Renew, Renovate, Remodel
Remarkable products to create an aesthetically pleasing facility
By Amy Campbell
We all know an extensive marketing program and a good location are key factors to self-storage success. Excellent customer service is equally important. But often, owners and managers focus so much energy on sales and service they forget another key component—facility maintenance. A well-maintained facility—inside and out—tells tenants you care about them and their belongings. Leaky roofs, noisy birds and cracked tile or stained office carpet shouts neglect. It’s important to keep your facility in the best shape possible. This month, Inside Self-Storage brings you some innovative ideas to renew, renovate and remodel your facility.
Up on the Rooftop
One of the biggest liabilities a self-storage owner has is the facility roof. Damage to the roof in any form can expose tenants’ goods to the elements. Snow, sleet and rain are obvious causes of concern. But what about high winds? Small openings into storage units can allow dust and debris to blow in and cause damage. Because a good roof only lasts about 25 years, you can expect to replace it. But rather than replacing the entire roof, you may want to consider retrofitting.
“Previously, you’d have to remove that old roof to put on a new one, and expose the interior of the building,” says Dale Nelson, president and co-owner of Roof Hugger Inc., an Odessa, Fla.-based company. “All of the items that are stored are then exposed to the elements while the new roof is installed.” That includes dirt, rain, wind, sunlight and the debris that falls during installation, which could take up to three or more days. “With our system, that exposure is eliminated,” Nelson explains.
The Roof Hugger system is a subpurlin, specifically engineered to fit over existing ribbed metal roofs of any profile. The notchpunched subpurlin nests into and over existing ribs and fastens directly into the structural purlin below. New panels are then installed over the old. The subpurlins are made of hitensile, 16-gauge structural steel. They are G- 90 galvanized, pre-punched to match existing roofing profiles, pre-punched for fasteners, and come in 10-foot lengths that are banded, crated, shrink-wrapped and shipped directly to the jobsite.
The end result is a building with two roofs, considered virtually impenetrable by the elements, says D.V. “Red” McConnohie, co-owner and designer of the patented system. “Two roofs are much better than one, and the air cavity between them makes the building much cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, and gives it more stability overall.”
The dead air space between the existing and new roof acts as an insulating cavity, Nelson explains. “Of course, you need to ventilate that cavity to ensure there are no condensation issues. It really does a tremendous job of not letting that heat act like a radiator down through the interior of the building. Without even adding insulation, you get a great thermal benefit. If you do spend a few extra dollars and put insulation in that cavity, you get a really terrific system.”
The cost of retrofitting, which should be done by a professional, runs about 35 cents to 60 cents per square foot. “You would have to compare that to tearing off the old roof, exposing tenants’ belongings to the elements, and disposing of the roof you just removed,” Nelson says. “It is very often less expensive to use our retrofit framing system than it is to go through all the other steps.”
Another advantage to retrofitting is the ability to add colored panels. “The new generation of paints and finishes are really excellent, with outstanding colors that will last 30 years,” Nelson says. “It can really allow owners to update, modernize and add value to their facilities. In addition to a new roof, it also adds curb appeal that will increase the resale and marketability of the facility.”
Attracting customers is, after all, the ultimate goal. “Retrofitting a new roof over the old one is a very nice, one-time, long-term fix. You can easily expect another 30 or 40 years of uninterrupted performance from your new roof,” Nelson says. “Also, you’ve increased the facility’s marketability, the curb appeal and the resale value.”
Another roof-related problem is birds. Self-storage facilities can quickly become bird havens. “Birds are attracted by three things: a food source, a water source—which is often created by condensation from air conditioners—and shelter,” says Bruce Donoho, owner of Bird-B-Gone Inc. The Mission Viejo, Calif., company manufactures products that prevent birds from landing and nesting.
There are many reasons birds of any kind are unwelcome selfstorage tenants. They can cause damage to units and stored items, and they are messy, causing health concerns. “Birds carry 36 known, transmissible diseases. It’s carried primarily in their feces,” says Donoho, adding that many storage owners or managers underestimate their bird troubles. When they do acknowledge a problem, they run off to buy a well-know product: the plastic owl. “Plastic owls don’t work,” he says. “That’s usually the first thing people try because it is inexpensive and they think it will work, but it doesn’t.”
