Safes Buyers Guide
Understanding ratings for home safes and gun safes
| How to buy a home safe
| Frequently Asked Questions
Understanding ratings for home safes and gun safes
Making sense of safe ratings can be a little overwhelming to those looking to buy a home safe or a gun safe for the first time. During your safe search, you might run across home safes that are “B” rated or “C” rated, TL-15 or TL-30, TRTL15 or TRTL30, RSC safes, and 1 hour fire or 2 hour fire rated. Let’s try to make a little sense of these ratings.
Underwriters Laboratories (UL) has been testing and certifying safes for more than 80 years, so they know a thing or two about what makes a good burglar-proof, fireproof home safe. They have devised a rating system that can be divided into three major categories; burglary resistance, fire resistance and impact resistance.
To test the burglary resistance of a home safe UL either uses tools (TL) or torches (TR). The instruments that can be used are anything that can be found in a hardware store or a constructions site, i.e., drills, hammers, wenches, power saws, crowbars, jackhammers, or even oxyacetylene welter’s torch. Ratings are then given to a particular home safe depending on how long it takes for the best safecrackers in the world to, well… crack the safe.
Here are the basic burglary ratings as specified by UL:
- B1 - Theft resistant (minimum security)
- B2 - UL listed RSC (Residential Security Container)/TL-5 (UL tested Tool Rated for 5 minutes – door only)
- B3 - Non rated anti theft (incorporates features of security safes without a UL rating)
- B4 - UL listed TL-15 (UL tested Tool Rated for 15 minutes - door only)
- B5 - UL listed TL-30 (UL tested Tool Rated for 30 minutes - door only)
- B6 - UL listed TL-30X6 or TRTL-30X6 (UL Tested Tool and/or Torch rated on all six sides for 30 minutes)
Now, as you may know, a home safe is also rated by the amount of time it can be expected to keep its contents below 350 degrees Fahrenheit (paper begins to burn at 400 degrees). Time and outside temperature are both considered in UL’s rating system as follows:
- UL Class 350- 1/2 hour fire rating. (Heated for 1/2 hour at 1,550 degrees)
- UL Class 350 - 1 hour fire rating. ( Heated for 1 hour at 1,550 degrees)
- UL Class 350 - 2 hour fire rating. ( Heated for 2 hours at 1,550 degrees)
- UL Class 350 - 1 hour fire rating and impact testing label
- UL Class 350 -2 hour fire rating and impact testing label
For a UL listed safe to be labeled “Impact Rated” it is heated to 1,550 degrees Fahrenheit in a furnace, raised three stories and dropped onto a pile of bricks and then returned to the furnace and reheated. In order to meet the listing requirement, the temperature inside the safe can't have risen above 350 degrees Fahrenheit and sample papers left inside must be readable.
Finally, you might hear the term “B” rated or “C” rated. This merely refers to the thickness of the door. "B" rated safes are constructed of less than 1/2 inch thick steel walls, and doors less than 1inch thick steel. "C" rated safes are constructed of at least1/2 inch thick steel walls, and doors at least 1 inch thick steel.
That’s all there is to it! We’ve focused this review on home safes and gun safes but the same ratings would apply to wall safes, floor safes, or any kind of burglary safe. Safe ratings are there to help you pick the home safe or gun safe that best suits your needs, so make sure to use them whenever available.
How to buy a home safe
Home safes are a great way to secure expensive or cherished family items and should be required in any home or apartment. Should anything happen to your home you will have the peace of mind of knowing those photos, legal contracts, passports or family heirlooms remain safe and secure. The vast array of home safes available on the market can be mind-boggling though to the uninformed consumer. Not all safes are the same; they often come in many sizes, prices and protection levels.
When Buying a Home Safe:
- Consider what items you are trying to store and protect. Different items will need different types of protection. Legal contracts, passports and other paper documents often need fire protection. Digital storage media such as CDs, DVDs, hard drive will need specific fire protection provided by data safes. Family heirlooms and jewelry will need burglary protection from prying thieves.
- Identify the class rating and fire rating that best suits your needs. Burglar-resistant safes come with two types of rating: a class rating and a UL rating. The class rating system, from 1 to 5, is based on the home safe’s resistance to attack given its door and wall thickness and design. The UL rating shows resistance to specific types of attack: DR (drill resistant), TR (torch resistant), TRTL (both torch and tool resistant) and X6 (bankers and jewelers safes). Fire ratings come with two numbers: the first one is the maximum internal temperature of the safe, and the second one refers to how long the safe was tested, e.g. a 350F 1h fire rating means the safe was tested to maintain a temperature under 350 degrees Fahrenheit for up to an hour.
- Determine where the safe is going to be. Next, where are you going to put your safe? You may want to consider a wall safe or a floor safe to be installed inside a wall or into the floor. Also, keep in mind most burglary safes and guns safes are best bolted to the floor. You will also need to take into account the size of your home safe: a small safe intended to store passports and digital media will easily fit on a shelf. A large gun safe to secure rifles and other firearms might be several thousand pounds and be best located in the basement of the house.
- Figure out your budget. Last but not least, how much are you willing to spend? Small inexpensive safes will cost less than a hundred dollars but provide limited protection. High-end safes will cost several thousand dollars and provide outstanding protection. Think of it as an insurance policy and decide for yourself how much you are willing to spend today to avoid potentially losing your most important documents and family heirlooms in the event of a fire or a burglary.