Pretty much everyone understands the fact that our valuables need protection. Physical security. Guns, cash, jewelry, cameras, or anything else that has a high dollar value attached to it: if it isn’t secured then it is free for the taking if thieves should break in.
The solution is simple: Just get a safe! Right? Right. But not so fast.
As terrible as it is to consider your goods might not be truly safe just because they are locked inside your safe.
It turns out that many thieves, especially professionals, have become very proficient at carting away even large and heavy safes, or else breaking into them on-site through a variety of means.
To help prevent this occurrence, every single manufacturer of quality saves will recommend that you bolt your safe down to the floor, the wall, or both to secure it in place and help protect it from penetration.
This is good advice as always, but what if you’re in a situation where you just can’t bolt your safe down to the floor or wall of your home?
Are you just out of luck? No, you aren’t and in this article I’ll be sharing with you 11 methods that can help secure your safe from crooks even when you can’t bolt it down.
The Importance of Securing Your Safe
It is absolutely imperative that you secure your safe, of any kind, in place. Whether you have a smaller lock box or jeweler safe or a massive, armored monstrosity that can hold a ton of precious metals, guns, and other valuables, and will be far more vulnerable to defeat or even theft outright if it isn’t secured in place.
And don’t think you are off the hook in this regard just because you have a massive backbreaker of a safe.
Sure, everyone knows that small or light safes can be easily carried away by one or two people but the big boys aren’t invincible in this regard.
They can still be moved using hand trucks and dollies, or they can be knocked over allowing criminals to access the more vulnerable bottom or back side for cutting it open.
The bottom line is this: Depending on the size of your safe, it offers either no real protection at all or is far more vulnerable than you think if it isn’t secured.
Why Wouldn’t You Want to Bolt the Safe to the Floor?
The next obvious question before we get to our list of methods for securing our safety is why you just wouldn’t follow the manufacturer’s recommended procedures and bolt the daggone thing down?
To some of us, the answer is obvious: most commonly if you live in a rental, be it a house or apartment, your landlord will almost certainly not approve of you drilling massive holes for massive lag bolts to go through the floor, walls or both and into structural members of the dwelling.
For others, for whatever reason, the placement of the safe or the configuration of the structure means this just isn’t viable.
So then what? You just plunk your safe down wherever and trust that some crooks won’t cart it off or break into it because of its vulnerabilities?
Not a chance. There’s always something you can do to further secure your valuables, or maybe an entirely different placement strategy that can mitigate the lack of anchoring. I’ll tell you about 11 such methods just below.
11 Ways to Secure a Safe
1. Conceal in Floor or Wall Compartment
One of the best ways to secure a safe is to hide it, and I mean really hide it. A good hiding spot can do more to protect your valuables than the heaviest safe by itself, and you can double up on protection by hiding the safe, too!
How you pull this off is it largely going to be determined by your living arrangements and the size of the safe itself.
Small safes that are easily portable are perfect for this application, and you can easily come up with a good hiding spot for them or create one around them.
You might make a concealing panel for a smaller safe or a thin one at the back of a closet, or you could potentially construct a cubbyhole beneath floorboards that you can lower the safe into.
Note also that depending on the configuration of the safe you might not be able to easily open it depending on how it’s oriented.
If you live in your own home, the sky’s the limit here: you can modify or construct a hiding spot that will perfectly blend into its surroundings and the style of your home.
2. Use a Decoy Safe
One of my favorite methods for protecting a safe is to set up a decoy safe. What is a decoy safe? It is exactly what it sounds like, a real safe full of fake goods, or a much smaller amount of sacrificial goods.
This could be a small fireproof chest that has some useless coins and other jangly bits inside, or a flimsy rifle locker that has dummy, broken, or deactivated guns inside.
The idea is that you use the decoy safe in conjunction with a hiding spot for your real safe. That way when the thieves find the decoy they will be encouraged to get away with their prize as quickly as they can. Ideally, they’ll never even find your real safe.
This takes a little bit more creativity to set up effectively but it is a proven method for protecting your valuables and your actual safe.
In most cases, thieves are acutely aware that the more time they spend on target the greater the chances are they will be discovered and arrested, as most are trying to work pretty fast. Follow the steps below to employ this method:
- Conceal real safe in a good hiding spot.
- Using a lockbox or cheap locker-type safe, load it with convincing sounding (but useless/low-value) items.
- Leave the decoy safe in an expected area where it will be found after a short search.
3. Use a Fixture Safe
For small to medium-sized valuables, fixture safes are becoming increasingly popular and affordable for nearly any application.
Taking the form factor of a mantelpiece, floating shelf, coffee table, or some other common piece of furniture these safes rely on a hidden compartment that swings or pops open after pressing a hidden switch or activating a hidden locking system.
