Fireproofing a Safe


July 31, 2006, 11:55 AM
I have a couple of safes. One fire-reated, the other not.

I was thinking that if I added some exterior fire protection to the non-rated safe, I'd be able to use it for "long term" storage of my safe queens. Long term because I'm guessing external protection might not be something I'd want to take off and put on all the time.

Any suggestions for materials?

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Taurus 66
July 31, 2006, 12:40 PM

July 31, 2006, 12:47 PM
A couple layers of drywall. 5/8th " thick. use firestop caulk for the corners.

1 old 0311
July 31, 2006, 01:23 PM
Ranger hit it.

July 31, 2006, 01:40 PM
Gypsum board is your best option as it is cheap and easily available, but is not as good as the injected insulations used on your typical fire rated safe.

The other problem you will have is the door on the safe. If the safe wasn't built having the fire lining in mind, then it's going to be difficult to get the door area covered.

Your best bet is to place the safe in an area where nothing will be burning (close to lots of concrete, like the corner of a basement), and then add a little bit of exterior protection. Anything you can do to eliminate the risk in the first place will increase your odds.

Henry Bowman
July 31, 2006, 01:44 PM
Also remember that if it is in the corner of a basement, if there is a fire there will also (likely) be lots of water. Most fire rated safes are not necessarily water tight. So raise it up a few inches (at least) off the floor if it is where water could pool or flow.

July 31, 2006, 01:59 PM
Thank you for the input. Maybe I could go with gypsum board sandwiched between 5/8 drywall. With regard to the door, I plan to have a piece that will cover the front opening, secured by metal band clamps. It won't be hinged; when I need to open the safe, I'll just open the clamps and slide the front cover aside. (I plan to only keep safe queens in this safe, which I don't handle often. The guns that see regular action will stay in the FP safe.)

Along the lines of placement, does anyone happen to know the location in a home that offers the best chance of survival for the safe? Basement, 2nd floor?

July 31, 2006, 04:21 PM
I am a fireman.

First floor, exterior wall, closet. Preferably in the corner of your house.

I would recommend against the 2nd floor, except for security reasons. Fire burns upwards. This means that the floor of the second floor will get weaker the longer it burns. Firemen usually come in on the ground floor. Big heavy, hard things over head of little soft me, scare me.

If it is installed in a closet, you have two layers of drywall separated by an air gap surrounding you safe already. Even with a BS closet door between your safe and the fire, it is much more protected than it would be next to the couch in the living room.

Corners of the structure typically collapse last, and if your safe were there, it would only have heat/flame impingement on 2 -3 sides ( top, 2 sides. maybe bottom )

My safe, made by Granite, has drywall (IANM, same thing as gypsum board) as its fire proofing.

Drywall is used as firewalls in apartment buildings that share a common attic. It has to be double thickness (on both sides, IIRC) and have no penetrations that aren't sealed with fire resistive caulking.

For the record, I have opened many closets that had the top of their doors burned through, and the clothes were not even charred below head level.

July 31, 2006, 06:58 PM
I have an older safe(pre fireproofing) and I custome fitted 5/8" fire code sheetrock(gypsum board) and glued it to the inside walls. hpg

July 31, 2006, 08:55 PM
Ranger and other informed individuals.
Is there more risk to gun safes in garages? Are there many garage fires due to presense of cars, gasoline, cleaning solvents, battery chargers plugged in etc? Or is the garage safer than interior of house? Do most fires start in kitchens? Thanks

July 31, 2006, 09:49 PM
I am firefighter also and Rangermonroe is right. The only thing is that i would still think that a basement would be best if you have one. Reason is that if the fire is bad enough it wont fall through the floor. Someday i want to build a house and ive got an idea to have a "safe" room under the kitchen that is totally concrete except the door.

July 31, 2006, 10:06 PM
I hate the thought of a safe in a garage...not from the FF point of view.

Bad guy backs his '72 p/u truck inside, closes the door behind him. Three hours later, him and two friends shove your safe into the back of the truck and he drives out.

Sunday morning, while your are mowing the lawn, everybody that drives by (looking for the garage sale) sees a big box that looks like a safe in your garage.

Oh... from the flamability standpoint...not a good spot, but not the worst. If your have a heavy fire load piled on your safe (reloading supplies, solvents and stuff), well then, the safe queens would fare a lot worse than if your garage were the sole location of recyclable cans.


Sucks... if you're worried about fire. If I show up at your house, and it is on fire, you will have a swimming pool full of charcoal just below the living room. You will need a pump or a SCUBA tank to check on the queens.

Sweet...if you're talking about burglary. Those SOB's will have to tote things upstairs to take them out. I may tucker them out with more toys left than you..or not.

Drywall makes for a Purloined Letter situation. In plain view...but invisible.

