Safes and gun safes left in unheated garages or buildings are subject to problems with condensation when weather suddenly warms up. Pictured is a beautiful, but very massive, antique Diebold Safe. It demonstrates the problem perfectly.
We recently suffered through a cold snap during which night time temperatures went below zero every night for about a week. It took days for this 4000# antique safe to drop completely down to these temps. Likewise, when temps quickly warmed up to 55 degrees, it took time for it to warm up again. Our snow all melted in about two days, making the air very humid. Warm damp air created so much condensation on the cold safe that water was running down the safe’s surface. That water by itself will slightly damage the beautiful artwork. But when temps plummeted again the paint was further damaged. Just like freezing water trapped in tiny crevasses will crack the surfaces of rocks or concrete, it will crack old paint. This kind of moisture is also bad for safe locks.
Gun vaults left in unheated environments can be damaged the same way. Some kind of heart source inside the old Diebold would have minimized damage by keeping it from getting so cold. We recommend using a Dry Rod, Golden Rod or even a light bulb inside gun safes to moderate temperature swings. If you plan to keep your gun safe, or any kind of safe, in a garage, ask a safe expert for advice.
I’m not big on New Year’s Resolutions. One reason is that if I had any flaws I would have fixed them already. The other reason is that most resolutions are never fully met. If you resolve to lose 20 pounds and keep it off, you never really finish. If you resolve to “be a better person”, you never get to quit being good, or you blow your resolution commitment.
If, however, you want to do something meaningful and have an end point at which time you can say “I achieved my resolution” — then I have an idea. Do that home security upgrade that you have been thinking about. It could be installing security cameras, installing deadbolts on your doors, putting motion activated lights outside your house, locking up papers and jewelry in a fire/burglary safe, securing your guns in a gun safe, properly protecting your coin or stamp collection, etc.
Take some time to study what you need, spend enough money to buy quality products, from a neighborhood business, and then arrange for installation. By the middle of January you can sit back with a cold beer and feel proud that you accomplished your resolution. No guilt for the rest of the year! Besides, if you try to be a better person than you really are, that’s likely to cause more stress, which might make you eat more, resulting in gain weight, then you feel bad so you start to drink more than you should, which causes . . .
Have a great 2018!
Last year in mid-December I sold a nice Fort Knox gun safe to a man who wanted it delivered after the holidays. He and his family were spending the holidays in Florida. He called after Christmas to tell me that, unfortunately, his kids had gotten together and bought him a “Brand L” gun safe.
He really appreciated the thought and the expense they had put into his gift, but he was also disappointed because he knew the Fort Knox provided better security and better fire protection. Understandably, he could not bring himself to return his kids’ Christmas present. Our customer was embarrassed about backing out of the unit he had purchased from us. He was also uncomfortable about using a safe that did not meet his needs.
Read my post from Nov. 25, 2016, which talks about the down-sides of surprising someone with the gift of a gun safe. Forget the surprise – talk with the recipient in advance to find out what they really need in a safe. A good gun safe is a lot more money than most Christmas gifts. But buying a cheap unit might be a mistake.
A great recent development in security is the electronic safe lock. The majority of gun safes, vault doors and commercial safesgun now come with them. They are easier and faster to use than traditional combination locks. Another advantage is that owner can easily change the combination himself, whenever he wants, without calling a locksmith or safe expert.
Well, while working on a project last week I discovered something interesting. One of the safe manufacturers told me they actually – intentionally – make it hard for consumers to find instructions on changing codes for their electronic locks. They do this because most of their dealers don’t tell the consumer how to change codes and don’t give them operating instructions. That way the dealer can charge a fee for going to the customer’s home and doing it.
I don’t know whether this is treating the consumer unfairly or not, but it seems greedy. We always provide personal instruction as well as owner’s manuals for electronic locks. We do charge when changing combos on mechanical locks because there is potential for the safe owner to make an expensive mistake.
When buying a safe, gun safe or vault door with an electronic lock, make the dealer give you instructions for the lock.
Does “Made In American” mean anything to you? Far too many people just do not care anymore. I believe our federal government is largely to blame for this. They have done whatever it takes to pass trade deals like NAFTA which immediately lead to American jobs going to other countries. There are entire industries in which the U.S.A. no longer competes.
“Made In America” DOES mean something here at Hoogerhyde Safe where we do not sell foreign made gun safes. And our customers truly appreciate that we take a stand. Michigan is still a manufacturing center, but we know what it means to lose hundreds of thousands of jobs to other countries — where workers are grossly under-paid and the environment is destroyed with pollution.
We are proud to sell high quality U.S. built gun safes by Fort Knox and Graffunder. We also sell American Security’s domestic BF and RF series gun safes, but we will not sell their Chinese units. I have written about many of the specific quality problems and mis-representations concerning foreign made safes. (Remember in the past, when someone mentioned “Chinese junk”, you knew they were talking about a kind of boat?)
Be part of the solution, not part of the problem. Take a stand and Buy American when it comes to your gun safe. The rewards include a feeling of patriotism as well as a feeling of having better security.
In 2012 a man bought a 3025# Graffunder gun safe from us, but the delivery was especially tricky. The only way to get the vault into the basement was to go over the house, then go in through a lower level door. Lifting something that heavy, that high, then extending the boom far enough, requires a special crane and a talented crane operator. Even the condition of the ground where the crane sits has to be right. Everything went smoothly.
Well, last month our customer moved to a new home, so we needed to reverse the process. After making the vault “fly” again and taking it to the new location, it actually needed to go up some stairs too. We had to build a special structure to accomplish this part of the move. Obviously, this is not work for amateurs. It takes special equipment and lots of experience. It is not inexpensive, either. But if you really need a high security gun safe, like a Graffunder or a Fort Knox Safe, delivery cost is just part of the investment. Buy your gun safe from a company that is highly skilled at delivering safes.