Bird-B-Gone’s product line includes bird spikes and bird gel, both of which prevent birds from landing; electrified track systems, which deliver a mild shock; bird netting that can cover a small or large area; ultrasonic systems and more. The product a facility owner needs will depend on the type of bird roosting on the property. Donoho suggests owners talk to one of the company’s bird-control specialists. “We can help them solve the problem, or we will refer them to one of our authorized nationwide installers who will look at the property for free, make recommendations, and give an estimate.” Some of the products can be installed by the facility owner or manager.
Seeing birds—and the mess they leave behind—at a self-storage facility is almost a guarantee a customer will look elsewhere to store his goods. “If a customer goes to a facility and sees birds’ feces and nests, they’re not going to want to put their belongings in a place where they could get damaged,” Donoho says. “It also affects the overall appearance of the building’s exterior.”
In the Green
Self-storage owners may want to consider adding more green to their properties—no, not money, but grass! Some commercial developers are leaving asphalt and concrete in the dust in favor of a new grass system called grass pavers. The three-dimensional product allows access on top of the grass without damaging the root zone, which is key to a grass system’s survival, says Dustin Glist, media and information director for Aurora, Colo.-based Invisible Structures Inc., a manufacturer of a porous paving system called GrassPave2.
“GrassPave2 is 100 percent grass coverage, so you don’t really see the root zone at all,” Glist says. Made up of sand, it is considered the best medium for growing grass. Then you have an engineered base course, which is a sandy gravel mixture under the system. “It is similar to what is underneath asphalt or concrete—that’s the actual load-bearing component. Our grass pavers disperse that weight from contact with the tire to that base course. That’s how you can have a drivable or parkable surface.”
According to Glist, there are four key reasons more developers are choosing grass pavers over traditional materials: economics, storm-water management, aesthetics and the environment. The most obvious, he says, is aesthetics. A self-storage facility with lush lanes of grass will be more attractive than one with concrete sidewalks and asphalt driveways.
Possibly more important, however, are storm-water-management and environmental issues. “There are federal laws mandating businesses keep the same amount of storm-water on a site as during predevelopment,” Glist says. “Porous pavers can do that. They allow the water to percolate back into the groundwater supply without causing flooding and detriment to other people’s sites or overloading the city’s storm-sewer system.” In addition, the pavers actually clean the storm-water. “It cleans the pollutants from cars and trucks—the hydrocarbons, the heavy metals, and the nitrous oxides—keeping them from reaching streams and waters,” Glist points out.
Economically, porous pavers will save a self-storage owner money in the long run. “You don’t have to have a detention system. You don’t have to put in other components to help you meet some of these requirements.”
Because pavers are essentially gigantic lawns, they need to be maintained like any grassy surface—mowed, fertilized, watered and plowed in snowy climates. While that may seem like more maintenance than an asphalt drive requires, Glist disagrees. “Studies have shown asphalt needs to be resurfaced every four to five years, and replaced every eight to 15 years. Grass pavers can last 60 years. It is 100 percent grass coverage, so the plastic will never be exposed to the sun. There won’t be the resurfacing costs, replacement costs, and drainage and conveyance components that come with asphalt.”
Installation costs run close to that of concrete and slightly more than asphalt. “But after that first four years, you’ll be saving a lot of money by using these types of products,” Glist says. One area of savings could be cooling. Developed areas encompassing buildings, roofs, concrete and asphalt structures absorb the sun’s UV rays and emit them back into the atmosphere, causing higher temperatures in those areas. It’s what scientists refer to as heat-island mitigation.
“Basically, they convert the light into heat. In cities and parking lots, you end up with significantly higher temperatures than you would in a natural zone,” Glist says. “GrassPave2 can mitigate some of that heat-island occurrence. It absorbs more of that UV radiation instead of emitting it back into the atmosphere, so you end up with a significantly cooler surface.” In addition, the CO2—a greenhouse gas—emitted from the grass pavers is converted into oxygen. “It actually cools the immediate surrounding area. It both mitigates the heat island and provides an air-conditioning effect.”
Climate-controlled facilities could benefit from new high-tech, solar-power systems such as the one by Bergquam Energy Systems Inc. The Sacramento, Calif.-based company developed a hot-water method of solar heating that is used for solar HVAC systems and provides air-conditioning and space heating to buildings. Because selfstorage facilities have ample rooftop space, solar collectors are an ideal method for heating and cooling, says owner James Bergquam. Ironically, solar collectors produce cold air using heat. “Chilled water can be circulated through the coils, then distributed as cold, conditioned air,” Bergquam says.
