Vaults, Fireproof Rooms, Wine Cellars
We have been involved in the design and construction of a number of walk-in safes, fireproof rooms and underground pistol and rifle ranges with security capability. Our rooms are designed to meet the following parameters:
- Completely fireproof
- Dry (climate controlled)
- Can be opened from inside (required by law)
- Easily accessed
By definition a walk-in safe or totally fire-PROOF room is designed/built with at least 6 inches of concrete on 4 walls and ceiling and a concrete slab floor. Penetrations are to be spec’d to size and firestopped. The house can burn down and your wedding picture proofs, home movies or precious belongings will not melt. Your firearms will not be harmed nor will ammunition be ignited.
Security for a safe-room installed by us is more defined by the available access to the concrete walls than by the door. We use graffundersafes.com doors and I assure you that it’s far easier to penetrate a reinforced concrete wall than to break into a Graffunder vault through the door.
Fireproofness needs also be defined. “Fireproofness” is often rated in hours and defined as the time that a metal box type safe will withstand heat before its contents burst into flames. Two things are needed to support combustion: heat and oxygen. An area subjected to HEAT yet lacking in AIR will not burn (burst into flame) but damage will still occur from melting and charring. Film and photos will be destroyed. Firearm finishes and optics will be ruined. Paper goods like records or bonds may be browned and charred while still intact. Jewelry items will be ruined and melted. This is a situation common to even well built metal safes and vaults. NOW… add oxygen and a metal vault or safe may well still be intact but internal combustion can occur! Oxygen enters a safe around the door. The mechanism of combustion is that under intense heat a metal box safe may warp enough to break the seal around the door, letting air in. Once the door warps and air enters the safe, combustion is certain.
This brings us to another point, ammunition storage. Ammunition may be stored in a concrete vault room but we DO NOT recommend that you store your ammo in your safe box. Ammunition is best stored in any sort of container BUT metal, even a wooden box against an exterior wall. Ammunition inside of a metal box that is fastened shut is by definition a BOMB! Modern smokeless powder will cook off or combust at temperatures from 265-400F. Ammunition will absolutely combust at the temp required to bake a pan of brownies… and smokeless powder is manufactured with one purpose, to act as high energy fuel with its own oxidizer. Gun powder, whether smokeless or black, IS self-oxidized fuel. It’s designed to burn inside of an enclosure.
A truly FIREPROOF room must not only be sealed so as not to support combustion but also must be massive enough to act as a heat-sink such that it doesn’t even heat up appreciably inside. A Sierra Concrete Vault with a Graffunder door meets our definition of a FIREPROOF and SECURE room. We’ve put vault rooms under poured entryways, under garages, even right out in the middle of a ranch style home (although this approach is not a very efficient use of material!) Oftentimes a walk-in safe can be added into a basement for the cost of 15-20 feet of extra foundation wall and a door.
Wine cellars fall into a separate subcategory of fireproof concrete rooms. With prices ranging from $15,000.00 for a conditioned wine storage room to a quarter-million or more for a conditioned tasting area, the sky’s the limit for wine cellars. For high end wine cellars it’s sometimes prudent to involve an actual wine cellar designer. While concrete wine cellars are common, certain conditioning paths must be followed to achieve desired results. Some homeowners choose to build their wine cellar from wood and insure the contents.