View Full Version : fire-proof safes

L.W. Baxter
02-08-2006, 09:27 PM
Anybody know anything about safes for the home?

Specifically, are the cheaper models really "fire-proof"? How much do you have to spend for reliability in a fire?

02-08-2006, 09:36 PM
There is quite a bit a latitude in what people mean by "fire proof". I don't think there is such a thing as a completely "fire proof" safe.

I think the official term is actually "fire resistant". In that context, safes are rated for time and temperature. You don't necessarily have to pay a lot more for additional protection.

It would help to have some idea of how large a safe you need, and what types of items you are planning to store. I could then narrow my response somewhat.

- Kevin

L.W. Baxter
02-08-2006, 09:43 PM
I'm thinking documents, mostly. Can photos and video tapes be protected from heat in a safe?

Size, maybe a cube about 2' on all sides?

I've seen some reasonably priced units at a local sporting goods store, but I wonder if they would really hold up if a house burned down around it.

I suppose it might matter some where one puts the safe in the house.

Peter Malcolm Jardine
02-08-2006, 09:53 PM
get a safety deposit box. If they're that valuable, you don't want the chance.

02-08-2006, 10:14 PM
I think PMJ has the right idea for documents.

The problem with small "fire-proof" safes is they lack thermal mass. Insulation slows down the rate of heat exchange, but if the interior volume is small there isn't much mass to absorb whatever heat leaks in. Since volume goes up with the cube of the exterior dimensions, while surface area goes up as the square, that means larger safes have more interior volume per surface area, which mean larger safes survive better in fire. Of course, the walk in safe at the bank is the best bet of all. :D

If you are going to have a home safe, leaving plastic jugs filled with water on the top will help. When the heat finally melts the jugs, the escaping water will help cool the safe. Also, placing your safe on an exterior wall will reduce the combustible mass around it and hopefully allow it to fall out of the building if the building burns.

- Kevin

High C
02-08-2006, 10:15 PM
I have one, I forget the brand, but a very popular one, about $100 as I recall. There are a lot of qualifiers of just how safe it is. There's talk of papers being brown and still readable after being in a fire for an hour, or some such. So it's limited in the degree of protection.

Digital data would be ruined in heat that would turn a page of paper brown.

L.W. Baxter
02-08-2006, 10:25 PM
Well, I wondered. Thanks for the reality check, folks.

I'll look into the safe deposit box at the bank idea.

Peter Malcolm Jardine
02-08-2006, 10:52 PM
It reminds me to do something i haven't.... take about sixty or seventy pictures of my house, it's contents, the shop, and it's contents. Put the pics in a SD box, so if you have a fire or get ripped off, there is no dispute about what was lost. ;)

02-08-2006, 11:18 PM
The best fireproof safe is one mounted in a foundation floor or slab.

02-09-2006, 08:19 AM
Kevin, by the time the jugs melt, the water will have been converted to steam, no?

Pipefitter has it right. Second to that would be a CMU and gypsum enclosure.

02-09-2006, 02:23 PM
Originally posted by Figment:
Kevin, by the time the jugs melt, the water will have been converted to steam, no?I'm not sure. I've never had to try it out, thank God. smile.gif Now that you mention it, I think maybe it's just another way of adding thermal mass - something to absorb heat to keep it from the safe. Boiling off the water absorbs energy I guess. In any case, since I have an ugly safe (being too cheap to spend money on a glossy paint job), the safe lives in the garage, and I put all my bottled water on top it for storage. Can't hurt, I guess.

In my own case, I have 1" of sheetrock (two 1/2" layers) installed in my gun safe on all six sides. A friend of mine tells me sheetrock provides insulation because the water in it boils out during the fire. :confused: I'm not sure I believe that argument, because I'm pretty sure glass wool (the alternative insulation) doesnt contain water. Let's hope I don't have to find out. :D

- Kevin

George Roberts
02-09-2006, 06:17 PM
Jagermeister ---

I believe 5/8" sheetrock has a 1 hour fire rating.

In any case it makes a reasonable fireproofing.

02-09-2006, 08:49 PM

[ 02-09-2006, 08:56 PM: Message edited by: Figment ]