Monthly Archives: May 2016

Installing a Fire Proof Safe at Home

Excerpt from my regular column in the Santa Barbara News-Press.

Question:  My wife and I have a safe deposit box at a bank in downtown Santa Barbara where we keep important papers like the deed to our home, pink slips for our cars, and of course our will.  We mainly do this to protect the papers from a fire in our house and we aren’t storing anything valuable like jewelry, stacks of cash or the Hope Diamond.  Is it possible to install a small fire proof safe in our house so we don’t have to deal with the inconvenience of a safe deposit box?

Your Handyman:  Most custom homes are built with at least one safe that is either secured in the framing of a wall in the house or is set into the cement foundation as the home is being built.  A fire rated safe can easily be installed in a closet in your home by fastening it to either a wood framed floor or to a cement slab foundation.  A very basic 1 hour fire rated safe can be purchased at the big box hardware store for about $300 and most of these smaller home safes have knock out holes in the bottom that allow them to be fastened to the floor with either a lag screw or a concrete anchor without compromising the fire rating of the safe.  If you are installing the safe in an upstairs location then it would be wise to purchase a safe that is drop rated which will insure that it remains fire proof if the floor were to collapse and the safe fell to the first floor.  If you are planning to store any type of electronic media or photographs, humidity proof media boxes are available that fit into the safe.

A fire rated safe is designed to protect it’s contents in the case of a typical house fire where the fire fighters arrive quickly and the fire is extinguished in a half hour or so.  Anyone who lives in Santa Barbara has seen the depressing aftermath of a wildfire where a home is burned to the ground and nothing is left standing except a masonry chimney or a steel water heater.  A basic safe for $300 is not going to protect its contents in a wildfire, so if you live in the foothills it is probably best to continue making the periodic trip to the bank and waiting in line to store away the new version of your will or to get that pink slip for the car you are selling.

-Mark Baird
Owner, YourHandyman & Construction
CA License #935259