If you keep small valuables in your home, locking them in a wall safe is an affordable, convenient and reliable way to make sure burglars can’t get their hands on them. Fortunately, wall safes are also surprisingly easy to install. Once you learn how to install a wall safe, you can do the job yourself for about half the price a carpenter would charge. Before you start the installation, though, check if your safe came with instructions for how to install a wall safe. The manufacturer’s instructions may cover points particular to the type of safe you have.
What you’ll need:
Safety goggles or glasses
Electronic stud finder (optional)
Painter’s tape or a pencil
Phillips head bit and spade bit
Keyhole drywall saw or jigsaw
Find a location
Look for a wall with no wiring, plumbing, or heating ducts behind it where you can install the safe about 5 feet from the floor for easy access. A wall inside a closet or cabinet will make it easier to keep the safe concealed. If the safe you’re installing is designed to fit within the space between two walls, you won’t have to worry about the wall behind it. If, however, your safe will protrude through the wall behind it, look for a location where the back of the safe will be in a storage closet, utility room, bedroom, garage, or other inconspicuous place.
The typical wall safe is 15 inches wide so it will fit between standard 16-inch on-center wall studs (that is, there are 16 inches from the center of one stud to the center of the next). To make sure your safe will fit, use a stud sensor to find the two studs you plan to place the safe between so you can mark their locations and measure the distance. When planning how to install your safe, keep in mind that in some older houses, the studs may be non-standard distances apart. In this case, you’ll need to either add wooden blocks to the studs to narrow the opening or install top and bottom support brackets to hold the safe.
Mark the cut lines
If your safe kit didn’t come with a template of the back of the safe, you can simply make one out of paper. With a carpenter’s level, level your template and tack the corners down with thumbtacks. Make absolutely sure the template is level, then trace around the edges and take the paper down. You may also want to apply painter’s tape to your cut lines to help guide you. Alternatively, you can skip tracing or taping the cut lines and just use the tack holes as a guide.
Cut the hole
Before you start sawing, move nearby furniture or cover it with drop cloths. To be safe, assuming you’re working by daylight, turn off the circuit breaker to the part of the house where you’re working. There’s always a chance of running into wiring you didn’t know about.
Next, put a nail or screw in the middle of the section of wall you plan to cut out. This way, when you’re done sawing, you can take hold of the nail and remove the cut out section without it falling down inside the wall.
For a smaller safe, you’ll only need to cut through one wall. If you’re putting in a larger safe, though, you’ll have to cut through both the wall nearest you and the one behind it. Wearing safety glasses to avoid getting sawdust in your eyes, drill pilot holes in the corners of where the template was, then use the spade bit to enlarge the holes. (Drilling these holes isn’t absolutely necessary, but it tends to make sawing easier.) At this point, if you still have any doubt as to whether there might be plumbing or heating ducts behind the wall, cut a small hole and feel behind the wall to check.
To cut out the wall section, you can use a keyhole saw (drywall saw), but an electric jigsaw will make the work go faster. If you only need to cut through one wall, hold the saw at an angle to avoid cutting into the wall on the other side. If you need to cut through both walls, make absolutely certain that you’re holding the saw at a right angle to the cut area so you don’t end up with the holes at different heights. In either case, it’s usually easier to start sawing at the bottom edge, then cut out both side edges, and finish at the top.
Fit the safe
Now that you’ve got the wall opening cut, you’re almost ready to install the wall safe. First, though, set the safe into the wall to check if it fits snuggly. If it’s loose, you’ll want to add some shims to make a better fit. Measure how much you’ll need to narrow the opening by and cut your shim material to that size. Pre-drill nail holes in the shims so they don’t crack when you install them, then nail them to the studs.
Install the safe
When you’re sure the safe fits securely in the opening, all that’s left to do is place the safe in the wall and secure it. Fit the safe into the opening, drill holes in the wall studs from inside the safe, then attach the safe to the studs with 2″ screws. By learning how to install a wall safe yourself, you’ll not only be increasing the security of your valuables, but you’ll save money on carpenters’ fees, too.