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5 Reasons Shipping Containers Are Awful Underground Shelters

5 Reasons Shipping Containers Are Awful Underground Shelters

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In the past few years, people have been jumping on the shipping container bandwagon. Survivalists and preppers everywhere have been scooping these containers up for less than $5000 or so, with many thinking they have just hit the underground shelter jackpot. The idea is to dig a big hole, bury the shipping container and – voila — a ready-made underground bunker is good to go with no fuss for a steal of a deal.

Unfortunately, the large, steel shipping containers are really not quite the answer to a survivalist’s dreams as they were once thought to be. They certainly do offer plenty of benefits, but the idea of burying them and calling them an underground shelter is really not the best idea.

What many people fail to consider is the cost to move the container and bury it with the necessary machines, including a crane. Those fees will quickly add up, and a person could end up paying more for the container shelter than a shelter built with cement or constructed by professionals.

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Shipping containers certainly have their uses, but the following five reasons are why you should reconsider using one as an underground shelter.

1. The sides will be pressed in. Shipping containers are absolutely very sturdy, but the long side walls have no reinforcement. When you bury the container, the earth is pressed directly against the wall. Over time, this will cause the sides to slowly give in, creating a bent wall which is going to lead to a whole host of other issues. If you are burying your container in a particularly wet soil, the risk of this happening is even higher. If you insist on burying your container, you will need to build a frame around the outside walls to support them.

5 Reasons Shipping Containers Are Awful Underground Shelters

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2. The roof could cave in. Yes, shipping containers are stacked on top of each other and hold up very well. However, they are stacked with frames sitting on frames, with corner supports holding the majority of the weight. The frames of the shipping containers are absolutely built tough, but when you bury the container, thousands of pounds of dirt are going to be distributed across the roof of the container, where there is no support. The containers were simply not built to hold weight any other place than the frame itself. You could build trusses to keep the weight off the container if you are insisting on the storage container option.

3. Chemicals are in the floors. Many of the shipping containers have wood floors that have been chemically treated with toxic pesticides. If you were to seal yourself up in the container, you risk poisoning the very air you breathe. The solution would be to rip out all of the existing wooden flooring and replace it with flooring that has not been treated. Some people have left the wood flooring as-is and put a vapor barrier over the existing wood planks.

4. The walls are coated with toxic paint. The paint often contains chromate and phosphorous. The paint is applied to the shipping containers to prevent rust and damage from the constant exposure to saltwater. It is next to impossible to remove the paint, but if you are still plan on using the container to live in, you can apply spray foam insulation to essentially block the chemicals. Painting over the toxic paint offers little protection from the chemicals.

5. It could rust if the steel is dented, dinged or bent. Rust is like cancer in the human body. Once it is there, it spreads and grows and before long, it has infected the whole area. The rust will weaken the steel and turn it into something that is paper thin. A collapse could happen. The unit may even flood if the hole is big enough or if there are several holes.

Do you agree or disagree? Share your thoughts on shipping containers as shelters in the section below:

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  1. If you do the research on this you will find diy solutions to these problem’s so this story is a waste of time and effort on your part . How to bury one would have been much better and adding the pit fall’s of in complete designs much more helpful. The short term hurry up and move on to the next prep is what I think you were going for so how about a part all to fill in the blanks thanks.

  2. Part II,not all. Fat fingers.

  3. As for the wood floor, my shipping container has just wood on steel beam supports for flooring, no sheet metal below the wood. If buried without proper drainage flood water from a storm would seep up through the wood floor and could produce a life threatening situation. Another problem is that the steel sides and roof would directly conduct the cold from the earth into the container causing it to be cold with condensation on the inside walls and ceiling from occupant’s breath. That said, proper drainage, foam insulation on the outside, then encased in reinforced concrete that is properly poured in stages, and the inside sand blasted to remove all paint after the wood flooring is replaced would work. Still, the shelter that I built was of poured concrete with a 6″ X 6″ mesh of 1/2″rebar reinforcing the 8″ thick walls and 6″ X 6″ mesh of 3/4 inch diameter steel rebar and fiber-reinforced concrete 14″ thick on the roof. All of it was sealed in a waterproof poly/rubber membrane. Another issue to consider is the fact that a nuclear blast could hurl vehicles, propane tanks, and building structures a long distance, and the roof needs to be strong enough to withstand the force of the debris impact upon the soil already on the roof of the bunker. Another issue to be aware of is the surge of political jurisdictions that now mandate strict (draconian) building codes, so check first before installing a shelter or bunker. Also, make sure to have two entrance/exits, one hidden, for escape if attacked or in case of outside fire or other problem.

  4. As to the issue of the sides/top caving in I agree this is an issue but at 2100 dollars for a high cube 40 footer I believe it would be financially sound to use the container as a concrete “form” to pour around. IE pour a subterranean slab place the container on the slab and back fill the hole with concrete, Since a good quality container is wind and water tight temporarily filling the container with water while you pour the slab should maintain its integrity while the concrete sets. pouring a slab on top should be a simple matter of temporarily bracing the roof during the pour. I’m not saying it’s the best possible option but I believe with some creative thinking it could be a viable lower dollar bunker solution.

  5. Honestly writing, I liked the idea very much that you have shared here though the post and I am too planning to build a container and that is the reason I was searching for the containers. Thank you so much for this post.

  6. The best option is for about ten familys to invest s former missile silo bunker available across the U.S.A.These former mussile silos were built during the Cold War for millions and abandoned for decaded and are are being bought for about $400,000.00 and remodeled into luxury homes for under4 million dollars complete with gyms pools fishing gardening security arcades movie theaters classrooms unique idea is to turn one into a survival theme park.The safest place on earth and a tourist destination.

  7. You’re supposed to flip the containers upside down and seal the floor (roof now) with sheet metal. This makes for an extremely rigid structure when set on a foundation. You’ll still need to run beams down the sides but you don’t need to build a huge frame. For digging the hole I’d recommend getting an old tractor and building a dozer blade on the front. You can move containers by placing 2 stacks of old tires at either end of the container attaching the 2 corners of the container via ratchet straps or cables to fixed points or a truck respectively, then roll it over the tires and repeat. Lowering the container into the hole is tricky but if you bury basement floor jacks you can get about 100 inches of distance to lower your container. You’ll have to put boards across the top of the jacks and the tires on top of that. Each Jack can hold about 2800 lbs so if you have four that should be enough to lower an unmodified container into place. I’ve never done it myself, but I’ve beenplanning on it, and this is how I would go about it.

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