Door Maintenance

Door Maintenance
Keep them rolling and looking good

By Teresa Sedmak

Storage doors are considered a trademark of the self-storage industry. They are its most recognizable feature--when people see a series of doors, they normally think storage. That being the case, the condition of your self-storage doors makes a huge difference in the overall appeal of your facility. If the doors don't look well cared for, are chalky or dirty, are not maintained or don't work properly, you may be losing business. As most of us know, customers relate well-maintained, clean properties to safer and more secure facilities.

Maintenance Challenges

Sun, salt air, acid rain and other damaging elements take their toll on the paint on metal doors and buildings. Ultraviolet rays will eventually fade and chalk even the best paint. Salt air can oxidize and pit the metal, causing ugly corrosion. Dirt and dust will settle and stick on the chalky or oxidized doors. Even when the metal doors or buildings are cleaned, they can remain dull and dingy.

Dirt or grit in the guides of the doors can gum up the mechanisms. More commercial customers are renting storage units and the doors may get more wear. If the doors do not have bearings, the steel-on-steel friction may cause excessive wear if not maintained.

The original paint on metal buildings and doors, such as aluminum or steel, is baked on in the factory. Many times, when your doors are put up, touch-up paint that matches the color of your doors is used by the contractor to cover any scratches. At the time it is touched up it matches very well, but the non-baked paint will oxidize more easily, and blotches can appear where the touch-up paint fades faster than the original.

While roll-up doors generally require little or low maintenance, there are some periodic preservation procedures you can use to ensure better-looking, longer-lasting and well-working doors and buildings.

Maintenance Solutions

Fading and Chalking
Door manufacturers are constantly working to offer better paint finishes. Even though metal doors and buildings will eventually fade and chalk from sun exposure, the good news is there is still good paint under the chalk that can be refinished to look new. But if you clean the doors or metal buildings and don't seal or protect the surface, they will soon fade or chalk again.

Some owners repaint their metal doors or buildings to brighten them up. There are, however, problems with repainting the metal. Moisture can get inbetween the original baked-on paint and the new, softer layer of paint, causing bubbling and peeling. Paint that is not baked on will also oxidize much faster than original paint, bringing back the chalking and fading problem the owner attempted to solve in the first place.

Instead of painting to brighten up faded metal doors and buildings, refinishing with a high-quality, protective coating is a good alternative. Once the surface is cleaned from chalk and other soiling agents, a good clearcoat can restore the doors' former appearance. Make sure the coating will bring back the original color, be easy to work with, will not crack, peel or discolor with exposure to the elements, and will protect from sun, salt air, acid rain, moisture and other damaging elements. A good protective coating will also make the doors much easier to keep clean by repelling dust and dirt.

If your metal doors and buildings are already peeling, or if you need a color change, repainting is the only option. Make sure you have the surface properly prepared, and use quality materials. If you are planning to slurry coat your property, have the refinishing or painting done first. In either case, the chalky oxidation will have to be removed and can cause stains if not washed off the slurry immediately.

Salt-Air Oxidation
In areas close to the ocean or even by Salt Lake City, pay particular attention to the tops of doors, especially on the sides of the building that don't dry as quickly because of lack of sun exposure, such as the north side. Even if you are miles from salt water, you can get oxidation from the fog. Rub your hand along the doors. If they are rough, that is salt-air oxidation, and it can cause extreme corrosion and damage to your doors and buildings.

Similarly, if you use salt for snow and ice control, keep an eye out at the bottom of your doors and metal buildings for corrosion. This corrosion needs to be stopped before it causes major damage. Paint alone cannot stop rust or corrosion. Paint breathes and will allow moisture to penetrate, and rust can travel underneath or quickly penetrate back through. In areas where salt air is a problem, check your interior doors for corrosion as well, especially if your hallways are open. The moist salt air can settle and corrode the interior doors as well. A protective coating formulated to stop salt oxidation will prevent additional damage.

Door Numbers
Door numbers will eventually fade and crack, creating a poor impression for potential tenants. When replacing numbers, use the highest-quality vinyl numbers possible in an easy-to-read, block style. Otherwise, you will be replacing your numbers more often.

Periodic Maintenance
When a unit is vacated, there are several procedures to ensure your doors remain in good working order:

  • When you sweep out the unit, sweep any cobwebs and dirt out of the guides on the door. You may want to wipe them down with a rag to remove dirt that will interfere with the smooth operations of the door. Do not use grease or WD-40 on the guides as it will attract dirt and grime and gum up the rollers.
  • Check to make sure the door is securely screwed into the wall. The screws may have backed out after excessive use. Sometimes none of the screws are in place.
  • Oil or lubricate the springs with a very light coat of oil to reduce friction and prevent rust. Check the tension and adjust according to the manufacturer's directions. Maintaining the spring tension and making sure they are balanced is critical. People who hurt their backs trying to raise doors that stick or open unevenly can file lawsuits.
  • Check the pull cords, especially if they are on the outside, as they wear very quickly. Frayed cords do not give a well-maintained image. Tom Berlin, vice president of operations for Pogoda Management Co. in Michigan, says nylon rope is very durable when used for pull cords, particularly in colder areas where routine winter maintenance (i.e., snowblowing) can damage them. Make sure you melt or singe the cord ends so they won't fray.
  • Inspect the unit for signs of leakage, and replace worn weather seals as necessary.
  • If your doors are dented, Roll Right Industries of Anaheim, Calif., offers dent tool kits that fit the doors of several manufacturers. Terry Rider, the company's national sales manager, also advises that if you must paint older doors, make sure to readjust the springs to compensate for the extra weight of the paint.

In conclusion, since the appearance and smooth operations of your doors project your image to the public, maintenance does not cost you money. It makes you money and keeps your customers and employees happy.

The author wishes to extent a special thanks to Lolita Bader of Quik # - Door Numbers, Terry Rider of Roll Right Industries, Tom Berlin of The Pogoda Companies and Bert Brown of DBCI (Doors and Building Components Inc.) for their contributions to this article.

Teresa Sedmak is the president and co-owner of Everbrite Inc., which manufactures and markets Everbrite Protective Coating, and Pacific Pride Products Inc., the contracting division. She is also a licensed painting contractor with extensive experience and knowledge of protective coatings. For more information, visit or; call 800.304.0566; email [email protected].

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