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Using a walk-in closet as a safe.

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by Kentucky, Apr 29, 2007.

  1. Kentucky

    Kentucky Member

    Mar 3, 2006
    I have been planning on investing a safe from Bass Pro or such for some of my firearms. However, yesterday it occurred to me that I might be able to spend about the same money hardening a walk-in closet and have a much larger "safe" that could be used to store more objects and also provide a "tornado room".

    Can anyone provide me with any tips or ideas on how to harden a walk-in closet to make it theft resistant? I was considering just trying to find some metal sheets about 3/8" thick and trying to attach them to the interior walls. Not sure how costly or effective this would be though. Any better ideas?
  2. Mr White

    Mr White Senior Member

    Oct 9, 2006
    Central PA
    Bolting 3/8" plate steel to interior walls won't be easily done. The weight will require shoring up the joists below. Keep in mind that a 4x8 sheet of 3/8 soft plate weighs almost 500 lb. You'll have to get it into the house and maneuver it around too.

    And I think you'll find the cost of 4x8 sheets of even 3/8 soft plate to be prohibitively expensive.

    Also, I don't know if I'd want to be in a room lined with seveal thousand pounds of plate steel bolted to the walls of residential construction during a tornado.

    Then, you'd need a vault door as part of the whole package.

    The only better idea I can come up with with is to buy a good safe.
  3. Smith357

    Smith357 Senior Member

    Feb 19, 2005
    Columbus, Ohio
    A friend of mine built a cinder block vault in a corner of his basement with a good steel security door. I cost him 3 times what a large safe costs, but is ten times larger.
  4. Lupinus

    Lupinus Senior Member

    Oct 6, 2005
    Upstate SC
    keep in mind that you will also need a door and that 3/8 steel plates are not all that hard to cut through. Give me a oxy-acetylene set up and a few minutes I'll have those right out for you ;) Also you have to take all six sides into account otherwise would be thieves can just go above or below it. Then consider there isn't going to really be any fire protection. And most anything you could fit into an existing residential construction without some serious modification to the entire area of the structure in question isn't going to be very secure. Now in a basement with steel and concreate on all six sides maybe. But not in a walk in closet. Course, the slab in most basements isn't built for that sort of weight resting on it and might crack over time.

    To make a good "safe roome"/vault in your home as you describe I'm guessing you could easily buy a very large very good quality safe. Heck to go wit ha half decent vault door alone wil lcost about as much as a really good safe from what I have seen. Course...if you got the money and the time I'd much rather have a vault then a safe lol.
  5. logical

    logical Member

    Mar 5, 2005
    This question always brings out a lot of naysayers and they have their points.....
    But I happen to like the idea. Mine's in a basement and hidden such that you'd have to really think hard to realize it's there. It isn't steel plated or anything but most safes aren't all that secure either if you are going to assume the thief happens to have a torch set in his backpack. I know one thing...nobody's going to carry it away.
  6. wizard of oz

    wizard of oz Member

    Jun 8, 2005
    the lucky country
    upstairs or downstairs ?
    I was amazed to see a vault constructed - the plates all bolted together but the door was heavy >>1000kg
    Floor and ceiling are vulnerable. Worth the effort of breaking into or even tunneling depending what is stored there.
    concrete / steel mesh / monitored alarm / camera.
    no reason you can't harden the closet and put a safe in as well.
    Camoflague/secret room might be easier.
  7. vtoddball

    vtoddball Member

    Mar 21, 2007
    We're talking real life...

    Remember that your defending against petty thieves who are going to sneak in, grab whatever is valuable, toss around some stuff to make sure they got it all and be out in 20-30 minutes. Robert DeNiro and Kim Bassinger aren't pouring over the blueprints for your house, building homemade thermite torches and special electronic doodads to break into your home. Whoever breaks in will probably have lockpicks, crowbars, and a desperate need to get in and out quickly so they can buy their next fix.

