On the surface, each fire safe can look essentially the same. The three safes shown here offer vastly divergent fire and burglary protection, yet it is nearly impossible for a concerned buyer to distinguish the well constructed fire safe from its neighboring imposters.
the 3 fire safes above may look identical, only 1 fire safe provides adequate fire protection.
To reveal the true Fire Safe in this bunch, we must peel away the outer shell exposing the
Fireboard based Fire Safe (aka... Drywall Safe, Insulation Fire Safe) - While fireboard safes make up the majority of top selling safes, these safes are in truth the least effective at fire protection. Fireboard fire safes also provide insignificant burglar protection. The three key points below explain why.
Very similar in composition to household drywall, these lightweight fire retardant panels, also known as firewall or fiberboard, are placed between the thin outer and inner walls of the safe to act as a heat barrier. While many of these panel types when stacked do prevent heat passage, excessive heat still passes through the steel support structure holding the panels and inner safe in place.
A common marketing trick used by many fire safe builders is to quote the fire rating of the fireboard the safe uses instead of the safes actual fire rating ...which is generally much much lower. Many of these safes are never actually tested in a fire.
Another major drawback to fireboard based safes is most fiberboard panels contain high levels of moisture. The moisture increases the level of fire protection during a fire but will create a constantly damp environment inside the safe, causing corrosion of metal belongings and wilting of paper based items.
Fireboard tends to loose it's fire resistance over time as the moisture continues to seep out.
During an actual fire, fireboard functions by releasing an excessive amount of moisture as it heats, expelling the built up heat as steam. But due to the thin, poorly constructed, and oftentimes nonexistent inner casing ...excessive expelled stem permeates into the safes interior, subjecting the contents to a heavy moisture environment until the safe is finally opened, usually days later. Oxidation and moisture damage to the safes contents is common.
Support Beams and other foundation structuring in fireboard safes pass heat from the fire safes exterior right through to the safes interior, the biggest weakness to this type of fire safe.
Since fireboard itself is incapable of providing any form of support (or protection), fireboard based safes must reinforce the steel framework of the safe to support the safes weight. Safes that are designed to survive 2nd story drops have even more reinforcement. This reinforcement takes the form of thick steel supports that run roughly every foot connecting the inner and outer safe walls with the fireboard panels inserted between. Unfortunately, these same supports act as a direct heat conduit. During a fire, heat bypasses the fireboard through all exposed supports and rapidly moves into the safes interior, incinerating the safes contents in short order.
Cost cutting safe builders will generally cover the safes exterior in the thinnest sheet metal casing possible in an effort to keep the safes already low fire rating from dropping further.
Why, because steel absorbs and transfers heat. The thicker the safes outer steel, the more heat it absorbs and in turn transfers to the safes interior through the above mentioned steel support beams. While this wily trick does help in reducing the amount of heat transfer, it also means the safe is left with virtually zero burglary protection.
To sum it up...Thin sheet metal outer shell, to a drywall insulation layer, to a thin sheet metal or wood interior equals a safe that can be pried open within minutes by an unskilled burglar equipped with an ordinary crowbar.
Overall, a Fireboard style safe is an inferior fire safe and an inferior burglary safe.
Reinforced Fireboard Fire Safe - This is a Fireboard style safe that also affords some degree of burglar protection. Unfortunately, fire protection and burglar protection run in two divergent directions when using this method of fire safe design.
As the thickness of outer steel increases to enhance burglar protection, the safes ability to withstand fire decreases. The three points below explain why.
A Thicker steel outer covering is the key ingredient that distinguishes these fire safes from standard fireboard safes. While the steel does increase overall burglary protection, this same metal rapidly absorbs heat during a fire, cooking the contents within. The fireboard panels do their best to counter the heat assault but rapidly give in under the extreme direct contact temperatures caused by the metal covering. The thicker the steel, the greater the problem this becomes.
The Support Beams and foundation structure of a reinforced fire safe must be made of thicker steel to support the dramatic weight increase of the outer steel covering. This increased thickness provides even larger pass-through areas for heat...any heat trickle now becomes a heat flood.
Fireboard Panels tend to be thinner in safes that use thicker outside steel panels, exacerbating all the above mentioned weaknesses.
Reinforced fireboard safes do provide some degree of burglar protection, some even provide good burglar protection. But this protection comes at the cost of further reduced fire protection on a safe style that already falls short in this area.
Brown Safe Composite Fire Cladded Safe - These true fire safes are engineered using a vastly different methodology, one that produces superior results in all important areas.
Whereas fireboard safes are designed as inexpensive to manufacture fire safes that may receive some upgrade in burglar protection, composite cladded fire proof safes are built from the ground up as high security burglary safes that then undergo a fire cladding process.
The four points below detail why this approach produces a superior fire and burglary safe.
The Solid Steel Core of a composite cladded fire safe is an actual burglar safe, one built to any protection thickness rating desired. In harsh contrast, the core of a fireboard safe is comprised only of either thin sheet metal, wood, or sometimes the interior panels are attached directly to the fireboard... providing no true burglar protection.
A Dense Composite Amalgamate is then poured around the entire steel core of the safe. The process is similar to that of poured concrete. Once hardened, 2 1/2" of solid composite material encases the entire safe, including a 2" solid filled amalgamate door. Not only is the composite material superior to fireboard at fire protection, the dense composition of this outer amalgamate cladding greatly adds to the safes already substantial burglary protection.
Barrier Contacts are small spot welded positioning pins that temporarily hold the outer shell of the safe in place while the composite material is poured. Once hardened, the composite material directly supports the safes weight with no need for a steel foundation or support beams required by fireboard safes. Barrier contacts are the primary means outside heat gains entrance into the inner safe walls during a fire, so they are kept small enough to provide a negligible heat pathway.
In contrast, the foundation structure and numerous thick support beams that run between the inner and outer walls of a standard fireboard safe, present gaping contact pathways for fire heat to quickly flood from the exterior into the safes core.
The nominal steel shell of the composite safe is very thin to avoid heat building up on the safes exterior. This shell is kept thick enough to hold the composite material as it's being poured and no more. When contrasted with the thick heat collecting outer shell of a reinforced firewall safe, the shell of a composite safe produces negligible heat buildup.
The above design methods allows BSM composite cladded safes to substantially outperform both fireboard and reinforced fireboard safes in both fire and burglary protection.
Brown Safe composite cladded fire resistant safes stand in a league of their own
All freestanding safes and vaults manufactured by Brown Safe can be converted into fire safes through this described cladding process.
At a time when severe competition between struggling safe companies prompts manufacturers to bolster increasingly outrageous fire protection claims with little to no backing, it's essential to understand the above approaches to home fire safe design to avoid an uninformed decision that can inadvertently expose your precious belongings to great risk. Knowledge of the construction process is your primary key to ensuring the well being of your cherished belongings.