One of the fastest growing companies in the gun safe industry does not make anything, they import their gun safes from China. This blog has referred to them in the past because they are most flagrant liars, the most deceitful people I know. (Fear of getting sued prevents using their name.) They came around again last week with a cube truck in which they display a number of products. Giving them another chance, I climbed into the truck and listened to the national sales manager for a minute about how great their Chinese gun safes are.
Their top-of-line gun safe is supposed to be built of 8 gauge steel, which would be pretty good, but feeling the steel was enough to tell that this was another lie. With a micrometer and gauge chart it took about 30 seconds to show he was wrong. The steel was 10 gauge – a big difference. Even after proving the lie he made up stupid stories to weasel out of the problem: “Well the supplier’s paperwork says 8 gauge”; “it depends on which gauge system you are using”, “maybe this is one of the old models”, etc.
This guy stated that their gun safes are better than other imports because the factory they use is the best one in China. But this factory is one which I know uses skip-welds. It also uses drywall construction scraps for insulation. This company claims that one of their product lines is “Made in America” even though they are, in fact, made in China. Apparently, if you install the lock and a few little pieces in the U.S. you can claim the whole safe is American. I could go on….
The point is that these crooks claim to be protecting your valuables while intentionally misleading you. Dishonestly selling JUNK at low prices is why they are growing. If you buy a safe to protect the guns which are your passion, or to protect a significant part or your net worth, you darn well better buy your gun safe from someone who knows and cares and is honest about what they sell!
Earlier posts talked of the problem with gun safes having only one seal. We have two safes in our shop from different manufacturers that went through fires, and they demonstrate the point perfectly.
Gun safe manufacturers all talk about having the intumescent seal which is supposed to protect your valuables in a fire. The theory is that when you have a fire, heat will cause the intumescent seal to swell up and seal the door shut. But in many fires the gun safe does not get hot enough for the seal to work, allowing heat and smoke to enter between the door and frame. Pictured is a gun safe with a “60 minute fire rating” which uses only the intumescent seal. While the safe got coated with sooty smoke it did not get very hot, so the seals did not expand. The paint will clean up fine; everything inside, however, was damaged by heat, acidic smoke, cinders and ash. You can see that the seals never expanded. Pictures of the interior show damage from smoke, ash & cinders. Ironic: The “Fire Safe” label is coated with soot and smoke that the “fire safe” did not protect against.
The plain fact is that for good fire protection gun safes need at least two different seals. One needs to seal the door ALL THE TIME, whenever the door is closed. See posts dated 7-6-15 and 7-20-15 for details. Fort Knox gun safes use an airtight fin-type seal on most of their units and Amsec uses a foam cushion. In both cases the gap between the door and frame is closed even when the safe is cold.
Seal systems on gun safes and vault doors are not a minor point – they are one of the most critical features. Yes, you might need to pay a little more for real protection, but there is no point in paying less for a product which does not work!
If you need to put your safe or gun safe in the garage here are the steps you should take:
- Invest in a heavier, higher quality vault, preferably TL-rated like American Security’s RF series gun safe.
- Conceal the safe the best you can. Build a cabinet around it or drape a blanket or something over it. American Security sells what they call a “Safe Cloak” for gun safes which is a fabric cover that makes your safe look like a cheap storage cabinet. It attaches to you gun safe with a magnet across the top and hangs down to ground level. If possible, put the safe in a back room or around a corner.
- Don’t allow service people or delivery personnel to go through your garage.
- Keep your garage door locked at all times to keep people out.
- Increase the perceived risk to a burglar — put up a sign stating that the house and garage are monitored. It helps to install a very conspicuous camera, even if it is fake.
- Anchor your safe to the concrete floor using high grade anchor bolts. Most fire safes are light enough to be picked up. If you don’t have the right tools or skills, hire someone who does.
- Don’t keep pry tools, sledge hammers, torches, etc. in the same area – keep them locked up in the house.
To avoid problems from cold and fluctuating temperatures in northern states:
- Use a dehumidifier rod (heat bar) inside the safe to keep temps as stable as possible.
- There can be a problem in those first warm humid days of spring when the ground is still very cold. The cold floor will keep pulling warmth from the safe causing condensation, making the safe sweat, which encourages rust. Antique safes are especially prone to rust. It is best, therefore, to have a small amount of contact with the floor. Thin squares of wood or plastic at the corners will minimize the problem. We usually use pieces of the plastic shims used to install windows and doors. Important Note: Don’t raise the safe too far off the ground; the bigger the gap there is between the floor and the safe, the easier it is for someone to move the unit. A big gap makes anchoring less effective too.
- Battery life in electronic locks will be shorter in cold situations. I would guess that electronic locks themselves would have shorter lives, but that is just speculation. Dial locks are less affected by cold.
Keeping your gun safe in the garage is less than ideal. Minimize risk by taking proper precautions.
It has been a long time since I wrote about the inferior insulation used on most gun safes, and the inferior way it is installed. The photo below prompted me to comment on the subject again. The picture shows a gun safe (made by the best-known manufacturer) which went through a fire earlier this year. As you can see this gun safe failed completely. The “Type X” drywall is in pieces in the safe, along with the remainders of expensive shotguns.
Brief refresher: Type X drywall shrinks and breaks into pieces when heat from a fire cooks out the moisture. Glue used to install the drywall gets soft and lets go, so the drywall caves in. That glue probably burns, too.
Do not buy a gun safe that uses Type X drywall installed with glue! There aren’t many good choices because almost every gun safe manufacturer uses this type of construction. Try Fort Knox, Graffunder and American Security’s BF line.