Summer Shape-Up: A Self-Storage Operator's Guide to Complete Facility Maintenance
Copyright 2014 by Virgo Publishing.
By: Amy Campbell
Posted on: 05/31/2010



 

You don’t have to be a new facility to be the No. 1 choice in your community. Regular maintenance and upkeep will keep your current tenants happy and attract new ones. This ultimate maintenance guide covers everything from your rooftop to the asphalt, unit doors to golf carts. Whether these tasks are performed weekly, daily or as needed, staying on top of them will ensure your facility is in top shape year-round. 

OUTDOORS

How the outside of your facility looks—from the curb to drive aisles—is a critical component of your facility’s success. Potholes, overgrown or dead landscaping, peeling paint, dented doors and burned-out signage gives current and prospective customers a negative vibe about your facility. Here are some guidelines to keeping your outdoor environment looking sharp. 
 
Pavement

Everyone hates potholes. Get rid of these pesky craters as soon as they happen. You’ll need to rely on a professional to do the job, but it’ll be well worth it. If your parking lot is riddled with problems, consider an asphalt overlay. The overlay thickness should be 1.5 to 2.5 inches. Add a sealant to your facility’s pavement every three to five years to minimize cracks and extend its life. Portland cement, which is a fine powder, can also help remove concrete stains. Just sprinkle it over the stain and sweep it up a day later.  
 
Building Exteriors

The exterior of your buildings, particularly at the front of your property, represent your facility’s condition as a whole. If the buildings look rundown with cracks or faded, peeling paint, expect customers to make a beeline to your competitors.

“A simple power-wash could be a low-cost resolution to remove mildew and stains,” says Ryan Dorrell of CertaPro Painters. A fresh coat of paint can also do wonders. Or consider using a coating that restores paint to its previous luster and adds a protective element. For metal siding, use a mild degreaser to keep it clean. Additional tips:

  • Regularly check for building damage made by nature or people.
  • Cracks should be filled to prevent water leakage into units and keep out pests.
  • Rust should be removed and the area repainted to prevent further deterioration.
  • Protect your buildings with bollards. To cut down on maintenance, consider using bollard sleeves, which slide over existing fixtures and can withstand weather and traffic.
  • Hire an exterminator to eradicate unwanted insects and rodents.
  • Keep the grounds free of trash and litter.
  • Facility signage should be bright and easy to read. Replace faded signs or burned-out bulbs in signs that have lighting.

Green Tip: Buy paints and siding with no volatile organic compounds.

Roof

The upkeep of your facility’s roofs is critical. Roofs can collapse, leak and deteriorate. For the best prevention, walk your roofs regularly to remove debris and check for problems. When walking on standing-seam roofs, be careful to tread along the purlins and do not step on the ridge caps. Your roofs will likely have some residue from wind, rain and storm, but you may also find scrap metal, cans and bottles. Dissimilar contact between metals causes corrosion. Birds can also wreak havoc on roofs.

Dale Nelson of Roof Hugger reminds operators to regularly check their roof fasteners. If they begin to show rust or drip, replace them. Use an oversize stainless screw to give the roof the maximum possible life. Look for missing or loose screws, deteriorating rubber washes, separation of lap joints, and exposed sealants that have cracks or bubbles.

Remember to clean out all gutters and downspouts every spring and fall. Make sure the water drainage leads away from the building.

Green Tip: Use a “cool” Polyvinylidene Fluoride paint system, which combats the heat-island effect via solar reflectance. 
 
Landscaping

Whether you have rolling hills of grass punctuated with bright flowers or pebbled paths with a scattering of trees and bushes, well-maintained facility landscaping is a must to attract tenants.

  • Aerate your lawn every year, which allows water to better reach the root system and dramatically improves the look of grassy areas.
  • Prune trees, shrubs and flowers regularly to improve the look and spur growth.
  • Flowers, whether in pots or in beds, should be free of weeds and insects and fertilized regularly.
  • Trim tree branches that threaten power lines or ones that could damage your buildings during severe weather.
  • Remove dead plants, trees and shrubs immediately.

Green Tip: Conserve water by using rock landscaping wherever possible, and add plants that flourish with minimal watering.

Kiosk

Yes, even your facility’s kiosk requires some upkeep. Robert Chiti, president and CEO of OpenTech Alliance Inc., offers these tips:

  • Ensure the kiosk and customers who use it are protected from the rain. The kiosk is built to withstand rain―the consumer, not so much.
  • Keep the kiosk in good working order and replace defective components immediately. Manufacturers warranty their systems so operators should not hesitate to reach out and request replacement components.  
  • Kiosks offer service to customers day and night. Replace any burned-out lighting near the kiosk to ensure customers feel safe when using it. 

MOVABLE FIXTURES: VEHICLES AND CONTAINERS

Whether it’s your golf cart, mobile-storage transport or moving truck, you need to maintain these “wheels” just like any other part of your property.
 
Golf Cart

A golf cart can be a self-storage manager’s best friend. It’s the quickest way to get around the facility property, show units to tenants, and haul trash or cleaning supplies. Gina Six Kudo, manager of Cochrane Road Self Storage, keeps a grabber, a small trash container and a disposable glove on her cart at all times for easy clean-up.