July 31, 2006, 11:18 PM
I am sure that this is gonna rile some people, but it is still my honest, educated opinion. There is no such thing as a fireproof safe and realistically there is no way to fireproof one. If you have a fire and your safe is exposed to same your items inside will be damaged. Unless the fire is put out within minutes, the temperature inside will raise to a level where damage will occur. I would be more concerned on insuring your investment than trying to insulate your safe enough to have it withstand a fire for any length of time. If you will pardon the expression, flame away if you must but do it knowing that I have considered this topic for some time and the advice I offer is the same I take myself.

July 31, 2006, 11:24 PM

That is wrong.

I am sure of this.

edit/// Removed non THR diatribe

August 1, 2006, 03:57 AM
I'll wade into this.

Are you an expert at adding fire resistance to a safe, which will contain thousands of dollars worth of property?

If NO is the answer, buy a safe designed by the experts.

Then either use your safe for things that you don't care get burned in a fire OR sell it and use those proceeds toward your new safe.

Baba Louie
August 1, 2006, 09:03 AM
Listen and heed rangermonroe's sage advice. You want 5/8" Type "X" gypsum board (aka sheetrock/drywall). Look at the link provided for 1 and 2 hour Fire Resistive assemblies (wall & ceilings).

Doing architectural fireproofing details, we often use 3 or more layers of 5/8" Type "X" to wrap around kitchen hood exhaust ducts, taped and sealed to give 2 - 3 hr rated shaft assemblies which penetrate through floors above as well as roofs.

Note that this will not "STOP" a fire per se, but should "Resist" a fire for such time allowing Fire Dept control of the situation, allowing occupants to be evacuated from a burning building... the one action most important, as valuables and structures can and should be covered by insurance.

You'll still need to look at the door opening. There are 90 min rated steel door & frame assemblies (again, from an architect's P.O.V., and again from a life safety position) that, when coupled with wall, ceiling and floor assemblies, can be used to create a shell built around your safe. As others have pointed out, smoke, heat and water damage, as well as proper floor support should also be factored in.

August 1, 2006, 10:33 AM
I'd listen to a1abdj, rangermonroe and redranger1 since they are the real experts on this issue. Babba Louie has given good advice and can be trusted also since he has to comply with Life Safety Code requirements.

We had a project that needed a fire resistant equipment enclosure that had to have a 2 hr. rating and we brought in one of our fire protection engineers to help. His advice was to build a wood frame inclosure on a concrete slab with 4 layers of drywall on the sides and roof constucted so that the sheets were offset from the layer below so that none of the sealed seams lined up (except at the corners) and leave an airgap of at least 6 inches all the way around. Last I heard it survived a wildfire on the site and none of the electronics were damaged inside the enclosure.

August 1, 2006, 03:37 PM

I'll ring in on this one. For the record, I'm a locksmith who specializes in safe sales. Safes, not RSC's.

Hoplaholic, sir, you are misinformed. There are safes that easily shrug off total loss housefire enviroments. They are available to the general public, several manufacturer's make them. The cost is, of course, higher than RSC's, but the protection level typically will run about 5 times what the typical Liberty, Cannon, Browning, product will.

Search the term RSC here at THR & you'll find where I've posted a synopsis of the U.L. test procedure for a 1 hour rated safe. There are safes available that by far exceed the 1 hour standard. However, if you're in an urban local with a professional fire department, there's usually very little need for a safe providing protection beyond the 1 hour U.L. standard.

This is a case where the rule of 80/20 applies in the real world. You can buy a high-end Browning or Liberty & pay 80% of what a U.L. safe will cost, and get about 20% of the protection.


August 1, 2006, 07:32 PM
Spend your money on good insurance and a safe that will protect from theft. Forget the fire rating! Even if you buy a safe that has a rating good for 2000 degrees for an hour what do you think will be the internal temp. inside that metal box? Enough to warp stocks & barrels and destroy your optics!! Look at the warranty, does it guarantee your guns won't be damaged. Will they replace them if they are?? Fire ratings are nothing but marketing hype designed to sell safes.

Car Knocker
August 1, 2006, 07:49 PM
Fire ratings are nothing but marketing hype designed to sell safes.

Verifiable fact or unsupported opinion?

August 1, 2006, 08:01 PM
Retrofitting safe to protect it from fire requires a multifaceted approach because you have a few objectives:

Prevent direct flame impingment on any portion of the exterior
Limit temperature rise within the safe
Protect against damage from firefighting activities
Make the safe somewhat accessible
Keep it cheap

The idea of covering your safe with gypsum board or Type X (fire rated) gypsum board is pretty good. Gyp board performs well because it is a fair insulator with a high moisture content; the effect of the embedded water is to require all of the water to boil off before a temperature wave can propagate to the unexposed side. Water has a very high latent heat of evaporation which means that it dramatically slows the progress of heating. If you ever saw a temperature profile versus time of the unexposed side of fire-exposed sheet of gyp board you'd see the temperature rise slowly to 100 C (212 F), stay there for a good long while, then begin to climb more rapidly. That's the effect of the water boiling away.