Although more costly up front than a traditional heating and cooling unit, solar panels are more cost-effective in the long run. “Rather than running off electricity as most common air-conditioners do, they run off heat from the sun, which is free,” Bergquam says. Because solar panels have no moving parts, such as a motor, there are very little maintenance or replacement costs. “The energy savings pay back the cost between a solar and a conventional cooling system in about eight years.”
A Splash of Color
There’s no doubt curb appeal plays a huge factor when it comes to occupancy levels, and a bright facility will attract more attention than a drab one. Typically, selfstorage owners have turned to paints in bright hues do the job. Now, some have shied away from buckets and brushes in favor of panels and stuccos, products that require less maintenance, last longer, and can even add exterior protection.
One such product is a composite panel by United Panel Inc., a division of Stabilit America Inc. The Mt. Bethel, Pa.-based company manufactures Stenni® Composite Panels, an aggregate-faced composite wall panel used in new construction or retrofit projects. The panels can give a facelift to older buildings with failing brick or block, or dented and damaged corrugated metal siding, says Lee Anne Slattery, the company’s marketing manager. “Many zoning ordinances are now mandating that something other than corrugated metal be used on self-storage buildings, something more visually appealing. This is where Stenni can offer a solution.”
The panels are durable, impact- and abrasion-resistant, and maintenance-free. They are available in a wide variety of colors, textures and sizes. The panel face can be routed to simulate brick, block or raked Precast, and dramatic designs can be achieved by combining colors and rout patterns on the buildings. “All of the panels are made to order and can be cut to required sizes at our factory, so you are only paying for material you actually need for your job,” Slattery says. Once at the jobsite, the panels can also be cut or drilled, and easily installed by any contractor or carpenter. They can withstand all types of weather from bitter cold to high heat.
The company’s Vermont White Stenni panels were recently used in a major selfstorage renovation project in Swoyersville, Pa., on a building more than 100 years old.
The owner of Wyoming Valley Space Plus wanted to turn this former mill and manufacturing plant into a multistory, climate-controlled self-storage facility. “Our panels were chosen to reclad the building, along with bright blue aluminum to cover the brick pilasters,” Slattery says. “Stenni panels had a dramatic effect on the appearance of the building. It went from having an old, run-down appearance to a bright, new, aesthetically pleasing one.”
Another way to dress up a facility is with an elastomeric acrylic finish from Redmond, Wash.-based Stuc-O-Flex International Inc. The resilient, 100 percent acrylic polymer compound looks and feels like traditional stucco. Its thermoplastic and elastomeric nature allows building movement while maximizing resistance against cracks in the finishes. Available in 20 standard colors, it can cover a variety of substrates, systems and metal to create a unique building exterior.
“It can really add curb appeal, and design elements can be incorporated into the building very economically,” says Dan Johnson, the company’s technical sales manager. At a cost of about 40 cents per square foot, the acrylic finish is easy to install and can even be done by a motivated do-it-yourselfer, Johnson adds.
The finish will last for decades with little or no maintenance. A water-bleach solution is all that is required. “These products have all been tested to withstand 30 years of exposure,” Johnson says. “They are breathable membranes. They keep the water out of the building. They can be subjected to freeze-thaw cycles or basically any type of weather. We sell it from Siberia to Nigeria.”
One other advantage to using the acrylic finish is it creates an additional exterior barrier resistant to fading, UV radiation, salt spray, humidity and mildew. “That’s one of the main objectives of the product,” Johnson says. “As a finish, it kind of functions like Gortex. It’s basically color, texture and a weathering membrane. Wind-driven rain at 100 miles per hour can penetrate the coating from the outside; yet because the product is breathable, water vapor that may be behind the coating or in the wall cavity can be drawn out by the sun.”
The stucco wall panel manufactured by TransAmerican Strukturoc Inc. of Minneapolis uses 20-gauge, galvanized substrate primed with an epoxy-baked primer. The proprietary finish contains four sizes of marble crush. With an unlimited color selection, the rollformed panels can add color and design to a facility’s exterior.
Photo courtesy of Strukturoc Inc.
The panels are easy to install, and require no special equipment or installation kits. In most cases, erection of the panels is facilitated by the same people who set the wall framing or apply the roof. “There is no need for an additional subcontractor whose schedule may effect timely completion of the project,” says company President Gary Stoecker. “Because our system is factory finished, delays due to weather are also diminished.”
