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Essential Guide to Residential & Commercial Safes

One of the most devastating things that can happen to a homeowner is having a fire, flood, or another disaster damage your home. Even with good homeowner’s insurance, there are many things in your home that can’t be replaced with a check from the insurance company – your personal photos, important documents, computer files, and more.

One of the best ways to protect those valuable items is to store them in a safe. In the event of burglary or fire, you can feel more confident that valuables will be preserved. We have compiled information about safes for your home and workplace. Here is everything you need to know:

  1. Items That You Should Store in a Safe
  2. Classifications for Protection Against Burglary & Fire
  3. Types of Residential & Commercial Safes
  4. Maintenance Tips for Residential & Commercial Safes
  5. Purchasing Considerations
  6. How to Choose the Best Residential Safe
  7. How to Choose the Best Commercial Safe
  8. Safe Installation & Service

Items That You Should Store in a Safe

  • Originals or copies of insurance policies, including contact information for your insurance agent(s).
  • Original identification documents: social security cards, birth certificates, and passports. You may also want to include a photocopy of your driver’s license in case that gets damaged in the fire.
  • External storage drives with copies of all family photos or important business documents. If you have older photos or documents that are printed, scan them in and keep a digital version.
  • An extra set of important keys, such as copies of keys to a bank safe deposit box, vehicle, and offices.
  • Copies of papers for important accounts, including bank accounts, contracts, investments, and other information.
  • Extra cash (businesses should be in the habit of storing small amounts of extra cash from the register in the safe but also making regular bank deposits).
  • Valuables and heirlooms, such as jewelry.

Safe Classifications for Protection Against Burglary & Fire

A safe is evaluated by how well it stands up to two factors: burglary and fire. Standard ratings give an indication of the level of protection guaranteed for the contents of the safe in these conditions. Together, construction and performance ratings accurately indicate the safe’s reliability when subjected to heat or break-ins.

Burglary Rating

The standard classification for safe resistance to burglary attempts is determined by construction quality and performance.

Construction Rating

There are two classification systems for safe construction properties. First, there is the Burglary Safe Construction Rating made by insurance companies which grades safes based on the strength of the various building materials. The most common construction quality ratings are the B and C class. Safes are not required to be tested in order to receive this type of rating.

  • “B” Class – This type of safe has a steel body less than 1/2-inch thick, a steel door less than 1-inch thick, and a lock device.
  • “C” Class – A safe in this classification has a steel body at least a 1/2-inch thick and a steel door at least 1-inch thick that locks. It must also come equipped with a hard plate and a relocking device.
  • “E” Class – Safes in this category are made of 1-inch thick solid steel, steel composite or steel plating. It must also have a locking device.

Test Performance Rating

Second, the Underwriters Laboratories (U.L.) have developed Burglary Safe Test Performance Rating. This independent testing lab is responsible for certifying product safety for a wide range of industries. Safes which display U.L. labels have been tested in order to verify their classification. Specialized engineers are also given the safe’s design plans and assembly information before beginning the evaluation.

  • U.L. RSC (Residential Security Container) – This type of safe must have a body made of 12-gauge steel and door of 3/16-inch steel. It must also have a standard combination lock or electronic lock. A safe with this classification must withstand 5 minutes of testing by an engineer. The test includes prying, drilling, pounding and chiseling and picking with common tools used by burglars. A safe receives a certification if it protects the contents for the duration of the timed trial.
  • U.L. TL-15 – Safes with this rating level must be made of 1-inch solid steel or something similar. The safe must weigh at least 750 lbs. or be anchored. They should have a maximum-security combination or electronic lock. Then, they are verified with the UL© Standard 687 testing process. Engineers assess the strength in the same way described above, using manual tools, drills, pressure devices and power tools, for 15 minutes.
  • U.L. TL-30 – TL-30 safes have the same construction, weight and installation requirements as TL-15 models. This type of safe must have a burglary-proof combination or electronic lock. Testing is similar for this grade of safe, except that cutting wheels and power saws can also be utilized. The duration is extended to 30 minutes and engineers are able to use more tools in the trials.
  • U.L. TL-30×6 – This category of safe has the same construction, weight and installation requirements as TL-15 and TL-30 models. It also must have a burglary-proof combination or electronic lock. To receive this burglary rating, a safe must be tested using the same process as that for the TL-30 class. The difference is that the safe is tested on all 6 sides.

Fire Ratings

In order to classify the various safes available on the market, they must be tested for fire resistance. Each product is put through a series of standardized tests to verify performance. Evaluation for fire classification is also carried out by the U.L.

