You may say to yourself: “I’ve never been burgled, so why should I get a safe?”.

The answer is: “Because a safe isn’t much use after you’ve been burgled!”.

For many homeowners, the thought of being burgled is far from their minds. Each night, the doors and windows are locked and the alarms are set. But if a thief did gain entry, especially at times when your family is away from the home, what happens next?

Picture the scene; laptop on the coffee table, worth £400+ and packed with personal data and family photos. iPhone or Galaxy phone worth at least as much charging by the socket. Precious rings tucked away in boxes for convenient carrying. Household documents in folders, listing all your identity information. Spare funds in the draw, passports underneath. Spare keys to the car on the hook in the kitchen. For a thief, once they get inside, the typical house is like a candy shop.

But… not if all these valuable items are stored in a safe. A burglar gets in, then searches around, unable to find the valuables. With each passing second, they’re making noise and increasing the risk of being caught. They finally find the safe – then what? Your average intruder is not a safecracker; they will leave when confronted with a potentially noisy and difficult task. Even those who do know how to crack a safe will be forced to spend time and effort getting in, and it’s that time which gets them caught. All safes are rated based on the time they take to circumvent, more than enough time to spook a thief or allow the police to arrive.

The fact is that the above items are precious. Gadgets like smartphones and laptops, data like documents and flash drives, antique heirlooms and gold necklaces are all expensive and often difficult to replace. Some can be insured, but that still involves a long and arduous process of claim and recovery. Unique objects such as personal keepsakes (and the data on certain devices) cannot be replaced at all. The benefits of a safe clearly outweigh the costs, when you factor in the loss of those items.

A house safe represents preventative insurance, as well as giving you a place to store items out of reach of children and fire. Most safes have a fire rating, representing how long they can protect contents against extreme heat. Thieves are not the only danger to your personal possessions.

How much time does it take to replace lost items?

How precious is your time? When it comes to replacing items, the cost is not the only factor. Your time may be the most valuable asset the thief has stolen from you. Electronic devices may take a few days to replace, once you find the right model. Jewellery could take weeks to replace with identical items. Keys may take weeks to arrive too. Passports may take months to process. Legal documents can take just as long, provided you can jump through the associated hoops.

How Long Does It Take to Replace Stolen Items?

All of this comes after the initial assessment:

  • Calling the Police – 1 hour
  • Writing everything down – 45 mins
  • Take pictures – 30 mins
  • File a Police report – 2 hours

Different Types of Home Safe

There is a lot to consider when buying a home safe. Safes come in a variety of types, each with their own pros and cons and price brackets. You also need to consider exactly what you need, as there’s no point in spending more than you need to. For example, the items you need to protect may not need constant protection. Legal documents should be protected all the time, especially against fire. Laptops and tablets are typically only at risk when you’re away from the home for an extended period.

A good way to start is by making a list of your precious items in the house and what they’re worth. All safes have a cash rating, which is a monetary figure calculated based on how long they can withstand a knowledgeable burglar. The longer a safe can resist (and therefore, the less likely it is that a burglar will get inside), the more it can be trusted with valuables. This comes down to how insurance companies pay out on items taken from safes- if you store more in a safe than the value it’s rated for, it could affect your claim.

Consider these safe types before making a purchase. Some are much easier to install than others and they come in various sizes, to suit your needs. You will also have to consider whether you want an electronic, mechanical or key lock.


Stand Alone Safe

A stand alone safe is the most basic and traditional safe, essentially a strongbox. This will usually be a traditional cube or rectangular box shape. You will usually find that stand alone safes are a little friendlier than others, coming in a wider variety of colours, less industrial-looking than larger counterparts. These safes are intended to be placed anywhere, so they do not have holes for bolting them to the floor or wall. This gives you more options in terms of hiding the safe, but also means that it’s vulnerable to being carried away (depending on weight, of course). Fire safes are typically stand alone safes, as the holes drilled for bolting down can compromise the fireproofing insulation inside the walls.

