Do You Need a Permit To Build a Bunker?

For folks who want to be truly prepared for hell or high water, a bunker is usually seen as the ultimate prep. What could be better than throwing the hatch closed behind you as you retreat underground in a fully stocked enclosure that can withstand natural disasters and man-made catastrophes alike?

underground bunker entry

Not much, when you think about it!

But before you run off to rent the excavator you need to get your affairs in order and do this right.

The way things are today, you’ve got to have permission to get out of bed in the morning basically, so you’ll probably need the same thing to install a bunker.

Do you need a permit to build a bunker?

Yes, you’ll definitly need a permit to build any kind of bunker. Any kind of substantial digging and many kinds of building will require permitting in various jurisdictions across the US, and depending on where you liv,e it might be very difficult to get one.

This is definitely a wrench in the works for some of us, particularly if you want to keep your bunker building incognito or strictly between you and your family members.

Worse, permits always have additional associated costs to deal with, and in a few places, they can be extremely expensive or incredibly difficult to get.

The alternative, though, is risking a substantial fine or even being ordered to take your bunker out, so you can’t skip this crucial step.

I’ll tell you more that you need to know down below…

To Be Clear, You Need a Permit for the Digging, Not the Build

To make one thing clear, you need a permit typically to do the digging for your bunker installation, not necessarily for the build itself.

It sounds strange, aren’t the two inseparable? No.

Pretty much everywhere in America you’ll need to get a permit to dig below a certain depth on your property, with this depth being highly variable based on state laws, local politics, and environmental factors like height over sea level, water table, geological factors, and a lot more.

It turns out that the building of bunkers themselves, as structures, is a fairly recent development in a civilian context, and accordingly, the administration of society at all levels hasn’t really caught up with the concept.

You won’t find too many specific codes and other requirements covering bunkers, although depending on your local and state laws, they still might fall under various building codes…

Generally speaking, though, if you can get the permit to dig your bunker, you’re more than halfway there when it comes to crossing your I’s and dotting your T’s.

A Grading Permit Might be Necessary Also

There are many different kinds of bunker designs out there, including above-ground, below-ground and partially-below-ground.

If you’re going for a below-ground or partially-below-ground bunker, you’ll need a permit to dig, of course, but you might need a separate permit for grading if you’re going to cover the rest of the bunker structure with soil.

This, once again, will depend entirely on where you live and the topography on your property and surrounding properties.

Anything that might interfere with the movement of groundwater or runoff is going to be cause for concern for local authorities.

A Bunker Attached to Your Home Can Require Additional Permitting

Something else to consider ahead of time is how your bunker will be situated in relation to your home or any other structures, if applicable.

While an isolated, or freestanding if you want to call it that, bunker might not have any additional codes or other permits required for building.

If you’re going to be attaching or connecting your bunker to your home, a separate garage or any other building, you might need to get permits for the modifications to those respective structures.

This is something that you must anticipate and not take for granted, especially as residential structures and dwellings are concerned it is imperative that you do everything by the book unless you want to have the title of your property clouded or even, worse, have the connection or the bunker “addition” condemned or ordered removed.

Local Geological Concerns are a Potential Obstacle

Geological considerations are a major concern in some states.

If the region or just your property is prone to settling, sinkholes, earthquakes or any other such factors, your permit might be refused outright, or entail so much in the way of investigation, surveying and assurances that it is practically unattainable or just too expensive to embark on.

This is something you should be thinking about now while you’re in the initial concept and planning phase: purchasing your bunker module or the materials needed to build it and then finding this out later is going to be a serious blow.

Your Bunker Installation Might Be Affected by Water Rights

Water rights are yet another factor that can and will affect the installation of your bunker.

If the installation of your bunker could potentially, in any way, affect the water rights of your property or neighboring properties, there might be additional permitting and permissions required.

This isn’t out of the question you might have to reach a binding agreement with your neighbors over certain considerations.

Water rights are an entirely separate subject from bunker building, but it is one that might affect your plans and is worth looking into.

They are highly variable state to state, and sometimes even at the local level.

As a rule of thumb, if what you’re putting in a bunker might in any way affect a nearby stream, pond, lake or any other such feature you’ll probably have additional hoops to jump through.

A Bunker Installation Might Fall Under the Purview of Surface Rights, Too

A rare but still plausible concern is that of various surface rights concerning access, right of ways and easements.

If the bunker gets installed and subsequently nothing heavy can be driven over the top of it, like a truck let’s say, that could be big trouble for you in the future if the state or county comes along and decides they’re going to appropriate your land or nearby land for the installation of an easement.

Similarly, many states have laws and regulations in place to ensure that someone who owns a parcel that is landlocked will always have the means to get access, ground access, one way or the other from surrounding properties.

However the chips fall, if your property happens to be the one that is selected or designated for access and your bunker might be imperiled subsequently by that access, you might not have a leg to stand on legally.

This is worth investigating ahead of time and, if necessary, obtaining an exemption for if an exemption exists.

Bunker-Building in These 3 U.S. States

Can You Build an Underground Bunker in Florida?

Yes, technically, but depending on where you live in the state it might be very, very difficult.

Florida is basically right at sea level, so this high water table combined with the general instability of the soil and propensity to experience sinkholes means that building a subterranean bunker in Florida is going to be a very challenging proposition.

The permitting, accordingly, might be impossible to obtain.

Can You Build an Underground Bunker in Texas?

Yes, it is possible to build an underground bunker in Texas as long as you get all of the required permits.

The northern parts of the state tend to be far more stable geologically than the coasts and accordingly it will probably be easier.

Considering the sparse population in that region, you’ll have fewer concerns, generally.

Can You Build an Underground Bunker in California?

Yes, it is technically legal to build an underground bunker in California and plenty of folks have built one but California is infamous for high tectonic activity, meaning earthquakes.

California law also specifies “earthquake proofing” in many building codes, and it’s certain that your bunker will likely fall under these codes additionally, or, if they don’t, they might be forbidden depending on where you live.

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