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Could You Build an Underground Fort?

Filed Under: Outdoors

A 1920's instructional on underground forts got us thinking...is a sub-ground hang-out even possible?


Over on Wired, one industrious blogger discovered a 1929 "Modern Mechanics" featuring surprisingly detailed images and instructions on building an underground fort -- complete with measurements. This ultimate DIY got us thinking: Could someone really pull this off? Consider...

The Underground Fort's Foundation
Digging the hole is basically like digging a foundation for a house. Only in this case, the hole will actually be your house. A tarp or water-proof material is needed for the flooring and plywood is used to support the "walls."

The Underground Fort's Roof
While some fort instructions say to use plywood for this part of the structure, the fort in this illustration uses tar paper.

The Underground Fort's Appliances
Candles and lanterns can easily illuminate your underground hang-out. Just be sure to contain the flames. Just think of it as being in a tent. The stove situation is a bit more complicated though. Certainly you won't be installing a state-of-the-art range and hood. But you can contain a brick or stone fire. And -- most importantly -- make sure to have an exhaust!

The Underground Fort's Safety
Safety is the main issue we thought of when seeing this underground habitat. After all, access in through long, narrow tunnels. And depending on the ground your working with, hazards could be high. While we're pretty sure a savvy DIYer can make this happen, we're still rolling out the caution tape. Although, tree forts leave you hanging on a limb, so which option is less risky?

OK, this is all sounding a little shaky to us. Unless you've got a professional willing to help or consult, we'd advise sticking with your basement or attic as a hideout -- or copy this writer's husband and take up a new "man cave" apartment!

And be sure to check out other DIY ideas:
Easy, Low-Cost Weekend Projects
DIY Solar Projects


  • Ben

    Yup, a fort like that can easily be built. My three best buds and I built one in 1965. I was 9. it was about 6ftx10ft, about 4ft tall, had 2 escape tunnels, 2 small fireplaces with chimneys, a camouflaged lockable hatch door, cupboard dug into wall for snacks, water, candles, and matches. what we found out about a year later was that we dug alongside a gas pipe on a right-of-way, and, they made us cover it up the fort and tunnels had strong wood frame, tarpapered, and covered with 1-2 ft of dirt which grew back over in weeds to hide it better. those were the best times. We lived just outside Louisville KY. I hope that Mike O'Bryan, Billy Motsch, And, Jeff Ellison had as fond of memories as I did.. JUST WATCH THOSE GAS LINES!!!!!!!

    Reply
  • Kathy

    Yeah, we had one too. In McLean, VA back around 1970 or '71. I would have been about 10. My brother about 12. We dug ours in starting on the banks of the creek. The tunnel had a "Z" shape to it. Plywood on the floor. Niches in the walls for candles. We covered the top with more plywood, and the dirt back on top. Had a top air vent too. Got a lot of fun out of that one until the creek flooded... Had the tree fort too...

    Reply
  • Frank

    I like the modern take on doing things. "No you can't, you're not qualified!"

    Reply
  • BigGov'ment

    You're going to need a variance, building permits, union workers, and several inspections if you are even thinking of building a fort. You probably better just go back inside and play X-box.


  • Breezy-bee

    My mother-in-law lived in Germany during Hilters control, when she came to the states she insisted her husband build a under ground bomb shelter It was pretty cool it was made out of a large metal tank with beds on each wall and shelfs to store food and water. The tank finally started rusting out and we had to have it removed in 2005. You would open a cap and climb down a ladder and thru a short tunnel. I guess in this situation you would call it the woman cave! The kids growing up would use it as their fort. Ventilation was a pipe coming straight up and turned to keep water from coming in.

    Reply
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