Building Your Own Backyard Survival Shelter

Having a survival shelter near your home may be the only way to survive an apocalyptic event like the detonation of a nuclear warhead. When it comes to building a survival shelter you can either do-it-yourself or hire a qualified contractor to do it for you.

The latter option can be expensive but may be your best choice if you haven’t had much construction experience. If you are willing to take the time and learn, you can save yourself a lot of money and build one to your unique needs.

Shelter Specifications

If you’re thinking about building your own survival shelter you will need to familiarize yourself with the proper technical specifications to make it as safe as possible and able to withstand a major disaster. Currently the government’s advice on survival shelters is the following:

  • Depth– The top of your shelter should have at least eight inches of earth above it. If you can’t build one underground you will still need about eight inches of dirt covering your shelter to keep you safe from radiation. Some experts advise a depth of three feet.
  • Concrete– This is your best choice when it comes to protecting yourself from radiation and electromagnetic fields triggered by an atomic blast. Your shelter should be surrounded on all sides by at least three inches of concrete. If you’re doing it yourself make sure your shelter walls are at least 18-inches thick.
  • Entrance– The door to your shelter should be made from the thickest metal you can find. Barring that, a large concrete slab covered with a half-inch sheet of steel will also work. If possible grade the entrance way so that the door opens like that of your home. You can also make yours like the hurricane basement doors with steps leading into the shelter. It is best to have an “L-turn” in the entrance.
  • Space per person– The larger you make your shelter the more it costs to build and maintain. You do need a certain amount of space for each person to make it tolerable to stay in for weeks or months at a time. You can position bunk beds with at least three feet in between and you should have at least 20 square feet per person to keep people from feeling overcrowded.

Air Supply

Be sure to factor in an air filtration system when you are designing your survival shelter. You can’t just run a vent to the outside world. You need a system that will clear the air of radiation particles. This usually comes as an attachment to an air conditioning system that sits over the intake valves.


You will also have to figure out how to provide clean water. You will have to store and purify water then distribute it to the taps and washing parts of your shelter. Rain water can be one of your best supplies of water and you can set up iodine tanks or solar distillation systems before the water enters your survival shelter.


Finally, you have to think about sanitation. You need to have a way to get human waste out of the shelter as soon as possible. You can use a simple pump that takes the waste to an underground tank. Just be sure the tank is large enough to allow people to stay in your shelter as long as possible.

Donna J. Seymour