Metal file cabinets are widely used in offices, homes, and institutions across the globe. While they offer an efficient way to organize your documents, you might wonder if they could also protect your files in the event of a fire. So, are metal file cabinets fireproof? The short answer is:
No, standard metal file cabinets are not fireproof. While metal is a fire-resistant material, it is not immune to high temperatures. That’s why standard metal cabinets can withstand only a certain level of heat, but will not protect the contents from fire damage. However, there are specialized Fireproof file cabinets available that will provide protection from fire.
Find out more about which metal file cabinets are fireproof, what makes some them fire-resistant, and how to choose the best fireproof file cabinet for your needs in this article.
Are Metal File Cabinets Fireproof or Not?
Contrary to popular belief, NOT ALL metal file cabinets are fireproof. Standard cabinets, even though they are made of steel/metal can withstand a limited level of heat only.
Just imagine it – years of paperwork, vital contracts, and irreplaceable personal records, gone in a matter of minutes. Sounds devastating, right? No one would want to lose all their essential documents to a fire.
But fireproof file cabinet do exist. These cabinets are designed with multiple layers of fire-resistant materials, and they are typically made with a thicker gauge of steel. Unlike ordinary file cabinets they are tested to meet required fire safety standards.
Here’s a good example of such Fireproof metal cabinet:
- It is a Fireproof File Cabinet with a proved 350 1-hour Rating, ideal for documents and papers. These fire files are tested for fire at 1700°F. They are also explosion tested at 2000°F.
- Water Resistant: Besides fire protection this model also comes with water seals to prevent water damage caused by fire hose spray or sprinklers.
So, if you need to protect your documents from fire, you will need to use such specialized fireproof metal file cabinets. They are available in a variety of sizes and styles, so you can find one that meets your needs.
And here is our picks for absolute Best Fireproof and Waterproof File Cabinets on the market.
What Are Metal File Cabinets?
And for those who are not familiar with the available types of filing cabinets. Here’s a short explanation of what Metal file cabinets specifically are.
These are cabinets made of metal, typically steel. They are used to store documents, business contracts and other personal records. Metal file cabinets come in a variety of types, dimensions, price categories. And they are often used in both office and home settings.
Metal file cabinets are popular for a number of reasons. They are durable, can withstand heavy use and are easy to maintain. They are also secure, with locks to protect the contents from unauthorized access. Unlike wooden cabinets, which are susceptible to termites and decay, metal cabinets are long-lasting and robust.
Metal file cabinets are also relatively inexpensive, making them a good value for the price.
Where Are Metal File Cabinets Used?
Metal file cabinets are most often used in offices, but they can also be used in homes, schools, libraries, and other businesses. Because they are so versatile you can literally stumble upon one anywhere, where some sort of documentation is being held.
- In offices, metal file cabinets are used to store a variety of documents, including customer records, financial records, employee records, legal documents, and medical records. Office supplies like pens, paper, and staples are also stored in cabinets.
- In homes, metal file cabinets can be used to store important documents, such as tax records, property deeds, medical records, insurance papers, birth certificates and personal identification. Metal file cabinets can also be used to store personal records, such as photos, letters, and other memorabilia. In a way they are an alternative to a safe.
- In schools and libraries, metal file cabinets are used to store student records, books, and other materials. Metal file cabinets are also used to store school supplies, such as pens, paper, and pencils.
- Government offices and healthcare facilities also use them when secure and durable storage is necessary.
What Are Metal File Cabinets Typically Made of?
Metal file cabinets are typically made of steel. Steel is a strong and durable material that is resistant to fire and water. The quality of the metal used can significantly impact the cabinet’s durability and fire-resistance. Metal file cabinets are also often coated with a powder coating to protect them from rust and corrosion.
Here are some of the specific materials that are typically used to make metal file cabinets:
- Steel: Steel is the main material used to make metal file cabinets. Steel is a strong and durable metal that is resistant to fire and water.
- Powder coating: Powder coating is a type of paint that is applied to metal file cabinets to protect them from rust and corrosion. Powder coating is also available in a variety of colors and finishes, so you can choose a metal file cabinet that matches your decor.
- Hardware: Metal file cabinets often have metal hardware, such as handles, locks, and drawers. Metal hardware is strong and durable, and it can withstand heavy use.
What Makes Some Metal File Cabinets Fireproof?
