How To Build a Wall Cabinet to House a Heavy Floor Safe

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We needed to figure to out how to get the floor safe off the floor. A cabinet? Perhaps. A normal wall safe installation wasn’t an option, mostly because 100 pounds of safe is not designed to tuck safely into your average wall.

The new Sentry safe needed to get off the floor--and out of they way of my dust laden show, the most likely source of the smudge on the door.

The new Sentry safe needed to get off the floor–and out of they way of my dust laden shoe, the most likely source of the smudge on the door.

The new Sentry safe was about 50% larger than the other, older unit, which had been simply plunked on my office floor for years. Concealing the safe was unnecessary; we only use it to house some of Pam’s key prescriptions, sort of like a glorified medicine cabinet with a really big lock. There are some of those meds that she relies on me to dispense, preferring to trust my memory over her early Alzheimer’s version of mental function. Additionally, it’s a good idea to keep the heavy duty stuff locked up to prevent access by anyone visiting our home. We don’t get many visitors, but even one theft we didn’t see coming would be a bad thing. Losing a month’s worth of a medication Pam needs to keep going day to day would hurt, and a thief is all too often the friend you’d never suspect.

In other words, the Sentry is there simply to keep the more or less honest people more or less honest. However, I was getting tired of kneeling on the floor to open the thing and still not being able to see inside. It was time to bring it up to eyeball height.

The obvious place to build a cabinet was along the north wall in my office, just to the left of the stub wall that blocks our Gato cat from going after the dispenser faucets on our drinking water dispensers. In fact, that wall could be incorporated right into the plan, serving as the right hand cabinet wall.

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Caveat: There are no current plans to include a door for the front of the cabinet, so if you’d prefer to think of this project as merely a shelf, I’ll understand. But with walls on three sides and the only lack a door that could be added in the future if needed, it looks like a cabinet to me.

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The first step was to intall a bit of stub wall framing for the left side. It would be 17 inches deep, which serendipitously matched both the main body of the safe (excluding handle and hinge) and the existing stub wall on the right.

Simple, right? Just whip out the tape measure, cut four pieces of 2″ x 4″ lumber to the needed lengths, fasten them to each other with 10d nails, and nail the entire arrangement to the ceiling, north wall, and floor…right?

Uh-huh. And that’s what I did, but I was not exactly on my game. Rather than muck up the limited space in my office with a screaming circular saw and plenty of flying sawdust, I make most saw cuts outside–which means walking back and fort a lot–and today’s little framing exercise came out looking like a class in Remedial Carpentry 101. One of the vertical boards ended up being the most problematic. I cut it too long. Then I cut it too short and had to cut a short (1 1/2″) block to tack onto the end in order to reach the proper length. Then when the board was checked one more time for fit, it turned out to be a whole lot too short; I’d tacked the little extender block right back onto the piece of 2″ x 4″ from which I’d cut it, not onto the board that needed it. So the block had to be pried loose, the nails backed out, and the whole thing reassembled.

And those are only the missteps I remember. In the end, it took a full 90 minutes to get everything assembled with a perfect fit.

Wow, was I ever glad that mess was going to be hidden inside the covering wall boards when all was said and done; no one would ever notice how clunky the framing had turned out…well, nobody except the folks who read this post on the world wide web, that is.

But, slow or not, it got done, and if you’re doing your own stuff (rather than operating under a money making deadline for someone else), that’s the entire point.

Checking the stub wall framing for fit prior to assembly.  Note the different color of wood for a few inches right under the horizontal ceiling piece.  That's a small extender block, made necessary when I cut the long (vertical) board too short.  Oops.

Checking the stub wall framing for fit prior to assembly. Note the different color of wood for a few inches right under the horizontal ceiling piece. That’s a small extender block, made necessary when I cut the long (vertical) board too short. Oops.

The stub wall framing is finally in place and the wall boards are being added.

The stub wall framing is finally in place and the wall boards are being added.

Fortunately, the rest of the project is pretty straightforward once the stub wall framing is in place. In stark contrast to the seemingly endless struggle it took to get the framing right, both wall covering boards fit perfectly on the first cuts. They were then nailed to the framing, and it was time to build the support system for the heavy safe. This began with the complete “square” of support boards being nailed together first, with the assembled “picture frame” then shoved into the cabinet opening as a single piece before being nailed to the three available walls.

For most utility shelves, I’ve been using 2″ x 3″ horizontal supports–but for this beast, nothing but 2″ x 4″ would do…and even that was not the end of it. In general, I overbuild by a healthy margin; relying on 10d nails to hold up a 100 lb. safe for the next umpteen years did not feel like much of a plan.

So 2″ x 6″ studs were then added beneath the horizontal 2″ x 4″ boards. With those also nailed to the cabinet’s interior walls and holding up all four 2″ x 4″ “picture frame” support boards, you could store a whole lot more than a mere 100 pounds on top with no concern whatsoever.

An OSB strand board shelf was then cut to fit (first try!) and tacked down.

Here, the "picture frame" support board assembly has been inserted into the opening and nailed to the three available walls.

Here, the “picture frame” support board assembly has been inserted into the opening and nailed to the three available walls.

The long view.

The long view.

Here, the rearward pair of 2" x 6" studs are in place.

Here, the rearward pair of 2″ x 6″ studs are in place.

A closer look.

A closer look.

All four 2" x 6" studs are now in place.  The gray marks on the front left stud came from the board's former life as part of a concrete form.

All four 2″ x 6″ studs are now in place. The gray marks on the front left stud came from the board’s former life as part of a concrete form.

A closer look (all 4 studs).

A closer look (all 4 studs).

