Hi all! If you’re reading this guide then that means you’ve probably started looking at, and pricing safes for your precious card collection. Some of you might even be ready to purchase a safe, but there’s a problem, there is tons of information out there and a lot of it is tremendously confusing. Fear not! The goal of this guide is to help you understand what safe protection levels are and the factors and costs that involve most safes.
With that, let’s begin:
UNDERSTANDING YOUR SAFE’S OBJECTIVE:
The first thing you need to establish is what do you need your safe to do? It should be obvious that you need it for protecting cards, but what are you protecting them from? Fire? Flood? UV light? Moisture? Your kids? Somebody else’s kids? The list can go on and on for a multitude of different things, but you have to establish what your realistic concerns are before moving on from here.
A few statistics to consider while you are evaluating your decision:
- The average heat of a house fire is generally about 1100 degrees.
- The average room in a house burns for about 20 mins.
- Most safes do NOT protect against floods (or fire hoses!)
- There were more flood related damages last year, than fire related damages (source / picture)
- There is a burglary in the united states every 13 seconds (source)
- The average burglary lasts between 8 -12 mins.
Now that we have mulled over some statistics, we need to look at a couple of other factors:
- Where do I plan on putting my safe?
- Will the door to the safe be able open freely in my selected spot?
- Will my wanted safe fit through the doors in my house?
- Do I have the structural integrity to place my safe on a second or third story?
- If I decide to put my safe on the first floor or basement, is flooding a concern?
- Is humidity a concern in the environment I’m placing my safe in?
- Do I live in a neighborhood where break-ins are common?
- Will I need to move this safe in the future?
Consider understanding your safe’s objectives to be the prep work in owning a safe. The more thought you put into these factors and the more knowledgeable you are about your primary concerns, will ultimately lead you to feeling more secure with your home safe decision.
UNDERSTANDING UP FRONT COSTS:
I was going to leave this section until the end of this guide, but the more I thought about it, the more sense it made to leave this section, well, up front.
In the last section we touched upon a few factors that involved prep work. Now lets talk about the cost of those factors. In some cases we need to look at our safe placement. Most manufactures will give you specs regarding door swing and external size of your safe without issue. However, if you want your safe in an upstairs office, or down in a basement you’ll need to know if your stairs/floors will be able to hold the kind of weight you want to place there. This is generally remedied by a call to either a structural engineer or a lock smith. I generally advise the engineer as the locksmith simply wants your business, however the choice is yours to make. That consultation should probably run you 100 bucks or so.
The next up front cost to consider is shipping. Some manufactures offer shipping for free, others charge a fee. Either way, be aware of the terms of that “free” shipping. Some places that offer “free” shipping will charge you for the use of a lift gate on a truck (it’s absurd but it’s a very common practice now) and you can expect that to run you over $100. Additionally most “free” shipping services only deliver to your curb, or in some cases just to your garage. From that point you are on your own. Make sure you understand the terms of your shipping before buying. For those of you paying for shipping, you can expect to pay a couple of hundred dollars based off the size and weight of the safe you want.
Installation, this is the next charge you’ll see. If you and a buddy want to lift a safe into your home (safely I would hope) by your own means, then go for it. You’ll save a chunk of change in the process too. For most of us though, we’re going to need a professional. Find a reputable locksmith in your area and ask for a quote. If you have stairs, expect to pay extra as the locksmith will likely have to navigate stairs to complete the Installation. The price you are going to pay here for an Installation (which generally includes bolting down your safe) is going to vary again on size and weight, but you can expect to pay at least $500 and probably more.
Get estimates, and understand these costs before you get a safe!
UNDERSTANDING SAFE RATINGS:
Now this is where it starts to get fun! If you’ve been looking at safes you’ve probably noticed different ratings: Class B, Class C, RSC, TL-15, TL-30 and TL 30X6 these are the most common ratings you’ll see and they each mean something different. Keep in mind these ratings only cover the level of burglary resistance the safe has.