The cost of the panels is based on the amount of material needed. However, it is not uncommon to see up to 40 percent savings when compared to other masonry-type products, Stoecker says.
The panels also require very little maintenance. They will not peel or crack like field-applied stucco or EIF systems, according to Stoecker. “Power spraying every few years—depending on the location of the building—is all that’s required. Our wall system has a working life of more than 50 years.”
This is made possible by using G90 galvanized steel with primer applied to both sides and a covering of Strukturoc’s proprietary marble finish. “Strukturoc can take the place of lower-end painted steel panels that do not offer the aesthetic appeal increasingly demanded by our communities,” Stoecker says. “Giving a fresh look to an old building is simple and cost-effective and allows an owner to keep in step with a community’s need for good-looking, desirable buildings.”
Another trend some self-storage owners are favoring involves the inside of the facility. Rather than use traditional flooring such as carpet and tile, some owners are choosing to paint, stain and shine existing concrete floors. “Whether you’re building or remodeling, this is a very economical way to go,” says Dana Boyer, owner of ConcretiZen Innovative Concrete Surfaces, a Phoenix-based company specializing in decorative concrete finishes. “You can give your building a facelift, make it cutting edge, state of the art and decorative.”
Although the process is called acid staining, the acid isn’t the ingredient that creates color, according to ConcreteNetwork.com. Metallic salts in an acidic, water-based solution react with hydrated lime in hardened concrete to create insoluble, colored compounds that become a permanent part of the concrete. This allows for very creative flooring.
In recent years, many self-storage owners have begun to favor the easy maintenance of tile over stain-prone carpets. But tile has its limitations. Styles and colors are discontinued as manufacturers create new designs. Ceramic tile and flagstone also require regular maintenance beyond regular sweeping and mopping. “With tile, the grout gets dirty and needs to be cleaned and resealed. That’s a lot of tedious work,” Boyer points out.
With concrete finishing, facility owners can choose from a multitude of designs, patterns and colors. Staining, etching and scoring concrete is also very affordable, Boyer says. For example, quality tile and carpet can cost up to $30 a square yard. The cost for professionally installed concrete finishes is similar. However, Boyer says, over time, concrete will be the more economical choice. “Five years from now, carpet will be worn and stained and need to be ripped up and replaced,” she says. “With tiles, manufacturers stop making certain patterns after a set amount of time. What happens when the tiles break or you have to remove part of your floor? You will never be able to get that same pattern again.”
Concrete maintenance is also simple. The floors need to be swept and dry mopped. A mild degreaser can be used as needed. “Depending on usage, the floor may need to be waxed once or twice a month,” Boyer says. “It’s very easy to maintain. If you take care of it, it will last a lifetime.”
Bollards are a must-have at every facility. They can protect the store front, units and landscaping from accidents. But bollards can require a lot of maintenance to keep them looking fresh. Two products—Ideal Shield® and Post Guard—can help a facility keep bollards looking new without the hassle of major maintenance.
“Owners and managers of self-storage properties know maintaining a clean and secure premise is important to their customers,” says Stuart Burnstein, vice president of Farmington Hills, Mich.-based Encore Commercial Products Inc. “Why paint bollards? The product saves time and money by eliminating painting and scraping. Post Guard provides self-storage facilities with attractive, maintenance-free bollard protection.”
Post Guard and Ideal Shield are bumper post sleeves that easily slide over existing guard posts. Installation is effortless, Burnstein says. “You don’t need an engineering degree to install Post Guard. It’s really quite simple.” The sleeves are kept in place by neoprene tape. Once installed, the sleeve cannot be easily removed and requires no maintenance. Prices run from $30 to $70 per cover, depending on the size.
Made of thick polyethylene thermoplastic, the shields are designed to withstand any type of weather. “Soap and water will remove most dirt and grime. Tougher scuff marks can be removed with nonabrasive cleaners,” Burnstein says. In addition to eliminating maintenance issues, the bollard sleeves come in a variety of fade-resistant colors so owners can match their facility’s facade. Sleeves with reflective tape for better nighttime visibility are available. Ideal Shield can also mold company logos onto the sleeves.
“By eliminating unsightly rusty bollards, the bumper-post sleeve improves a storage facility’s appearance,” says Chris Parenti, vice president of Detroit-based Ideal Shield. “The sleeves will help enhance the facility’s image and give it that ‘brand new look’ for years to come. The sleeves also provide an overall cleaner environment, which is necessary to meet the expectations of Americans today.”