water supplies required for all the individuals living in the basement shelter.

Lastly, consider personal products to maintain the proper hygiene needed for optimum health. Here are some items you shouldn’t do without:

  • First-aid kits
  • Toiletries
  • Clothing
  • Medical supplies
  • Wipes, cloths
  • And more.

Making a Bomb Shelter for a Building

Here is how to build a bomb shelter if you live in a building or get stuck in one during an air raid or a nuclear blast.

Find a Room of Concrete and Shield Walls with Sandbags

If you need shelter, the best room in a concrete office building is centrally located. But if the building has a basement, it should be your priority.

A makeshift bomb shelter in the basement of a building

Shield the windows with sandbags or other makeshift materials in the room. If there is more furniture, put them up against the walls for extra protection.

Stock Your Shelter with Food and Other Necessities

It may not be possible to stock up when you are caught off-guard by an emergency and you are not at home. However, if you can find food and other necessities somewhere in the building, gather provisions for at least three days.

It is crucial to gather as many water supplies, food, and medical supplies as possible. Find a radio to get updates from other people in the building or outside.

Make Small Vents at the Entrances for Air

Installing an air ventilation pump might not be possible unless you find one in the building.

You can also make tiny openings in the sandbags stacked up against the entrance. These should allow some air to ventilate the blast shelters.


How long would you need to stay in a bomb shelter?

You need to stay in a bomb shelter for at least 14 days in the event of atomic fallout.

How to build a bomb shelter on a budget and low cost?

The best option for saving costs is to build a fallout bunker while building your house. This can help you save time and money on permits and extra construction.

Another method is to build a ground shelter into a hill. This saves you some of the time and money spent on digging underground.

You can also purchase a reinforced shipping container and convert it into a bomb shelter.

Wrapping Up on How to Build a Bomb Shelter

Sheltering can help you get through extreme threats and emergencies. And with a bit of planning, you can build one for you and your family. Follow our outlined steps on how to build a bomb shelter to create one in no time.

And if you’re looking for more information on thriving in the wild or other extreme circumstances, head to Survival World for more resources.