    For a cheaper but fairly sturdy "safe" room I'd go wood framing with the studs closer than normal and make the walls 2 sheets of 3/4" plywood with rebar spaced with the studs to discourage smaller power saws. Anyone will be able to get into it eventually, but it'll make noise and take time that they probably don't have.
  8. oldfart

    oldfart Member

    Dec 27, 2002
    Portland, Oregon
    Look, given enough time, a crook can break into Fort Knox. All any safe can do is make the job of breaking in so time-consuming the bad guy will give up rather than risk getting caught. Big, heavy commercial safes do that quite well and they provide a measure of fire protection too. A walk-in closet can be made into a safe but the fire protection probably won't be there.
    A closet can be "hardened" by a number of means, from several layers of plywood to a healthy sheet of steel. I opted for the plywood with wires between the layers that - when broken - set off a very loud and hard to shut off klaxton. It's all tied into my home alarm system so it will work for several days on batteries even if the power goes off. Plywood does burn though, so I don't have fire protection. Still, since the room is on the second floor, even if I had a conventional safe it would likely end up in the basement after a fire, where it would be exposed to higher temperatures for a longer time than the warranty specifies.
    My system was relatively inexpensive since I had most of the materials on hand as left-overs from other jobs and I already had a home alarm system.
  9. IMtheNRA

    IMtheNRA Senior Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    I happen to like the idea of a hardened closet. Instead of the steel sheets and all the weight they add, how about installing horizontal steel rods through the studs? Space them close together so that it'll be impossible to sneak in between them. That, and a heavy steel commercial door should keep casual and ill-equipped burglars out.
  10. glockman19

    glockman19 Senior Member

    Mar 16, 2007

    oxy-acetylene torch? Don't know many home burglars that go around carrying such equipment. I don't even know how many carry chain saws, Dynamite, Sledge hammers, pick axes, etc...

    I'd sheer wall the closet and if possible pour light weight cement in between the inside & outside pannels if you're worried. Light weight concrete is strong, not cost prohibitive and light weight. you probably only have to pour up to about 5'. A nice hardened barrier.

    A strong door with a Metal door jam is most important.

    Unless a burglar is specifically targeting your gun collection and knows the design of your sefe room you're probably OK.

    Is the Walk in up stairs or downstairs? This will make a difference in materials you use. When all costs are considered, I'm sure you'll find that even spending a few Thousnd on a large safe is better. It can also be moved if you move and taken with you.
  11. Joe Kent

    Joe Kent New Member

    Apr 18, 2007
    Also , one may want to be sure and not leave your own power tools in plain view so as not to provide the thief with an easy means of breaking into your hardened storage.
  12. AZTOY

    AZTOY Senior Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    Fort Wainwright Alaska
    If you turn, the walk in closet into a safe, were is your wife going to put her shoes!:neener:
  13. chemist308

    chemist308 Member

    Mar 28, 2007
    Pocono Area, PA
    +1 for the closet idea. I doubt theives would break into a reinforced closet with so much other low hanging fruit available. You'll want a good, tough entry door with deadbolt, though. And rather than getting thick steel, I'd go for 3/4" plywood walls. The only thing is you won't be safe from fire.

    Check local papershops/classifieds as you may be able to get the entry door used--cheap.
  14. PRazz

    PRazz Member

    Apr 26, 2007
    Some of this new sheetrock is advertised as giving fire protection. What about using the 3/4" plywood along with some of the newer rock? The lowes flier I'm looking at says "fiberglass enhanced core for greater fire resistance". It's called "densarmor plus" 12.98 a sheet. Not fire proof but may give some fire protection.
  15. Scanr

    Scanr Member

    Nov 25, 2006
    Ok, my question is who are you trying to keep out? Thieves most likely. Unless someone knows what you have, the average thief does not have the tools necessary to break into a well fortified closet. Someone who has unlimited time and no noise concerns, can break into any safe.

    I think if you put a metal door on it and reinforce the walls inside. Even if it's just 1/8 steel, even tin, plate with a 1/2 inch ply wood over the top of it. That will stop anyone from breaking through a wall without bringing heavy tools. Add a motion censer alarm to the inside with a very loud alarm and you're safe. This will not stop a fire or a determined thief, but it will stop the average break in. How visible are you with your guns and valuables? Do you flaunt your stuff? Making you a target or do you keep it low key. Secrecy is your best friend.
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2007
  16. MinnMooney