Treat your golf cart as you would any vehicle, checking the oil, tire pressure, etc., and keeping it clean inside and out. Tom Litton of Litton Property Management offers this tip: “Buy a large bar magnet and hang it below the golf cart. It picks up pins, nails and slivers of metal, but mostly brake shavings, which wreak havoc on your asphalt.”

Green Tip: Consider purchasing an electric golf cart. These quiet vehicles often cost less than their gas counterparts. 
 
Mobile Storage

While most mobile-storage containers are designed to be as maintenance-free as possible, there are things you can do to make your fleet look great longer. Steve Hajewski of Trachte Building Systems recommends:

  • Wash them! In the absence of a specific recommendation from your manufacturer, use a mild detergent intended for washing cars or RVs.
  • Signs on the portable units are one of your most powerful marketing tools. If yours don't look great, consider having them touched up or replaced.
  • Stop rust before it can start by touching up any scratches in the paint.                 
  • If containers have roll-up doors, the springs may require periodic lubrication to prevent rust and eventual spring breakage, unless they feature a coating which eliminates this need. Make sure the doors raise and lower smoothly, without slamming up or down. Adjust the spring tension as needed for proper door operation.
  • Containers using solid-steel rollers may have grease fittings in the axles. If so, use a grease gun to lubricate them. For containers using air-filled tires (often a temporary hardware attachment), check the air pressure and condition of the tires.

Moving Trucks

“It is crucial you follow the guidelines in your owner’s manual for preventive maintenance and warranty conditions,” says CJ Olsen of truck provider On the Move Inc.. Treat your facility truck like you would any vehicle. Routinely check its fluid levels including brake, oil, transmission, power steering, windshield-washer and coolant.

Verify the tires are in good condition, and turn signals, headlights, brake lights and interior lights are operable. Your truck should be detailed and cleaned out regularly. Repair all damage to your truck as soon as possible.

Keep your truck graphics up to date to reflect a positive impression of the cleanliness of your facility. Peeling graphics or those with graffiti are deterrents to renters. A clean, well-cared-for truck will show customers you have a quality business.

BUILDING COMPONENTS

This where a bulk of your day-to-day maintenance comes in. Your doors, units and office require regular upkeep. Preventive maintenance can usually keep small problems from becoming major hassles. 
 
Doors

Doors are a vital part of your business, and they require upkeep. You don’t want them to be faded, chalky, dented, squeaky, jammed or difficult to open. Here’s your “Door Maintenance 101 Guide.”

  • Keep ‘em clean. Good old soap and water can be your door’s best friend. Wash in the shade to prevent water spots. Get rid of greasy fingerprints and smudges with a quality spray cleaner and a cloth. Be careful not to get water into the units. Replace faded, missing or broken door numbers.
  • Restore doors with a quality protective coating, which can safeguard them from corrosion and oxidation. Teresa Sedmak of Everbrite Inc. advises using a coating that will expand and contract and has good adhesion to metal, because roll-up doors flex when rolled up and down.
  • A fresh coat of paint will brighten and protect your doors. Look for paints recommended for self-storage metal doors.  
  • Over time, the oils on the door axles, springs and tracks can dry out, and problems arise where rubber and plastic surfaces come in contact. Self-storage building manufacturer BETCO Inc. recommends lubricating springs and axles with spray or lithium grease. At the same time, door tracks should be sprayed with clear silicone. These items are readily available at any auto-supply or home-improvement store. Do not use grease or WD-40 on the guides, it will attract dirt and gum up the rollers.
  • For interior hallway doors and panels, do not use hoses or buckets of water. Instead, use a quality waterless wash and wax to clean and shine.

 

Elevator and Lifts

Elevator and lifts maintenance is often ignored until something goes wrong. Be proactive and follow these tips:

  1. Get the extended warranty. Make sure you’re covered for the long term.
  2. If your elevator is not working, check for blown fuses or tripped circuit breakers before calling the manufacturer.
  3. Replace obsolete equipment. When converting older buildings to self-storage or upgrading first-generation facilities, follow OSHA standards.
  4. Consider installing a lift instead of an elevator. Lifts transport tenants’ goods but not people. They are typically more cost-effective and easier to maintain and will serve the same purpose: getting stuff to the units. Lifts should also be routinely inspected and serviced by a certified tech.
  5. Install diamond-plate aluminum on the floor and sides of the lift. It looks good and lasts forever. Aluminum is also light and will not significantly increase weight.

Unit Interiors

Imagine opening a unit in front of prospective customer only to find it dirty or showing signs of pests. When a unit is vacated, sweep the floor, ceilings and corners. The floor may also need a good mopping. Kill odors with a deodorizer. Check for evidence of leaking, insects and rodents. Be sure to lock vacant units.

Office and Restrooms

Once you’ve lured customers with your outstanding curb appeal, maintain that good impression with your office and restrooms.

