2019 Update: As new technology is developed, newer safes offering greater protection for longer periods of time appear on the market. We’ve updated this article to reflect the newest products available.
In general terms, the safe was originally conceived to protect your valuables from the greedy hands of would-be burglars. However, over time, safes have evolved into a way to also preserve the condition of the items held within, not only ensure they remain there. Nowadays, a safe must protect the valuables inside it not only from intruders but from the ravages of the elements as well, of which arguably the most destructive is fire.
House fires are not entirely uncommon due to both new and old technology filling up our homes with flammable materials. Newer appliances can cause electrical fires, whereas older gas-based ovens or heating systems can go up in flames due to the fuel they use and their deteriorating condition. Seeing as money is made of paper, which burns, or metal, which melts, and jewels fall into the latter category as well, your typical lineup of valuables don’t really like fire. Expensive devices, important documents and more are at risk. While you may store most of your funds in a bank account, many families still keep up the tradition of hiding some backup cash in their homes, and even if every last dollar of yours is now digital, it wouldn’t be pleasant to see granny’s treasured goldware reduced to a malformed shiny puddle.
Of course, a myriad of other things need protection from fires as well. Documents, mementos, storage devices and more are at risk when the inferno starts. In case using your handy fire extinguisher isn’t enough to stop the blaze, at least having your goods in a fire-proof safe will mitigate some of the damage.
Safes come in all sorts of varieties with specialized models designed specifically for documents, for money or for other objects. Technically, however, as long as whatever you want to protect physically fits into the safe, it doesn’t matter in the slightest which variant you choose. We’re going to look at various types in this guide, however don’t be surprised if we don’t put too much emphasis on this particular factor.
Something that is important to pay attention to, however, is the material of the safe. Usually, safes are made of various metals due to their strength, however, these metals need to have an extremely high melting point to actually be fireproof or resistant, and they also need internal insulation to prevent the safe from becoming an oven and doing the same damage to the items inside as the fire itself would.
Size is another important factor to consider since you’ll want all your valuables to fit, but there is also no need to shell out more cash for a safe that is oversized for your needs.
An important and common, though not omnipresent, bonus is water resistance. Water can be just as damaging as fire for some valuables, as it rusts and soaks. We have even less control over natural disasters than we do over house fires, and calamities such as the hurricanes sweeping the United States at the time of this writing carry an extreme threat. The best safes offer many facets of protection, against burglars, fire, water, and physical trauma.
One factor which really just comes down to personal preference is the locking mechanism. Whether you prefer dials, keys or digital combination locks, you’ll find safes which fit your personal criteria. Prices vary from small, portable document boxes all the way to larger, sturdy safes, and you can expect to pay anywhere from just under $50 to several hundred dollars for your safe.
A safe is an investment that you’ll probably only be buying once, however, so it might be worth spending a larger sum now and thanking yourself later when disaster strikes and all of your cherished items survive unscathed.
Quick Look: Top 5 Fire-Proof Safes
|1||SentrySafe SFW205CWB||• Variable lock models|
• Fire and water proof
|• Long fire protection |
• Drop resistant
|2||Paragon 7800||• Digital combination lock|
• Exterior battery compartment
|• Sturdy |
• Long fire protection
|• Troublesome code programming|
|3||SereneLife Safe Box||• Digital combination lock|
• Finger sensor tech
|• Sturdy |
• Has Manual Override
|• Often arrives faulty|
• Walls could be thicker
|4||Honeywell 6104||• Key lock|
• Safety box
• Concealed hinges
|• Small |
• Short fire protection
|5||First Alert 2017F||• Key lock |
• Fire and water proof
|• Short fire protection|
A full 180-degree turnaround from the previous SentrySafe product we looked at, the SFW205GQC is our favorite safe on this list, and our number 1 pick for top fire-proof safes. Paragon’s 7800 was an entree to premium safes, but this here is the real thing, with a price tag to match.
