Buying a Home Safe

You are looking for a way to protect your possessions and have decided to buy a safe. But what kind of safe should you buy?

What kind of protection is available?

Fire-resistant safes protect contents from fire. They are available in two categories: 1) record or document safes and 2) media safes.

Record or Document Safes

  1. These safes protect paper from fire. They are constructed of fire-resistant insulating material sandwiched between two metal walls that keep the interior below the burning point of paper (350 degrees Fahrenheit).
  2. They are available in ½-hour, 1-hour and 4-hour ratings, and should have either an Underwriters Laboratory (UL) label or the equivalent. The Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL) is an independent, not-for-profit product-safety testing and certification organization and has tested products for public safety for more than a century.
  3. Media safes protect anything made of plastic, with magnetic or digital information or photographs. The safes are more heavily insulated since the internal temperature must stay below 125 degrees Fahrenheit.

Burglar-resistant safes protect contents from thieves.

  1. They are constructed of solid metal walls and a heavy door resistant to attack by drilling, cutting or prying.
  2. They have two types of ratings: class rating (1 to 5) and UL rating.
  3. The class rating system is based on a combination of door and wall thickness and resistance to attack.
  4. The UL rating include letter designations for resistance to various types of attacks:
    • DR (drill resistant)
    • TR (torch resistant)
    • TRTL (tool and torch resistant), and
    • X6 (for bankers and jewelers safes).
  5. A combination fire/burglar safe offers both types of protection.

What do the fire ratings numbers mean?

  1. The first number (350 or 125) refers to the maximum internal temperature of the safe.
  2. The second number refers to how long the safe was tested: 350-2-hour means the safe was tested for two hours at 1700 to 2000 degrees and maintained a temperature of 350 or less internally.
  3. Classes:
    • Class C Safe protects paper documents for up to 1 hour at temperatures up to 1700°F
    • Class B Safe protects paper documents for up to 2 hours at temperatures up to 1850°F
    • Class A Safe protects paper documents for up to 4 hours at 2000°F.

What else should I consider?

  1. The capacity: Choose one large enough to hold everything you want to secure.
  2. The interior options: These include multiple compartments, drawers and/or shelves and racks. Make sure the compartments can be adjusted to suit your needs.
  3. The location: depending on the size and purpose, safes can be kept in a closet, mounted in the wall or secured in the floor.

What should I keep in the safe?

The most commonly kept items in a safe are: cash, jewelry, investment metals (gold and silver), photography equipment, coin and/or stamp collections, antiques, collectibles and heirlooms, trust deeds, wills and tax papers, firearms and ammunition (keeps them away from children too).


Where can I buy a fire-resistant or a combination fire/burglar safe?

Look for safes at your local hardware stores, big-box retailers and office supply stores. Professional home security system retailers and locksmiths also sell home safes and other security devices.


What is the average cost of a safe?

Small office safes like drawer and small file cabinet safes can cost $50-$150. A 1.5 cubic foot fire-resistant safe, which can hold small items and important papers, costs around $150-200.

Prices range depending on the manufacturer, product benefits (fire-resistant, burglar-resistant,) size, weight, material, and the retailer.


What other things should I consider when buying a safe?

Be sure to read the fine print of the safe before buying to make sure it meets your requirements. Some safe manufacturers may also offer a warranty for the safe a certain time period.

Also, consider checking with your insurance agent. You may be able to receive a discount on your premiums or other benefits depending on your policy and which safe you purchase.

Updated: 5/2009