When it comes to a vault room or panic room, the vault door is the most important element that can literally make or break the room’s security function.
After all, the vault door is the only aspect of the vault room that is designed to allow people in, so it is also technically the most vulnerable part of the room in the event of break-ins and attacks.
Thus, it’s very important to make sure you have an adequately secure door based on the potential threat levels that is also installed correctly.
So, what are the considerations you should have when choosing a vault room door?
Table of Contents
Buying Vault Room Door: Key Factors to Consider
The purpose of the room:
There are two basic different purposes for a room secured with a vault room door:
- If the room is only designed to secure valuables inside, then it’s a standard vault room. In this case, the door would only need to be locked/unlocked from the outside. Having an additional locking mechanism for the interior side of the door would also mean extra potential vulnerabilities.
- If the room is also designed to secure people, then it is called a panic room or safe room. In such cases, the door should be easily locked and unlocked from both the inside and outside of the room.
The threat level:
A very important consideration is to first assess the threat level of your property. If your vault room is going to store a highly targeted, very valuable item and the area you live in has a high level of burglary rate, then you’ll need a more secure door.
You should ideally perform a thorough risk assessment by:
- List all potential threats and simulate various incident scenarios
- Evaluating various potential threats, both natural threats, and manmade threats
- Measure the potential impact of each threat
- List current security measures in the property (if any)
The solidness of material and weight:
Solid steel is considered the strongest material for vault room doors, and steel is heavy.
The lighter the door, the less strength it tends to have.
Even an entry-level vault room and security doors would weigh around a couple hundred pounds. Obviously, a lighter door would cost less but is typically constructed with lighter and weaker material (or a combination of materials) that would make the door more vulnerable to ramming, prying, and projectile impacts (including explosives).
High-end vault room doors may weigh over a thousand pounds, and it’s best to choose a heavy enough door (around 500 lbs and above) made of solid materials according to your threat level. Ideally, the vault room door must be made from a continuous solid steel plate that is at least half an inch in thickness.
If budget is an issue and/or the threat level is not very high, then you can opt for a lighter material. Get as many details as possible about the material from the manufacturer before deciding on a door.
The vault room door will be the most common point of entry for flames and smoke in the event of fire hazards. It’s crucial to ensure the vault room door is protected with a high-quality heat-expanding seal to keep smoke and heat out of the room, especially if the room is also designed as a panic room. Also, the door must have a high enough fire insulation rating.
Also, consider how easy it will be to operate and open/close the door in the event of a fire.
Make sure the door is equipped with a strong enough multi-point locking system that will effectively secure the door on the front side, top and bottom, and hinge side with more than 5 sophisticated security bolts. You should get a locking system that has UL-approved Group 2 standard or better.
There are many affordable vault room doors but they don’t feature any UL-approved lock. Not only these locking systems might not be adequately secure, but they are also often prone to failures. If the lock is broken, opening the malfunctioning lock can be extremely time-consuming and expensive, and there are cases of owners permanently locked out of the vault room due to a broken lock.
All vault doors always feature an internal release feature, allowing people (who knows the combination of the door) to open the door from the inside of the vault room to prevent them from being trapped and locked inside the room when they accidentally closed the door from the inside.
However, for a panic room, we have to ensure the door is also equipped with an internal lockout mechanism so we can control access from inside the panic room. There’s typically an additional lever located near the interior handle of the door, which will prevent someone from entering the room even if they have the safe combination.
The vault room should have a relocking system in place to keep the door locked in the event of burglary attempts, break-ins, and impacts. Typically this is made possible by relocker pins that will be hardened in the event of an impact, and these pins can only be retracted via manual drilling. The more relockers, the better, but keep in mind that if the door is strong/thick enough, attackers may be able to drill through it, rendering the relocking system useless.
While many manufacturers advertise their doors as vault room doors, the claim might not be justified if the door isn’t properly tested and certified.
Since the door is going to be used to protect your valuables—and quite possibly, your life—, it’s best to purchase a certified, tested door from a reputable manufacturer. Custom vault room doors from Fortified Estate, for example, are certified by the US Bureau of Diplomatic Security, NTS Chesapeake, and more testing institutions for high-security doors.