What to Look for When Buying a Home Safe


When it comes to protecting your valuables, you want to make sure you do everything you can to keep them safe from intruders, damage, even simple loss. One great way to protect, at least some of your valuables with a home safe. The problem is, there are hundreds, if not thousands of safes, how do you ever decide. Well, we are here to stop the madness and give a little guidance with a look at things you may need to consider when thinking about buying a safe for your home.

What are the most important features to look for in a home safe? Home safes come in several sizes and offer a wide range of protections. They can vary in size, protection, construction, and even locking mechanism. While there are several things to consider when buying a safe, perhaps the most important thing to consider is if the safe is designed to protect what you want to keep safe. 

Not all safes are created equal, so you should consider the following features when buying a home safe:

  • Safe Type
  • Size
  • Protection Qualities
  • Construction Quality
  • Ratings and Certifications
  • Cost

What Type of Safe Do You Need?

You probably have some idea of what you want to keep in your safe. Those items will determine the type of home safe that you are going to want to buy. There are several names that manufacturers use to describe their safes. However, they will generally fall into one of the following categories:

  1. Gun Safes
  2. Fire Safes
  3. Jewelry Safes 
  4. Burglar Safes

Some safes may offer more than one of the above protections, such as a fire-resistant gun safe. The are several varieties. Choosing the type of safe you need first will make many of the other steps easier. 

Gun Safes

Gun safes are the most popular safes sold today. Designed to keep weapons safely stored out of the reach of children and untrained hands. A good quality gun safe will store all your weapons and ammunition securely. Gun safes come in a wide variety of sizes and security strength, as well as added features such as fire resistance. The type of gun safe that a single handgun owner needs are going to be very different than a collector.

Fire Safes

Fire-resistant safes are most often used to protect important documents; paperwork such as will, deeds, and vehicle titles. The important thing to remember is that there is a big difference between fire-resistant and fireproof. Most safes are not designed to protect against a raging fire for very long, leaving digital media, photographs, and other fragile items vulnerable. These items should be kept in a safety deposit box for the best possible protection.

Jewelry Safes 

Jewelry safes have become more common as more and more people are looking to protect their valuable, sometimes priceless heirloom jewelry. Jewelry safes tend to run a bit on the high side though, but many say they are worth it.

Jewelry safes are often made to look beautiful. Many feature amazing wood designs, even velvet-clad interiors, all disguising heavy-duty steel. One huge advantage to a jewelry safe, at least a good one, is that they often offer flexible options such as customizable layouts, drawers and, even hanging space. Many people have found other uses for these safes beyond jewelry. 

Burglar Safes

A burglar safe, often referred to as a burglary fire safe, though more secure than a standard fire safe. Burglar safes are usually made of heavy-duty steel. These type of safes are often concealed in some way, though they can be found in some standalone styles. 

The most common are wall or floor safes. Most burglar fire safes are fireproof, which is much more than just being fire-resistant; able to withstand actual fire for longer periods of time, and in some cases may even be able to protect digital media, photographs, and other vulnerable items. 

Understanding Safe Sizing

The size of safe you need, like almost everything else is going to depend on what you are placing inside. However, there are a few other things to consider regarding the size of safe you need. 

Exterior vs Interior Sizes

You are going to have to take some measurements; and yes, we mean with an actual tape measure, not just an estimation. You will need to look at where you are going to be placing your safe. Take measurements of the floor space as well as the height that you have available.

When you are looking at safes to buy you are going to want this information handy. You do not want to fall in love with everything about a safe, only to find out that it will not fit in space you have for it. Another important aspect of safe sizes is much more complicated to determine is most cases. 

You have to consider the interior measurements or capacity of the safe. In simple terms, this means if you have an antique shotgun that is 38 inches long it will not fit in a safe with an interior that only measures 34 inches. While this may not matter much for smaller items like documents and photographs it will matter a great deal for things like jewelry and guns. 

Interior measurements will often be listed as separate dimensions than exterior measurements, and if you are unable to find them, ask for assistance.

Weight

It should come as no surprise that even a small safe can weight much more than a single individual should or can carry safely. You may have to find alternative methods of transportation for your safe.

 in the case of extremely large safes, like many gun safes, you may even have to find out if where you’re placing the safe can actually support the weight. 

Heavier safes to come with a bit of added protection by default if you cannot transport it easily, neither can a thief. The general advice is that if two safes offer exactly the same features, go with the heavier safe. Heavy usually equals quality when it comes to safes.

Capacity

In addition to the actual interior size, you will want to consider if the safe contains that capacity to hold all the items you need it to protect. In the case of gun and jewelry safes, most often there are additional protections, like not stacking valuable pieces of jewelry on top of one another. This is going to make a big impact on the capacity of the safe.

Protecting your Property

Even the sturdiest safe around may not be designed to protect your property. There are several options when it comes to safety features that can have a huge impact on how safe your safe is. Again, have prior plans for what you intend to place in the safe will help avoid any unwanted disasters by purchasing one without features you may need. 

Waterproof 

No one ever wants to think that their house could flood. People who live on higher ground will nearly always ignore the fact that they have high-pressure water routed into several areas of their home. Water pipes are not perfect, they fail. Unfortunately, most people do not consider that they may need waterproof protection in their safe. This is especially true when the primary focus is protection against theft. 

Safes can be found with waterproof features. Waterproofing ratings typically refer to the depth and length of time the seal on the safe will hold under those conditions. 