Thieves, as a rule, will check the most likely hiding places for valuables in short order and then move on down the list, if they have time, to the less likely ones or more involved ones.
Chances are they will not spend much time trying to carefully inspect every fixture and every piece of furniture in your home for hidden compartments unless they have a lot of time indeed.
Of course, the single biggest disadvantage with safes of this type is that they do not offer the same level of hard protection or resistance that a genuine steel safe does. If discovered, or suspected, they are easily smashed open.
4. Make it Even Heavier
For those who think brute force is underrated, one viable method for making any safe harder to steal is just to make it heavier.
This method, as one would expect, works best with large, full-size safes that are already difficult or impossible to manhandle with just one or two people.
By adding weight plates, sheet steel, scrap lead, or any other extremely dense material to the floor of the safe on the inside you can make the safe a lot harder to move in any case.
This might be enough to keep thieves from getting away with it using the manpower and resources they have at hand.
However, there is an obvious downside to this method. Large safes already represent a structural risk in most residential dwellings, be they a house or apartments.
Adding even more weight could cause a dangerous condition resulting in collapse, or at the very least damaging your flooring.
This is something you’ll need to consult an engineer or the builder of the structure over if you want to be careful. Follow the steps below if you want to use this method:
- Obtain a sizeable quantity of heavy, dense material: sandbags, weight plates, scrap lead, etc.
- Place weights inside the safe on the floor: DO NOT PLACE WEIGHTS ON WALL OR SHELVES- TIPPING HAZARD!
- Make sure the safe is stable before loading valuables.
- Close and lock.
5. Attach Two Large Safes Together
Certainly an innovative method for those who own multiple large safes and ideal for use in any space that does not have a large bay door for access. Like an old saying says, if one is good two must be better. When it comes to asset protection with safes it just might work!
By welding, bolting, or otherwise attaching two full-size safes together you will effectively double the weight of the unit and also greatly increase the overall size and footprint.
This will make manhandling and transporting the safe virtually impossible for your average team of crooks, and assuming they cannot defeat the safe using what tools they brought with them, or scrounge up from around your home they probably aren’t going to get in it.
Now, nothing is foolproof. Given time and opportunity thieves could grind through welds, pry and weaken bolts and do everything else they normally do when trying to break into a safe, potentially separating them and making them transportable or easier to manipulate so they can break into them directly.
But if you have multiple safes and you aren’t going to bolt them down this is one of the better methods you can try.
6. Cable or Chain to Anchor Point
If you have an accessible hard point in your home, something like a really sturdy pipe, girder, steel eyelet, or even a massive wooden timber you could consider cabling or chaining your safe to it.
This will prevent anyone from carting the safe away until they defeat what is holding it down. The efficacy of this method is, of course, determined both by the anchor point and what you are using to connect the two.
Thin wire cable or chain is easily defeated with bolt cutters or other cutting tools! Something that is truly heavy-duty will be much harder and slower to defeat.
This might not seem like a worthwhile method if you are already assuming that the crooks are bringing specialized tools with them, but remember anything that can slow them down and make their job harder might result in them abandoning the safe. That means your valuables stay where they are supposed to be.
7. Build an Enclosure Around It
If, for whatever reason, you cannot or don’t want to bolt your safe down, but you can do a little building where the safe is, consider making an enclosure around it.
The concept is simple: essentially you are building a sort of cage or even a tiny room around the safe, one that does not have a door or other opening large enough to move the safe through.
Sound excessive? I guess that all depends on the value of the things you are storing in the safe! This method can be executed using common metal piping, rebar, concrete blocks, or anything else that is appropriate to where the safe is placed.
It is even possible to build what is effectively a tiny closet around the safe and heavily reinforce it using structural lumber if you want it to blend into the rest of your living space.
But just remember, you need enough room to access the safe and open the door if you want your safe to remain useful!
8. Glue it Down
Adhesives are rarely considered when it comes to securing safes and other residential security containers, but they might have some merit.
At the very least, it will force crooks to spend time and effort breaking the safe loose from the floor or wall in order to reposition it or just get it ready for transport.
In the case of the largest and heaviest safes, particularly ones that have a perfectly flat bottom and great surface area, it can pose a significant impediment.
Sure, prying or chiseling some glues away is not particularly hard, but anyone who has ever had to deal with two-part epoxy or other super adhesives will tell you they can be shockingly strong.
Strong enough, perhaps, to completely thwart attempts at relocating the safe. There are some obvious downsides to this method, of course.
You definitely don’t want to try it on the carpet because it won’t be very secure, and using any sort of adhesive like this on a floor or wall is going to be just as destructive in the end as drilling holes and running bolts will be.