  • Above all, your office should be neat and clean.
  • Ban odors—like today’s lunch—with light air fresheners or deodorizers, or open the door whenever possible.
  • The office counter should be free of clutter, food and trash. This isn’t the place for stacks of magazines, newspapers, knick knacks or other inappropriate items. Likewise, the desk behind the counter should be neat and orderly.
  • Have your emergency procedures and contact list readily available. This should include phone numbers, your media statement and a map of the property. You can also add a list of non-emergency numbers such as your vendors, 24-hour repairman or plumber, electric and towing companies, and police and fire.
  • Wash windows three times a week with a commercial cleaner. Once a month, remove screens and storm windows and wash them inside and out.
  • Keep the carpet tidy. That means having it professionally cleaned regularly, and replacing it when worn or torn. Vacuum the carpet daily. If your carpet is shabby, considering replacing it with ceramic tile, which is easier to clean and more durable.
  • If you cringe when using your office bathroom, imagine what your customer thinks. Check the restroom several times a day to tidy up. Keep it stocked with paper products and hand soap. Inviting restrooms leave a good impression.
  • Keep office equipment free of dust and replace items when needed. Wipe telephones several times a day with a quality disinfectant to reduce the spreading of germs.
  • Back up all software. Put all your data on a removable storage device and don't keep it in the office. Create a back-up process and do it regularly. If there’s a computer failure, this information becomes priceless.
  • Keep your retail area stocked. You can’t sell what you don’t have. Add some clever, professional signs, such as, “How many boxes do you need?” or “Don’t forget packing tape.”

 

Green Tip: Use environment-friendly cleaning products and supplies. Sell recycled boxes and packing materials. In the restroom, add a timer to the light switch, and install low-flow toilets and faucets.

SECURITY EQUIPMENT

Security and safety should always be a high priority. Cameras, door alarms, lighting, fencing and gates act as deterrents and keep employees, tenants and their belongings safe. Schedule regular inspections of your property’s security systems. Look for damage and deterioration, dead batteries, cracked or missing seals, proper mounting and loose wires. 
 
Gates and Gate Operators

The cornerstone of your security system, gates and gate operators need regular upkeep to run smoothly. Note: When performing maintenance on gates, always turn off the power to the gate operator.

  • Slide-gate chains should be well-lubricated and properly tensioned. 
  • Keep the gate’s path free of debris.
  • Make sure all gate safety loops, miller edges and beams are working correctly.
  • Look for wear and tear on sprockets or gears, and have replaced as needed.
  • Replace old gate operators.
  • Have a spare keypad on hand.  That way if one goes down, the gate doesn’t have to be left open.
  • Any repairs and adjustments should be deferred to a professional.
  • If you have a solar gate, Joe Osborn of Sun Power Security Gates Inc. reminds you to maintain the battery, inspect the wiring often for rodent chew marks, and use an air compressor to keep the operator free of dust.

Green Tip: Consider adding a solar gate.   
 
Cameras

Keep out dust and dirt by regularly vacuuming the camera, equipment area, monitor and digital video recorder (DVR). If you’re still using a VHS player and video tapes, replace them with a DVR. To ensure your DVR records all the action, check it regularly. It should be set to retain video records for a set period of time.

Some cameras may also lose focus or be moved either accidentally or on purpose. Tony Gardner of QuikStor Security & Software suggests operators purchase a service plan for video systems that includes a technician visiting your property every three to six months to clean the camera lenses and housings, adjust focus, and confirm cameras are angled correctly. 
 
Other Security Components

  • Check batteries periodically. Your smoke detector battery should be replaced every six months.
  • “Lighting in hallways and the exterior are an important part of the overall security package,” says John Fogg of Sentinel Systems Corp. “It helps at camera locations, and is a deterrent.  Any burned-out lights or malfunctioning fixtures should be addressed immediately.” 
  • Test intercoms regularly to ensure there’s a clear signal and they’re not broken, sticky or dirty. If you pipe in music around your facility, keep it neutral and non-intrusive.
  • Keep your keypads clean, particularly the LDC screen. If the keypad has an intercom in it, check for two-way communication with the office.
  • Inspect door alarms every time a unit is vacated. Look for damage to the door switch or magnet, check wires for fraying and damage, and examine brackets for breakage or tampering. Batteries for wireless alarm transmitters last three to five years. 

For contact information on these and other companies that provide products and services to the self-storage industry, view the Inside Self-Storage Buyer’s Guide at www.insideselfstorage.com/bg.  

Sources: AJAY  Equipment Corp., BETCO Inc., Chamberlain Access Solutions, CertaPro Painters, Everbrite Inc., Litton Property Management Inc. On the Move Inc., OpenTech Alliance Inc., QuikStor Security and Software, Roof Hugger Inc., Schindler Elevator Corp., Sentinel Systems Corp., Sun Power Security Gates Inc., ThyssenKrupp Elevator, Trachte Building Systems, US Door and Building Components. 

Images provided by: AJAY Equipment Corp., Cochrane Road Self Storage, Everbrite Inc., Lock Box Self Storage, On the Move Inc., OpenTech Alliance Inc., QuikStor Security and Software, Storage Solutions, Trachte Building Systems. 

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