When it comes to owning a firearm, you are probably aware that you need to be able to store it in a safe space to ensure that no one steals it – lest you be held responsible. To do so, you will most likely consider installing a gun safe to protect the firearm.
Safes come in various sizes and weights, but the most important thing to consider is if your floor is able to support the weight of the safe. The answer: reinforce the floor for a gun safe. If the floor is unable to support the weight of the safe, it would be best to support the weight by placing braces (in the form of additional joists) underneath the floor. If you are unsure how to do this, it is probably best to consult and professional joiner or building to do this for you. The last thing you want is your gun safe falling through the floor.
How Are Floors Set Out?
The first thing that one should consider is that fact that there are building requirements when it comes to constructing your house. This means that each square foot of floor area has a minimum code requirement of being able to support 40 pounds of dead weight.
However, this spans for the entirety of the room from wall to wall and not only one area. Usually, there is plenty of open space in the room, and you won’t be several heavy-weight safes in one room, so it won’t be too much of a concern. You are best to double check this before you start any refinforcement work.
Where Is the Safe Set?
The first important thing to consider is where are you placing the safe? If you place a heavy weight safe in the middle of the room, chances are that the floor might not be able to support the weight. Usually, it is recommended that one places the safe against the wall. For small personal safes, usually placed in one’s closet, it is best to do so and then fix it to the wall. This both supports the weight of the safe and protects it from easily being grabbed.
For larger safes, however, one does this because the structure of a house is most supported where walls are placed. This means that if you place a safe against the wall, and perhaps even also fix it against the wall, the wall helps the floor support the weight of the safe. It does so, since the weights are directed onto the joists through the wall, and not only directly on the floor.
Something else to consider is what is beneath the floor where the safe is going to be located? Is the safe being put on the basement’s floor, on the main floor above a basement, or perhaps above a crawl space? What kind of floor and it’s location in the house can make a huge difference in terms of safety and how much you might need to reinforce the floor, if at all. This will all influence if, and how, you should reinforce the floor for a gun safe.
a. Basement’s floor
If you place the safe on the basement’s floor, chances are that there won’t be the need to reinforce the floor. Basement floors are typically made of poured-into-place concrete or concrete blocks.
As you might already know, concrete is an extremely strong and durable building material, and chances are that it won’t be necessary to support the weight. You might want to put the safe on a wooden pad to protect the floor, but only against scuff marks. One disadvantage of placing it in a basement is obviously greater risk of flooding and damp, so you will need to take that into account.
b. Above A Basement
If you are considering placing the safe on the main floor above the basement, there is a bit more to consider. Inspect your basement and the condition of the supports already in place. Now, as mentioned before, it is best that you place the safe against a wall, this allows some of the weight to be directed into the basement wall, preferably where the joists are perpendicular.
You do this is because then most of the load of the safe is absorbed by the basement walls and not by the center of the joist span. Also, consider doubling up on your joists if they are anything less than 10×2”, as they might need the extra strength.
c. Above A Crawlspace
If the basement is set above a crawl space, it might also be necessary for it to have a few additional supports put into place.
Consider adding a pier, which is a vertical loadbearing member that helps support the weight placed above. In this case, consider putting the pier under the front of the safe as the back of the safe should be fine against the wall.
The Influence of Size and Weight
As mentioned before, it is possible to have a small personal safe installed into your home. Nevertheless, this is NOT recommended for any firearms as personal safes are usually relatively lightweight and easy to transport. For your firearms, large, heavy weight safes are recommended, which make sense when you think about it.
Generally, the weight for a firearm safe spans between 700 and 1000+ pounds, with various shapes and sizes. In the context of this post, 700 pounds will constitute as a medium gun safe, while 1000+ pounds will constitute as a large safe. This is why it is so important to make sure that the floor you plan to place the safe on is able to bare it’s weight.
a. Shape of The Safe
The very first thing that will have a major influence regarding the weight of your safe, is the shape of it. As aforementioned, floors are designed to support weight per square foot.
That being said, it is best to go for a square-shaped safe as it distributes the weight of the safe over a larger surface area. Vertically, rectangular safes will place more weight over a smaller surface area which might cause problems with supporting the safe.
b. Medium-sized Safes (and Weights)
A medium safe is usually between 700 pounds to just below a thousand pounds. The actual dimensions for the safe spans between 30” (W) × 42” (H) but can go up to 40” (W) × 50” (H). The safe sizes might even be much smaller, or much larger, for the same weight, depending on how thick and from what metal the walls of the safe is made off.
Once again, place the safe on an oversized wooden platform, to take away the weight being focused on only the floor corners. Also place the safe so that it spans over three joists (one on each end and one in the middle), rather than only two. This will also help to support the weight of the safe.
Should you still be concerned about the weight, even though the floor should be able to carry it if it is placed against the wall, you can consider putting smaller joists, of about 2×4” thickness, perpendicular to the original joists. Once you connected the smaller joists to the original once, it will also help to spread the weight.
c. Large-sized Safes (and Weights)
Large safes are over a 1000 pounds and ranges between 30” (W) × 72” (H) to 36” (W) × 59” (H), also depending on the shape of the safe. Once again, start by placing the safe against the wall. Then, if possible, double up the three joists over which the safe is resting.
Also, consider the possibility of building a weight-bearing wall, or a strong wall closet, underneath the floor where the safe will be placed (if the safe is placed with a basement or other floor underneath). Make sure that you place screws every 16 to 24 inches, and that they are placed tightly. Should you still be concerned, repeat the process of putting perpendicular joists in (as for medium-sized safes).
Wrapping It Up
Overall, the best way to ensure the strength of your floors is to reinforce the floor for a gun safe is by strengthening the joists of the structure beneath the safe.
If you aren’t too sure of how to do so, contact your local carpenter to have a look and help you. Just be sure to do so before you install the safe, as doing so afterward might be tough. The repercussions of not taking proper care before installing a safe aren’t even worth thinking about. And I am sure many insurance companies might not pay out for something that was down to your own actions.