A strong, secure safe can guard a wide range of items; photos, passports, guns, and more. Home safes come in a variety of sizes and styles, and you may not realize until you have just how many uses a home safe has. When you’re choosing what type of safe to get, there are a number of factors to consider — everything from what you’re storing, to your home’s style can determine what safe is best for your needs.
Levels of Protection
Different safes have different levels of protection — list out the valuable items you want to keep in your safe, and then ask yourself: what do I want to protect these items from? Most safes will protect against theft and fire; some also offer protection against water damage.
To protect against theft, consider the material of the safe, as well as the lock. A safe made from a thin metal can be cut into more easily. Another danger of a lightweight safe is that thieves may carry the safe out of your home, to break in or open in privacy. A thicker gauge of steel (the lower the gauge, the stronger the steel) will be harder to break apart; but, it can also be more expensive.
Fire ratings will tell you how long a safe can withstand flames — most safes should have a fire rating of at least one hour. The fire rating is especially important if you’re storing guns and ammunition, since these items can make a home fire even more dangerous. For important documents, consider a smaller fire-resistant safe placed within a larger safe, for an extra level of protection. Some items — such as DVDs or other electronic media — will be even more sensitive to heat than paper is; these should be kept in a safe whose interior won’t exceed 125 degrees. Keep in mind that a high fire rating doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the strongest safe possible (and vice versa; a low fire rating doesn’t mean the safe is weak).
Some safes offer protection against water damage; in this case, what you’re putting in the safe matters most, since water can damage documents and photographs more than other items. When shopping for the right safe, as the seller or manufacturer about their criteria for water resistance — they’ll be able to tell you whether their safes are tested for water protection, and how they rate the resistance level. As with fire safety for paper valuables, a separate safe within a larger safe is a good way to provide an added level of protection. You can also put papers and photos in plastic bags within the safe, to further prevent water damage.
When you’re looking for a safe, consider getting one larger than the size you need for your valuable items. This gives you space to expand a collection, or add more important items through the years. Remember how heavy safes can be; if you’re picking a larger safe, the floor underneath it needs to be able to support the combined weight of the safe, and the items inside it. Be mindful of where you install a safe, especially a big one, as it’s going to stay in that spot for a long time. Concrete floors often provide the sturdiest support for heavy-duty safes.
You may want a smaller safe for some goods; especially documents. A small safe can be useful to grab and go quickly, in the event of an emergency — however, if it’s easy for you to carry, it’s also easy for a burglar to take on the run, so keep it in a well-hidden spot. A small safe can also be mounted in the wall, for additional stability, and to make theft more difficult.
The main types of locks used with home safes are keyed, combination, and electronic. Keyed locks, which use a regular key to open, are often the cheapest; but, they’re also easier to break into than combination or electronic safes. Combination locks (or mechanical locks) are becoming an increasingly common, and affordable, option. If you have a combination lock, write down the combination, and keep it in a hidden place. Electronic locks are extremely secure, though they are generally the more expensive way to go. Electronic locks also require less maintenance — a combination (mechanical) lock should be serviced by a safe technician every few years, while an electronic lock will simply need its batteries replaced every so often. Some safes have redundant locks, which include both an electric and mechanical lock, in the event that one of them fails.