Not only is this beast of a safe large in size, but it excels in all other aspects as well. The model comes in two variants, one with a dial lock and another with a digital key-pad with an external battery compartment, though the latter comes with a higher price-tag. All other features are shared between the two models, and both have manual key override.
The SentrySafe SFW205GQC features the longest fire protection among all the safes we looked at, with double the time of the Paragon 7800. This safe will keep the contents undamaged for an hour at temperatures of 1700 degrees Fahrenheit. This is achieved with thick, multi-layered walls and door, as well as an insulation layer between the exterior and interior wall.
The SFW205GQC brings a lot to the table. It will remain waterproof for over 24 hours, it can sustain 15 feet dead drops without becoming damaged, and even higher drops with minimal damage to the safe itself, and it has 6 steel bolts securing the door. This is an example of utmost security and strength.
The interior features a LED light and organizing drawers for all the goods you’ll store inside – and you can store heaps. This is the largest safe we reviewed with plenty of space for legal documents, storage devices, various objects, and the door has built-in compartments for smaller items as well as key hooks. If you need to store something larger, the drawers can be removed.
A strong contender for “standout feature” was the After-Fire Replacement Guarantee. If you buy a SentrySafe SFW205GQC and a fire actually does occur, the company will send you a new unit free of charge regardless of whether the previous one was damaged. This is a hugely beneficial feature that truly underlines the sentiment that this safe is an investment. It may cost the most, but it’s here for the long haul, you only need to buy it once, and it offers the greatest measure of protection.
Why It’s Our #1 Choice
The SentrySafe SFW205GQC represents everything we look for in a safe. Reliability, strength, security. It may have a hefty price tag, but as we’ve reiterated, a safe is a one-time investment that will end up protecting a whole lot more in terms of monetary value. You may save some cash if you buy a safe half this price, but what does that matter when several thousand dollars worth of goods, or invaluable memories, are destroyed because the safe was of a lower quality? That isn’t something you’d need to worry about with this model, and the After-Fire Replacement Guarantee just hammers this point home even more.
It isn’t cheap, but it is definitely worth it. The SFW205GQC packs all the best features a fire proof safe needs to perform its duty, and then some. Minor quality of life additions like an interior LED light make you actively feel that the unit was worth the cash, but that feeling will truly set in once it protects your valuables in a fire that would eat other safes.
- Fireproof safe is UL Classified to endure 1 hour at 1700°F and keep interior temperatures safe for irreplaceable documents, valuables, DVDs, and USBs; ETL Verified to withstand a 15 foot fall during...
- Waterproof safe is ETL Verified for 24 hours of protection in water up to 8 inches deep offering peace of mind in the event of a flood
- Preset dial combination fire safe for strong security; combination safe features six live-locking bolts, steel construction, pry-resistant hinge bar, tray, drawer, and bolt down hardware
- Exterior: 18.6 in. W x 19.3 in. D x 23.8 in. H; door requires 17.5 in. of clearance to fully open; Interior: 14.8 in. W x 11.9 in. D x 19.6 in. H; extra large 2.0 cubic foot capacity; weighs 125...
- Should your fireproof safe be damaged by fire or water, SentrySafe will provide a replacement safe so the things that matter most are protected for generations to come; US based customer service for...
Paragon’s 7800 safe steps over into a more premium price category when it comes to the protection of your valuables from a fire, but it’s well worth the extra investment and lives up to the company’s name – the 7800 really is an exemplar among fire-proof safes.
Combining raw strength with some extremely logical and convenient solutions to certain issues, the 7800 will ensure your valuables stay secure. The safe is fairly large, and uses a digital combination lock. The designers at Paragon solved the issue which also plagues SereneLife’s safe with a genius and simple change – they put the battery compartment on the outside, meaning if the key-pad runs out of power and you lost the keys, you won’t need to call a professional to crack the safe open.
