A resource for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals
A resource for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals
Where should you install a home safe? There seem to be so many options, but in reality, there is likely going to be one choice that is far better than the next runner-up. We are going to address some of the best places to install a safe in a home, as well as some of the not-so-wonderful ideas. Just be aware that even the best ideas can be undermined and the worst ideas can be improved.
The best places to install a home safe include:
Consider improving your safe security if it is installed in any of the following areas:
The first way thieves attack a safe is by trying to steal the whole container. Because so many safes are secure, it is extremely difficult for criminals to open them quickly or quietly. Burglars ideally want to be in and out of a home in a matter of minutes, so the obvious choice, when they encounter the safe, is to take the safe with them and worry about opening it later.
Due to the weight of a gun safe, extra consideration is needed to move these heavy steel contraptions up interior stairs. The first step is always to prep the staircase with a covering to prevent scuffing. If there is a pivot in the staircase (meaning the stairs wind and are not one continuous climb in a single direction), further prep will be needed. Professional safe movers will often use an electric dolly, but the work can be done more painstakingly with a traditional dolly.
With the right tools and enough time, a floor safe can be illegally removed, but a properly installed floor safe is unlikely to be stolen. Leveraging the safe should not be possible without destroying the floor around the safe. Access to the bolts securing the safe to the floor will be impractical without opening the floor safe.
Criminals look for safes in areas that are out of the way of public view but still easily accessible to the residents. The main target being the master suite, which includes the master bathroom and closets within the bedroom. If one area is going to be ransacked by a burglar, it is this segment of the house. Do not install a home safe in these areas as it is likely to be the most thoroughly searched part of the property.
Safes are most often stolen and opened at a secondary location. This makes it imperative for home safe installation to involve bolting the safe to a concrete slab or other sturdy material. If the safe cannot be easily removed, criminals will attempt to cut the safe open with power tools or leverage the safe open with pry bars. It is extremely rare for criminals to familiarize themselves with safe exploits and manipulation.
Most safes are discovered while the house is being burglarized. When a safe is targeted it is going to be the result of thieves casing the house beforehand or because you have been talking about your safe. Non-discrete safe installation is the most common giveaway for the existence of a large gun safe. Most locksmiths and safe companies will obscure the safe and may even have a truck that suggests the safe is a refrigerator or similarly innocuous item.
The best place for you to install a safe will depend on factors such as your budget, which affects the type of safe you will be installing. The stronger the safe, the less hiding it requires. If you are living with roommates or children, you may require more concealment. And when you are renting, there may be restrictions in terms of bolting a safe to the floor.
There is no generally perfect installation point. Each location will have its tradeoffs and benefits. And logistical restrictions may prevent you from taking full advantage of specific options. For example, if you have to request permission from your landlord, the existence of the safe is exposed. This is not like requesting to change locks on an apartment, once a safe’s presence is discovered it is at risk.
Understand that even though these are some of the best places to install a home safe, their security can be undermined. Do not create preventable vulnerabilities. Do not talk about your safe. And though many of these better ideas are not very cutting edge, they are common suggestions for a reason. They work. So choose the one that works best for you.
In movies, the first thing thieves will do is investigate the backs of picture frames looking for wall safes. Real-life criminals do not do this unless they already know a safe is in the house. There are many perks to a wall safe including concealment and accessibility. The safe does not need to be incredibly strong, as it is unlikely to be attacked. And with the safe at eye level, they are easy to interact with.
Before buying a home safe, you need to decide whether or not it will be installed inside a wall. Walls have specific dimensions that safe must be able to accommodate. You are limited to the space between two studs and the depth of the wall. If you are building a home or renovating a room, you can also take steps to prep a wall for a deeper safe. Also make sure to have a mirror, picture frame, etc. that will cover the safe door.
Standard wall safes do not offer a lot of space for storage. They cannot accommodate large items, and the safe cannot have a width that exceeds the space between two studs. Many times this limited holding capacity is maximized by sacrificing fireproofing and door thickness. Once the safe is discovered criminals can return with tools to remove the safe from the wall.
