Buying a Business Safe to Use as a Home Safe

Many people who want a safe at home will buy a used business-type safe from an auction or directly from a business that is closing.  They assume that a used commercial safe will provide appropriate security and fire protection at a cheap price.  Most business safes, however, are not suitable for home owners.

The majority of gas stations, convenience stores, restaurants, bars, etc. have safes.  But their safes are typically steel B-rate units with no fire protection.  Businesses generally want to deter theft but do not want to pay the extra cost to get fire protection.  Many businesses have detailed daily accounting systems, so even if they do experience a loss due to fire, their business insurance will cover cash that was burned up.  Homeowner’s insurance is different, it normally does not cover a loss of cash.

Businesses often have deposit-type safes with which employees can drop money into the safe without opening the main door.  But any form of external deposit doors, drawers or slots will allow hot air to infiltrate the safe.  A home owner using this type of safe is likely to lose everything that was locked inside.

Some B-rate safes do not offer as much burglary deterrence as a home owner should have.  While the door is usually ½” thick steel, the bodies are thinner – much thinner.  In a retail setting the safe is normally anchored securely to the floor so it cannot be moved, and it is located in a place where there is no access to the thin steel body.  Access to the sides of a safe is very common in homes, so a commercial B-rate safe is not ideal. Beside that, stores have additional security in the form of alarms, cameras, etc., which most homes do not.

Consumers frequently assume that all safes protect against fire and burglary.  They do not appreciate the differences in mindset of a home owner vs. business owner.  Even when a business experiences a loss, it is most often just one day’s revenue; the home owner might lose a significant percentage of his life savings.

Other issues like weight work against using a business safe at home.  For instance, we were called two weeks ago to a recently closed jewelry store.  Knowing that the jeweler’s large vault had both fire and high security ratings, a man planned to buy it for his home.  He hired two men with an appliance dolly to move the safe to his house.  Well, the safe weighed 4200#, so his plan did not work.  If he had been successful in getting home, there was no way that his main floor or stairs would have supported the vault, anyway.

If you plan to buy a used business safe for your home, do enough research to make sure it is an appropriate unit.

Gun Safe Accessories, Interior Lights

It can be hard to find what you want from inside your gun safe if it’s dark in there.  Most gun safes have dark interior colors like charcoal gray or faux leather.  Lights can make a huge difference when it comes to seeing inside.

Lighting up your gun safe can be relatively inexpensive.  For instance, a small lamp with magnetic base and a flexible goose neck can be mounted on top of the safe, then pointed inside.  Another cheap option would be a battery operated switch light, for less than $10 (photo on left).  The ones we sell stick with either magnets or Velcro-type patches.  These work great on smaller safes too.


Better light systems are more expensive but still reasonably priced.  LED lights in long strips can brighten the whole inside, not just part of it.  Most systems have two long light strips (photo on right), one for either side inside the door.  I prefer those that also have a strip across the top, and those that can be mounted with hook & loop patches.  Motion sensors or door contact activators are nice because you don’t need to flip a switch to turn on the lights.

Light systems make a great gift for the person that has a gun safe.  Lighting up the interior of your gun safe makes it easier to admire your collection or find whatever it is you’re looking for.

Safes make great presents

Have you ever worked in retail and seen a customer get excited when they find a Christmas gift that they know is going to be appreciated?  We often get that in our store when parents buy a nice fire safe for their children who are recently married or just starting a family.

When it comes to a great, practical, reasonably priced gift for a young couple, a fire safe rates pretty high.  Every family, even those just getting started, has a significant amount of important papers.  Insurance and mortgage documents, legal papers, marriage licenses, car titles, passports, cash and so on all should be protected from fire.  A fire safe also is a good central place just to collect and organize stuff.


We sell lots of Gardall Safe’s Micro-wave safes in the $300 to $400 range (top left of photo), their larger ES and SS units for under $500 (bottom left).  Gardall’s American-made two hour fire safes (right side of photo) offer more burglary deterrence and come in bigger sizes.  These units are always in stock at our store so you can just stop in and pick them up.

Avoid the low-end safes sold at box stores.  With micro-thin steel (or even plastic) and inferior locks they only offer the illusion of security.

Consider giving a very practical safe this Christmas – a fire safe from Gardall Safe.  

Gun Safes Make Great Christmas Gift, But . . .

Gun safes, as well as regular fire/burglary safes, make terrific Christmas gifts provided that the unit selected is appropriate for the recipient’s needs.  That can be a problem, however, because the well-intended purchaser often does not appreciate the differences in quality, and they may not know about everything the user will store in the safe.  The buyer is usually a spouse or “significant other” who is buying an special, useful gift.  Understandably, they are focused on price because even a cheap gun safe is a big purchase.

Big box stores take full advantage of this situation with Black Friday sales and Christmas sales.  They sell thousands of cheap Chinese units which, to the person who doesn’t do proper research, appear to be suitable.  The result can be that the gun owner ends up with a safe he would not buy for himself.  It might not offer the protection he knows he should have.  While truly appreciating the thought behind a major gift, he may have unspoken doubts about it, and it’s a difficult gift to return.  We have all been there with one gift or another.

So here are my suggestions:

  • Don’t buy a gun safe as a surprise. Talk about it in advance.  Get his/her input about brand, size, and value of what it will be used for.  Select a manufacturer like Fort Knox that offers a range of security levels.
  • Be wary of Black Friday and Christmas sales.
  • Don’t buy only, or primarily, based on price.
  • Don’t buy a Chinese product.
  • Both parties should learn the basics about gun safes, the differences in brands and models. A good place to start is by reading my earlier posts about gun safes, safe locks, etc.
  • Buy from a legitimate safe store, not a gun store or big box. Your research should include talking directly with safe experts who actually service different brands.
  • If cost of a good unit is too high, then agree that this gift will be for Christmas and the next birthday, or this Christmas and next, or have them pitch in on the cost, or get their family to contribute.

Honestly, a quality gun safe or fire/burglary safe is a gift they will actually use and remember for years, even if they need to help with the cost.  But the memory will be less positive if it is one of those gifts that he/she would secretly prefer to return for something better.

Small Antique Safes for Sale

I have been collecting small antique safes for a long time, but I have been informed that it is time to thin out the collection.  Most of these safes are from about 13” to 18” tall.  They are too small to be very functional, but cute as decorations or conversation pieces.


Some folks claim these are salesman’s samples but most were actually sold to be used for storage of cash and jewelry in a home or office.  They typically weigh from about 70 to 100 pounds – a thief could walk away with one, but at least he couldn’t run with it.  Several have handles on top so maybe a poor salesman did have to lug them around on a regular basis.  They were built to be fire proof.  Some units have real wheels underneath, some have fake wheels, some have little feet and some sit flat on the ground.  There are both key and combination lock models.


Finding small antique safes for sale with good original paint is difficult so they don’t sell cheap.  If the paint is too plain or worn out to be attractive, they can be restored or customized to suit your taste.

A small antique safe could be your adult version of a piggy bank, or a visible reminder of that special savings goal.  A financial planner I know has a very classy little unit in his office, I think because it sends a message to his customers.  A small antique safe might make a great Christmas gift.  The units shown start at $700.  Call if any of these grab your attention, 616-458-6365.  Antique safes can be delivered, picked up at our shop or shipped across the country.