While we’d expect as much at this price-point, the 7800 offers greater fire resistance than the previously reviewed safes. While it’s specified at 30 minutes here as well, the safe is certified for much higher temperatures, meaning the half-hour estimate is in 1700 F fires. Where the other safes were certified for 30 minutes in lower temperatures, if we look at the 7800 in those same conditions, the time for which it keeps valuables safe from damage is longer. Where a cheaper model would succumb in half an hour, the 7800 can potentially take double the punishment.
THe Paragon 7800 has two steel bolts securing the 5 mm thick door with interior tamper-proof hinges, and the walls of the safe are double layered for drop protection, insulation and strength. Inside, there is a shelf with pegs allowing for the adjustment of its height, or if you need more space you can remove it entirely.
Both the interior and exterior of the safe has been powder coated to protect it from damage. The locking mechanism can be reprogrammed (though the process is unintuitive and can be easy to mess up) as many times as you wish, and though the exterior battery compartment should prevent you from locking yourself out, the safe has manual override and ships with a set of two keys.
It was difficult to not pick the Paragon 7800 as our number one choice, especially since the price of our last product would mean this will be the more popular between the two. This is a sturdy, strong and reliable safe which will provide more than ample protection for your valuables.
- Inside tamper-proof hinges; Constructed with solid steel to resist hand and mechanical tool attacks
- Constructed of extra thick 11 gauge solid steel; Inside tamper-proof hinges; door opens to right
- Opens with secret PIN code or included keys (2 FREE KEYS); 3 to 8 numbers
- Code can be changed infinitely. Runs on AASIZE(1.5V) batteries
- Pre-drilled holes inside the safe with fixing bolts allowing anchoring. Bolts included
SereneLife Safe Box
The SereneLife Safe Box uses a key-pad PIN lock instead of a regular key, however two of the latter are supplied to operate as manual overrides should the key-pad batteries run out while it is locked. The product is shipped with the required batteries, and it is suggested that you switch batteries every six months. The safe itself is of sturdy construction, made of reinforced steel and powder coated to protect against corrosion.
The main selling point of SereneLife’s fire-proof safe is its strength. With dual steel securing bolts and mounting sockets allowing you to secure it to either a wall or the floor, no one is going to force it open in a hurry or make off with it to crack it open elsewhere. When it comes to the elements, the 2mm thick steel walls will keep your valuables unharmed by fire for over an hour (though not by much). For the price, this model is a surprisingly sturdy one.
The key-pad on the safe works with 4 AA batteries which should theoretically last half a year. In case they are drained when the safe is in a locked state, it comes with two keys for manual override. The keys are round-shafted security keys, meaning the manual override lock won’t be picked with a hairpin and Hollywood luck.
The key-pad is designed in a way to sense whether fingers are pressing the buttons, or some inanimate object that got knocked over onto the panel. This works via a combination of pressure sensors and heat sensors, so if something is accidentally pushing the buttons, it won’t drain the battery faster. Naturally, this isn’t implemented should the astronomically improbable occurrence of random object punching in the safe code come to pass, but rather to prevent needless battery drain.
One recurring issue some users have reported is that the safe arrived in a damaged state, or was faulty, forcing them to return it and wait for another unit. In some cases, the door of the safe was bent, making it difficult to close and negating the fire-proof nature of it altogether. The most common fault, however, was a loose and flimsy handle with too much drift.
SereneLife’s fire-proof safe is a perfectly good product in its own right, without many concrete flaws of its own to point out. However, the reason why it isn’t sitting in the #1 spot is that there are simply better safes out there which may be stronger and offer longer fire protection. However, in this price range, this is the top product.
