How to Reinforce Shipping Containers for Underground Use

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With the current upsurge in threats of nuclear warfare and natural catastrophes, an underground bunker is worth thinking about. Such a bunker can be a safe haven to protect you and your family from the chaos above the ground. Setting up an underground bunker may not be an afternoon stroll in the park but it is possible.

Many people fail to realize that a lot of pressure is produced whenever an object is buried. Even something as huge as a shipping container can be damaged when pressure is exerted on all sides.

Though sturdy, shipping containers aren’t designed for underground use as they are. This explains why it is essential to follow the below-mentioned steps when reinforcing a shipping container. These steps will ensure your container offers a safe place to take cover whenever need be.

Six Tried and Proven Ways of Reinforcing Your Shipping Container

  1. Prepare the Reinforcing Items

The following items should be on your priority list before you embark on reinforcing your shipping container;

  • Strong steel bars
  • Thick Rags and Mats
  • Welding Material
  • Copper Braising
  • Coper Mesh/Stainless Steel
  1. Bury the Container in an Upside Down Position

Under normal circumstances, the floor of a shipping container bears more weight and is thicker than the roof. When used as an underground bunker, the roof bears more weight from the dirt above. Burying the container upside down will help to provide the structural support it needs at the top. It will also prevent the floor from warping when the container settles to the ground. This, however, doesn’t mean you refrain from providing extra structural support using strong steel bars.

Underground Storm Tornado Shelter How To Bury Shipping Container Part 6 Reinforce Top And Sides - YouTube

  1. Reinforce the Roof

Though made of steel, shipping containers are vulnerable to underground pressures. You need to have an extra amount of structural support on the roof of the container. A reinforced roof can be achieved by welding strong steel bars to the roof of the container and covering it with concrete. This will ensure structural integrity and prevent the roof from caving in due to pressure from the dirt above.

Supporting the Cutouts of Our Shipping Containers! - YouTube

  1. Reinforce the sides

The sidewalls are the weakest part of a shipping container because it lacks horizontal and vertical supports at the middle. The corrugated steel on the sides must be reinforced on the inside to withstand the external pressure and weight. You can reinforce the sides by supporting the middle section using strong steel bars. A reinforced shipping container is less vulnerable to the pressure that comes with underground positioning.

  1. Ensure it is EMP Proof

EMP’s are undoubtedly one of the most destructive weapons that can be used on the planet. A single nuclear bomb can wipe out all electronics within thousands of miles from the location of detonation.

Even though the probability of an EMP burst currently remains undetermined, a stitch in time might just save nine-or twenty.

You can ensure your container is EMP proof by grounding it firmly and putting mats and rags on the floor to act as insulators and reduce the chances of your electronics being damaged in an EMP blast.

Even though positioning your container underground means it is already well grounded, it needs to be supported such that the EMP flows through the ground with the least resistance. Proper grounding will also ensure potential stray fields are eradicated.

  1. Seal your Shipping Container

Your shipping container will serve you well against EMP’s for as long as it is sealed properly. You can fill it up with your favorite electronics or those you would wish to protect. For best results, you can use the nesting Russian nesting technique where cages are put inside cages which are put inside other cages. You can achieve this using sealable metal trashcans, microwaves and ammunition boxes.

To seal up the container doors, use a copper mesh wall or stainless steel. These are easily broken whenever you need to access the container. Other options that can do the trick involve soldering the door and shutting it completely or sealing it using copper braiding. These options are usually the safest but not mandatory.

Things to Remember When Stuffing Up Your Shipping Container

  • All items must be kept at a safe distance from the metal walls.
  • The walls of a steel container carries current for as long as the pulse lasts
  • Anything in contact with the walls can be damaged.
  • Lay down some thick rags on the floor as well to prevent damage.
  • Install a wooden floor on your container to insulate the floor.

Questions People Ask:

  • Can a shipping container survive a tornado?
  • How do you prepare ground for shipping containers?
  • How long do shipping containers last?
  • Are shipping containers safe in lightning?
  • How long will a shipping container last underground?
  • Can you breathe in a shipping container?

Turning a shipping container to an underground bunker isn’t as simple as turning your truck into a temporary house. You have to prioritize the structural integrity of the container to ensure it can handle underground weight and pressure.

Using steel bars to provide structural support and insulating the floor and the sides is a good way to begin. Reinforcing your container properly will transform your underground bunker into a safety haven for you, your family and precious electronics.

If you are planning to create an underground cozy living space that can shield you from natural catastrophes or nuclear bombs, carefully follow the steps addressed above.

You’ll never go wrong with a reinforced shipping container.

Ryan Stetson

Ryan Stetson

Currently own two 20' and 40' containers converted into an office/workshop. Having worked in the shipping industry for 6 years, my goal is to share my personal experiences as well as connect potential container buyers with suppliers around the US.

Ryan Stetson

Ryan Stetson

Currently own two 20' and 40' containers converted into an office/workshop. Having worked in the shipping industry for 6 years, my goal is to share my personal experiences as well as connect potential container buyers with suppliers around the US.

2 Responses

  1. Hi, Steel prices are making our 20’ container build cost prohibitive. Thus, our plan is to:

    1. invert the container, seal the ceiling with flex seal and caulk with epoxy etc and the exterior roof and deck with 3/4 inch PT and roofing tar seal etc.

    2. reinforce interior walls with a 4x4x8 wall system framed @ 24” on center, framed on both sides and ends, less door and escape hatch, with 4×4 bracing in between 24” centers also at 2’ intervals, ceiling to floor, like if we were to weld like a rib cage weld.

    3. Install new 4x4x8 floor decked with 3/4 pt plywood and seal.

    4. 6×6 reinforcement posts or column down center of container and or along walls on both sides of container.

    The welding contractor quoted $25K for labor and materials for it to be welded right but actually advised this timber build instead due to steel prices through the roof literally 2/3 of the costs.

    The main thing is that it be properly reinforced with a timber frame package and inverted or there is no point in doing it or it will become a casket and we don’t want that.

    Please let us know if u think this is sound timber frame package, I will also run it by a structural engineer.

    Thank you

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