A stand alone safe is the easiest to install, since you just have to find a hiding place for it. Ideally this will be a concealed place which thieves won’t immediately see, such as the bottom of a closet or somewhere in the basement. The location must also be able to support the safe’s weight. For added protection without the need to bolt down, a stand alone safe could be attached to a larger item using security cabling.

Free Standing

Pros

Cons

  • No installation required
  • Easier to relocate
  • Easier to hide
  • Vulnerable to being moved
  • Not as discreet as a wall or floor safe
  • May have a lower value rating

Stand alone safes are the perfect choice for a handful of small items of low value. Because these safes are not bolted down, they may have a lower rating for valuables than their larger counterparts, so bear in mind that you must not use a safe for more than it’s rated value or insurance claims may be affected. The plus side of not being bolted down is that stand alone safes do not require tools for installation and can be placed anywhere in the home, so long as that place is sturdy. Another benefit of not being bolted down is that stand alone safes can be moved around; it seems obvious, but this is very useful if you have to redecorate or move house.

There are downsides to having more mobility, too. Thieves will occasionally simply steal the entire safe if they cannot get into it, so they can crack it as their leisure elsewhere. A safe which can be moved and tipped is also easier to drill into. Despite these issues, a stand alone safe is a good choice for anyone who only has a few items to protect. They are often lighter than bolt-down safes and this may give you more options for places to keep the safe.

If you have any cause to transport the safe by car, perhaps because it gets used for work purposes, a small stand alone safe again makes perfect sense. Typically, smaller safes are cheaper too. Despite the mobility risk of stand alone safes, the fact that they are easier to hide makes them a popular choice. Extra defence can be gained by using toughened cabling to tether the safe to a desk or anything too big to carry. Safes under a certain weight may need to be bolted down in order to meet the criteria for insurance, preventing thieves from taking the entire safe away.


Wall Safe

A wall safe is the kind which you often see in spy movies, where the safe is sunk into the wall, leaving just the door showing. This kind of safe is excellent if you have limited floor space, because it hardly takes up any room at all that wasn’t already in use. Even better, a wall safe is very easy to hide from view. A hanging or artwork is probably the easiest way to hide a wall safe, so thieves won’t even know it’s there. You could also position it behind furniture, if you don’t need regular access.

Wall mounted safes tend to be a little shallower than a full-sized safe, in order to fit within a standard internal wall. For this reason, they can be a little limited in internal space and may not be suitable for larger antiques or laptops. Wall safes come in many varieties, but an electronic keypad is common as this will protrude as little as possible from the door, to aid concealment. It’s important when buying this kind of safe to be sure that you have a suitable wall area, which can support the weight. Installation can also be tricky, so it may be wise to let the professionals do it.

Wall Safe

Pros

Cons

  • Very well concealed
  • Takes up no floor space
  • High position makes regular access easier
  • Requires some DIY to install
  • Can have limited storage
  • Can be hard to find a suitable wall

Wall safes are a very good choice for anyone who needs regular access to their possessions. Because a wall safe sits at eye or arm level, you can very easily open it and retrieve items without bending or lifting. This makes it easier to see the keypad or lock, too. For these reasons, a wall safe is suitable for anyone with mobility issues, but with the caveat that professional installation may be required. Installing a wall safe yourself can be tricky, especially if it’s a heavy model. At the least, you should have a good understanding of DIY and safe practises. Also remember that once a safe is installed, moving it gets tricky. This can be an issue if you move house or need to redecorate. At the very least, you will leave a gaping hole in the wall that needs to be repaired!

The plus side of this tricky installation is that wall safes enjoy great concealment. When the safe sits flush with the wall, you can very easily put it behind a portrait, curtain or even furniture, if you don’t need to get into it every day. Some owners are happy to have the safe on display, a kind of status symbol, but this does mean that thieves will find it immediately. The chief objective of any safe is to cost a potential thief more time, so wall safes excel at this. They come in various shapes and sizes, but can sometimes be a little limited in depth (or rather, depth is limited by the size of your wall). Most homeowners would agree that having a safe in the wall is more efficient in terms of space, than having one bolted into the floor, even in a room like the basement.


