Most consumers have a major misconception about safes and burglary resistance. They think anything that is called a “safe” is built to keep people out. But the majority of safes found in box stores are just fire safes, intended only to protect things from being ruined by fire. Burglary deterrence is not the goal and is, therefore, very minimal. Manufacturers of these products take advantage of the consumers’ ignorance and do nothing to educate them.
Burglary Safe Construction
Burglary safes will always be heavier and more expensive than fire safes – that is why you do not find them in box stores. Burglary safes are built with more steel, have added security devices and generally will use better locks. The term “vaults” is used interchangeably with “safes” for heavier units; it is not appropriate when talking about fire safes.
Burglary safes can be made entirely of steel or they can be a combination of steel and composite material. “BF” or Burglary/Fire safes are burglary safes that also have fire protection. Fire protection usually comes from the addition of composite materials like concrete or gypsum. A few use other materials such as ceramic blankets that are supposed to reflect heat away from the inside of the safe.
Burglary Safe Ratings
Naturally, not all burglary safes are created equal. To evaluate them for levels of security there are two different rating systems. In the older system ratings are determined by definition. For instance, a “C-rate” safe must have steel at least 1” thick on the door and at least 1/2″ thick on the body. “E-Rate” safes must have at least 1 ½” of steel on the door and 1″ on the body. The “B” rating is basically a catch-all category. It includes everything below “C”, but B-Rate units usually have ½” of steel on the door with about half as much on the body.
The other rating system is more meaningful — ratings must be earned by being tested at Underwriters Laboratories. Residential Security Container (RSC) is the lowest rating, then RSC II, TL-15, TL-30 etc. U.L.’s expert safe crackers actually attempt to break into the safes before the rating is awarded. Test procedures are too complicated to describe here.
U.L. rated vaults can be all steel plate or they can be a combination of steel and composite materials. When steel prices are cheap more plate steel safes are built. When steel is expensive more composite safes are built. Construction of composite vaults consists of concrete-based material being poured in between two sheets of relatively thin steel. Often there are other materials mixed in with concrete to make break-ins more difficult. Composite materials are fire resistant so these safes usually have fire ratings too.
Buying a Burglary Safe
The more security you want the more you will pay. “U.L. Rated” vaults tend to cost more. We sell lots of good used units to folks that want to save money. Plate steel units cost slightly less because they have no fire rating, but they offer great security in places where fire poses no problem, or for precious metals that would not be damaged by fire. We frequently recommend high quality gun safes with “non-gun” shelving rather other burglary safes; location in the home and accessibility by the user will sometimes dictate this.
At Hoogerhyde we typically have fifty or more RSC and TL Rated safes in stock, a combination of new and used, steel and composite, from small to very large, and even TL Rated gun safes.