"B" Rate Safe:
A safe with at least a 1/4-inch body and a 1/2-inch door. These safes face no testing and the presence of a locking device on the box gives them the “B” rating. Safes with this rating are usually easy to burglarize as they can be just a few hundred pounds (easy to move with a dolly) and can be opened in just a few moments if bolted down.
"C" Rate Safe:
This is defined as a 1/2-inch thick steel box with a 1-inch thick door with a lock on it. It must have hard plate and a relocking device. As before, no independent tests are given to provide this rating. These also fall in the realm of easy to burglarize.
RSC (Residential Security Container):
This is an Underwriters Laboratory (known as U.L.) security rating. Underwriters Laboratory is the best known of about 500 non-biased independent testing laboratories. The safe must withstand five minutes of rigorous prying, drilling, punching, chiseling, and tampering attacks and must be tested using specific common burglary tools to prevent access to the contents. The tools involved in this testing is a 12 inch screw driver and a hammer not to exceed three pounds.
Since we are on the topic of UL, lets take a quick break here and explain what that is as it’s actually very important. UL does a tremendous amount of independent testing on a variety of things including, you guessed it, safes! When UL gives a rating that means a specific product has passed a series of standardized tests defined by UL. UL testers have access to blue prints of the safes they test and are allowed to disassemble a safe before testing to see how it works and operates. By the time they start to break into a safe they have all the knowledge they need to get into it as quickly as possible. The next several ratings you’ll see will include a number. That number represents the total NET time they have spent opening a safe. Net time refers to the time from when a tool touches a safe from the time it comes off the safe. So don’t think a safe with a TL-15 rating will only take 15 mins to open. Quite the opposite, UL testers generally take hours to actually open the safes they test so do keep that in mind. Fun video of them in action here.
TL-15 Rate: Safes given a U.L.TL-15 rating have all passed standardized tests defined in by UL, using the same tools and usually the same group of testing engineers. The label requires that the safe be constructed of 1-inch solid steel or equivalent. The label means that the safe has been tested for a net working time of 15 minutes using “…common hand tools, drills, punches, hammers, and pressure applying devices”. Net working time means simply “when the tool comes off the safe the clock stops”. There are over 50 different types of attacks that can be used to gain entrance into the safe. Usually they will try only two or three - based on what they know about the product, and they know a lot.
***TL-30 Rate:***The tests given for this rating are essentially the same as the TL-15 tests except for, you guessed it, the net working time. They get 30 minutes and a few more tools to help them gain entrance. Keep in mind these engineers have the manufacturing blue prints and can disassemble the safe being tested before the test begins to see how it works. They know their stuff.
TL-30X6 Rate: The tests for these safes are essentially the same as the TL-30 test except that the safe is tested on all 6 sides, including the floor of the safe. Again, the engineers can disassemble the unit prior to testing and have access to the blueprints to see how the safe is built and how it works.
Do keep in mind there are other ratings other than the ones mentioned here, but these are the ones you should see most commonly. If you don’t see a rating mentioned for a safe, then that probably means it has no rating and should likely be avoided. Keep in mind the above ratings don’t mention fire protection. Fire protection has it’s own rating system.
Fire ratings are evaluated by testing to see if safes withstand varying furnace heat for specific amounts of time. For example, the UL Class 350 1-hour fire rating means that the internal temperature of the safe will not exceed 350°F for at least 1 hour when exposed to external temperatures over 1700 degrees. A safe may have a 1-3 hour time classification. Most of the safes you’ll see online will post what the safe can withstand externally. But do keep in mind that the internal temperature of the safe is still allowed to hit 350 degrees. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think a PSA slab can live in a 350 degree oven for an hour.
So there you go! A very basic outline on safe buying. If you guys have more questions about specifics please let me know by post or private message. There is a LOT more to safe buying but I hope I’ve given you just enough to get you started. Thanks for reading!