Floor Safe

Floor safes are much like wall safes, with the obvious distinction of being installed in the floor. These safes are sunken into the house itself, rather than sitting in plain sight like a traditional safe. Floor safes are perhaps the most secure variety, since they have the double benefits of being concealed and hard to reach. A wall safe can, in theory, be prised free of the wall, or cut around. A floor safe is sunk into concrete, so it isn’t going anywhere without a jackhammer! Thieves cannot access the sides or rear of the safe and they cannot manipulate or drill it.

This safe is not moving an inch, but of course, the cost of this extra defence is much greater difficulty in installation. A floor safe typically needs professional installation, unless you really know what you’re doing and have access to a jackhammer, concrete and a full set of DIY tools. A hole needs to be dug in the floor, or a compartment created in the case of wooden flooring, into which the safe is lowered. Then, concrete is poured in to seal it in place. All you will see afterwards is the door, with a keypad or lock. This makes a floor safe very easy indeed to hide, tucked under a rug or furniture.

Floor Safe

Pros

Cons

  • Easy to conceal
  • Very resistant to thieves
  • Can add value to the house
  • Cannot easily be removed
  • Harder to access regularly
  • Very difficult installation

Floor safes are clearly the smart choice if you want absolute protection, if you’re looking to protect items of extreme monetary or personal value. Peace of mind comes with a floor safe, knowing that it cannot be touched or moved. The way a floor safe is sunk into the actual floor of the room means that it can be concealed very easily; typically, you would use a floor covering like a rug, a false floorboard or furniture. The longer it takes a thief to find the safe, the more chance there is that they will get spooked or be detected. A floor safe is therefore a good choice for anyone who want to retain their floorspace and the look of their home.

This does come at a price. Smashing a hole in the floor is not a 10-minute DIY job; most floor safes are installed by professionals. Even then, it will take a little time and cause disruption. However, once it’s done, that safe stays put. There are knock-on effects to this very permanent form of installation. Rearranging furniture becomes a lot trickier and if you move house, you will probably have to leave the safe behind, unless you want to dig up the floor again. On the plus side, you can sell your house with the added extra of a built-in vault! Another downside to floor safes is that being on the floor makes them a little tricky to reach into. If you need regular access to your valuables and have any back problems, you may come to regret this setup. Overall, a floor safe is a little drastic for most homeowners’ needs, but it’s worth considering if total security is your aim. Those who conduct home businesses will probably benefit the most.


Fire Safe

Fire safes are a lot like your typical safe, but they have the distinction of being made specially to resist fire damage. Many homeowners will choose a fire safe over a standard safe, because for many people fire is a more likely risk than burglary. This partly depends on what you wish to store; some documents and data might be of no interest to thieves, but very precious to you. You need to weigh up the benefits of both regular and fire safes, depending on what you feel is the greater risk. Fire can destroy precious electronics and antiques very easily, so it is just as much of a threat as burglary.

Just as not all safes are equally resistant to theft, not all fire safes are equally fireproof. Fortunately, the industry carefully measures, tests and rates safes to exacting standards. You should look for a certified model with a rating, which is usually given in minutes. For example, an LFS60 safe will withstand 60 minutes of exposure to fire. The initials come from the laboratory which tested the safe, so you may also see SP and UL. A fire safe is usually a free standing safe, not bolted down, because the holes required by the bolts would create weak points in the fireproofing. However, there is the option to use a mounting tray- the safe is chemically bonded to the tray, which is then bolted to the floor or wall.

