Earth Sheltered Homes as Survival Shelters

Are you taking the earth for granted? You might change your mind once you hear about earth sheltered homes

If you’re a nerd like us, you may have spotted this type of shelter in The Lord of the Rings! Ring any bells, Mr. Frodo?

Earth sheltered homes or earthen houses are a type of off-grid home that makes a great survival shelter. But what makes ‘em so remarkable? Here’s what you need to know about these underground homes:

What Are Earth Sheltered Homes?

An earth shelter is a structure, typically of a house, built with soil or vegetation surrounding its walls and roof. It could also be buried entirely underground.

What makes earth sheltered homes work is their energy-efficient features. In this case, the earth serves as a thermal mass, meaning the soil can absorb and store heat energy well.

But wait…there’s more.

The earth also allows houses of this kind to withstand extreme weather conditions. Lastly, living underground in homes like these promotes a sustainable lifestyle and is ideal when SHTF. Pretty darn cool, right?

Now, before you start building one, let’s talk about the types of earth homes first.

Three Main Types of Earth Sheltered Homes

The main difference between these types of homes is how each house is integrated with or into the earth. The indoor temperature, environmental impact, and overall design will vary on the extent of the soil covering.

If you’re planning to build your own earth home in the event of an apocalypse, read on:


This type is the simplest and most economical way to build an earth sheltered structure—perfect for folks on a tighter budget.

A bermed house is usually built above grade or partially below ground and has a bank of earth covering the exterior walls and sometimes the roof.

As a result, the earth protects the house and insulates the interior temperature well. And since the soil slopes away from the building, storm drainage is better managed, and moisture is less of a problem due to the structure being above the original ground level.


If you live in cold and temperate climates, an in-hill home is your best bet since it’s the most popular and energy-efficient form of earth shelter. As its name suggests, this type is set into slopes or hills with only one exposed wall while the earth covers the rest of the walls and the roof.

Since an in-hill home has only one visible wall, it would be practical to position the exposed window towards the south to soak up all the sunlight the house needs. And you wouldn’t have to worry about that since an in-hill home is typically built above ground and will get a lot of sunshine when built correctly.


True to its name, this type of earth shelter is a house set below ground level or built deeper underground on a flat site. Folks who prefer a quiet living space while less exposed to outside elements will find joy in underground living.

One of the critical features of an underground home is an atrium or courtyard found in the middle of the residence. Its purpose is to provide enough light and ventilation and to give the structure an “open” feeling despite it being underground.

The atrium design also creates a private outdoor space and offers adequate protection from strong winds. Living spaces are located around the central opening as well, where sunlight and air pass through.

How are underground homes different from underground bunkers? While they’re both designed to protect you from possible threats, bunkers are built solely for safety and security, unlike underground dwellings where you can spice ‘em up with a bit of luxury.

The Pros and Cons of Earth Sheltered Homes

Now that you’ve got the necessary info on earth-sheltered homes, it’s time you ask yourself: are they worth it? Let’s find out by weighing the advantages and disadvantages of living underground.

Pros of Earth Sheltered Homes

Pros of Earth Homes

  • Earth homes produce a natural heating and cooling system due to the compacted earth that partially covers the building, acting as its thermal mass. This makes it perfect for storing stockpiles as well because temps don’t fluctuate too much. Earth sheltered homes are more resistant to the impact of severe weather conditions such as windstorms than traditional houses.
  • Most earth homes fit harmoniously into their surroundings compared to conventional houses, which means there’s efficient land use while still preserving habitat above ground. And they get to hide in plain sight, too!
  • Earth homes can withstand catastrophic bushfires better than any other structure because they use concrete materials and have insulation provided by the roof for fire resistance.
  • Earth homes require less outside maintenance since vegetation mainly surrounds their outdoor area, making them great for growing a survival garden.
Cons of Earth Sheltered Homes

Cons of Earth Sheltered Homes

  • Because of their unique architecture and unorthodox construction, earth homes may be challenging to design compared to regular homes. They may also require local building codes and ordinances to be researched or navigated. You don’t wanna hit a gas or water line while building your home.
  • The primary catch of an earth house is the initial cost of construction, which is about 20 to 30 percent more than building ordinary dwellings. It might not be the best option if you’re a bit strapped for cash.
  • When designed and ventilated poorly, earth homes may need more TLC to avoid moisture and indoor air quality problems.
  • Despite the brightness of expansive glass facades and dome lights, many earth homes have dark areas where natural lighting can’t reach. This is where a compact and dependable flashlight will come in handy.
  • Earth home collapses are rare, but they’re still at significant risk when there’s a fault in the overall structure.
  • For survivalists, an earth home’s limited escape routes may be a deal-breaker in an emergency.

How Economical Are Earth Sheltered Homes?

tractor picking up soil

We’re gonna spit facts: earth homes don’t come cheap. There are quite a few factors to consider in home construction, and these are:

  • Design complexity
  • Materials used
  • Labor arrangement

Unlike traditional houses, earth houses have intricate designs with unique features requiring a skilled architect and specialist contractor, making ‘em more expensive. Other factors that strongly influence the construction process’s overall cost include:

  • The amount of earth covering (more earth covering means greater expenses)
  • The need for site excavation and backfilling
  • Waterproofing

We weren’t kidding when we said the downside to earth homes is the construction cost. Paying up to 30 percent more could hurt your pockets. Still, living in an earth home can save money over time because it’s highly capable of maintaining comfortable indoor temperatures, it requires relatively low maintenance, and it costs less to insure.

Final Thoughts

There are a lot of factors to consider, but underground living ain’t so bad. We reckon the pros outweigh the cons, and it’s up to you if you’re willing to take on the road ahead, or should we say, dig your way down.

If you got some cold hard cash lying around somewhere, you might wanna invest your Benjamins in an earth home. Although this survival shelter needs quite the effort and resources to build, it could be the right choice for you when disaster strikes.

Do you live underground and have expert tips to share? Let us know in the comments below!

Advertising and Affiliate Disclosure

We put a lot of effort into all of the content on We are able to provide this content for free because we earn money for advertisements on this site. We also earn small commissions for sales generated via our affiliate links. While these commissions do earn us income, they do not cost our readers anything additional. Clicking on our ads or links helps support our staff and we sincerely appreciate your support.

One thought on “Earth Sheltered Homes as Survival Shelters

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.