How to Build an Underground Wooden Shelter

Updated April 17, 2017

When many people think of being prepared in an emergency, they think of stockpiling food, water and first aid. But they often miss another important item --- a place to go. Earthquakes, floods and fires can destroy homes and other dwellings. Because of this, building an underground shelter is an excellent idea. This shelter can be made of wood from a local hardware store, and can be made as big (or small) as you need it to be.

Dig a hole a minimum of 12 feet wide by 16 feet long. It can be as deep as you feel necessary.

Line the hole with some of the landscaping plastic. Lay out the rest of the plastic to build the box on.

Cut 14 of the wood pieces to 7 feet, 10-1/2 inches. Place two of the 8 foot pieces on the ground, and use the screws to join them together with the shorter pieces to create a rectangular frame. Create two of these frames.

Using the 8 foot pieces as vertical ribs and the 7 foot pieces as horizontal ribs, attach the two frames to each other vertically. Space the ribs 2 feet apart for best results. Be sure to create an entryway for the shelter at the top.

Cut three of the panels to 6 feet, 10 inches and fasten them to the floor. Then, fasten the other panels to the frame, starting with one end and working toward the other. One of the top panels will need to be cut to fit the entryway, but save the scraps.

Attach a piece of the scrap from the top panel as a hatch cover. Make sure it is slightly larger than the entryway itself. Wrap the plastic around the shelter, then move it into the hole.

Backfill the hole with dirt, thoroughly covering your shelter. Pack it down securely. Be sure to keep the entryway from being clogged.


Add a hook and eye to the hatch to prevent small children from falling into the shelter. Place a ladder in the entryway for easy entry and exit. Digging the hole for this project will be the most difficult part. Ask neighbours for help in exchange for sharing your space.


Always be careful when using power tools.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel or backhoe
  • 6mm thick landscape plastic
  • 40 2x6 boards, 8 feet long
  • 17 4x8 panels of wafer board
  • 44 3 inch screws or nails
  • 2 hinges
  • Power drill or hammer
Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Shavon Walker, a former English and Communications teacher, has been a writer for the past 12 years. Happy to write on any topic, her personal favorites include entertainment, fashion, food and wine. She earned her master's degree and teaching credential from CSU East Bay, and her bachelor's degree from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA.