Safes & Security Containers/Safe with hole in side - repairable?


QUESTION: Was wondering if a tl-30 safe with a 8"x8" hole from thieves is repairable? Have access to a large 77"x44"x34" safe and it seems a shame to landfill it. Was thinking if I welded steel plates on both sides, maybe someone makes a hard epoxy with barrier aggregate that could be pumped through a hole in the inside plate to fill the cavity. Obviously some major cosmetic repairs would also be involved.


The only part of the TL-30 that is certified & tested by UL to meet TL-30 standards is the door.    While the walls need to meet certain minimum standards, they aren't tested to meet the TL-30 rating.

Also UL has no "retesting" standards for repaired safes.

As long as the door is not damaged, the walls of the safe can be repaired to "meet or exceed" how it was built originally, and still maintain the UL label.

So depending on the material in your safe, repair material and construction methods need to repair the hole so that it is at least as strong as it was, and it should be stronger.

While you can make this a DIY project if you have the capabilities and equipment to repair the damage, I would recommend having the repairs done by a reputable safe company.   Unfortunately there are only a handful of real safe companies capable of this type of repair throughout the country.    Most of the smaller companies simply DO NOT have the equipment to make this type of repair.

For instance most light weight MIG and Stick welders that smaller companies have DO NOT have the capacity to weld up to 1" thick steel walls.    Most of the smaller and lighter welders only have the capability of CORRECTLY welding up to 1/4" to 3/16" thick steel.

Correctly repairing the safe will depend on the amount of damage, location, thickness of steel, rebar & wire, concrete, repairs to skin of safe (inside and out), and of course painting the safe to disguise the repaired areas afterwards.

IMPORTANT NOTE:    Thieves are creatures of habit.    Now that they know that they can break into your safe, and knowing how long it took them last time, they can upgrade their tools, and do the same job in less time next time.     AND YES, they do come back!

This is your opportunity to upgrade security for your location.    Better locks on the doors, break resistant glass on the windows, better, more thorough alarm system, and more security for your safe.
Safes should NEVER be placed near exterior walls.    While placement of the safe may be an inconvenience to you.   If the thieves DO NOT have access to it through a wall, it means that they WILL have to enter your business to attack the safe.

As long as you are having the safe repaired, it may be worth while to add (at a minimum) another 1/2" sheet steel plate to the walls and back.    The more material they have to go through, the longer it will take them.    Also you might consider upgrading to a TL30x6 safe.

Also, have the shelves welded in place inside of the safe.    If they are successful in breaking in, the ONLY items that they would have access to would be ON THE SHELF adjacent to the hole they created.    This simple upgrade could significantly reduce any loss that you incur.

Regardless of what security measures you employ - what you are actually acquiring is "TIME".    We have always heard that time is a burglar's enemy - and it's true.    The amount of time it takes them to break into your building, the amount of time it takes them to disable or bypass your alarm system, and the amount of time it takes them to break into your safe are all issues that are within your control.    Unfortunately, most business owners tend to be really cheap when it comes to security, always assuming that it will happen to the other guy and NOT them!    You've just become the other guy!

The locks on your doors and windows need to provide a substantial amount of effort to bypass or allow access to a bad guy.   Your alarm system needs to have a back up system (possibly cellular), so that even if all of the wires are cut, the alarm is still active.    Having a system that you can monitor at home is a good idea.     In our area a jeweler's system was activated.   When he accessed it on his computer, everything on the video looked normal, but when he turned up the microphone pickups, he could hear the burglars talking and grinding on his safe.   His wife called the police, and he met them on site, all three burglars were caught on site in the act of trying to break into the safe.     Unfortunately they were all released on bail the next day, and have since disappeared.
We've already discussed upgrading and/or providing extra protection for your safe.   Another option available, especially where the safe is up against a wall that may provide the burglars hidden access, is to place concrete vault panels behind or alongside of the safe.    The amount of time required for the burglars to penetrate the vault panels and the safe could take them dozens of hours.

Bottom line is, if your locks, alarms and safe tie the burglars up long enough to keep them out of your safe, then they did their job.    If the bad guys gain access to your safe, and successfully leave, then YOU were severely under protected.  

You may want to discuss your current security with your insurance company to see what recommendations that they recommend or require.

Sorry about your loss, but hopefully this will answer some questions and help you to make some security choices to keep this from happening again.

If you have other specific questions, or you need the name of a safe company that I would recommend for the repairs, let me know where you and/or the safe are located.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks for all the information. I would be getting the safe from someone else/another location so issues with revisiting thieves are unlikely. Since I can get it for cost of moving it, I thought it would be an interesting project to repair it. The re-bar & mesh I can match. ditto the 12 gauge skin.
But Google for "safe repair material" composite/aggregate/concrete/etc.. yields useless results. Everything is "safe" these days...
I know enough to know not to use concrete from Home Depot, I can't seem to find info on what I "should" use for the aggregate mix. Thought maybe someone sold a product for this kind of repair.

Hi Ed,

I must have misunderstood the part about you getting it from someone else.   Sorry.

As far as googling "safe repair materials" - you can't find anything because there is no such thing.