An improperly installed or poorly hidden wall safe can be rather apparent. If what is covering the safe draws too much attention it can raise suspicions of the safe’s existence. Picture frames that are askew, a single piece of art on a wall, a mirror in a strange location, the safe not being fully covered, etc., may cause people to investigate.
Floor safes have most of the same benefits as wall safes but can be much deeper with sturdier constructions. They are potentially even easier to conceal because rugs, mats, and carpeting are available in so many sizes. The area being covered can eclipse the safe door without becoming too unwieldy to move when the safe is being accessed.
A floor safe is extremely difficult to cut out of the ground, and only the door is exposed. The door is often the most secure part of a safe forcing criminals to attack the sidewalls, which in this case are buttressed by the surrounding floor. It may take a bit more effort in terms of installation and planning, but a floor safe is going to get you the most security in return.
First-time safe buyers should be aware that there are specially made floor safes. You may be able to get away with buying a generic safe and installing it in the ground, but I would not recommend it. Safes designed for floor installation have particular shapes and electronic actuators that help you lift the heavy door.
Floor safes cannot be installed in homes with post-tension slab foundations. You cannot cut or core into these types of foundations because you run the risk of cutting one of the tensioned cables and damaging the structural integrity of your home. Most standard floor safes do not come with fire ratings, relying on the fact that they are in the ground for heat protection.
Safes in general are rarely watertight, which creates a vulnerability for a safe resting in the floor. If water accumulates on the ground around the safe, the contents are at risk of water damage. There is no reliably recommended way to waterproof a floor safe unless it is manufactured as waterproof. You will need to waterproof the contents of the safe or risk this type of damage.
If you have a heavy-duty gun safe from a quality safe manufacturer, once that safe is in the basement bolted to the concrete floor, it isn’t going anywhere. But even with a smaller safe, the basement is a great place for installation. Of course, not every home has a basement so this is not an option for everyone.
The basement is out of the way. It is large. Often uninviting. And cluttered enough to easily obscure the existence of a safe. There is no obvious place to hide a safe in a basement either (other than under the stairs, which we will discuss later). With no clear place to begin looking, a thief has more lucrative places they can check with better returns.
If your basement has been refurbished into a bedroom, game room, man cave, or anything other than a bleak area of neglected storage space, think twice about storing your safe there. Criminals are looking for living spaces where there might be loose cash, electronics, power tools, and jewelry. If the basement looks like any other room in the house, it is likely to be searched like any other room.
Also, be aware that there may be increased moisture risks to basement safes. This will not harm the safe itself, but it can damage the contents of the safe. You can use climate control products and close the gaps around the bolt holes in the bottom of the safe to decrease moisture accumulation.
The attic gives your safe better security through its difficulty to access. With one point of entry, often in the way of a rickety ladder leading to a cacophony of abandoned and unorganized junk strewn throughout a room where you can stand straight up, it is not all that inviting for someone looking for valuables. The attic is a room of neglect, which is rarely the place for anything important.
And you keep the attic in that form of willful neglect, only you place a safe among all of the old holiday decorations and dusty vintage luggage. Even if someone knew you had a safe in your house and heard it was in the attic, one peek at all the unsorted flotsam and jetsam and they would try to convince themselves they misheard.
There are many types of security safes, but with this type of precaution, you are focusing on concealment much like in the case of a wall safe. However, you can bolt the safe down, you can get a relatively sturdy safe with larger dimensions, depending on the size of the space you have to store it. Just remember to keep the area with the safe visually consistent with the rest of the debris.
You will have your access to the safe somewhat limited. The more limited your access, the stronger the security. For example, you could have the safe in reaching distance of the ladder, but then someone looking for the safe has a better chance of finding it in the only area they are likely to look. As long as you are storing items you do not need to access frequently or quickly, this is a great hiding spot for a safe.
There is just nothing too interesting under your sink. That’s why it is a great place to put a safe. Which sink is best? A bathroom or kitchen will work just fine. Be sure to place the safe in the back of the cabinet behind the various cleaning supplies and chemicals. Due to the position of this area, it is uncomfortable to investigate the space thoroughly even if you were inclined to give it a once-over.