Fire Safe

Pros

Cons

  • Superior protection against heat
  • Use industry ratings for fire defence
  • Ideal for protecting documents
  • Not always as strong as regular safes
  • Not easily bolted down or mounted
  • Still does not offer total protection

A fire safe is usually best chosen for a specific need. If fire is a real concern for you and you have to protect valuable items or documents, then a fire safe makes sense. The price goes towards the specialisation of longer resistance to heat. If theft is the primary concern, then it may be wiser to spend the same amount on a rugged safe which specialises in thief-proofing, which will also have a degree of passive fire protection. Standard safes do resist fire to some extent, but typically this lasts no more than 10 minutes, depending on model. This is due to the methods of construction; solid plates of steel may confound a thief’s drill, but they will conduct heat very quickly.

When choosing a fire safe, you should also compare models depending on the items you need to protect. Some digital media, such as USB drives and DVDs, can be surprisingly vulnerable to fire. They can begin degrading before paper documents! For this reason, some safes are specially designed for media. Just as standard safe has a rating, which determines the risk involved and how much insurers will pay, fire safes have the same limitations. You should only store items in the safe up to the value it recommends, to avoid insurance complications. Look at the fire ratings to determine how long a safe will resist fire, too. People in remote areas, where fire brigades take longer to arrive, may want to spend a little more on a higher resistance.


Jewellery Safe

This kind of safe is specialised in storing small, valuable items, which range from precious metals to precious stones and everything between. If you’re wondering if you should get a safe because you have valuable jewels and necklaces to hide, this may be the best choice. It’s more cost effective to specialise, rather than buying a large safe which will have leftover room inside. Valuables safes are typically free-standing or bolted down, but you can also get these in wall and floor varieties since the specialisation is mostly a matter of size and shape. For example, these safes will often have several shelves and some even have special, moulded spaces for rings and hooks for necklaces. Ideally, find a safe with a felt lining, to minimise the risk of accidently scratching a precious item.

Before buying a safe for rings and necklaces, it’s wise to have them evaluated first. Remember that even a specialised safe will still have a certain value rating, an amount which insurers are willing to risk depending on how hard it is to get into the safe. Storing more than that amount may invalidate future claims, rendering the safe pointless. These ratings are given by trusted bodies like the AiS, so check the providence of a safe’s credentials before buying.

Jewellery Safe

Pros

Cons

  • Specialised in protecting small items
  • Often have a soft lining
  • Moulded compartments for rings, bracelets etc.
  • Tend to be small, so not suitable for other items
  • Expensive items require high-grade safes
  • Compartments can get in the way

Some homeowners will prefer to buy a generic safe, rather than specifically seek out a safe for worn valuables, so that there’s room to store other items as needed in future. You have to weigh up the limitations of whatever safe you choose compared to future needs, especially if your ring collection keeps growing! Buying a safe with the correct shelves and compartments is wise if this collection is your primary concern, as each item will be easy to reach and protected from scratches, either against the safe itself or against other items. The next consideration is how tough the safe is and how it locks. There are benefits to all locking mechanisms, but if you want to reach in and grab your necklaces quickly on a regular basis, an electronic lock makes the most sense. You won’t need your key just to try on an outfit, you just need to remember a short sequence of buttons.

Precious items are typically more at risk from theft than fire, so this is a secondary concern for most buyers, but if you can find a safe with some fire protection then it will give you peace of mind. Water protection may also be a smart choice, to avoid potential flood damage. Many metals are prone to water damage. These safes tend to be on the small side, since they store small items, but you must still factor in the weight of the safe and how it’s intended to be used by the manufacturer. Safes under a certain weight may need to be bolted down in order to meet the criteria for insurance. This is because thieves will gladly take the whole safe if they cannot crack it.


Deposit Safe

A deposit safe is a typical choice for a small business or a homeowner who runs a business or simply has a lot of important documentation in the house. Deposit safes are designed along the same lines as most safes, but with the intention of protecting small valuables, documents and cash. For this reason, they tend to have the best quality locks, whether they are electronic, mechanical or keys. What makes a safe suitable for deposits is a small slot, which you can use to slip in an envelope of money or important documents. This means that you can quickly deposit an item without having to open the door, which is simply good practise (it’s not advisable to open a safe with the customer present) and saves a lot of time and effort.

