What Happens When You Bury a Shipping Container

By P.J. November 4, 2015 11:19

What Happens When You Bury a Shipping Container

Editor’s Note: A shipping container costs around $2000 but you can get it even cheaper. I know a guy who bought one at $1600.

So if you are willing to dig and bury it yourself you can end up with a root cellar, a storm shelter, a small bunker and a last-resort hideout – if you choose to camouflage the entrance – for a decent amount of money.

And although it is possible and there are a lot of preppers who’ve already done that, there are some things you should be wary of.

by Ryan Herr

Lots of people get the idea to build a storm shelter or bunker by burying a shipping container – it’s fast, relatively inexpensive, and durable, right?

Step 1) Dig a hole.

Step 2) Put a shipping container in the hole.

Step 3) Backfill around the container.

And by now you can probably guess where this article is going.

The latest example of what not to do showed up in the ContainerAuction.com email last night, and comes from an undisclosed location (for reasons of security and therefore insecurity). It appears to have originally been a solid 20′ container that the owner dropped it into an 8′ deep hole with the intention of burying it.

As you can see from the pictures below, the weight of the ground caused the curb side walls of the container to buckle in (no idea of how the road side walls looks). The corner posts appear to still be straight, but it’s hard to tell without getting inside and looking around. Unfortunately, that could be hard as another issue that’s apparent in the pictures is a high water table, a topic that we haven’t discussed in the past.

burying shipping container picture 1

Here’s a closer look:

burying shipping container picture 2

What if the shipping container collapses and buries everyone inside?

And the water!

burying shipping container picture 3Rather than rehashing an article that we previously published about using Gabion baskets to bury a shipping container, we strongly recommend that if you’re going to bury a shipping container it’s good idea to reinforce the sides with Gabion baskets. They’re relatively inexpensive, and you can invite your friends over for a rock gathering party.

If you need a new or used 20′ or 40′ container we’re more than happy to help you find one. If you want help burying it in the ground you’re on your own.

This article was written by Ryan Herr and was first published on PrepperResources.com

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By P.J. November 4, 2015 11:19
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  1. GPS November 4, 16:06

    A better idea!? Purchase an 8ft. diameter piece of culvert about 12ft. long. Have your local junior college vo-tech welding school weld an 8X8 1/8″ piece of metal on either end with a cutout for a door on one end.weld angle iron on the inside along the length such that you can lay planks across the width and have about a 6 1/2′ foot center height and about 1 1/2′ of storage beneath. Have a hole cut in the center top for a turbine vent. Paint with a zinc based paint, bury and enjoy. My local vo-tech college only charges for materials but expects a donation for labor…total cost…about $600!

    Reply to this comment
  2. Carlo er November 4, 17:36

    Septic tank works great

    Reply to this comment
  3. MrSurfTheWeb November 5, 17:44

    To me that looks like during driving around that container rubbed up against something. That would create a weakness that could result in cave-in especially as it rusts more.

    Reply to this comment
  4. DanTheVanMan November 9, 15:41

    Well if any of you have actually worked with shipping containers you would notice and know that that crease is most likely the reason the container was sold off in the first place. And that excessive (Forced) earth/dirt side pressure on these containers would only cause a “Bow” NOT a “Crease”. Natural “back-filling” would not and can not cause a shipping container to collapse or even bow!
    Also the basic 20″ HC shipping container has 5x the structural strength as a standard 1800sf (US code) stick built house.
    I do see many things wrong in these two pictures and “all” are in the design and procedure issues, not structural. I have seen these pictures before… Regurgitated by clueless “Prepper want-a-be writers”. And yes, the individual who’s container this is didn’t account for drainage clearly seen in the 2nd pic. Again, a owner design failure and has nothing to do with the container!
    So these “re-posted” pic’s of discouragement are nothing but filler for editors desperate for article content and have no real basis in reality…. And are in fact, just BS claims by someone who knows nothing about shipping container usage.

    And on a side note: Large diameter culvert piping works good as well. However the same container prepping is required to “DO IT RIGHT”. And if you are planning on putting in any kind of floor, an 8 foot will only have approx. 5 feet of height after any usable flooring is installed.

    *** And a note to the editor: “No one likes false and misleading trash articles!” Please at lease take the time to educate yourselves! You are doing an injustice to many of your followers who clearly are believing your lies and depriving them of this successfully time tested security option!

    Reply to this comment
    • akasha November 9, 17:02

      Thank for the update Dan the van man and taking the fear away of building cheaply nice shelters.

      Reply to this comment
    • C. Davis November 16, 11:48

      You clearly didn’t get this article.

      1. Before posting a comment about an article, at least read it first. This is by no means a “discouragement” article, but a “some things you should take into consideration before burying a shipping container” or “cautionary tale” if you want.

      You could’ve at least read the beginning of the article: “…you can end up with a root cellar, a storm shelter, a small bunker and a last-resort hideout …for a decent amount of money. And although it is possible and there are a lot of preppers who’ve already done that, there are some things you should be wary of.”

