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.
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.
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: