If you store valuables at home–anything from jewelry and cash to stamp collections or important documents–you might want to consider installing a residential safe. Safes designed for home use come in a variety of shapes, sizes and designs, and there’s sure to be one out there that’s perfect for your needs.

Residential safes come in three basic configurations: wall, floor, and freestanding. Many also allow you to choose between dial, keypad, and key-lock mechanisms, and there are even a variety of outside color choices now available.

To protect your valuables, especially papers, from the risk of damage by fire, choose a safe that is fire-rated as well. Papers begin to scorch at approximately 450 degrees, so you want to look for a safe that is rated to keep the interior at 350 degrees or less for at least one hour.


Wall safes typically have a door with a non-removable hinge on either the side or the bottom. Smaller wall safes are only a single compartment, while larger ones may have one or two fixed or adjustable interior shelves.

Most home wall safes are designed to slip between the studs for easy installation. Most are only 3 1/2 inches deep so they work with standard 2×4 wall framing, but if you have 2×6 framing you might want to select one of the 5 1/2-inch-deep units to give you a little more interior room. Deeper units are also available.

All that is required for installation is to cut a hole in the wall, insert the safe, and bolt it to the studs from inside.  The bolt heads are only accessible when the safe is open, and a built-in flange on the front of the safe covers the cut edges of the hole for a clean installation. 


A floor safe is designed to be set into a recess in the floor. While a little more difficult to install than a wall safe, floor safes have the advantage of being larger and more difficult to physically remove from the house. Most have a hinges door, while some have a door that removes completely from the safe when opened. Both square and round floor safes are commonly available, and you will find a much larger selection of sizes in floor safes than you will with wall safes.

To install a floor safe, an opening needs to be cut in the floor at the desired location. Forms are installed, the safe is set in place, and then concrete is poured below and on all four sides of the safe to secure it in place.


Freestanding safes can be small and unobtrusive, like the ones in some hotel rooms that are provided for guest use, or they can be massive monsters like the ones that always showed up in the bank or the sheriff’s office of your favorite wild-west movie. Smaller freestanding safes may be bolted to a wall, shelf, or other structural member, while the larger one rely on their own bulk to protect them from being carted off. Larger freestanding safes can weigh half a ton or more, so if you’re selecting one of these brutes you’ll want to have a contractor check your floor to be sure that it can support that much concentrated load in one place.

A common variation of the freestanding safe is called a gun safe, and is designed specifically for the storage of firearms. Gun safes are relatively tall and slender, and will accommodate rifles as well as handguns. Separate shelves or other storage areas are also provided inside for ammunition.


Need even more storage area? Then you might want to consider a vault door, which can be used in place of any interior door and allows you to easily convert a closet or even an entire room into a vault. Vault doors are typically sized to replace a 2-foot-6-inch interior door, but other standard and custom sizes are available as well.

For your best selection of safes, as well as expert advice on installation and even help getting the safe moved into position, contact any local locksmith shop.

Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at paul2887@direcway.com.


What’s your opinion? Send your Letter to the Editor to opinion@inman.com.

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