Fire

Fire Protection is probably one of the most misunderstood aspects of safes. Most people do not understand that there is a huge difference between something being fire resistant and fireproof. 

Fire-resistant means that the exterior out of the safe will withstand some degree up heat from a fire, and may even survive a fire. However, in most cases, fire-resistant safes offer no protection against the heat that may be created within the safe. The difference between fire protection is often why people will lose those unique and irreplaceable items, such as photographs, digital media or other things that may be damaged when the temperature inside the safe reaches a certain temperature.

Alternatively, fireproof safes offer a bit more protection. They are typically sealed in such a way to be able to withstand extreme levels of heat; the type that can be found at the core of a house fire. In fact, the paper will start to change color once the interior reaches about 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and at 451 degrees Fahrenheit paper will actually burn, even if it has not come in direct contact with the fire itself.

Humidity

Another element that may be important to some is the humidity level in a safe. Guns, metals, even jewelry may be at risk of damage if the humidity is not regulated. Luckily there are safes that are made to take care of this issue as well, almost like a giant steel humidor. These safes feature electrical components, like a thermostat to run the system.  Another option is to place a small dehumidifier in the safe, however, you are going to need electricity access inside the safe. Some safes have outlets built-in, others do not.

Construction Materials Matter

How a safe is built, and what it is made of is the primary factor in how to secure the safe maybe. There are usually three things to consider, the thickness of the steel lining of the walls, the door, and the locking mechanism.

Wall thickness

Often referred to in terms of gauge, the thicker the steel, the lower the gauge. This means that a safe made of with 14-gauge steel will have thinner walls than one with 10-gauge steel. Expect to pay higher prices for thicker steel. 

In addition to the steel lining, safes will also often have other materials that will help to make the safe sturdier. It is not uncommon to find safes with ceramic insulation or even concrete.

Safe Doors

Doors are a common point of access in safes, so check to make sure your safe door is constructed well and made of quality materials. Good safes will often have a steel plate built in the door to give it a similar strength as the walls. You may also want to consider a door that features pry-resistant hinges and locks.

Locking Mechanism

Speaking of locks, the central security feature of any safe is the lock. After all, is a safe really a safe without a lock? Moving on… There are four general types of locks used in home safes. 

Biometric Locks

Biometrics locks simply mean that you use something from your body to unlock the safe in most cases this is just going to be a fingerprint. These locks can be usually be programmed to accept one or several fingerprints. They also usually run on battery power.

Electronic Locks

We have all seen an electronic lock, these are the ones where you enter in a passcode and the lock opens. Much like the biometric locks, electronic locks require some type of power to operate, which could be battery or direct electricity.

Mechanical Locks

Remember the combination locks on high school lockers? Those are mechanical locks. However mechanical locks for safes are often a little bit more complicated. They still feature circular tumblers that have to be manipulated into the right combination in order for the lock to disengage, the tumblers are a little tougher in a safe’s mechanical lock.

You can also get mechanical locks with extra features like a mechanical keypad where you press in a number instead of turning the cylinders. A huge bonus to a mechanical lock, over both biometric and electronic locks, is that they don’t need electricity to work. 

Key Locks

Enter old faithful, the good ole key lock. Though less common in modern safes, they do still exist. These are the simplest type of safe lock, which also makes them the easiest to crack. And then there is the unfortunate moment when you realize you have no idea where you put the key!

Safe Ratings

There are a few different ratings that a safe may have:

  • Fire Ratings – explain the level of fire protection in terms of time and temperature. For example, a safe with a fire rating of 1 hour at 1700⁰F means that the safe will keep the contents safe for 1 hour in a fire burning at 1700 degrees. Just to compare an average house fire can reach between 1100- and 1400-degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Waterproof Rating – As we mentioned above, waterproof ratings are very similar to fire, listing a depth and time. Waterproofing is usually specifically directed at the door seal, though other water prevention step may have been taken in other parts of the safe. Regardless of waterproof ratings, if a flood is a risk near your home use other methods to increase the protection of important documents as well. 
  • UL Ratings – these can get crazily complicated to understand but we will try to simplify it. These ratings are given to safes independently tested by Underwriters Laboratories, one of the premier product safety companies in the entire world. They give a safe designated rating based on the quality of the product and level of safety it provides. Take a look at the table below for a brief look at UL ratings for safes.

UL Ratings

RatingDescription
TL RatingCombination lock safes, protected against multiple access types including tools, drills, pressure, and some levels can even withstand a cutting torch
B-RationSafe with walls less than ½” thick, rating determined by the lock
Fire RatingExplained above, keeps the internal temperature at a safer level up to an amount of time.

What to Avoid When Buying a Home Safe

Thought we would give you a couple of last-minute tips that you may want to keep in mind.

  1. Remember that fire resistance does nothing to protect important documents, digital media, photographs, etc. There are specially designed media safes, that you may want to consider, however, the best option is to use a safety deposit box. 
  2. Don’t spread the word you are buying a safe. Most thefts involving safes occurred simply because the criminal knew there was a safe in the home. We understand you may not be able to conceal a huge gun safe when it is being delivered, but you do not have to advertise it either. 

Final Thoughts

When it comes to protecting the things that we value most, we will go to extraordinary lengths to keep them safe. Home safes offer the ability to protect some or all the things that you treasure most and keep them from sticky fingers, damaging conditions, are just tucked away nice and secure. Whether you are looking for a small home safe or a larger gun safe, we hope you at least have an idea of what you need to look for and how to understand what you may find. We sincerely wish you the best of luck, stay safe!

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