Are File Cabinets Fireproof? All You Need to Know

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A filing cabinet, or file cabinets for short, is an important part of any workspace, whether at home or the office. Because file cabinets are used to store important documents, many ask the question: are filing cabinets fireproof? This is understandable as security is an important factor when trying to protect the contents inside. 

Are file cabinets fireproof? No, file cabinets are not fireproof. Most filing cabinets are made from steel, which is a horrible insulator. Nonetheless, there are many fire-resistant file cabinets that are rated to withstand various fire temperatures for a given period of time. These can offer more protection for your documents when fire occurs.

With that said, most fire-resistant options can not only protect your documents should a fire happen, but it also allows you to safely store them in an organized manner. In this post, we are going to take a closer look at some of the things you can do to protect your important documents, both at home or at the office.

About File Cabinets

A filing cabinet or a file cabinet is a piece of office furniture that is equipped with drawers, used to store paper and documents. The drawers are often organized in a vertical manner. While a file cabinet is mainly used to store documents, it is also designed to help organize documents in an easy-to-use manner as well.

Generally, a file cabinet is uniformly made of 18-gauge steel. While you can find specialized versions of filing cabinets made from oak, the most common material used to make them is steel. The bottom of the file cabinet case may or may not be enclosed. Metal or steel file cabinets are built to last.

However, with the increasing use of the internet these days, many are moving from storing files using filing cabinets to using cloud storage to safely store work-related documents. In a world progressing towards a paperless ecosystem, nonetheless, file cabinets are still the best option to safely store important papers.

You might also like: How to Paint a Metal File Cabinet

Are Metal or Steel File Cabinets Fireproof?

So, are metal or steel file cabinets fireproof? Unfortunately, metal or steel file cabinets are not fireproof. The cabinet itself might not burn, but steel or metal is an awful insulator. If it's hot on the outside of the cabinet, it will be hot on the inside as well. Some cabinets, however, are fire-resistant, not fireproof.

It’s important to note that nothing is fireproof. Everything is fire-rated. Fire-resistant cabinets are rated to withstand various fire temperatures for a given period of time. While a filing cabinet might not have an official rating, the contents should be fine if the cabinet can withstand the heat before the sprinkler goes off.

Fire-resistant file cabinets are equipped with a layer of inflammable insulation between the walls of the cabinet. This is done to help slow down the rise of temperature on the inside. The goal is to minimize the temperature on the inside of the cabinet, providing enough time for the fire to be extinguished before the point of combustion.

1. What makes a file cabinet fireproof?

Taking everything into account, there are several file cabinets in the market today that are designed to actively protect your documents should fire occur. This type of filing cabinets are considered ‘fireproof’ by many users.

What makes a file cabinet ‘fireproof’? Special encapsulated chambers filled with vermiculite (lightweight, highly-water absorbent clay mineral) are what makes a file cabinet ‘fireproof’. When the temperature rises during a fire, the vermiculite melts into water and will turn into steam, absorbing the heat while keeping the documents cool.

Some models, like this one (link to Amazon), are UL Classified to protect your most important documents and valuables for up to 30 minutes at 1550˚F (843˚C). You can keep your most important medical records, business records, or financial paperwork organized and protected at all times.

Not only will these cabinets protect your documents from fire damage, but they are also designed to prevent water damage caused by office sprinkler systems. 

PRO TIP: Fireproof file cabinets are designed for the safety of your documents and valuables. Sensitive and highly important paperwork should always be kept in a fireproof filing cabinet, while valuable materials should be kept in a fireproof safe. This will effectively protect you in the event of any disaster.

2. Is a fireproof safe worth it?

This depends on a number of factors. However, we genuinely think that a fireproof safe is worth it. Thankfully, most fireproof safes are affordable and can withstand 30 minutes of scorching temperatures. Best of all, you’ll get an extra key so you don’t have to learn how to pick a file cabinet lock.

A smart thing to do would be to minimize paper documents and go paperless altogether. With many cloud storage providers, you can safely keep work-related documents online, while keeping the bare essential documents inside a ‘fireproof’ safe or file cabinet. Thirty minutes of fire protection is more than enough.

3. Do regular metal file cabinets burn?

Do metal file cabinets burn? Metal is an excellent thermal conductor. This simply means that metal will easily transfer the heat from the outside in. Therefore, the contents of a normal metal file cabinets can easily burn because there are papers (which can fuel the fire) and air (oxygen that keeps the fire lit).  

Because fire-retardant materials are costly, most file cabinets offer little to no protection from direct exposure to fire. This means that metal cabinets do burn. The paper and documents on the inside of the cabinet may combust and burn, unless the exposure is very brief. Your best bet is to buy a fire-resistant file cabinet.

Bottom Line

And there you have it, a simple post to answer the question: are file cabinets fireproof? Thankfully, we are living in the digital age of convenient cloud storage. Nonetheless, should you need to store important paper and documents, you are now well-informed of what a filing cabinet can or cannot do. 🙂