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Fireproof home safes
Old 12-13-2014, 07:51 AM   #1
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Fireproof home safes

I know this has been discussed before, but it was a while back so I thought I'd ask the Lonely Hearts Club Band for more recent opinions and experiences.

I want to get a fireproof home safe for items formerly in a safe deposit box at a financial institution. Nothing big, personally only documents (e.g., birth/death certificates, tax return hard copies, passport, will/trust, etc.). No guns, cash or that kind of thing.

Does anyone have recommendations, recent good/bad experiences, suggestions for places to shop?
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Old 12-13-2014, 08:03 AM   #2
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If you have a slab foundation, perhaps one of those in the ground type safes might be a good way to go, good fire protection and also very concealable from those home invaders.
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Old 12-13-2014, 10:44 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steelyman View Post
I know this has been discussed before, but it was a while back so I thought I'd ask the Lonely Hearts Club Band for more recent opinions and experiences.

I want to get a fireproof home safe for items formerly in a safe deposit box at a financial institution. Nothing big, personally only documents (e.g., birth/death certificates, tax return hard copies, passport, will/trust, etc.). No guns, cash or that kind of thing.

Does anyone have recommendations, recent good/bad experiences, suggestions for places to shop?
There is a business in my suburb that specializes in selling and (if necessary) installing safes. You might look for a business like that in your area, preferably one that has been in business for decades. I think this would be the absolute best solution because their reputation is at stake every time they install a safe. They can also help you to choose the safe that is best for your needs.

As for "birth/death certificates, tax return hard copies, passport, will/trust, etc", I have scanned all and have multiple backups of the scans. I keep the original paper documents in a locking Steelcase file cabinet in one hanging file. I grab it and take it with me when evacuating for hurricanes. If there was a fire here while I was away, I suppose they'd burn to a crisp (although I would have the scanned copies). So, I'm not saying that my solution is great, but it's cheaper.

Don't forget that some (most?) of these documents can be easily replaced for modest amounts, such as birth/death/marriage certificates and so on. Often this can be done online. I just got copies of my marriage certificate (for applying for divorced spousal SS), and it only took a week and $12 to have the new copy complete with embossed seals delivered to me. I have also done this just as easily and cheaply for my birth certificate (when I needed it for a security clearance related to work), and with my divorce certificate. Others, such as tax returns don't have to be originals with embossed seals so I wonder if perhaps a digital copy is fine for those.

It is conceivable that a criminal could use information on these documents for identity theft, but that is also true of many other documents, most of which aren't customarily kept in safes.
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Old 12-13-2014, 11:29 AM   #4
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I have a Sentry 2 cu-ft safe that I keep in my walk-in bedroom closet and is bolted down into the cement slab. It is fire rated for one hour for documents, digital media and hard drives. Fortunately I haven't had to test out that feature yet. It is heavy (~150 lbs.) and being bolted into the cement slab is not going to be removed easily.
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Old 12-13-2014, 11:35 AM   #5
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I just bought a Sentry (like the pic) fire resistant at Staples about 10 years ago when our bank discontinued safety deposit boxes. From my research there's no such thing (within $ reason) as a fire proof safe. So if we have a catastrophic fire I might be lucky to find our safe in the basement buried in rubble, or it might just be a total loss.

I should bolt it down, but it's heavy enough that a burglar would have a tough time carrying it away, and he/she would be disappointed in the contents.

But I've been thinking about a newer, larger safe, so I hope to learn more on this thread.

I've scanned most of our important documents (and shredded the originals in some cases), so we're not as reliant on paper as we once were. Now I just need to find a more secure place to store the PDFs.
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Old 12-15-2014, 12:03 AM   #6
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Be aware of the smaller, battery operated 1.2 CF safes (Sentry) that you key in the code to open. I have 2 such safes and they are a bit troublesome.

There is a solenoid that moves a rod that allows the safe to open. The rod blocks the opening mechanism and the solenoid moves it out of the way. The handle on the safe will press against that rod and put an abrasive force on the rod that the solenoid cannot overpower.

Sometimes, the safe will not open! You can hear the solenoid "Click". But the safe will not open.

The trick is to get a small hammer and lightly tap around the upper right corner of the door. This is where that rod is located.

As long as the batteries are really fresh and I patiently rap the door with my hammer, I can eventually get the safe to open.

DW is less patient...
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Old 12-15-2014, 07:59 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Midpack View Post
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I just bought a Sentry (like the pic) fire resistant at Staples about 10 years ago when our bank discontinued safety deposit boxes. From my research there's no such thing (within $ reason) as a fire proof safe. So if we have a catastrophic fire I might be lucky to find our safe in the basement buried in rubble, or it might just be a total loss.

I should bolt it down, but it's heavy enough that a burglar would have a tough time carrying it away, and he/she would be disappointed in the contents.

But I've been thinking about a newer, larger safe, so I hope to learn more on this thread.

I've scanned most of our important documents (and shredded the originals in some cases), so we're not as reliant on paper as we once were. Now I just need to find a more secure place to store the PDFs.

+1 on there is no fireproof safe... look at the people who had safe deposit boxes in the basement of the WTC....
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Old 12-15-2014, 08:24 PM   #8
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The ingredient that makes any cabinet or safe "fireproof" is gypsum, the same thing that common drywall is made of. A lot of water is chemically bound in the material, and the gypsum can't exceed 212 deg F until it all boils out, which takes a lot of heat/time.

So, if money is an issue, a very good "fireproof" container can be made by surrounding a "regular" safe or even a metal file cabinet with drywall about 1" thick, or more. A 4' x 8' x 5/8" sheet of drywall costs about $12. Two or three layers around a two-drawer file (including the bottom), overlapping corners/seams, some steel angle at the corners to keep everything together when things get hot, with a tight-fitting door made of the same stuff and some good metal weatherstripping to keep the hot air (and steam, and water from any firefighting) out as long as possible. Cover the outside with some Hardibacker (to take the daily abuse--sheetrock is fragile stuff). For about $40 in material and a few hours of time, any small cabinet or small safe can be made fire-resistant.
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Old 12-16-2014, 05:59 AM   #9
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Many safes sold retail have a rating that tells you how many hours they are designed to withstand the heat of a typical home fire.

I have one with something like a 4 hour rating, which I think is enough.

Everything in it has been scanned, with pdf backup copies stored offsite, and like Midpack, anyone who actually managed to get in it would be very disappointed.
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