Then there’s the obvious issue of the safe is going to be pretty much permanently stuck in place for your purposes, too! Bolts can be loosened and removed, chains and cables detached, but the glue is there basically forever! Nonetheless, it is an option. Do the following:
- Prep the bottom of the safe and surface according to instructions on the adhesive. Sanding and tacking will be required, most likely.
- Prepare the area where the safe is to be mounted.
- Apply adhesive in quantity and pattern according to package instructions.
- Place safe; protect the surrounding area from squeeze-out.
- Do not disturb the safe for the prescribed time to allow the glue to cure.
9. Bolt to Steel or Concrete Slab
Although some might argue this is a technicality, it is keeping in the strict spirit of the title of this article since we aren’t bolting it to the floor or the wall. This is another simple but fairly ingenious method for keeping a safe from being carted away.
All you need to do is use the existing bolt holes to attach the safe to a large and heavy steel plate or concrete slab. This method works best if the slab is oversized where it cannot fit through the door of the room the safe is in.
This has several benefits:
- it adds even more weight to the safe
- with a little bit of ingenuity and planning, it can change the center of gravity and balance point of the safe so much that it can no longer easily be transported on a dolly
- even using brute force makes the safe difficult or impossible to fit through doorways, hallways, and the like until it is removed
- you can unbolt the safe, slide it off of the slab and then move it normally since it isn’t permanently attached.
The downsides are that you’ll need to fabricate a plate or slab for the purpose. Getting this into place can itself be quite a job, and then you’ll have additional weight considerations to work out as we discussed above under adding weight to the inside of the safe.
Whatever you do, remember that the head of the bolts should be inside the safe passing out and into the slab, not vice versa. If the heads of your fasteners are accessible to the thieves, they can remove them the same as you
10. Alarm It
Alarming the safe itself might seem sort of wasteful. After all, you probably already use a household or commercial security system in conjunction with your safe.
Even so, alarming the safe itself against proximity, tilt or other disturbance is a form of redundancy that might pay off.
A screeching alarm or intruder warning alert might be enough to convince the thieves to give up, especially if it is going to go off the entire time it is in their possession.
Similarly, whether they are sincere or not, notifications that the owner and authorities have been notified might be enough to unsettle the crooks and get them to run away.
The major shortcoming of these systems is typical that they tend to be far more vulnerable than the safe itself.
Any speakers or other electronics that are attached to the safe will, by nature, be vulnerable to direct attack compared to the safe itself and its closure or locking mechanisms.
Assuming that these shortcomings can be overcome, or you are okay with using it as just another link in the protective process, they can still be worthwhile.
11. Add a Warning Sticker
Last, and probably least, but still worth a try is adding an official and serious-looking warning sticker to your safe.
Many such stickers warn of explosive contents or other dangers and the necessity of adding such a sticker by law (that’s a fib). Others talk about internal tracking systems, silent alarms, disturbance switches, and the like.
There are several varieties out there on the market, but one of the best ones is made by Oni Gear Industries.
It looks serious, has an official tone and maybe, just maybe, will be enough to make even hardened crooks think twice before carting off a safe or attempting to break into it with power tools on site.
This is, of course, a form of bluffing but clever deception can work in our favor the same as it can in the favor of the bad guys.
This technique works best when you’re safe isn’t already plastered with a bunch of novelty or manufacturer stickers, and when the warning sticker you are using is placed in a highly visible spot on the front- but not dead center which could be a little too “on the nose.”
Maybe the crooks won’t even read it, but if they spare even a few seconds to a sticker like this might plant a seed of doubt that could save your possessions.
Always Be Careful not to Compromise Your Safe’s Structural or Fire Integrity
One last tip. Whatever technique, tactic, or procedure you are following on this list be very careful not to compromise the structural or fire integrity of your safe.
Drilling holes, welding things, and other modifications could reduce the protection level of your safe, especially during a house fire.
Depending on what you are protecting and the overall capabilities of your safe this may or may not be a concern, but it is worth mentioning.
If you have any doubts whatsoever about the suitability of making any kind of modifications to your safe contact the manufacturer or a reputable sales and service company in your area for more advice.
The best place to secure your safe is wherever it can be most effectively hidden or bolted down while being protected from the elements. This is entirely dependent upon your safe and your living arrangements.
Yes, you can. Most large safes have pre-drilled holes for bolting to either the wall or the floor depending on the manufacturer. Some safes are designed to mount directly in the wall two or between studs.
Yes, or at least they really should. This is the only thing that will prevent smaller safes from being carted off easily, and you might be surprised at how big a safe can really be and still be considered man-portable to motivated crooks.
Yes, you can. Using the correct adhesive, can provide a measure of additional security or at least resistance to attempts at repositioning or relocating the safe. This is not a technique that is typically prescribed by the manufacturer of said safes, however.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.