Q&A / 

Gun Safe

DEAR TIM: I'm in a panic. My new gun safe is being delivered in three days. When I was at the gun safe sale, I never thought about the weight of the thing and my house. The Remington gun safe I ordered weighs 900 pounds. The safe is 3.5 feet wide and 2.5 feet deep. Is it going to crack my floor joists? My wife is wanting me to cancel the sale and get gun safe cabinets that just hang on a wall because she's terrified that the house is going to collapse. Is it safe? Henry I., Aurora, CO

DEAR HENRY: I'll be in your shoes soon. Guns are my new hobby and I need to start safely storing them instead of hiding them all around my house. All of the new products, especially the biometrics gun safe, are fascinating.

You need to reassure your wife that all will be fine if you just think this through. First of all, you want a heavy safe so a thief just doesn't come in and take the safe back to his lair and then open it at his convenience. This is why you smartly purchased a safe that weighs nearly half a ton.

A gun safe in a wall, unless it's hidden well, can usually be overcome and carried out of a house. A gun safe cabinet on a wall can be taken down and carted off by two men with ease in most cases.

But let's solve the weight issue to put everyone at ease. Most houses are built to code, and the minimum code requirement for floors is 40 pounds a square foot of dead load. This means your floor joists, because most act as a system especially if there is diagonal bridging between the joists, can have a 40-pound load on each square foot of floor area and the floor not collapse.

Think about this in reality. No one has weights like that scattered on the floor. You'd never be able to walk around. There is much open space on the average floor. If the room where the safe will be is like this, you'll have no issues.

For example, let's say the room size is 10 feet by 12 feet. This is 120 square feet total meaning you can have 4,800 pounds of stuff in the room safely. I doubt you will have that much weight in the room.

Yes, the safe is concentrating a load in one spot. You'll have a concentrated load of 103 pounds per square foot just where the safe is. That could be a slight problem if you were putting the safe in the middle of the room.

My advice is to place the safe along a wall where the floor joists rest on the foundation wall, a beam, or a bearing wall below. You can place tremendous loads on floor joists immediately adjacent to where they rest on bearing points with no issues.

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2 Responses to Gun Safe

  1. Tim,

    Great write-up. I'm concerned though about bringing the safe through the house to get it into the basement. I have 18x18 porcelain tiles (3/4" doug fir plywood base,on top of 1/2" sheathing) throughout my first floor to the basement door. I'm worried that tiles will break when we roll an 800-1000lb safe through the house. Any suggestions on what I could do to prevent that? Also, should I be concerned about the strength of my stairs into the basement?

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