      2. This article is written by a man who earns a living selling shipping containers to preppers. He has no interest in making up a story like that. The men who buried the shipping container was one of his customers and the shipping container (according to Ryan) was not damaged or bend before.

      If someone wants to bury a shipping container, he/she might want to read this first… just to know a few things that can (but not necessarily) go wrong, including water infiltration.

      Reply to this comment
    • Ashley C November 16, 12:01

      Dan, why are you such a hater?

      If things can go wrong, they will. Here is how you should bury a shipping container: http://containerauction.com/read-news/how-to-bury-a-shipping-container-gabion-basket

      Reply to this comment
      • DanTheVanMan November 28, 13:41

        Ashley, Not being a hater. But what I am is… Educated and educated on the proper use of shipping containers! Yes, things can go wrong. Not denying that, but they don’t have to! If you plan “correctly” the likelihood is very low and there will always be unforeseen challenges.

        My point is that “some” folks… ie: the author of this post clearly had/has no working knowledge or experience whats so ever of proper placement procedures when it comes to burying a shipping container. And that “The proper Procedure” varies depending on location climate and terrain.

        And as for Gabion baskets go there are terrains where they are the best idea ever and in others using them will cause your failure.. You simple NEED to educate yourselves prior to starting your project. In the original post above you see a failed project yes.Failed miserably! But the container was not the reason! The owner was the reason, nothing more. Poor planning and procedure! The damage on the side was not caused by “earth” being pushing in and collapsing the container. Earth packs downward, not sideways. It’s a “Gravity” thing.. My argument was that the author faulting stated “As you can see from the pictures below, the weight of the ground caused the curb side walls of the container to buckle” which is a battened lie! And if “I hate.” I only hate “False information.” and “ignorance”. So when I see these pictures pop up every few years (These exact same pic’s) and someone new try to discourage folks from using shipping containers. Yes, it does irritate me when I see ignorant people spreading bad info….

        Reply to this comment
  5. TRIKDURT November 10, 00:54

    Thank You DanTheVanMan for clearing that BS up. I have a container in the ground. Been there for 5 years with no problems. Of course, I didn’t just stick it in the ground and cover it up. It took planning to do it right.

    Reply to this comment
  6. JDogg May 31, 15:42

    My plan is to use old tires for the sides. Fill them with dirt and backfill on the outside of the tires. Since dirt weighs 125-145 pounds for every cubic foot of dirt, I believe I will put 4-6 inches of dirt over the top of the container. All after I coat the outsides of the containers with rino coating, or something equally long lasting. I am looking to live in these 2-40 footers as a tiny house

    Reply to this comment
    • JDogg May 31, 15:53

      The cost of Gabion basket, buying enough rock to fill the baskets, and don’t forget the trucking cost for the rock. I have built and filled Gabion baskets before and other than the total cost to buy and fill them is a huge pain! Tires can be got for free to $5 each and if you are going to bury the containers, the. You’ll have plenty of dirt to fill the tires

      Reply to this comment
  7. Bob Boskey September 13, 18:13

    These things are stacked at least 5 high on ships. How could a little dirt collapse this wall? Agree that it was probably damaged and sold cheap.

    Reply to this comment
  8. Tom Jackson December 21, 17:06

    I am a structural engineer and never thought burying one of these was a good idea in general. Structurally they are not made to be used this way. Even if the dirt doesn’t collapse it then it might collapse later due to ground water up against it and changing the physical properties of the earth to put even more pressure against it. The type of soil that is used for backfilling is very important.

    Reply to this comment
    • Diane June 15, 00:31

      We are wanting to bury a container for a storm shelter and cellar. The ground where we live is gray slate; very hard. There is only about 6 inches of top soil here. What we want to do is dig a “trench” and put the container in it and cover it with only a little dirt. There would not be a water problem because the front will be left open and graded slightly downhill for a water drain since we live on a hill and there is a slightly higher hill behind us to put a trench. Good idea?

      Reply to this comment
  9. Bob Boskey December 21, 22:09

    Corrosion engineers deal with buried pipelines and galvanic electronic charges using sacrificial ingots that corrode instead of pipelines.

    What is done for buried shipping containers?

    Reply to this comment
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  11. Wile e February 2, 21:50

    I have buried a shipping container, the weight of the fill on the roof did cause it to start to cave in. We installed 2 beams the length of the container and supported them every 8 feet with a post. we used the post to build shelves. the container was buried where there is gravel instead of dirt so there is no drainage problem. We also a 4″ piece of PVC pipe in the roof that extends to the floor and placed a solar powered dog house fan on the outer end for ventilation. the container is accessed threw a doorway we cut in the basement foundation, it’s a hidden door that you wouldn’t now is there.

    Reply to this comment
  12. Wile e February 2, 21:52

    We also coated the container in heave tar before it was buried

    Reply to this comment
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