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A fairly common home-safe capacity is 1.2 to 1.3 cubic feet, which should easily accommodate a foot-high stack of 8½- by 11-inch papers, for example.
Most home safes are designed to protect their contents from fire, theft, or both. We don't test safes here at Consumer Reports, but many are tested by independent organizations such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and Intertek (which uses the ETL mark).
For example, safes rated to protect paper documents shouldn't get any hotter than 350 degrees on the inside during a fire, according to John Drengenberg, consumer safety director at UL in Northbrook, Ill.
If you plan to store old tape recordings or 35mm slides, however, you'll want a safe that's rated not to exceed 150 degrees inside, he says.
Where to put it The best place for your safe will depend on the design of your house, but there are some trade-offs worth considering.
The master bedroom tends to be the first stop for burglars, according to Mc Goey, so it might not be the ideal site for the safe.
A simple way to determine how large a safe you might need is to pile up everything you plan to put in it and measure.
Dale Soos, an engineer with Intertek, says his organization confers a "verified" mark on safes that meet their manufacturers' criteria for water resistance.
Some safes are submerged to simulate the effects of a flood or broken water line.
"Fires tend to move through a home, so 20 minutes is about the average in a room or an area." Burglary protection Independent ratings for burglary resistance are less common for home safes than for ones made for commercial users, such as jewelry stores.
To determine their burglary-resistance ratings, UL testers go at safes with tools, torches, and even explosives, Drengenberg says.