On this page:
- A Safe to Fit Your Needs and Your Budget
- Benefits of a Security Safe
- Factors Affecting Cost
- What’s Involved with Buying and Installing a Safe?
- Things to Do Before the Safe Arrives
- Cost Comparisons
- Level of Difficulty
- Find a Pro
While your most valuable assets, such heirloom jewelry and rare coins, might be more secure in a safe deposit box, a home safe is great way to protect deeds, passports, other valuable documents and -- yes -- limited amounts of cash. It isn’t only burglars you have to worry about; you can lose important papers to fires, floods and other disasters as well. Home safes come in various sizes and are rated for various levels of protection, so you have plenty of choices.
A Safe to Fit Your Needs and Your Budget
You need a safe that’s big enough to handle what you want to put in it, but you don’t want to overdo it. Large safes are more expensive and more difficult to move around. To size the safe, put the items you need to store in it in a pile, then measure the approximate dimensions to get the safe’s storage capacity in cubic feet or inches. Safe dealers recommend adding at least 25 percent to the capacity to ensure you have room for items you may add in the future.
Fire, Burglar, and Water Resistance
Fire safes are rated for the length of time they will protect your valuables from a fire. A lower number means the inside of the safe remains cooler and that the safe is suitable for more perishable items than one with a higher rating. Safes with lower fire resistance numbers are also generally more water resistant. A security safe is rated by the amount of time it takes a professional safecracker to break into it -- with and without using cutting wheels and power saws. Fire safes are not always burglar-proof, and security safes don’t always protect valuables from fires.
If you want to make it easy for other members of the family to open the safe, you may opt for a keyed lock. Keys are easy to lose, though, and many people opt for combination locks instead. Many safes can be opened with either the key or a combination. The sophistication of the lock mechanism may affect the cost of the safe.
Some safes are freestanding, and once you set one in place, the installation is complete. Others are intended to be bolted to the floor, and still others must be mounted in a wall or in a concrete enclosure in the wall or floor. The amount of work involved with installation is a cost determinant.
Benefits of a Security Safe
Organize Your Life
Instead of collecting important papers in your drawers or on countertops, you can put them all together in a safe. That way, no one will mistake an important document for trash and throw it away, and you won’t mistakenly use the deed to your house as a piece of scratch paper.
Protect Your Important Documents
If a fire happens while you’re away, and all your important documents are in a file cabinet, you could lose them. If you keep them in a fire-resistant safe, though, you’re covered.
Keep Your Valuables Accessible
If you keep your important documents and valuables in a safe deposit box at the bank, and something happens to you, it could be difficult for members of your family to retrieve them. If you have a safe, though, you can share the key and combination with those you trust, and you can get the important papers you need when you’re unable to provide proof of identity.
Factors Affecting Cost
UL and “Equivalent” Ratings
Safes tested and rated by Underwriters Laboratory carry a UL label. Some manufacturers may identify their products as “Equivalent,” but this means that the listed ratings may not conform to the same standards as UL-listed products. The lack of a UL label usually denotes inferior quality and it lowers the price tag.
Drawers, Shelves and Mounting Brackets
A basic safe consists of a single compartment, but larger safes may include drawers and shelves to make organizing your valuables easier. In addition, some safes come complete with mounting brackets for installation on the floor or in the wall. These all add to the price.
Many safe installations are DIY projects requiring only a few tools and a strong helper. When a safe needs to be installed in a wall or set in concrete, however, professional installation is usually required, and depending on the size of the project, it can cost from a few hundred to thousands of dollars.
What’s Involved with Buying and Installing a Safe?
Choosing a Safe
In many cases, the cost of the safe is the main -- or only -- cost you need to consider. Size, as well as fire, water and burglary resistance, lock style, and other features are all variables. Select a safe based on your needs and budget, keeping in mind you may need a fire safe, a security safe or a combination fire/security safe.
Transporting Your Safe
Even a relatively small safe with a capacity of only 1.7 cubic feet can weigh as much as 230 pounds, which is too heavy to transport yourself. You usually need professional movers to carry your new safe from the store and place it in your house, even if it’s freestanding.
When your safe is to be installed in the floor or wall, workers typically need to prepare the space before bringing the safe. In some cases -- as when the safe is to be hidden or installed in a concrete enclosure -- preparation can take days.
Things to Do Before the Safe Arrives
Do Your Homework
Decide what level of protection you need. If you’re storing data and media, you need the highest level fire rating, whereas you need the highest security rating if you’re storing money or valuables. If you’re storing paper money, the rating of the safe -- together with its placement -- should guarantee that the temperature inside it never exceeds 451 degrees Fahrenheit, because that’s the temperature at which paper burns.
Prepare the Space
Once you get the safe in the room, you don’t want to have to move it around while you shift furniture. Get all the furniture out of the way and clean the floor and walls to get ready for an object that likely won’t be moved for several years.
Find a Safe Place for the Key
Even safes with combination and electronic locks have emergency keys to override the numbered controls. You don’t want to lose the safe key, and you obviously can’t keep it in the safe, so find a secure place for it that you won’t forget -- even ten years down the road. This may take some planning. To ensure the safe can be opened if something happens to you, consider disclosing the location of the key to at least one other person.
Register the Safe
If the safe comes with a preset combination, and you happen to lose it, the manufacturer won’t tell you what it is unless you can prove you are the registered owner. Keep the registration documents in a secure place other than in the safe itself -- perhaps with the key.
|$100 - $850||$100 - $2,600||$100 - $6,500|
The chart compares options for installing a safe with a storage capacity between 0.58 and 21.7 cubic feet.
Wall- or Surface-Mount: $400 - $850
- • Fire and Security Ratings: Wall and floor safes offer better security than freestanding ones.
- • Lock Type: Combination, keyed and electronic locks are available. An electronic lock is a feature that raises the price tag.
- • Installation Costs: You can do this job yourself, but you may want to spend the $450 or so it costs to hire a pro.
- • Size: Because they are affixed to the framing or the floor, wall- and floor-mount safes tend to be small.
Freestanding: $100 - $2,600
- • Fire and Security Ratings: Freestanding safes are typically rated primarily for fire protection.
- • Lock Type: Lock options are the same as they are for wall- or surface-mount safes.
- • Installation Costs: You may have to pay for transportation, but other than that, installation is not required.
- • Size: Freestanding safes can be any size, but large, heavy ones provide more storage space and security.
In-Floor: $100 - $6,500
- • Fire and Security Ratings: In-floor safes are often encased in concrete, which adds to the fire and security protection. Look for a safe that offers good moisture protection, especially if installing it in the basement.
- • Lock Type: While keyed locks are available, combination and electronic locks are more common.
- • Installation Costs: When encasing a safe in concrete, installation costs usually exceed the cost of the safe. In other cases, the cost of installation is about the same as for a wall- or surface-mount safe.
- • Size: In-floor safes tend to be small so that they can remain out of the way and hidden.
Level of Difficulty
Installing a freestanding or built-in safe is a project you can more than likely do yourself, but you can easily bite off more than you can chew. Cartoons showing safes falling out of windows can be funny, but it’s no laughing matter if you actually lose control of a 200-pound safe while moving it into your house or taking it up or down stairs. If your safe is large and heavy, professional transportation and installation is more than a convenience -- it’s a virtual necessity.
Safe Installation Services
If you’re ready to get your documents and valuables organized and safely secured, it’s easy to find a qualified pro to install your safe. With professional installation, you’ll have the added security of knowing the job will be done with the least impact on your busy life.