We never want to think that our home will burn down, but the reality is that US public fire services respond to around 360,000 home fires each year.
If you have important documents and valuables locked in a fireproof safe then if the worst does happen, the only thing you need to worry about is keeping you and your family safe.
However, a good fireproof safe will protect your valuables from more than just fire. It’ll keep them dry in the event of a flood or burst water pipe and deter thieves.
In this article, we review the best fireproof safes and safe boxes for domestic use and give you all the information you need to buy the right safe for your needs.
Our Top Pick
Best Portable Option
Best Fireproof Safe Reviews
Best Overall: First Alert 2087F
Capacity: 0.94 cubic ft | Weight: 82 lbs | Fire Rating: UL 350 1-hour
The First Alert safe gets our best all-around award for its combination of fire protection, waterproofness and security features.
Although heavy, for a safe the weight is not excessive and won’t cause you to shudder at the thought of moving house. It also comes at a reasonable price point.
It has a UL 1-hour rating that guarantees the temperature inside remains below 350ºF. Although First Alert state it’s verified by an “independent testing lab” to protect electronic media from fire damage, this doesn’t fit with the UL requirement to maintain a temperature of 125ºF, so we’d take that with a grain of salt.
With many safes, bolting them to the floor immediately invalidates the fire protection. First Alerts patented Ready-Seal system means the safe will be fireproof and waterproof even when it’s attached to the floor.
The pry-proof concealed hinges, combination lock and live-locking door bolts will deter burglars and you don’t have to worry about sourcing batteries to keep the lock working. However, there’s no option to change the pre-set combination, which is a little frustrating.
Some users have reported issues with moisture in the safe over time. First Alert does recommend airing it every two weeks and if you’re concerned, you could pack valuables in plastic bags or throw in some silica gel packs to absorb moisture.
- UL 1-hour rating
- Ready-Seal technology attaches safe to the floor
- Fully waterproof
- Pry-resistant door
- No batteries required
- Users have reported moisture issues
- Pre-set combination lock
Best Value: Honeywell 1104
Capacity: 0.3 cubic ft | Weight: 56 lbs | Fire Rating: UL 350 1-hour
At 56 pounds, the Honeywell 1104 isn’t exactly something you’d sling over your shoulder while running from your home, but it is a lot more portable than other fireproof safes.
This makes it a good option if you move frequently or want to be able to take your valuables with you in a vehicle.
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The safe has a 1-hour UL rating and a waterproof seal to protect the contents from sprinklers, fire hoses or floods.
Although the capacity is small compared to other safes, the design means you can lay A4 and legal-size documents (including your emergency binder!) flat inside. The shape also means it’s easy to store as you can slip it under your bed.
The locking mechanism consists of a simple key lock. While this means you don’t have to worry about batteries, it’s also not especially theft-proof.
However, the affordable price and versatility of the Honeywell 1104 make it a great-value fireproof safe.
- UL fire rating
- Waterproof even when submerged
- No batteries required
- Relatively portable
- Small capacity
- Not theft-proof
Best Large Safe: SentrySafe SFW205GQC
Capacity: 2.05 cubic ft | Weight: 125 lbs | Fire Rating: UL 350 1-hour
If you have a lot of documents and valuables to store, the SentrySafe SFW205GQC is a large, secure safe with a standard 1-hour UL rating.
It also offers some water resistance, but only up to 8 inches —better than nothing but not quite up to the standards of some of the other safes.
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You can set the digital locking system to a code of your choice and there’s a secondary key lock for added security. The digital lock and internal light do require AA batteries, and a few people have reported issues with the battery connections. Sometimes, an old-fashioned combination lock is the most reliable option!
The safe comes with a bolting kit for added security, but as you have to drill holes in the safe to use this, this could likely affect the fire rating.
While it’s not UL impact rated, SentrySafe does state the safe is ETL verified to stay intact after a 15-foot fall. However, a number of users have raised issues with dented or defective products suggesting that quality control may not be totally reliable.
- UL fire rating
- Some impact resistance
- Digital lock with secondary locking key
- ELT verified water protection (not submersible)
- Digital lock requires batteries
- Some users reported issues with quality control and the locking mechanism
Best for Fire Protection: AMSEC 2-HourFire Safe
Capacity: 1.21 cubic ft | Weight: 246 lbs | Fire Rating: UL 350 2-hours + Impact
If you can look past the eye-watering price tag, this American Security (AMSEC) safe gets top marks for fire protection.
It is one of the few domestic safes with a UL 2-hour rating and is the only one of the safes in this list that’s been tested to withstand fire after a 30-foot fall.
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It’s also an excellent choice if you want a theft-proof safe. The 3.5-inch thick door is pry-resistant, and the UL listed Group II combination lock gives a high level of security. And it doesn’t require batteries giving you one less thing to worry about.
The downsides? Well, aside from the price, this safe is heavy. At 246 pounds it’s not something you want to move often. There’s also no mention of it being waterproof, though, given the robust construction and fire protection, it’s likely to have a certain level of water resistance.