Now you might be wondering what is the reason for some of these cabinets to be so fire-resistant. Well, specialized metal file cabinets are fireproof due to a number of features, including:
- Thicker gauge steel: Fireproof metal file cabinets are typically made with a thicker gauge of steel than non-fireproof metal file cabinets. Thicker gauge steel is more resistant to heat and flames.
- Additional layers of fire-resistant Insulation: Fireproof metal file cabinets typically have insulation between the inner and outer walls of the cabinet. It consists of layers of fire-resistant materials like gypsum or ceramic. This insulation helps to keep the contents of the cabinet cool in the event of a fire.
- Seals around the doors and drawers: Fireproof metal file cabinets often have seals around the doors and drawers to prevent smoke and heat from entering.
In addition to these features, fireproof metal file cabinets are often tested and certified by independent organizations to meet certain fire safety standards. This ensures that the cabinets can withstand the heat and flames of a fire.
How Long Do Fireproof Metal Cabinets Last?
A fireproof metal cabinet will last at minimum for the entire duration indicated in its fire rating. A 1-hour UL Class 350 cabinet will last at least for an hour. A 2-hour UL Class 350 cabinet will last at least for 2 hours.
You might be wondering if this is enough. The answer is – yes, in most cases it is indeed a sufficient fire-resistance rating. Even if the house or an office fire lasts longer the fire intensity changes greatly and rather quickly. In an average office fire the peak intensity lasts for 20 minutes. And in other stages of the fire emergency the temperature levels usually go down. Fireproof file cabinets are tested for very high heat limits that often exceed those in actual residential fires. That’s why on practice they can withstand fire damage for longer duration, than the one in the fireproof rating.
When estimating how fireproof are file cabinets, you should take into account such factors:
- Material Longevity. Fireproof cabinets are constructed with multiple layers of fire-resistant materials, such as gypsum or ceramic, sandwiched between thick gauges of steel. These materials are designed to withstand high temperatures for a specific duration, indicated by the cabinet’s fire rating. However, like any other material, these fire-resistant layers can degrade over time. Exposure to moisture, fluctuating temperatures, and even the simple passage of time can affect their efficacy.
- Certification and Recertification. Fireproof cabinets come with a fire rating, measured in hours or minutes, indicating how long they can protect your documents in the event of a fire. An average fireproof duration is 1 hour (60 minutes). There are cabinets with higher fireproof certification, like 1.5 or 2 hour fire rating. We also recommend to conduct periodic recertification or at least an inspection by a qualified professional to make sure your file cabinet is in good condition.
- Expectations vs. Reality. Many assume that a fireproof cabinet is a one-time investment that will last a lifetime. While high-quality fireproof cabinets are built to be durable, their fire-resistant capabilities are not eternal. The longevity and the effectiveness will depend on how they are used.
How to Choose a Fireproof Metal File Cabinet
When choosing a fireproof metal file cabinet, it is important to consider the following factors:
- Fire rating: The fire rating of a metal file cabinet indicates how long it can protect your documents from fire. Fire ratings are typically measured in hours.
- Size and Capacity: The size and capacity of a metal file cabinet determines how much documents it can hold. Home owners tend to choose smaller models. On the other hand in the offices you will most likely see big cabinets.
- Price: Fireproof metal file cabinets can be expensive, but it is important to invest in a quality cabinet that will protect your important documents.
- Locking mechanism: A good locking mechanism is important to protect your documents from unauthorized access.
- Mobility: Some metal file cabinets have wheels, making them easy to move around. If you need a mobile metal file cabinet, be sure to choose one with wheels that are large enough and durable enough to support the weight of the cabinet.
- Finish: Metal file cabinets are available in a variety of finishes, including powder coating, paint, and stainless steel. Choose a finish that matches your décor and that will protect the cabinet from rust and corrosion.
Metal file cabinets are a popular choice for storing important documents and paper records. While metal file cabinets offer a level of fire resistance due to their metal construction, not all metal file cabinets are fireproof. For proven and reliable fire safety, you will need to get a specialized fireproof file cabinets that come with additional layers of fire-resistant materials and certifications.
It’s worth noting there are no storage unites, file cabinets or safes that are absolutely fireproof. Given the time and the heat levels anything can be damaged by fire. But in case of most house fires, we already know the typical average and maximum heal levels. And thus, these fireproof filling cabinets are made to withstand such potential threats.
Fireproof metal file cabinets are available in a variety of sizes and styles, so you can find one that meets your needs. When choosing a fireproof metal file cabinet, be sure to consider the fire rating, capacity, price, and other features that are important to you personally.