- STRONG & SECURE: The home safe is made of reinforced solid steel wall construction with dual-locking door bolts to ensure the safety of your valuables
- DIGITAL SAFE ACCESS: Electronic safe design allows you to access the lock safe via the digital combination control pad using a customizable key code password
- MECHANICAL OVERRIDE: Included keys allow you to use the safe for manual access, to be used as a traditional / standard-type combination security safe
- UNIVERSAL PLACEMENT: Used for home, office and business use - pre-drilled holes allow you to mount and install the safe for permanent wall or floor mounting
- TECHNICAL SPECS: Battery Operated, Requires (4) x 'AA' Batteries (Included) - Construct Material: Engineered Steel Alloy - Total Size (L x W x H): 13.8'' x 9.8'' x 9.8'' -inches
Honeywell 6104 Fire Resistant Steel Security Box
The Honeywell 6104 is the very definition of barebones and no-nonsense as you can get. It doesn’t have any high-tech features or frills, but it does what it sets out to do in the simplest manner possible. It’s a box. You lock it with a key. Stuff in it does not get burned. “What else could you want?” is the question Honeywell asks you as it tries to sell you this security box.
However, for a “no frills” product, the 6104 has a surprisingly long list of features. Granted, these are all utilitarian in nature and only assist it in performing its task, but the simple looks of this security box belie its function. On first looks, it seems like an overly basic product, but it turned out to be one of our favorites.
Nailing down a single standout feature for the Honeywell 6104 is a difficult task. The aspect of this fire-proof safe box is how to blends a number of highly functional features with a very simple and accessible design. Combining solutions which increase security such as a hidden hinge and double steel wall with convenience features like a padded bottom and carrying handle make the 6104 fantastic value for a relatively low price.
The Honeywell 6104 seeks to protect from both thieves and fire. While the key solution isn’t the most secure choice, it was the only viable one at this price point, and the concealed hinge which prevents the box from being forced open makes up for it. The double walled construction allows for some serious insulation, however a padded bottom prevents the sturdy build from damaging the contents.
The box isn’t too large, with a capacity of 0.17 cubic feet, which combined with the carrying handle makes it highly portable. While this isn’t the best theft deterrent, there are times when you’ll be thankful for not having to haul a massive, heavy metal safe around. The small size, however, does carry another drawback. Even with double walls, such a small box can go only so long before being damaged by fire, meaning this will keep the contents safe for only 20 minutes in a full blaze.
The Honeywell 6104 Fire Proof Safe Box is a fantastic little contraption for simple purposes. In spite of its size and price, is has some neat features, however the lower price-range can be felt where it matters most, giving this box only a short period of fire protection. Nonetheless, this is a good choice for people looking at entry-level products.
- CASH MANAGEMENT - Protect your most valuable possessions and electronics, from theft and tampering with Honeywell cash management products. With options of key locks and digital locks, protect your...
- FEATURES - The Honeywell 6104 security box's concealed hinge keeps your small valuables protected from users by preventing prying of the door. This box includes a foam padded floor mat and is built...
- QUALITY MADE - As a Honeywell brand licensee, we have a responsibility to conduct ourselves with the highest levels of integrity in everything we do. This helps us sustain the credibility of the...
- SECURE - Honeywell Safes, Paper Shredders and Door Locks are manufactured and distributed exclusively by LH Licensed Products, Inc. These products provide security and safety for your important and...
- TRUSTED COMPANY - The Honeywell trademark is licensed from Honeywell International Inc., a Fortune 100 company that invents and manufactures technologies to address some of the world's toughest...
First Alert 2017F Water and Fire Protector File Chest
The First Alert 2017F is a small and portable case designed primarily for documents of digital storage devices, and protects these items from fire, water and theft (though the case itself is easy to steal due to its size). The relatively small device, with an internal capacity 0.19 cubic feet, is easy to store and won’t require the rearrangement of your entire closet.
The main appeal of the 2017F is the compact nature of the safe. If you want something with a small footprint that is discreet, this is a fantastic choice. The price is accordingly low compared to full safes, however you also won’t be able to store anything too big in this model. While the site would suggest primarily being geared to documents, the 2017F has been certified to keep digital storage devices safe as well.