- Excellent fire protection
- Able to withstand a 30-foot fall
- Good theft protection
- Very heavy
- Not waterproof
Best Portable Fire Box: SentrySafe CHW20221
Capacity: 0.28 cubic ft | Weight: 20 lbs | Fire Rating: UL 30 minutes at 1550
This box isn’t as fire resistant as other models, but it still has a UL rating so you can be sure the documents you keep inside will be safe for at least half an hour in a fire.
Interestingly, it’s ELT Verified to protect CDs and USBs during a fire but not UL rated (the UL rating requires the internal temperature to be lower).
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The box is also ELT Verified for 72 hours of submersion to protect your valuables from flood damage.
The big advantage of this fireproof box over other safes is its portability. At 20 pounds, it’s less than half the weight of the Honeywell 1104 and light enough that most adults can carry it up and down stairs or between your home and vehicle. Of course, this also makes it easier for someone to steal…
The main downside is the locking mechanism and plastic latch which feels a little flimsy. The single key doesn’t provide much in the way of security. Several users have also reported issues with the handle breaking.
Given the weight of the box, its capacity is reasonable, but you’ll need to fold A4 documents to fit them in. Overall, this is a cheap, lightweight box that’s a great option if you want a portable fire-safe storage box.
- Low cost
- UL rated
- Poor locking mechanism
- Handle not particularly robust
Fire Protection Ratings
While manufacturers may make their own claims about how fireproof their safes are, in many cases there’s no independent verification to back up these figures.
When it comes to your most important documents and valuables, you don’t want to take chances. To be confident in the level of fire protection offered, check it’s independently rated by one of the following organizations.
UL Fire Ratings
Underwriters Laboratories (UL) is an independent organization that tests safes and other products to make sure they meet a specified standard.
There are several UL ratings:
- UL Class 350 1-hour / 2-hour – the safe is tested to withstand temperatures of 1,700ºF for either one or two hours (depending on the certification). The internal temperature must not exceed 350ºF.
- UL Class 125 1-hour / 2-hour / 3-hour – when exposed to temperatures of 1,700ºF, the internal temperature must not exceed 125ºF and humidity must not exceed 80 percent. This is designed to protect digital assets.
- UL Impact Rated – the safe is exposed to high temperatures, subject to a 30-foot fall, then reheated. To pass, the internal temperature must not exceed the specified level throughout the test.
ELT Fire Ratings
The ELT certification program is a safety certification scheme run by Intertek. Their requirements aren’t quite as stringent as UL but in addition to fire resistance, they also verify the waterproofness and impact resistance.
To test fire resistance, the safe is placed in a furnace heated to 1,200ºF for a specified period of time. To pass the test, the internal temperature in the safe must not exceed 350ºF.
There are three ETL ratings:
- ETL 45-minute rating
- ETL 90-minutes rating
- ETL 120-minute rating
Although 1,2000ºF is a reasonable test case, as house fires can burn at between 1,000 and 2,000 Fahrenheit (depending on the combustibility of materials and fire conditions), to give your valuables the best chance of survival, we’d opt for a UL rating over an ELT rating.
Other Things to Consider When Buying a Fireproof Safe
Before buying a safe, collect together all the valuables that you want to store in it to work out how big a safe you need.
What Are You Storing?
Fifty years ago, you’d want a safe that could protect paperwork, cash and perhaps a few cherished photos. Today, many of our most precious files and memories are captured digitally.
While paper records can withstand temperatures of up to 350ºF, digital products such as CDs, backup tapes and data cartridges may be ruined if temperatures rise above 125ºF.
Memory cards and flash drives are likely to be even less resistant to high temperatures. SanDisk states that their memory cards can withstand temperatures up to 185ºF but most flash drives have no temperature rating.
If you typically store your personal data on an encrypted flash drive, then you may want to consider having a paper record as a backup in your safe.
We’d recommend using an emergency binder (see template here) to keep all your important information in one place.
Alternatively, you could invest in a fireproof hard drive such as the ioSafe SoloPRO.
Protection from Water
Fireproof safes should have some level of water resistance to withstand the effect of sprinkler systems or the water used to put a fire out. But a waterproof safe can also protect your precious documents from floods or burst water pipes.
You’re unlikely to be chucking the safes we’ve reviewed out your window (though good luck if you can lift them that high!), so why does impact protection matter?
Serious fires can often result in a floor or multiple floors collapsing. If you’re unable to keep your safe on the first floor, then you should consider having a safe that can withstand a drop and retain its fireproof rating.
There’s no getting away from it – fireproof safes are heavy. Though lighter models and portable fireproof boxes are available, these won’t have the same level of fire protection.
If you want something that offers fire protection for documents while still being portable enough for you to take with you if you need to leave your home in a hurry, then a fireproof document bag may be a better solution. For ultimate versatility, you could use this in combination with a fireproof safe.
Note: If you do go for a fireproof bag, it pays to be aware of their limitations, read more about if they really work.
Weight may also be a consideration if you move house a lot as some safes require specialist moving equipment.
Safes and secure boxes typically have one of three locking systems: electronic keypad, traditional dial combination lock or a simple key lock.
An electronic keypad may be the most secure when it comes to preventing break-ins, but as they’re battery-powered, you need to make sure you have some spares. At the other end of the scale, a key lock is not particularly secure and there’s always the risk you’ll lose the key.