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Fire Safe Buying Tips

A fire safe (also known as fireproof safe, composite safe, fire liner safe) is a freestanding safe designed to protect the contents from fire for a rated amount of time.



  • Greatly increases the likelihood the contents will survive a fire.
  • Composite fire/burglary safes provide additional burglary protection.
  • Pros


  • 90% of all fire safes sold provide little to no burglary protection and minimal fire protection.
  • Because of the thick steel and concrete-like casing, composite cladded fire safes are much heavier and generally require professional installation.
  • Fire Safe Buying Tips
      Do you want burglary protection as well?

    We're letting you in on a well-kept secret heavily guarded by most safe manufacturers.

    Nearly all fire safes are only intended to provide fire protection and offer no substantial protection from burglary.

    A true UL rated composite fire safe is made with two thin skins of sheet metal that house a water-retaining medium between (typically a concrete and vermiculite mixture). The doorjamb is highly convoluted with a heat seal. As high heat hits the outside of the safe, the fire retardant medium expels the retained water as steam. This steam also saturates the safe's contents to artificially raise the flash point. Heat also causes expansion around the convoluted doorjamb, forming a solid seal. While this type of construction functions wonderfully to protect against fires, it fails to provide any substantial burglary protection as the safe's sheet metal retaining walls are purposefully thin to reduce heat buildup. The soft, fire-retardant medium provides no resistant to direct attacks.

    Over 90% of safes sold today are low-rated fireboard-based fire safes constructed in a similar manner to the composite fire safe described above, only they use insulation panels as their water-retaining medium because the resulting safe is lighter and cheaper to produce.

    Since very few people are interested in owning a safe that doesn't actually protect against burglary, most safe makers "reinforce" their fireboard fire safes to better withstand burglary attacks and market them as true burglary/fire safes. The big problem here is the core design of these fire safes can never make for a good burglary safe, and attempting to do so lessens the safe in its ability to protect from fire.

    Visit our Fire Protection page for an illustrated explanation of the above.

    Most fire safes are turned into false burglary safes by increasing the thickness of the safe's outer sheet metal panels. While this is an easy and economical method of reinforcement, the safe is still vastly inferior to a true burglary safe as thicker sheet metal walls are still quite weak when compared to those of a true burglary safe. Since it's very difficult to visually spot an "reinforced" fire safe masquerading as a burglary safe, unsuspecting customers happily buy these imposters, fully believing the overstated claims of protection.

    If you want maximum burglary and fire protection, you'll get the best performance from a composite cladded fire safe. Look for a safe with at least a B burglary rating (½" thick solid steel door and ¼" solid steel body.) As for fire cladding, you'll want a safe with approximately 2½" of concrete amalgamate. The amalgamate forms a highly effective insulation barrier, shielding the solid steel portion of the safe from fire. In addition to fire protection, the high-density concrete within the amalgamate increases the safe's already substantial level of burglary protection.

      Carefully consider construction method

    Most fire safes are built using one of four construction methods: insulation/fireboard, reinforced fireboard, composite, and composite fire-clad. The composite fire-cladding method is the only construction method that results in a safe that provides substantial protection from both fire and burglary attacks.

    The vast majority of fire safes are constructed using one of the low-cost fireboard methods. While fireboard-based safes do provide some fire protection, they are a substantially inferior fire safe that also offers little to no burglary protection. You will never find fireboard or insulating liners in a commercial or high- rated fire safe, simply because they do not work for any substantial length of time.

    Because fireboard (aka drywall, fire liner, ceramic fire liner, fiberboard) safes are cheap to manufacture and ship, heavy price markups make them extremely popular among the safe-selling community. Externally, a poorly constructed fire safe is nearly indistinguishable from a well-built safe. It's simply a matter of good marketing hype to convince the customer that one is every bit as good as the other.

    For example...Some underhanded manufactures will list the specification ratings of the insulating material used within a safe, allowing the buyer to assume this is the actual fire rating of the safe. In truth, however, the material rating has little bearing on the safe's ability to protect against fire. A UL-listed fire liner' rating of 1½ hours, for instance, just refers to the UL rating of the fireboard panels within the safe and in no way means the safe is UL rated to keep the safes contents below flash point for that stated amount of time. Also, many of the manufacturers will test the safes in their own "labs" rather than having an independent lab perform the tests (preferably UL labs). The customer is left to trust that the quoted fire times are truthful...they quite often are not.

    Fireboard-based fire safes do offer some advantages. Because of the low expense to build, some can be highly affordable. Fireboard safes are also significantly lighter, which allows for self-installation. But if the safe fails to actually protect the valuables within, it's functioning as a glorified utility cabinet rather than a true safe. Entrusting your precious belongings to one of these false safes can prove worse than having no safe, as it provides the criminal with an easy opening cabinet where all the cherished household treasures are stored.

    Composite-cladded fire safes, on the other hand are heavy, harder to install, and not cheap. But they perform their primary function exceptionally well by protecting your valuables from all harm.

      Consider the weight increase

    Assuming you do decide on a proper composite-cladded fire safe, the weight of the safe can be substantial. If the safe is going to be placed above ground floor, the safe's weight should be keep below 1,600 lbs. Many floors will hold considerably more, but should be inspected by an installer prior to safe installation. If this is a concern for you, we have a large network of reputable safe installers throughout the world. Feel free to contact us and we can put you in touch with an installer in your area.

      Organize and optimize

    A safe can do far more than simply protect your valuables. When properly configured, a safe provides a great opportunity to organize and optimize your life.

    To fully capitalize on what your new safe offers, it's essential to stop thinking of your future safe as the thing you will store your valuables in, and instead treat the safe as a highly configurable personal organizer…that protects what's in it. A good safe can be equipped with file drawers, jewelry drawers, necklace racks, watch winders, DVD drawers, gun racks, photo drawers, equipment drawers, and much more.

    Rather than having all your important items spread throughout your home and losing precious time tracking an item down whenever it goes missing, consolidate and organize. Take this opportunity to compile a list of the important items you commonly use and then consider how you want to organize these items in a way that works best for you. Now you can search out a quality safe that best accommodates your organizational plan.

    Our Gem Jewelry Safes and Estate Safes are the most configurable safe lines we offer and include numerous features aimed squarely at convenience.

      Install in an accessible location

    All too often, safes go unused when they are located too far away to be conveniently accessed. Many times a new safe buyer will overthink the planned location for their safe, locating it in some cleverly concealed location or disguising the safe behind false doors or walls. While concealing your safe is fine, don't do this at the cost of overall convenience or the safe will likely fall out of use over time. It's far better to store your commonly used valuables in a not-so-hidden safe than to have these items left out for easy pilfering. Rather than out thinking the burglar along with yourself, rely on the safe to perform its job of protection and place it where it's likely to get the most use. If your home is burglarized, a well-built burglary safe will faithfully protect your contents.


    If you do opt to purchase a straight fire safe with no burglary protection or a fireboard-based fire/burglary safe, be sure to keep a quality dehumidifier inside the safe at all times. That's because moisture evaporating from the fireboard insulation can often travel into the safe's interior, creating a damp environment that rusts metal and dampens paper-based belongings.

    Composite-clad fire safes don't suffer from the above mentioned moisture problem as the inner burglary safe is fully sealed off from the moisture medium by thick, seamless steel walls.

    A dehumidifier is still a good idea for any safe installed in an area where there is high humidity or a drastic change in temperature throughout the day, like the garage, as it will absorb any excess moisture.


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