I've been disappointed in the fire ratings of household safes I have
seen in office supply stores. One $400 safe was effective for only one
hour at 1500 degrees. I wonder if there is a better way.
I don't need to keep valuables (I have very few of them) in a safe,
just important papers (car titles, military records, etc.) so I was
My home has a cinder block wall for a foundation. What if, down in the
basement, I chiseled out out a small 1' X 1' section that's below
grade, dug into the earth some, and then inserted some kind of steel
box in the hole, seal it to the wall and attach a fiberglass-insulated
door of some kind. Seems like this would be cheaper and much more
effective than any commercial job.
Unless you live far from the fire house or store flammable chemicals on
site, it is not unreasonable that the fire dept can contain a fire at your
house in 1 hour.
Placing a fireproof safe in a basement wall may give you additional
protection as long as a hot fire does not burn the whole house down and fill
the basement with embers, in which case your plan will result in ash.
If fire protection and not protecting valuables is the main concern, place
the safe in the front hall closet or a bedroom on the first floor. Places
where the fire dept is likely to control a blaze first.
For $400, you can lease a safe deposit box at your bank for a long time.
Problem with those safes unless they have changed is sure, the safe
itself is fireproof, but what can it do to the internal tempature of a
nasty fire? The papers will turn to powder when picked up. Maybe sink
the safe into the ground a few feet.
I bought an old house with a large 1899 (yes, 1899) Mohler safe in the
basement. When I had the manufacturer rep in to reset the combination, he
told me that it was a paper fire safe, and that its proper place was in the
basement. He said that basements rarely ever get really badly burned in a
house fire, and even if the whole house burned to the ground, the ash and
debris would insulate the safe so that the interior temp would never reach a
point that would incinerate my papers. Never was quite sure I believed him,
but I'm passing his comments along FWTW ---
My safe is wonderful - it looks like something out of Butch Cassidy & the
Sundance Kid. When I move it's going up on Craig's List because I'm
certainly not going to pay to move it!
in the words of the immortal Sgt Schultz:
The interior of the safe can remain relatively cool, even during a nasty
fire. The walls of the safe generally contain gypsum, and gypsum
undergoes calcination somewhere around 180 - 200 degrees (F). The
calcination progresses through the gypsum and the temperature doesn't
rise much above 212 F ahead of that progression.
I like the idea. I wonder if there any people in the group who have
tried it. The main concern, I would think, would be water: how to stop
this from becoming a basement leak, and how to make sure water does not
get into it. As far as things like paper, photos, etc. are concerned,
water can be just as bad as fire. And fire is not all that likely. So
you would have to be pretty darn sure of your work to figure your
papers are safer in the hidey hole than in a cheap safe.
When I was a lad I worked for a while in a warehouse, which at some
point was completely destroyed by fire. There were some metal filing
cabinets in the office and they protected the paper remarkably well, it
was just a little singed around the edges. And those were not safes,
just well made metal file cabinets. I think one of them had a drawer
open though and the paper in that one was destroyed.
For the money, you would be better served by having the documents
placed on CD/DVD and distributed - 1) onsite safe, 2) bank safe
deposit, and 3) trusted person of choice.
A 1' X 1' indicates few documents or not a vast amount. They have
floor safes, so I'm not sure your "steel box" would be the best
"My doctor says I have a malformed public-duty gland
and a natural deficiency in moral fiber, and that I am therefore
excused from saving Universes."
You could also check at your local gun shop. They will sell safes and
may have different fire ratings. Doesn't hurt to go and browse and ask a
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With safes, you generally get what you pay for. $400 is at the low
end. Pay a lot more and you get better protection.
Sounds like you're talking about a floor safe. The good: as you've
surmised, more economical than a free-standing model, and less prone
to fire damage. The bad: succeptible to liquid infiltration. Leaky
water heater, burst washer hose, overflowing toilet, spilled can of
paint or other household product, etc. can flood the container and
ruin the contents. I agree with other posters that your best bet
would be a small safe-deposit box at your local bank.
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