The wall safe is held in its opening by metal lugs or flanges that are trapped by mortar packing, and some have bolts which are screwed through the sides of the safe into pre-cut recesses. Your first job is to mark out and cut the opening accurately. Don’t rush this step to avoid creating much more work for yourself later.
1. Use a drill and large masonry bit to remove as much mortar and drill through as many bricks as you can before using hand tools
A wall safe must be set in a structural wall of a certain thickness (recommended by the manufacturer). The wall should be no thinner than 225mm: the exterior walls of the house are ideal, although you should avoid fixing one in a cavity wall if there’s a likelihood that the safe will bridge the cavity.
A disused chimney breast makes an ideal location, and you can easily conceal the safe.
TIP: With brick sized safes it’s important to position your hole in the wall so that you don’t have to cut any bricks along their length. Hack off a small area of plaster within the proposed area to establish the position of the mortar joints, and measure from there upwards and sideways.
Even the small, brick-sized safes can weigh about 5kg, so make a paper template of its body and use this to mark the wall instead of holding the safe itself up. If there is a raised flange at the back, draw around this.
Allow a margin of 12mm all round your guidelines as a fitting tolerance.
Chop along the guidelines using a club hammer and bolster chisel. Start to hack off the plaster within the outline to expose the bricks. Try to keep the hole as neat as you can to avoid extensive making-good later.
Carefully chop out the bricks by drilling out the mortar courses and using a club hammer and cold chisel. If you’re fitting a small, brick- sized safe, you’ll only need to remove a single brick plus its mortar joints.
Remove the bricks within your guidelines; if you’ve marked out its position accurately the safe should fit between courses, but you will still have to cut some bricks at the sides. Score each brick by tapping gently with a bolster chisel and hammer, then strike sharply downwards to make a neat cut. Don’t
2. Bed the safe on mortar in its recess. This one has fixing bolts which screw outwards to reinforce the installation. Don’t forget to wear protective goggles at this stage. Measure the front-to-back depth of the safe: if it has a flange at the front, measure from its front face, so that it will eventually sit flush with the plaster surface.
With some combination safes, the wheel protrudes from the front by about 25mm, so it’s best to set the entire safe further back.
If your safe has rear-mounted lugs, which pivot down to grip the sides of the opening when it’s positioned, cut small pockets at each side into which the lugs can fit.
Alternatively, you can just screw the lugs to the back of the aperture, although you’ll probably have to cut a wider opening to give access to the lugs. Position the safe at the right height to allow for a mortar bed, lugs pivoted out, and mark the wall through the screw holes. Remove the safe, drill the wall and insert plastic plugs.
Clean out dust and debris from the aperture, then wet the brickwork to aid adhesion of the fixing mortar.
Fixing methods vary. Some safes require pockets for swivel lugs, others are screwed to the back wall, yet others have fixing bolts
Mix up some strong cement mortar and trowel a thick bed onto the base of the hole. Butter mortar onto one side of the aperture, the other side of the safe, its top and its back.
Slide the safe into the aperture, the mor- tared side to the unmortared side of the hole. Bed it down level and square. Hold a spirit level across the front to make sure it’s flush with the surface of the plasterwork.
If screw-fixing, insert the screws in the lugs and tighten before packing with mortar.
TIP If you’re using the lugs to locate in them down partly before you insert the safe just enough to allow the safe to slide into masonry pockets at the sides, pivot the aperture. When the safe is inserted, slide a screwdriver along the sides to flip the lugs all the way down into the pockets.
Hiding your safe from view is almost as important to the protection of your possessions as remembering to lock it.
Imaginative siting is therefore something you should spend some time over. Here are some suggestions to inspire you.
Hide the safe behind a picture or mirror that’s part of a large display of different-sized frames. Hinge the frame so it can open like a door to reveal the safe, and fit a magnetic touch-latch.
Set the safe in a wall concealed by a fitted cupboard or unit, or a bookshelf (you can buy ‘mod- ules’ or false rows of books).
If you’re panelling your walls with tongue-and-grooved planks (see pages 944-953), build a false door that can be opened to pro- vide access to the safe. Fit mag- netic touch-latches to avoid ob- vious giveaway handles, and ‘invisible’ hinges (such as cylin- der hinges or floor hinges: page 3087), which aren’t apparent from the outside.
Clad a wall with brick slips (see pages 2934-2943), and create a false section by setting the safe back in the wall and fitting a panel of ply faced with the slips.
Where the floor is covered with ceramic, thermoplastic, cork or Trowel more mortar around the safe to fill the fitting gap; concentrate on covering the side lugs or flanges completely. Make good the 12mm margin around the safe so that it is flush with the plasterwork.
A safe fitted with side securing bolts can be inserted in a tighter-fitting hole. You only have to leave about a 9mm gap all round.
Cut the hole, insert the safe (bolts removed) and mark the wall through the bolt holes. Remove the safe and drill holes in the wall you may need a right-angled attachment.
Conceal your safe behind items of furniture, removable fittings or within the wall cladding quarry tiles, hide the safe with a false panel clad with matching tiles. Include a small finger hole for removing the panel.
In a carpeted room, it’s a nuisance to have to roll back the floor covering to reach the safe, so place a heavy, permanent item of furniture like a wardrobe or chest, for example – over the safe and cut the carpet to fit around it. Make a removable panel in the base for access.
Set the safe inside the concrete back hearth of an open fireplace and stand an electric fire over it.
Squeeze mortar into the bolt holes drilled in the wall then butter the safe with mortar and insert it in the aperture.
Once the safe is accurately placed, screw out the bolts to locate in the holes. Point the joints around the safe in the normal way.
If your safe has a front flange, it will be virtually impossible to point in the joint around the unit once it’s in place, so you’ll have to rely on buttering its walls thickly with mortar. Scrape mortar onto the rear face of the flange too. Then push home and locate.