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What to look for when shopping for a home safe or lockbox
Store your irreplaceable documents, small valuables and cash at home in a safe or lockbox. A safe is a bit different than a lockbox. One difference is that a safe is typically larger than a lockbox. A safe is also not meant to be opened as frequently as a smaller and more mobile lockbox. You'll find they're measured by the amount of cubic feet they offer for storage, from small 0.25 cubic feet up to 10 to 20 cubic feet.
Comparing types of safes
A note about lock bolts: Whether you have a keyed or keyless safe, it'll be locked with locking bolts. Depending on the size of the safe, you can have two or more bolts on the side of the door to secure the safe. The larger the safe, the more locking bolts you should consider when making your choice. Consider locking bolts made from solid steel so they can't be cut or drilled through. Also look for bolts with at least a 1-inch diameter to deter forced entry attempts.
Fire and waterproof safes: Most safes, whether they're called cabinet or hotel safes, are fire and waterproof. A good fireproof safe will withstand external temperatures of up to 1700 degrees Fahrenheit for an hour while keeping the internal temperature no higher than 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Consider bolting down a safe to the floor for additional disaster proofing. Many manufacturers won't void the warranty of your safe if you bolt it down, but make sure you read instructions and warnings if you plan on doing so. Inside, you'll find adjustable racks and shelves depending on the size of the safe.
Wall safes: A wall safe is ideal to conceal behind a piece of furniture or a framed picture. They slip into an opening in the wall, much like how a medicine cabinet is set into your bathroom wall. They typically have electronic locks that are flush with the flat-panel door and frame. Some models offer both digital and key locks and buzzers to indicate when the safe is opened. Steel boxes typically have tamper-proof hinges. You may find narrow shelves for storage of jewelry and cash inside.
Drop slot safes: Drop slot safes, also called depository safes, allow you to deposit an envelope of cash or documents without having to open the safe. They are opened with electronic locks. Some models have two doors; the top door has a slot to accept deposits, and the bottom door holds valuables.
Gun safes: Gun safes are typically 52" tall steel security cabinets that hold multiple rifles or shotguns. Bolt the safe to the floor to deter someone from rolling the safe out of your home on a hand truck. Gun safes offer all types of locks, from key and combination to electronic and biometric (fingerprint) versions, and there are pros and cons to each type of lock. Choose a lock you're most comfortable having on your gun safe. Also consider the gauge of the steel of a gun safe. A 10- to 11-gauge steel will be most durable.
Comparing types of lockboxes
Fire- and water-resistant lockboxes: Fireproof lockboxes can withstand severe heat up to 1,550 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 30 minutes to keep your valuable documents and papers intact until it's safe to grab the box. The interior of these types of lockboxes don't go over 350 degrees Fahrenheit in a fire. Consider a box that has a UL fire endurance tested label. A water-resistant lockbox can keep contents dry even when fully submerged in water. Lockboxes are typically compact and low profile for easy storage on a shelf, in a cabinet or desk or in another small area. These lockboxes are good for protecting not only documents and small valuables but also USBs and other digital media. Look for sizes that hold letter-size documents or larger.
Diversion lockboxes: Diversion lockboxes are disguised as other items to hide your cash and valuables. For example, you may want a small hideaway for a small wad of cash that you can place in a specially designed fake outlet. Fake books are also ideal smaller diversion lockboxes that blend in with the rest of your library. Or put your valuables in a locked fake soda can that you can keep in your fridge, pantry or even in your car. Diversion book lockboxes can also be used outdoors, cleverly designed as rocks that open to hold a key and cash for forgetful kids or visitors that need to get inside your home.
Cash lockboxes: Cash and petty cash lockboxes are small and lightweight enough to tote around by a built-in handle during a yard sale, school event or in your home when you need to grab cash on the go. Find basic cash boxes made from stainless steel with a lid that locks with a key. Consider a cash lockbox with a tray that allows you to separate loose coins, rolled coins and bills.
Key vaults: Small outdoor weather-resistant lockboxes that hold keys can be easily mounted to your home and typically opened with a digital code. It's ideal for family members who forget their home key or who need the extra car key. A number of key vaults are large enough to hold a ring of keys.