Before I forgot (it was after 9:00 p.m. and I was working by flashlight, more than ready to be done), it seemed like a good idea to assemble and install the “picture frame” shelf support that would go above the Sentry safe. The shelf itself could wait, since that would entail nothing more than cutting to fit and tacking the strand board piece in place.

This support could go back to using 2″ x 3″ pieces. Other than the safe, nothing heavier than bottles of nutritional supplements are scheduled to fill the cabinet shelves. Pam and I keep a lot of those in stock, up to a year’s supply in reserve when finances allow, but they don’t weigh much. Just nailing those shelf supports to the three cabinet walls will provide plenty of strength for that.

The completed wall cabinet, with shelf framing above and powerfully supported shelf below, is ready to receive the safe.

The completed wall cabinet, with shelf framing above and powerfully supported shelf below, is ready to receive the safe.

Close up view of the cabinet recess designed to hold the Sentry safe.

Close up view of the cabinet recess designed to hold the Sentry safe.

All that’s left to do is lift the safe up over the forward lip of the receiving shelf and slide the beast gently into the cabinet. In sensible families, I suppose, this would likely be a two person project. But hey, it’s not that heavy…is it?

Nah. Piece of cake and a perfect fit to boot.

Home Sweet Home.

Home Sweet Home.

Not bad, if I do say so myself.  Just don't tell anyone it took me 5 hours to Get 'R' Done.

Not bad, if I do say so myself. Just don’t tell anyone it took me 5 hours to Get ‘R’ Done.

Update: January 19, 2014. The additional shelves have now been installed. Most of them are already being put to good use.

The completed shelving arrangement.

The completed shelving arrangement.

7 thoughts on “How To Build a Wall Cabinet to House a Heavy Floor Safe

  1. I like your shelf for your safe. Lots of room for storage of other things too.
    I need to get a safe for some of Dennis’, Katy’s and my meds. We all take some that are highly desired. Dennis’ are the best for that. Katy has panic attacks and migraines that require some pretty hefty meds to stop them. I have panic attacks and some pain pills for my ulner nerve and carpel tunnel. We have had some disappear before and it was terrible when they did. Dennis is not fun when he is in withdrawal from his. Katy had a migraine that had her lying on the bed crying. I had to take her to the hospital and it would have never gotten that bad if she had her meds that were taken. I really need to get one soon, so it doesn’t happen again.

  2. There’s definitely a lot of thieving going on out there; an addict looking for a “free” high is like a Ninja vacuum on steroids, no concern for the suffering victim whatsoever. This particular safe is maybe a touch of overkill, being 1.5 the size of Sentry’s “normal” 0.8 cubic foot unit. Cost $150 at target. It’s been years since we purchased the other, smaller one, but I’m thinking it was under $100 and probably came from Walmart. Also a Sentry. Both are excellent for the purpose (protecting meds from “casual” theft), and both are made by Sentry.

    There’s only one Sentry safe I’ve owned (still have it) that is absolutely worthless for that purpose. It’s a little flat fire safe key lock model–holds a ream or two of typing paper, as we know since that’s where we currently keep my The Seeder manuscript. It turns out that all you need to open it is any flat bladed knife (kitchen silverware or some such). Sliding the blade sideways in the crack between lid and base pops the latch right open with no need for a key at all.

  3. How did you lift a hundred pound safe up that high? I like the setup;much easier to access and, like you said, you can now see inside without standing on your head!

  4. It’s probably not quite 100 pounds. Closer to 90. I rounded up in the post. But another ten pounds or so wouldn’t have made any difference. I grew up chopping wood, digging fence post holes, and slinging bales. By the time I was sixteen, boosting a 100 lb. box of baling wire over the side of the box on Dad’s 1955 Ford F150 pickup (instead of bothering to lower the tailgate) was no big deal.

    This wasn’t much different, just deadlift the safe up to chest height, tip the back end up a bit more to get the edge of the safe over the edge of the shelf, and after that, there’s nothing to it. I could still military press (overhead press) that much in a pinch, though probably not unless it was on a barbell or I was highly motivated. The press has never been my best lift. Did lift 500# (five 100# bags of cement) once, just fooling around, competing with a big guy who started showing off (so I had to match him just for the heck of it). We were on an oil well cementing surface job for Halliburton, had hours to kill, and you know, the testosterone…. Of course, that wasn’t a chest high lift; we just had to come up (not clear from the ground, from a stack of cement bags) so we were standing with them in our arms, show a bit of daylight underneath. That was 30 years ago or so; not sure how close I could come to that today.

    I like the shelf setup, you betcha. Just posted an update pic after getting the rest of the shelves installed. Most of them are now being put to use, but Gato cat is showing way too much interest. Hope I don’t end up having to add a door to the portion beneath the safe, just to keep him from smacking battles all over the place.

  5. Shoot Sha, my oldest son walked off with a 35 lb. bag of dog food when he was 5. Kids had some muscles going. I have had to smack him less than a year ago for picking me up and walking off with me over his shoulder. I am 6’1″ and I hate to say it but I am over 200 lbs. Get some good muscles built when you are young and they never really go away. It hurts to be slung over someones shoulder like that.

  6. I am building a pantry which looks so familiar to yours, but I will be framing mine in cherry and sheet rocking the two walls. Like to show it to you when I am done.

  7. Absolutely; I’d love to see it. Also, if you’d like to see your project featured on this page, I’d be open to posting a photo or two here. You can always call up the “Contact” page and email me. I have a “thing” against sheetrock (long story), but that doesn’t mean it’s not useful stuff for a whole lot of builders out there–and there’s nothing prettier than cherry, in my personal opinion.

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