Materials used by manufacturer's is proprietary materials.   Every manufacturer has their own recipe for concretes, mortars and insulation materials.    Like wise, everyone builds their safes differently.    Some manufacturer's are very automated using robotic equipment for the bulk of their manufacturing, others are strictly by hand.   As far as barrier materials, the same holds true.

Lack of what would seem common sense, essential barriers is predicated on costs that customers are willing to pay.   Unfortunately the "jewelry and banking" industries are populated with notorious cheap buyers.    They want all the protection in the world, but only want to pay for safes built for residential applications.    This forces manufacturers to eliminate everything that isn't necessary to pass the UL testing for the necessary label.

for instance TL-30 safes build 30 years ago, would have had the interior skin made out of a minimum of 1" thick steel, PLUS the composite body material on the outside.    You don't have that any more.

As far as the concrete mix from Home Depot or similar locations - there is nothing wrong with it.    They have various grades, and you will want a good aggregate mix.    That along with rebar and wire should be fine.    I would recommend the use of a vibrator to ensure the concrete gets in all of the nooks and crannies.    This will also give you the best results from the mix.
Make sure that you have completely cleaned out the hole, and all of the concrete area.   Dust will keep the new concrete from bonding to the old.    Check with your concrete supplier as they may have a chemical wash which will allow the old and new mix to adhere better.

As for the plate steel,  If you are thinking of repairing it with gauge steel, I would think again.    As mentioned originally, my repairs would include 1/2" sheet steel, securely welded to the body of the safe, and I wouldn't hesitate to plate the inside and outside of the hole.

Weld the inner skin completely all the way around to give you a good working back plate.    Drill holes into the concrete, to allow you to pound the rebar into the existing concrete to form a spider web of rebar.   you can use wire  to tie it all together.   Install / weld a plate over about 3/4 of the lower hole on the outside and install a temporary  chute to allow easy pouring of the new concrete.    This will also allow you an access area to use a concrete vibrator.    Finish topping off the hole, and insert the remaining section of the cover plate and tack weld it in place.    Wait at least a week for the concrete to cure before finish welding it in place.

finish it off with a rust inhibitor paint and you are done.

Remember the security of the safe is Only as good as the work that you do.   Don't cut corners.

Hope this helps,  

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Terry V. Andreasen (Andy)


Safe and Vault related Questions; Antique Safe Repair and Restoration; With over 44 years in the Safe & Vault industry, if I can't answer your question I know where to get the answer. Current Project: Restoration of an Ely Norris Cannonball safe from the early 1900's. Will answer Safe & Vault related questions concerning age, value, restoration, moving, opening & repairing, parts, operation and history. Note: It is not my intention to teach you to open safes or to provide information which may aid in the unlawful opening of a safe. I will not give out drill points or information which I deem inappropriate. NOTE: I also answer safe related questions in the Locksmith and Antique Safe Categories sections.


44 years in the Safe & Vault Industry. Owner and Service Manager for one of the largest Safe & Vault companies on the West Coast. Graduate of Lockmasters Safe Lock Servicing, Safe lock Manipulation and Safe Deposit Lock Courses. Graduate of Locksmith Institute. Certified Instructor for the California Locksmith Association teaching Basic and Advanced Lock Servicing, Basic Safe opening and Repairing. Factory Trained by AMSEC, LORD Safes, LeFebure, Mosler, KabaMas, LaGard and Sargent & Greenleaf. Author of "The Coffee Table Guide to Antique Safes".

Safecrackers International National Antique Safe Association Safe & Vault Technicians Association (SAVTA)

The Coffee Table Guide to Antique Safes

Graduate of Locksmith Institute 1972 Graduate Lockmasters Safe Lock Servicing 1974 Graduate Lockmasters Safe Lock Manipulation 1975 Graduate Lockmasters Safe Deposit Lock Servicing 1985 Instructor Certified - California Locksmith Association - 1985 Factory trained by AMSEC, MAJOR, STAR, Johnson-Pacific, Kaba-MAS, Allied-Gary, ISM, Lord, Brown Safe, EXL, Mosler, Diebold.

Awards and Honors
2009 - 2015 - Listed in AllExperts top 50 experts. All Experts categories - Safes & Security Containers, Locksmithing, Antique Safes. Retired US Army Chief Warrant Officer (CW4), with 39 years of total service. With numerous awards from Vietnam, Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. US Navy - 1971-1981 US Army Reserve 1984-2013 US Army Retired

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US Secret Service, FBI, BATF, Local Law enforcment agencies, Diebold, Hamilton Pacific, Red Hawk Int., Chubb International, Bank of America, Wells Fargo Bank, Mechanics Bank, El Dorado Savings Bank, many Credit unions and smaller banks. McDonalds, Togos, BurgerKing, TacoBell, Carls Jr. FoodMaxx, SaveMart, Lucky's, Albertson's, Raley's, Safeway, NobHill, Bell Markets, PW Markets. Great America, Century Theatres, Cinemark Theatres, UA Cinemas, and many homeowners and small businesses. Provide warranty service for lock and safe manufactures. Service area is Northern California - Fresno to Oregon, including western Nevada

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