Because you don’t need to unlock the safe every time you use it, a deposit safe can have a more rugged lock. You won’t lose any convenience by having a dial or a key mechanism, which would be a pain to use each time if you needed to open the door constantly. You also need to consider where the safe will be installed, such as under a counter or desk, so look at the weight of the safe and what kind of fixings it needs.

Deposit Safe

Pros

Cons

  • Convenient deposit slot
  • Heavy duty protection
  • Perfect for documents and currency
  • Deposit slot reduces fire protection
  • May not be suitable for home use
  • May be expensive for high amounts

Deposit safes are specialised in storing coins and notes, but you can only store a certain value in any safe, based on its rating. If your business handles a high volume, you will need to pay more for a safe rated for that amount. Failure to do this may mean that insurance claims are invalidated. When choosing a deposit safe, size and form are factors to consider. A deposit safe can also be a wall safe, or free standing, or bolted down. The latter is the most common type, since this safe will contain a lot of valuables. You can also get varying methods for the deposit- a simple letter slot is typical, but some have sliding trays or allow you to insert sealed capsules. You just need to pick one suitable for your needs. The slot will not be large enough to let thieves break into the safe, however, it does compromise the safe’s fireproofing. Deposit safes are vulnerable to fire, compared to sealed models.

While deposit safes are common for businesses, some homeowners will use a safe like this as a kind of heavy duty piggy bank. You can easily slip coins and notes into the slot and even if it isn’t bolted down, you know that thieves can’t get to the money half as easily as they would with a porcelain jar. For businesses, these safes represent a time efficient way to drop notes and coins off after a transaction, knowing they are secure, without needing to open the safe. The safe is only opened at the end of the day. Some models even require two keys to be inserted, so that no single employee can open it alone.


Still questioning about which safe?

You may still be wondering if you should get a safe. The vital thing to remember is that a safe is only useful as a preventative measure. Once items are stolen, it’s too late to do anything about it. However, for a small investment, a safe can prevent theft from happening in the first place. CCTV can be circumvented with a cheap mask, but your typical burglar can’t do a thing about a serious safe. Even a seasoned thief will have to spend time and effort getting in, which a smart thief will not consider worth the risk.

When you prevent a theft in this manner, you save a great deal in terms of valuables, time and energy. After all, it is not just your possessions that a thief takes; they also cost you stress and wasted time. Fire can do just as much harm. Dealing with the police, making an inventory of your possessions and claiming insurance are all arduous tasks which nobody wants to go through. You often feel on the spot, having to argue the value of the things you’ve lost, despite being the victim. The time needed to complete a claim and replace the items you’ve lost can run into weeks, even months in the case of rare items and documents like passports. Certain things like mementoes, antiques and data on devices cannot be replaced at all. The benefits of a safe lie in avoiding all these issues.

There is a lot to consider when purchasing a safe, from picking the right type to the difficulty of installation- but these are far outweighed by the costs of being robbed or losing your possessions to fire. If the thought of DIY puts you off, remember that reputable safe sellers offer this as a service. If the idea of having a bulky, grey cube squatting in your closet puts you off, why not have a wall safe secreted away behind a mirror? If you own your home and want to add value, why not install a permanent floor safe? Take the time to consider the types mentioned above, the pros and cons and how they fit into your home. Fire safes are ideal for fire protection, deposit safes are ideal for regular transactions and wall safes are perfect for discreet storage. Electronic locks are perfect for those who hate carrying keys around, while key safes are a smart choice for those who can never remember numbers.

Anyone who does regular business at home, or who wants complete peace of mind, will know the true value of preventative action. Consider the moderate expense of investing in a house safe, against the high expense and stress of losing your treasured possessions. The old maxim ‘better safe than sorry’ has never been more apt.