  • 1/2 Hour – U.L. class 350 – To receive a U.L. 350 classification, first, each safe must resist exterior heat reaching 1550°F while maintaining an interior temperature below 350°F. These standards are based on the burning temperature of paper, 410°F. Safes with a ½ hour fire rating need to resist this extreme heat for 30 minutes. Next, the safe is dropped from the height of 30ft. onto a concrete surface and allowed to cool. Then, an explosion test is performed. This subjects the safe to temperatures reaching 2000°F to verify if the door blows off.
  • 1 Hour – U.L. class 350 – To achieve this classification, a safe must successfully pass through the same steps described above. However, the first part of the test challenges the safe with high temperatures for 60 minutes. Then, it is put through the cooldown, drop and explosion tests.
  • 2 Hour – U.L. class 350 – For a 2-hour rating, the safe must resist the same U.L. 350 testing process, with the difference of extended duration. Here the safe must protect valuables inside by withstanding high temperatures for a full two hours.

Types of Safes

Keeping your valuables secure has never been more important. Thankfully, today, there is a wide range of options when it comes to safes for residential and commercial use. When looking for the right safe for your needs, it’s important to evaluate the level of protection that it will provide.

Freestanding Safes

What are the benefits to incorporating a freestanding safe? Freestanding safes are built to hold higher content value since the doors are extremely heavy. These kinds of safes are ideal because of their weight and have good fire and burglary ratings, as well.

Freestanding safes, however, are the most expensive kind of safe, and the largest. Additionally, these safes are expensive to install.

Wall Safes

There are a variety of advantages to installing a wall safe in your home or office. Standard installation for wall safes is in a closet, back office or storage room where they are accessible, but relatively hidden. Additional benefits of this type of safe include better resistance to flood damage and burglary, thanks to the fact that they are installed into the wall higher than floor level.

Floor Safes

Floor safes are a popular alternative to both freestanding and wall safes because they are relatively inconspicuous. Floor safes, like wall safes, do not take up any extra space in the building. They are hidden in a compartment space in the floor of your home or office. Floor safes are easily covered by a mat, area rug or carpet which makes floor safes nearly impossible to be detected by thieves.

Maintenance Tips for Residential & Commercial Safes

A quality safe for the home or business can last for decades or even a lifetime when properly maintained and cared for. Whether the goal is to protect cash, firearms, important personal documents or sensitive business materials, a poorly performing safe can ultimately fail you when you need it most. To ensure that your safe offers maximum protection and functionality, it’s important to take steps regularly to keep it performing optimally for years to come.

General Safe Maintenance

It’s important to keep every type of safe clean and free of any dirt or debris that could jam the lock or make it difficult to open. Also, ensure that the safe is installed securely and kept dry to prevent rust or corrosion. The safe should be placed in a secure location that is not visible from the street or easily accessible by unauthorized persons. Additionally, avoid installing it in an area that is prone to flooding or extreme temperatures. You should also test the safe lock regularly to ensure that it is functioning properly and is secure.

Locking Mechanism Lubrication

A stuck safe that refuses to open like you’re a burglar even when entering the right code is problematic, and these incidences often occur at the most inconvenient times such as when you need your firearm, an emergency evacuation or you require important business documents on the fly.

To keep safe locks opening smoothly, apply a small bit of manufacturer-approved grease to the bottom and front sides of the lock’s bolts once per year. This prevents them from jamming and sticking. While this maintenance step is minimal, it may be best to let an experienced safe locksmith handle this along with annual servicing.

Annual Safe Inspections

While an annual inspection includes checking springs and lubricating the lock and hinges for proper functioning, it also ensures that the safe door closes smoothly to avoid those emergencies when a quick close is necessitated. This maintenance call also lets the technician check all of your security checkpoints such as alarms, biometrics, access cards, and make sure any sort of digital records concerning who opens the safe when are functioning.

However, the lock is the most important aspect of any safe whether residential or commercial. Most safes are sold with a generous warranty, and a pro can help you understand what is covered and what is not. Another aspect of maintenance to consider is that if your safe or its contents are stolen, you may have to prove that you’ve kept it in working condition to simplify any claims.

What to Consider When Buying a Safe

You also need to determine what you will be doing with the safe: whether you need to be able to move it on your own and how much you plan to store inside.


A large safe requires at least two strong individuals and a dolly to move, while a smaller safe can be picked up by an average adult. If you want to take it with you in case of an emergency or just need to change location, this may be an important factor. Obviously, lighter weight means smaller size. As a consequence, this will limit the interior storage space and what you can store in it.


The easiest way to determine the size of the safe you want is to take everything you want to put in the safe and put it in a pile. Then, measure the cubic area of the possible contents. To do this, measure the length and the width of the pile, then multiply the two numbers. Take the number you get and multiply it by the height of the pile. The total will give you an idea of the safe size needed.

Some people make the mistake of buying a safe that barely holds what they have right now, which is shortsighted. Safe owners almost always grow into their safe, adding items as time goes on. Getting a big enough safe is important if you want to avoid buying another, larger safe later on.


When shopping for the safe, make sure you try to find one from a reputable manufacturer. Not all safes are equal. Look for one that is certified and subject to standardized testing by organizations like Underwriters Laboratories and Intertek. Some solid names in the industry include Gardall and Burg Wachter are known for their quality. Looking over safes available from these companies would be a good place to start.

