Steel Strength

A safe’s first line of defense is its door and five walls. Door and wall steel thickness determines a safe’s ability to protect. Thicker steel makes a huge difference in the protective ability of a safe. Steel is heavy and expensive but the foundation of any quality safe.

The table below illustrates a general rule of steel strength. The bending strength of steel increases by approximately the square of its thickness.

  • 12-gauge (.106) steel is 2.86 times stronger than 14-gauge (.075), even though it is only .031 thicker.
  • A safe constructed of 3/16” (.188) steel is about 5.6 times stronger than one constructed from 12-gauge  (.106) steel.
  • A safe door made from 1/4” steel is 13.12 times stronger than one made from 12-gauge.

14-Gauge 0.075 3.125 2.86x 4.15x 5.9x 15.9x 37.5x 126.5x 299.9x
12-Gauge 0.106 4.375 .35x 1.45x 2.06x 5.59x 13.12x 44.3x 105.0x
11-Gauge 0.120 5.00 .24x .69x 1.42x 3.85x 9.04x 30.5x 72.3x
10-Gauge 0.135 5.625 .17x .48x .70x 2.7x 6.35x 20.25x 49.9x
3/16″ 0.188 7.66 .06x .18x .26x .39x 2.35x 7.04x 18.8x
1/4″ 0.250 10.21 .03x .08x .11x .16x .43x 3.38x 8.0x
3/8″ 0.375 15.32 .01x .02x .03x .05x .13x .30x 2.37x
1/2″ 0.500 20.42 .003x .01x .015x .02x .05x .12x .42x

Fire Rating

Look for a minimum 1 hour certified fire rated safe that offers a fire sale, which protects the contents from fire, smoke and water.

A safe’s fire resistance depends on four main variables:

  1. Type and Amount of Insulation. Gypsum is the most commonly used material in home safes. When heated to 262°F it releases water vapor, which cools the safe’s interior. Until the moisture is baked out of the gypsum, the interior temperature of a safe will remain in the 200°F to 300°F range. Multiple layers of gypsum provide longer and higher ratings.
  2. How Well the Fire Insulation Is Installed. The inside of the safe should be fully covered with fire insulation, with no bare metal or hinge pocket cutouts.
  3. Door Steel Thickness and Rigidity. Heat causes metal distortion. Temperatures above 1000°F quickly distort thin, light-weight doors in only minutes, causing premature fire seal failure.
  4. Door Seal Effectiveness. Intumescent (heat-expanding) fire seals, when heated above 300°F, can expand up to ten times their original thickness, sealing out heat. Double and triple step seals are especially effective at achieving ratings of over an hour. Rope or other types of non-expanding seals are not as effective.


Both Fort Knox and Superior offer high-quality electronic locks and dial (mechanical) locks (Sargent & Greenleaf and LaGard locks). Electronic locks offer very fast and convenient access but do require batteries. They also help where there is limited lighting and offer the opportunity to easily change the combination. Mechanical (dial) locks are time-tested and durable and do not require batteries, but take a little more time and effort to open.

Vault Placement

Vault Contents. First, take into account what you will store in the safe. This will begin to prioritize the natural flow of arrangement. If you are in need of storing goods that will require constant retrieval then a close proximity to the area they will be used is ideal. For example, storing family heirlooms, jewelry, and currency will be most secure in areas like a bedroom, bathroom or closet. These areas are also ideal for gun storage as well.

Frequency of use. Choosing a location for your safe to store less frequented items that will tend to be tucked away for an extended amount of time will be a less demanding task. In this case, a spare closet, garage, basement or office could be viable options.

Humidity and temperature. Humidity and temperature control should be examined for certain circumstances. For example, helping to keep your firearm collection free from rusting in a less humid environment is critical for keeping your weapons in top condition. In this case, dehumidifiers are a great addition for aiding in proper climate levels. In combination to this, choosing to keep your safe in a cooler indoor atmosphere is best practice.

Weight restricitions. Lastly, physical weight is also a supplementary factor. Safes weighing less than 1,000 lbs. are okay for upstairs storage while safes over 1,000 lbs. are best kept on ground floors.


Our safe movers have more than 20 years of experience in lifting, moving and positioning safes to every type of dwelling and will ensure that your safe is delivered with the best care.