    MinnMooney Senior Member

    Mar 9, 2007
    east-central Minnesota
    Like "scanr" said, "Secrecy is your best friend".
    The closet idea is great. I wrote in THR a month ago about my last house that I designed/built. When it came time to build my BR closet, I did it by myself in one day so no one else knew about it. I had 5/8" firewall gypsum (sheetrock) on all sides, ceiling and - most importantly - floor. The floor had dble sheets plus a 1/2" plywood top.
    When I built the door, I designed it to be hidden. The hinges can't be seen and the door opened by pushing on one side and then letting it pop open. Security was by means of a lever hidden under the carpet (easily accessed) that pushed 3 1/2" steel rods up from the floor into the bottom of the door. The BEST SECURITY is when nobody know that it's there. The lever/pins setup was only in case someone accidently leaned against the door - an almost impossible thing to do.
    I had that house for 21 years and to this day, I & the new owners are the only people who know about it. The new owners aren't hunters but thought the idea was a great place for irreplaceable papers, pictures and some valuables.
  17. bogie

    bogie Senior Member

    Jan 2, 2003
    St. Louis, in the Don't Show Me state
    Here's what I'm planning...

    The door will be hidden, and will be your basic "inner city" steel security door, with a Schlage deadbolt. It's gonna go into a frame made of laminated 2x6s... The walls be 2x6s, probably on a 12" center. Depending on cure time/forumulations/weight, I may pour some sort of "lightened" concrete inside the walls. If not, I'm going to do a layer of drywall, then a layer of liquid nails, embed some chicken wire, more liquid nails, another different direction run of chicken wire, then another layer of drywall. Yeah, someone can get through it. Eventually.
  18. ilbob

    ilbob Senior Member

    Jun 14, 2006
    Anything that is not easy to get into will dissuade the casual thief. An alarm will let them know the cops are on the way and they won't want to be there when the cops actually do show up.

    IMO, a closet is not a good choice. A basement corner is probably the best answer. You already have two solid walls, and a floor, so you only need two more walls and a ceiling. You will probably want to break out the floor under the new walls and install some kind of footing to take the weight of the new walls.

    The roof can be made pretty secure with a lattice of rebar secured just under the floor joists. A couple of layers of drywall under that for fire resistance.

    A good steel door is not the same thing as a real vault door, but it is cheaper and will hold off anything other than a real serious attempt at entrance.

    If you can, tie all your basement lights into the alarm system so the lights are off when the intruder alarm trips. Makes it a lot harder to work on stuff in the dark.
  19. Cesiumsponge

    Cesiumsponge Senior Member

    Nov 6, 2004
    I always thought this was a good illustration to start off with:


    I just don't think most thieves, when they see a locked closet, will automatically think "valuables" and shift their efforts to bust it open. They'll probably continue on and check your tables, chests, drawers, and so forth for goodies. A freestanding safe is pretty obvious that valuables are stored inside. Concrete, reinforced this and that might be great if your master bedroom is on the ground floor, but if its upstairs, you're going to need some serious retrofitting to handle all that weight (probably in excess of 1000lbs if you reinforce it on all 6 sides)

    And as mentioned, if its built as a storm shelter, it has double the usefulness. Build the storage so firearms and safety/survival supplies are out of the way of normal clothing and shoe storage so it doesn't interfere much with your daily life.
  20. Harry Paget Flashman

    Harry Paget Flashman Senior Member

    Feb 15, 2005
    NW Florida
    I had a regular sized closet that I extended out ~4'X6' making it about 6'X8'. I made the new walls of 2"X4" about 10" on center and reinforced them with many crisscrossed steel straps. The straps come in varying lengths and are 1½" wide with holes every inch or so. I used 8 foot lengths. The straps were for strength and to foil everything but a sawzall. I covered the inside walls with treated ¾" plywood and the outer walls with ½" untreated plywood. I added book shelves from the ceiling to floor to the outside walls too for, of course, book storage. The majority of construction was done with screws instead of nails. (+1 for the 18V DeWalt!)

    I installed a heavy decorative steel door like you'd use for a home's entrance-way. It is the kind that cannot be removed by removing the hinge pins. It has a key lock and a dead bolt and is framed around on the outside with book shelves too so you can't wedge a pry bar in there.

    Inside the room I have 2 safes bolted and framed in. However, the handguns and many rifles won't fit in the safes, so are stored in inside shelves and a rack along with ammo.

    A determined thief who wants a nice gun collection and has several hours and the proper power tools can probably get in. But I built if to stop the smash and grab, amateur thief looking to sell a Colt Diamondback or Browning Hi-Power for $50 worth of drugs.

    I used to store them under the beds but ran out of beds. I am better off now and it gives me peace of mind. It was a fun project too.

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