The Anatomy of a Vault Door

Feeling overwhelmed by the many features available on a vault door? Start here for a guide to the most important design and safety features, along with the key points you should know about each:

Locking Mechanism:
The locking mechanism on your vault door doesn’t just keep burglars or intruders out–it’s also your sole means of access to the vault. If the lock malfunctions you may be cut off from your valuables (or panic room), and forcing your way in is an expensive proposition that renders your vault door useless. Because of this, we recommend purchasing a vault door with a locking mechanism that is a UL approved Group 2 or Group 1 lock.
Locking mechanisms that you’ll find on our vault doors include:

Dial locks require no power supply, and their time-tested design is the most reliable certified by UL. Dial locks may open with only a numeric combination, or they may be set to require a key as well. You have the option of installing a redundant electronic keypad, so you can open the vault with either the dial or the keypad. The keypad also gives you the option of entering an alternate alert code that simultaneously unlocks the vault and alerts authorities or security personnel that a break-in is taking place.

Biometric locks are keyed to your fingerprints–just touch and open. The interface allows you to add or delete authorized users, and the keypad can also be set to accept a keyed-in security code in addition to, or instead of, fingerprint access.

A timelock mechanism is the equivalent of a self-lockout; once set the timelock disables the locking/unlocking mechanism entirely, keeping the vault door closed until the set time limit has expired.

Locking bolts:
Locking bolts slide from the vault door through the doorjamb, securing the door in place. Bolts may protrude from the outside edge of the door, or from the top and bottom of the door as well. Watch out for huge bolts that look impressive, but don’t actually continue very far into the door frame. The hardware that attaches the bolts to the door is important too, how big or strong the bolts are won’t matter at all if the attachment points are flimsy. 

Re-lockers are hardened steel pins that shoot into place when the vault door or lock is compromised. There are several common ways of triggering re-lockers:

Cable-triggered re-lockers are secured by cables anchored to the vault door’s lock. If the lock becomes dislodged, the cable releases and the locking pins snap into place.

Thermal re-lockers are cable re-lockers that are fixed to an anchor point of soft metal. During a torch or thermic lance attack, the metal anchor point melts and releases the re-lockers.

Glass plate re-lockers are triggered by a pane of safety glass set between the lock and the door. Any attempt to reach the lock fractures the glass, releasing the re-lockers.

A super-thick vault door might sound impressive, but a lot of companies pad their doors’ measurements by including air space and the depth of the dial, or by sandwiching drywall-like materials between thin sheets of metal. So instead of paying strict attention to thickness, focus on what the vault door is made of. Look for a bare minimum of 1/2” solid steel; our vault doors range from 1/2” to 1 1/2” of solid steel. We also offer vault doors made of M-rated ballistic plate armor, which offers superior penetration resistance with less weight than steel.

Hinge location and which way the vault door swings may seem like minor details, but they’re actually critical elements of your design or purchasing process.

Inswing doors make it easier to conceal the vault door (because you don’t need clear space on the outside of the vault), and are also suitable if you intend to use the vault as a fire refuge, because you don’t have to worry about the door’s outward swing being blocked by fallen debris. However some vault doors, such as our Class 5 GSA vault doors, are only available with standard or outswing hinges.

What other aspects of vault doors are you curious about? Let us know in the comments. You can also check out our guide to vault door buying tips.




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