The 2017F works with a key as a locking mechanism. It can withstand 1550 degrees Fahrenheit (that’s almost 850 degrees celsius) for up to 30 minutes in one go, after which the heat will start to damage the contents of the safe, with digital storage devices suffering first. Such a short time frame is to be expected of safes in this price range, though we would be more comfortable if that was buffed out to an hour, like in most cases.
If you’re looking for a compact safe, the size of this model won’t come across as a downside, and if you’re not, why are you even looking at it? The First Alert 2017F is a decent choice to keep your documents and storage devices safe from both fire and water, however we aren’t entirely satisfied with the duration that it keeps the contents truly protected.
- Fire-resistant, waterproof chest keeps your valuable documents and electronics secure. Interior Dimensions(HxWxD): 2.91 in. x 13.23 in. x 8.58 in.; Exterior Dimensions(HxWxD): 5.75 in. x 16.13 in. x...
- Withstands external temperatures of up to 1550 degrees F for up to 30 minutes
- Waterproof design keeps contents dry even when submerged
- 0.19-cubic foot capacity ideal for storing small items and documents
- Independently verified to protect electronic media
SentrySafe’s HD4100CG model specializes on the protection of documents from the ravages of fire. It’s shape and interior is specifically designed for this purpose, and while you could hide other thin objects in it, this isn’t the right choice for any larger valuables. This model’s purpose is to keep your documents, CDs, storage devices and mementos such as family photos safe.
The HD4100CG excels in versatility, which is an odd thing to say about a safe which is so narrowly focused in specialization. And yet, this safe will protect the few things which actually fit into it from thieves, water, fire and shock. Though the box’s primary objective is to protect the contents from the forces of nature, the locking mechanism isn’t one the average thief could pick, and the sturdy construction prevents it from being forced open. It can provide certified fire protection for both paper-based documents, optical storage devices and pen drives for half an hour, maybe more. It’s also completely waterproof, as demonstrated in a video where the safe is sent to take a swim in a pool, and dropping it while it has a HDD drive won’t cause the pin to scratch the disc’s surface either.
The HD4100CG comes with two keys and the whole thing weighs 40 pounds, which becomes a slight problem considering the safe has no handles and curved edges. What is a bigger issue, however, is that this model commits the cardinal sin of safes – it isn’t safe. Or, at least, it isn’t reliable.
With the HD4100CG, it’s only a matter of time before the panel with the locking clamp just hops off the safe. For some it took days, for other months, but the internet is flooded with negative reviews of how the very thing which keeps the safe secure just broke off during regular use. In addition, the keys themselves are tiny, thin, soft things, which bend out of shape if you so much as look at them funny.
SentrySafe needs to look at their production methods and process or go back to the drawing board. They’re a fairly reputable company, and the HD4100CG just isn’t on par with what we’ve come to expect from them. That said, when it isn’t falling apart, it functions as you’d want.
- Fireproof box is UL Classified to endure 1/2 hour at 1550°F to protect irreplaceable documents, small valuables, DVDs, and USBs from fire
- Waterproof box is ETL Verified for 72 hours of water submersion offering peace of mind in the event of a flood
- Fire safe features a flat key lock to prevent the lid from opening in the event of a fire; includes two keys. Material - Captured Fire Insulation
- Document safe features built-in straps for easy storage of passports, social security cards, and birth certificates; fire box accommodates letter-size hanging files and folders (sold separately)
- Exterior: 15.5 in. W x 13.5 in. D x 14.3 in. H; Interior: 12 in. W x 8.1 in. H x 11.5 in. H; medium capacity 0.65 cubic feet; weighs 39 pounds
When you are looking for a safe, you are looking for a long-term solution that will perform its job for years on end, and hopefully will never need its mettle tested in a fire. However, you are buying a fireproof safe to protect your valuables should this happen, meaning skimping doesn’t pay. Cheaper models get the job done too, but not as well and not for as long. With other devices or appliances that you presumably need to replace often or buy in bulk, price is a bigger factor, but remember – buying a safe is an investment.