How to Choose the Best Residential Safe

Ensuring that your family’s valuables are safe from flood, fires or burglaries is a great security precaution to take for your home. But which safe is best for your home? There are a variety of safes to choose from, including brands.

What Protections Do You Need?

There are three main things that a safe can protects against – burglary, fire, and water. The safes available on the market offer a different level of protection against each threat.

Fire Resistance

Safes cannot be 100% fireproof, but they can be insulated to protect items inside from combustion for a certain length of time. The contents that you plan to store in the safe will help you select the best one. For examples, paper must be kept below 350°, while DVDs need to be kept below 125°.

Fire resistance is measured in hours, with most home safes providing protection for half an hour. For regular residential use, 30 minutes should be sufficient. Yet longer fire rating times are available for a higher price.

Water Resistance

Most safes that offer both burglary and theft resistance are also waterproof to some extent, but you should ensure that this is part of the package. This is an important feature because firefighters and building sprinklers will likely be used to extinguish a fire. This type of protection should also help safeguard the contents in case of a flood.

Burglary Protection

There are two main factors to burglary protection – locking systems and steel thickness. A combination lock is the preferred system for increased security. Though it’s sometimes used as a selling point, the number of locking bolts on the safe doesn’t affect its capacity to resist prying. An excessive number is not really necessary or beneficial.

Steel thickness is the second factor for burglary protection. Steel thickness is measured by gauge, with the smaller number indicating greater thickness. In most cases 12 gauge is sufficient to keep a burglar out of a home safe, but thicker steel gauge is available for higher security.


It’s also important to consider the best location within your residence to install a safe. Choosing the right location is another important factor in protecting your valuables in case of a burglary or fire. Consider where you will install the safe and whether it is suitable for that location. Some safes require professional installation, while others can be installed by the homeowner. Also, consider the weight of the safe and whether the location can support it. Learn more about the best and worst places to keep it; read: Where to Install a Safe in Your Home.

Capacity & Budget

Consider the size of the safe and its internal capacity to ensure it can accommodate your valuable items. Measure the items you plan to store in the safe and make sure the safe you choose is large enough to hold them. Safes can range in price from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. Set a budget and choose a safe that provides the level of security and features you need within your budget.

Lock Type

Consider the type of lock you prefer. Common lock types include combination locks, key locks, and digital locks. Choose a lock type that is easy for you to use and provides the level of security you need.

Get more helpful tips on How to Increase Security at Your Home.

How to Choose the Best Safe for Your Business

Today, you have dozens of commercial safes to choose from, which can make the process a bit more difficult. It’s a necessity for your business. Here’s how to choose the best one.

Intended Use

The first step is to consider what type of materials you plan to put into the safe. This is the first determinant of size. You can find safes designed to be very small, such as those located in a wall alcove. Most commercial safes, though, are designed to sit on the floor. A drop safe, which is one where employees can drop envelopes or money into for added security, tends to be within a larger safe. Another option you may hear about is a cash safe or cash box. This is designed to accommodate your cash register drawers or to accommodate money in other forms.

Size & Weight

The larger the safe is, the more protection it can offer – to a degree. However, the larger it is, the heavier it weighs. You need to consider supporting the floor structure under the safe to ensure it is strong enough to hold the weight of the safe.

Another consideration to keep in mind is that heavier safes will be more difficult to move. Some business owners appreciate this because it makes the safe more difficult for thieves to carry away in case of a break-in. Other business owners want a safe that is lightweight enough to take with them in case of an emergency or to change locations when necessary.


The size and protection level offered by the safe influence its price. Generally, larger safes are more expensive. However, if this is a one-time purchase to protect your business, you want to make the choice based on needs, not costs.

Insurance Requirements

Some insurance companies want to know what type of safe you have. It can impact the rates they charge you for coverage. Most companies will have a minimum safety rating from which you should choose. It takes just a minute to contact your agent to find out or to read through your insurance policy to learn about this requirement.

Type of Protection

Most companies need protection from both fires and burglary. For example, if this will operate as a cash safe, it tends to be best to choose a burglar safe because that’s the most likely theft. If you plan to store important documents here, you need more security from fires.

One option you can consider is a burglar safe that has fire-protective cladding added to it. This should be a UL rated burglar safe, but the cladding enhances the safe’s ability to protect against fires as well. These tend to be a bit more expensive and harder to find, though.

Get more helpful tips on How to Increase Commercial Security.

Expert Installation & Service – GV Lock

Our team is here to do more than just install your safe. We aim to educate you about all of your options, so you make the best investment for your needs. Our locksmiths can help you find a top-rated, well-designed safe that you do not have to worry about replacing for years to come.

For a consultation, installation or safe opening services, contact the team at Great Valley Lockshop today. Call our office at (610) 644-5334 or request a quote online.

*Please note that we do not install floor or wall safes.

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