All homeowners have valuables they want to keep safe from theft and accidents. In particular, you might be concerned about what would happen to important documents if there were a fire in your home. A high-quality fire safe can give you important peace of mind if your home suffers a fire or break-in.
But finding the right fire safe is key if you want to secure your belongings. That means choosing the best lock type, fire rating, material, and other features to protect your valuables from flames and burglars.
If you’re not sure how to sort through all the choices, we’re here to help. This handy shopping guide has all the information you need to find the ideal fire safe for your home. Still not sure which one to choose? We’ve included a few specific product recommendations to make shopping even easier.
Considerations when choosing fire safes
Fire safes are available with several different types of lock: key, combination, keypad, and biometric.
Key locks are a simple option. You just use a key to unlock the safe and don’t need to remember a combination.
Combination locks, another fairly basic lock option, usually have a numbered dial that you use to enter a three-digit code to open the safe.
Keypad locks also require a code to open the safe, but you enter the numbers on an electronic keypad.
Biometric locks are high-tech devices that use the fingerprint of the authorized user to unlock the safe.
It’s key to make sure your safe is appropriately rated to withstand the heat generated by a fire. Underwriters Laboratories (UL), an independent testing and certification company, bases its ratings on the interior temperature that a safe can maintain when exposed to fire and the length of time it can maintain that temperature. UL also distinguishes what types of items the safe is able to protect for each rating.
Many fire safes are rated for 30 or 45 minutes of protection. These are affordable and usually sufficient for home use. Safes that provide an hour or more of fire protection cost more.
UL Class 350 one-hour and two-hour fire safes: These are effective at protecting paper items. During fire exposure with an external temperature of up to 1700°F, these safes can maintain an interior temperature of 350°F for either one or two hours.
UL Class 150 one-hour and two-hour fire safes: These are designed to protect photographic film and magnetic tape. During fire exposure with external temperatures over 1700°F, these safes can maintain an interior temperature of 150°F for either one or two hours.
UL Class 125 one-hour and two-hour fire safes: These are meant to protect computer disks. During fire exposure with external temperatures over 1700°F, these Class 125 safes will maintain an internal temperature of 125°F for one or two hours.
UL Class 125 three-hour fire safes: During fire exposure with external temperatures up to 1925°F, these Class 125 safes will maintain an internal temperature of 125°F for three hours.
Fire safe features
Material: To keep thieves out of your fire safe, opt for a model made of steel. The thickness of the steel (gauge) plays a significant role in the security of the safe. Check the gauge of the steel for any fire safe you’re considering – the smaller the number, the thicker the steel. Safes with 6- or 10-gauge steel are the strongest, but 14- or 20-gauge steel can be effective if you’re on a budget.
Capacity: Fire safes come in a variety of sizes. The best way to determine how large a safe you need is to gather the items you plan to keep in it and measure the pile. For most homes, a fire safe with an interior capacity of 1.0 to 2.0 cubic feet is usually sufficient.
Water resistance: Many fire safes also offer some degree of water resistance, which is helpful in the event of a flood. In most cases, the safe is rated for the depth of water and amount of time that it will remain waterproof. For example, a fire safe may be waterproof in a foot of water for up to three days.
Bolts: Bolting a fire safe to the floor prevents a burglar from walking off with it. Some safes come with bolts, making it easier to anchor the safe.
Fire safe prices: Fire safes vary in price based on capacity and rating, but most cost between $38 and $750. Small safe boxes with less than 0.5 cubic feet of capacity usually range from $38 to $75. Midsize safes with a capacity between 0.5 and 2.1 cubic feet generally cost between $75 and $300. Large safes with more than 2.1 cubic feet of capacity typically cost from $300 to $750.
Q. Where should I place my fire safe?
A. If you opt for an extremely large, heavy fire safe, you’ll need to keep it on your ground floor. The basement is the best spot in terms of fire protection, too. For homes in flood-prone areas, you should place the safe on the ground floor.
Q. What items should I keep in a fire safe?
A. Most people keep paper documents in a fire safe. Items like birth certificates, wills, passports, insurance policies, stock certificates, and savings bonds are all good candidates.
Fire safes we recommend
Best of the best: AmazonBasics Fire-Resistant Safe
Our take: A durable, well-made safe that can protect a wide range of valuables from both fire and theft.
What we like: Made of 14-gauge steel. Backup key for emergency use if you forget the combination. Generous capacity, padded interior, and adjustable shelf. Meets UL fire-resistance standards. Includes bolting kit.
What we dislike: Only provides 20 minutes of fire resistance. Keypad made of plastic, which can be a durability issue.
Best bang for your buck: Honeywell Fire-Resistant Steel Security Safe Box
Our take: A simple, compact fire-resistant box that’s easily transported. Despite its size, it can hold a variety of items, including media.
What we like: Extremely affordable. Lightweight design makes it highly portable. Features double steel walls and scratch-resistant exterior for added durability. Padded interior.
What we dislike: No UL fire-resistance certification. Large documents may need to be folded to fit inside. Corners are a weak spot that may not resist tampering.
Choice 3: SentrySafe Fireproof and Waterproof Safe
Our take: A good-sized, high-quality safe that can protect your belongings from fire, water, and theft.
What we like: Offers both key and dial locks. UL certified for an hour of fire resistance. Waterproof in eight inches of water up to 24 hours. Solid-steel construction and pry-resistant hinge provide additional theft protection.
What we dislike: Many components are made of plastic, which can feel flimsy. Some complaints that safe arrives scratched or dented. Dial combination can’t be changed.
Jennifer Blair is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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