What makes Type X better is that it's typically thicker than regular gyp board and also has fibers placed in the mix that allow the board to retain its shape after all the water has been driven off. As any fireman can tell you, once gyp board is exposed to fire, it calcinates (turns to chalk) and loses all strength. However, that's more of a problem for fire spread through failing walls of a home.

Behind a layer or two of Type X gyp board I would recommend a thick layer of flexible fiberglass or ceramic insulation such as Fiberfrax. Fiberfrax has an extremely low thermal conductivity and is non-flammable. This will keep the temperature inside the safe lower and be especially useful in the hinged region. A dehumidifier inside the safe should be used for such a tight configuration.

Placing the safe atop a few cinder blocks is a good idea to keep it out of water.

I would prefer the basement for this sort of storage. It keeps your safe out of the way, away from thieves, and is less likely to injure someone in the event of a home collapse (fire, earthquake, tornado, nuclear armageddon, Hillary presidency, etc.).

If you were a little crazy and really intent on your guns surviving a fire, you could make the door and other holes water-tight with gaskets or sealant and have a water jet spray on the safe, triggered by a smoke or heat detector. Flammable fuel storage tanks are protected similarly against exposure fires. This may be the most effective option, but it is the least reliable --- very few people know how to wire a smoke detector to an electronic switch, few people remember to change the batteries, the water supply could be turned off or the power might be out. But it could be a fun project if you've got some extra pipe lying around.

August 1, 2006, 08:36 PM
A residential sprinkler head in the safe room.

You could pipe it through the attic with pvc, poke a hole in the center of the rooms ceiling, and viola sprinkler protection.

Probably cost about $75

August 1, 2006, 08:56 PM
my long term goal is to build an underground 'root cellar' like bunker for protection of valuables (and maybe even persons!) from wildfire

but like everything else, it takes money....

4v50 Gary
August 1, 2006, 09:02 PM
Wonderboard is better than drywall. Wonderboard is the insulation they use around hotel restaurant stoves/ovens that are going 24 hours a day. Frame the safe & cut it up like sheetrock and build a layer around your safe. Then you can sheetrock it for extra protection. Build a door with the same material and it's protected all the way around including the door & lock.

August 1, 2006, 10:18 PM
Remove all other combustibles from the closet where the safe is located, update your insurance policy and call it good. Most fires are not total loses and typically start from electical, kitchen and garage issues, not in a closet. I would worry more about how it is bolted down from thieves than fire.

Car Knocker
August 1, 2006, 10:19 PM
A residential sprinkler head in the safe room.

You could pipe it through the attic with pvc, poke a hole in the center of the rooms ceiling, and viola sprinkler protection.

Might get a little messy if it gets cold enough in the winter to freeze in the attic. I've seen it happen in Sacramento, CA.

August 1, 2006, 10:49 PM
......or fire in the attic. Use steel pipe for fire sprinklers.

August 1, 2006, 10:51 PM
A residential sprinkler head in the safe room.

You could pipe it through the attic with pvc, poke a hole in the center of the rooms ceiling, and viola sprinkler protection.

Probably cost about $75

It may sound odd, but a listed residential sprinkler head will wet everything except the safe below it. The residential head is designed to spray water to the sides to wet the walls and combustibles near the walls (furniture, etc.) to delay their ignition so you can escape from your home. A commercial standard spray pendent (SSP) head with a short throw would work better, wetting the area surrounding the safe if you have enough pressure (at least 7 psi). Just putting a nozzle or a downward-facing quarter-inch pipe directly above the safe would have the flow characteristics you want. That is, you want the water to impact the top and wash down the sides. That will have a very good cooling effect.

The solution to piping in a freezing environment is to use a "dry pipe" setup. That is, the pipe does not contain any water until the system is needed to discharge. This can be accomplished by putting the flow valve in an air-conditioned portion of the house.

August 2, 2006, 07:42 AM
Hell, I was thinking of putting out, or at least keeping any fire in the room where the safe was. :)

August 2, 2006, 07:27 PM

Please do look up the U.L. fire standard rating & test procedure for safes. The test criteria specifically has an interior temperature level that must not be exceeded in order to pass the test. That level is 350 degrees fahrenheit. An approximate 100 degrees under the ignition point of paper.

Now, it's true that RSC's, generally speaking, won't pass the U.L. one hour fire test. That's because they do use gypsum wall board for insulation. Wall board is a good flame barrier, but simply does not have the mass to absorb a thermal attack and not pass the heat into the interior of a secure container under the conditions imposed by the U.L. one hour test procedure.


August 3, 2006, 12:23 AM
Wonderboard is better than drywall

Gahhhh! I hate that stuff. If you use it, have it pre-cut.

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