I will be mentioning the downsides of storing safes with food, just a little later but I want to explain why this is a bit different. Culturally, people eat together and cook together with visitors to a home. It is extremely unlikely that a visitor will clean your house (with the obvious exception of a housekeeper). Even if someone makes a mess, guests rarely expect to clean up after themselves.
The cultural aversion to avoidable cleaning works out for your security. It means it is unlikely that your safe will be discovered by people who are invited to the home. With a safe unlikely to be discovered by thieves making a mad dash around the property, and the area being avoided by guests, storing your safe under the sink provides great security for a small safe.
Do not put your safe in the master bathroom. The master bedroom and all adjoining storage and rooms are likely to be pilfered through by criminals. More and more, the master bathroom is being targeted by burglars searching for prescription medications. Although the area under the sink is still unlikely to be targeted specifically, it may be searched incidentally.
The designation of “worst” is a bit tongue in cheek. Obviously, there are tremendously terrible places to install a home safe that no one sensible would use. On top of your roof with a neon sign blinking the combination might be the real worst place to install a safe. But these are the bad ideas people consider as potentially great ideas.
And there is potential in them, don’t get me wrong. It is just that these ideas need a bit more fine-tuning and consideration to get the full effectiveness of their potential security. If you currently have a safe in any of these places within your home, consider moving it. When the installation is a little too permanent, there are still some recommendations to improve the security at the safe’s current location.
Criminals know that people hide all kinds of things in closets. Closets are also very easy to search. Though a criminal might overlook smaller items, even the most unobservant burglar will notice a safe. If we were to think of this in terms of hide and seek, you would try to avoid the closet because it is the most obvious hiding place.
A closet in a child’s room could be a locational improvement, but you will fall into the issue of accessibility and chance of discovery. Your child is going to find the safe, and once they know about it there is almost no chance they will keep that secret. I mean how could they not brag? How many other kids have a safe in their closet?
In terms of accessibility, you are effectively locked out of your safe any time they lock their door or have a friend over. Not to mention the access they have to the safe. Children can do some mighty silly things, which may lead to a keyway blocked up with Play-Doh so now you need to open the safe without a key if the safe will open at all.
You can go a step beyond by obscuring your safe within the closet. The issue will be your closet size. The bigger the closet, the more effective it is to obscure the safe inside. The smaller the closet, the easier it will be for a criminal to see through any disguises. You can clutter your closet to the point where it would take too much time for a criminal to go through it all, but that reduces your access.
People love to hide things under the bed and under the mattress, so criminals will look there. This is especially true in the case of master bedrooms. Even if someone isn’t expecting to find a small safe, they are certainly looking for those kinds of objects.
You may think that having a bed over the safe will give a thief some difficulty because there is a kind of protective canopy. Though a locksmith opening a safe may get on his belly to access the safe, a criminal is just going to flip the bed and probably end up damaging property in the process.
If you are relying on objects in front of the safe to obscure it or the shroud of darkness, again the bed is likely to be tossed. And this section of the house is going to get a more thorough once over than many of the other parts of the room.
If the home is broken into, a safe stored under a bed is likely to be interacted with even if you have gone through the steps of improving the security. You can place the safe inside innocuous boxes or disguise it as something else. However, if it is under the bed, it is almost assuredly going to be discovered. Try to find another place to put your safe.
Your staircase may have storage space underneath it, which you think a criminal will overlook. But criminals know this is a favorite hiding spot and they check for safes under the stairs. They do this because even though it may be more spacious than a closet, it is still smaller than a room and therefore easy to check quickly.
Though it may seem to you like more than a closet, to a criminal the space under the stairs is just a closet that they know they want to check. Even if there is not an obvious door to the staircase or it looks as though it may lead to a basement, criminals are likely to double-check this area. If you bolt the safe to the ground the safe is more secure, but you can get this with any installation location.
With a few additional security measures you can make this a fine area to store a safe. It all relies on your willingness to go above and beyond the precautions of most safe owners who install a safe under the stairs. The most extreme step is to use the slants and weaving nature of this location to build faux walls inside the space.
