The SentrySafe SFW205CWB has several attractive features but also some drawbacks.
The best safes are constructed all of steel. Nevertheless, those made of the newer plastics can be secure and highly fire-resistant. The outer material is usually a tough resin and the liner is a special kind of concrete, as is the case here.
The concrete helps resist thermal transfer, and the wall material slightly expands when heated to help seal the safe. The combination makes for a highly fire-resistant and waterproof enclosure in theory. The problem here is not the materials but some aspects of the design.
The SFW205CWB has no bolt-down feature integrated into the enclosure. However, if you want a secure installation, you can drill through two designated spots on the bottom of the case.
This kind of do-it-yourself feature is fraught with risk, though. Any slip can reduce the safe’s fire resistance or water exclusion ability. If you’re careful, it can work out well, and the mounting hardware is included. I prefer that the manufacturer integrate that into the design and do the work at the factory.
On the other hand, if you choose not to bolt down the safe, you increase your risk of theft. The unit weighs about 125 lbs, heavy but still light enough for two men or one very muscular one to carry away without too much trouble.
If none of that bothers you, great, you can live with it, especially if you live in a very low-crime area and fire hazard or water damage are highly likely more potential risks in the neighborhood.
The capacity is small enough that I simply couldn’t put enough valuables in here to protect all those I would want to protect.
Best Combo Fireproof Safe
SentrySafe SFW205CWB is a classic fireproof and water-resistant safe with a traditional mechanical combination lock. It’s the optimal safe if you prefer the combo lock access.
The internal measurements are a medium 19.6″ (H) x 14.8″ (W) x 11.9″ (D). That works out to 2.0 cubic feet. It might be fine for you, but a little small for my needs.
The safe comes with a multi-position 5″ deep organizer, which is welcome. The problem is, it’s a bit flimsy. And a shelf, which doesn’t fit well and isn’t easy to move in or out of the slots. On the upside, there are pegs for hanging keys and a door pocket that’s quite handy.
The SentrySafe SFW205CWB has a drawback for those who need to store things other than paper. It gets credit for carrying a UL rating, and not all consumer fire safes do. But it’s a UL 350, which means it’s rated to allow the inside temperature to rise no higher than 350 F when exposed to external temperatures up to 1700 F.
Fine for paper, but that’s not good enough to store electronics or photo negatives and might represent a risk to pearls. So, there are a number of things you just wouldn’t want to put into this model, reducing its value as a fire safe. If all you need to store are paper documents, you’re covered. In my case, the electronics and precious valuables are more important.
Along with the temp rating, the unit carries a 1-Hour time rating. Again, that’s not bad and, in fact, fairly common in home safes. But it’s limiting. If you live in an area where the fire department may not show up right away, you’d better hope you spot the blaze yourself pretty quickly.
A UL 125 2-Hour rating would be a minimum requirement if you have a high requirement for fire rating, maybe storing ultra-important files and media. If you can compromise on that rating, you can lower your cost for a safe by going with this lesser unit.
In addition to the UL fire rating, the safe is ETL verified water-resistant in up to 8 inches of water for up to 24 hrs. Keep in mind, though, that mounting the safe may compromise the water resistance.
Still, even if you have more flexible requirements, the fire-resistance material in this model tends to exude moisture. As a result, you may find yourself needing to take steps to keep the interior dry. If you don’t care if your documents curl, it’s not an issue. It doesn’t get sopping inside. But electronics need low humidity, if you’re willing to risk storing a USB drive inside, for example.
A good desiccant can cure that issue pretty quickly. The Hornady Reusable Canister Dehumidifier works well to remove moisture from the air and it can be “re-charged” many times. That is, you can put it in an oven to drive out any moisture and re-use the package. Or, if you open the safe fairly regularly (at least once a month) in a dry environment, the moisture accumulation problem will likely solve itself.
Alternatively, you can enclose moisture-sensitive material inside a zip-lock plastic bag. Personally, I prefer the manufacturer design the safe so I don’t have to think about these things. You might be more flexible here.
Dial Combination Lock
Unfortunately, the SFW205CWB has a potential weakness: the lock.
You might have a low risk of burglary, and the capacity might well be large enough for your valuables. Your need for fire resistance and water protection can be modest. The materials you need to store, or the way you store them, may not cause a problem with moisture. But if the lock doesn’t work reliably and smoothly, the safe simply isn’t one I could recommend.
In some reports, that’s the case with this model. Certainly, it’s secure. And, I’m not at all opposed to the traditional-style dial combination lock. On the contrary, I prefer it. Too many push-button, digital pads today are too easy to hack or fail too frequently. So, unless they have a key override, they’re more prone to be trouble.
You would have to actually feel this one to get the idea, but the plastic and gearing on this lock isn’t as high quality as I would prefer. A quality lock is smooth and feels that way. A good one is quiet, solid, and feels good to use. The one in this unit can be hard to turn, and it sticks from time to time. All in all, there are parts of this model that feel like lower quality.
The safe comes with a combination that can not be changed. Also, there is no backup way to open the safe, like an emergency key lock. That’s why SentrySafe recommends to register your safe so you can easily retrieve your forgotten combination.
For the price the SentrySafe SFW205CWB has a decent size and moderate weight, and offers a medium-level of fire and water protection. But the floor-mounting method is not quite as good as one could wish. The quality control of the lock manufacturing could use some improvement. On the whole, I’d give it a pass but you might find it acceptable for your needs.