The less extreme step is to place your safe inside a beat-up old box with the bottom cut out. As long as there is junk on top of the junky box, and it is obvious there is nothing behind the box, it is unlikely to be moved. The safe can be hidden in plain sight and still accessible. This is not a foolproof plan, but it is an improvement on simply leaving a safe under the stairs.
Some people like the idea of hiding food in a pantry, but the issue is the risk of exposure. There are not many places in your home where it is socially acceptable for visitors to open cabinets and look around, but this often happens in the kitchen. If kids are looking for snacks or you have guests over who are helping you cook, the safe can be discovered. When someone knows you have a safe, your security is diminished.
It is almost too unique of a hiding place. Once someone sees a safe in your kitchen, they are going to bring it up to someone else. It is the type of funny story that spreads. If you are going to take steps to obscure the safe within the pantry, cupboard, etc. you may run into issues of accessibility. Diminished light within the safe’s location may also restrict you to safes with electronic locks.
The improvements to security truly come down to the way you handle home access. A random burglar that walks in off the street is not going to think there is anything worth looking at in your pantry. This safe location is really only vulnerable to threats that manifest from your immediate and tangential social circles. These threats are not likely to manifest from random burglaries.
If you have ever been locked out of your garage, you likely know that there are many ways to get inside. This is one of the least secure parts of a home. Often only secured by a padlock or an electric garage door assembly, a motivated criminal will have very little trouble gaining access to this area. But why would a criminal be motivated to break into the garage?
The garage may be used to store decorations and things you forgot to throw away, it is unlike the attic or the basement. Garages are the most likely area to store power tools, which are easy for thieves to sell second-hand. Bicycles and lawn mowers are also popular targets for garage burglars.
So what does this have to do with your safe? Because the garage is vulnerable and a potential target for criminals, your safe has a much higher risk of being discovered. Also, if the safe is not properly obscured, it can be visible when the garage door is open. There are much better places to install a home safe, so keep your safe out of the garage if possible.
There are ways to increase the security of garage doors, including using different types of door locks. But these improvements are unlikely to deter someone who is targeting your home because they have discovered your safe. You can use a product like the safe cloak, which is made by the safe manufacturer AMSEC, to disguise large safes. And obscure a small safe like you would in an attic.
Most false objects are not convincing. In fact, most have such an uncanny appearance that they draw attention to themselves. You may be able to build convincing replicas or strip out the internals of existing items and install a safe, but there is just something that rings very hollow about the advice to hide safes inside unused refrigerators or a fake air vent.
Why not just hide your safe at the end of the labyrinth, which is only accessible behind your moving bookshelf, in the secret basement beneath your regular basement? Sure you could do that. But most people are looking to hide a safe, not build the Winchester Mansion.
The other issue with false objects is that though they may be hard to find, they are also difficult to secure. If you are using a book safe, the safe is very easy to steal. And a safe that will fit the dimensions of a vent, is almost certainly a lockbox not a safe, with smaller dimensions than a wall safe. The refrigerator advice has the same issue as storing things with food.
This method requires innovation to work. If you get creative enough with your concealment, you do not have to worry as much about the security of the safe. Refer back to the wall safe section for the pitfalls of covert placement versus physical security.
If you want to get extremely creative and build something custom for your safe to hide inside, that is a great improvement. Just stay away from the easy answers. And if you just want to buy one of these prefabricated item imposters, use your better judgment and stay clear of the ones that look terrible.
So where should you put your safe? With some advanced planning, you can install a home safe in a wall or the floor. Small safes can be hidden in the attic or under sinks as long as they are not in the master bathroom. Large safes can go in the basement. If you don’t have a basement for your large safe, don’t jump straight to putting it in the garage without considering the risks.
Let us know down in the comments, “Where would you hide a safe?” and brag about your great idea with the protective anonymity of the internet. The more creative you get the better. Lastly, if you need assistance with your safe installation, or you forgot the combination to your safe, give United Locksmith a call.