Making Maintenance Work

Donna May Comments
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In spring time, birds are singing, wasps are buzzing, and both are building nests wherever they can find an appealing nook or cranny. In summer, scorpions and snakes have awakened, ants and bugs are prolific, and grass is fighting its way through the asphalt. In fall, leaves descend gracefully into gutters, and trash dances on the wind into fence lines. In winter, walkways freeze over, shards of ice cling dangerously to dripping eaves, and tree limbs snap under wind and snow.

Each season brings to the maintenance table an endless rotation of little things that, left unattended, can lead to serious problems. On the other hand, if taken care of, they can promote an economically profitable facility.

Schedules Are Supreme

The best tool for effective maintenance is scheduling. Every facility is different, and every geographic location has unique needs. Creating a viable maintenance program is a step-by-step process that builds the things that need to be addressed—routinely, seasonally and functionally—into a system that protects your investment.

Weed killer only costs a few dollars, but asphalt patching can cost hundreds or thousands. The deciding factor in whether serious repairs need to be made is often maintenance. Assembling a program that’s right for your location takes a little time. But once put together, it’s a blueprint that can be followed through employee changes and adjusted to new circumstances with little effort.

Step 1: Start With a List

Which aspects of your facility could require attention? Start with the items suggested below and add or subtract whatever is necessary to reflect the unique characteristics of your site, for example, special accommodations for wine storage or boats and RVs.

  • Amenities 
  • Asphalt 
  • Bollards 
  • Carts and dollies 
  • Computers 
  • Concrete drives and walks 
  • Doors (entry and unit) 
  • Elevators and lifts 
  • Exterior coatings and paint 
  • Fencing 
  • Fire protection 
  • Gate mechanisms 
  • Golf cart 
  • Gutters and downspouts 
  • Hallways 
  • HVAC and exhaust fans 
  • Insects, vermin and birds 
  • Landscaping 
  • Lighting (exterior and interior) 
  • Locks
  • Office 
  • Restrooms 
  • Roofs 
  • Security systems 
  • Signage 
  • Striping 
  • Units 
  • Windows and screens

Step 2: Evaluate Your List

Next you need to determine the specific maintenance issues involved for individual items on the list. For example:

  • Amenities—Refill scent dispensers; check intercom operation; clean convex mirrors.
  • Asphalt—Check entry points for moisture; check surface cracks from vegetation; look for ponding.
  • Bollards—Check for bending, marks and fading.
  • Carts and Dollies—Check wheels, handles and structural integrity.
  • Computers—Update virus protection, download updates, create backups, delete unnecessary data, defrag.
  • Concrete—Check for cracking, buckling and staining; apply sealant to expansion joints.
  • Doors (Entry)—Make sure mechanisms are clean, lubricated and aligned; check for surface cleanliness.
  • Doors (Unit)—Check stops, latches, weather stripping and ease of operation; look for scratches and dents.
  • Elevators and Lifts—Perform safety tests and inspections; look for wall and floor damage and cleanliness.
  • Exterior and Paint—Check for fading, stains and efflorescence.
  • Fencing—Look for grass and weeds, trash, cuts and bent areas, broken boards or blocks, flaking paint.
  • Fire Protection—Inspect fire extinguishers and smoke-detector batteries.
  • Gate Mechanisms—Check tracks, wheels, chains, lift mechanisms, rust and paint.
  • Golf Cart—Check batteries, tires, lubricants, wear and tear and general cleanliness.
  • Gutters and Spouts—Look for blockages, drainage to ground and surface erosion.
  • HVAC and Exhaust—Make sure drip pans are draining and condensation are lines clear; check filters; look for algae and dirty coils.
  • Hallways—Apply floor sealant and coatings; check carpet for wear; look for stains and marks, wall dust and dirt.
  • Insects, Vermin, Etc.—Check for infestations, access points, nests and droppings.
  • Lighting (Exterior)—Inspect bulbs, photo sensors and motion detectors; clean fixtures.
  • Landscaping—Check mulch levels and sprinklers; look for weeds, patchy grass, dead trees and overgrowth.
  • Locks—Check for alignment, lubrication and wear.
  • Office—Mop, wax or vacuum floors; clean carpets; check for orderliness.
  • Restrooms—Look for leaks, floor cleanliness and alkaline build up; stock consumables.
  • Painting—Check for fading, chipping and staining.
  • Roofs—Inspect for debris, leaks, stains, washer deterioration and loose shingles.
  • Windows/Screens—Clean and check for smooth operation; patch holes or tears; check locks.
  • Security—Test keypads, cameras and alarms.
  • Signage—Make sure signs are adequately lit; check for bending, chips, tears, wear and fading.
  • Striping and Curbs—Check for chips, marks and fading.
  • Units—Sweep floors and wipe down walls; check for leaks and pests.

Step 3: Create an Action Plan

Determine how often each item has to be checked or serviced to address the maintenance issues you have identified. For example, under “Amenities,” the scent dispenser probably has an established life for each canister of fragrance. If the can lasts approximately 30 days, then it would be scheduled for replacement once a month.

Grouping related maintenance items increases efficiency. For example, intercoms could easily be tested daily during the lock check. Convex mirrors can be scheduled for cleaning with hallway walls.

Some maintenance is outsourced, such as landscaping and pest control. The individual in charge of maintenance should be responsible for ensuring the terms of the various service contracts are being met in accordance with your maintenance standards. If a task falls outside a contract (the landscape contract may exclude tree trimming, for instance), it should be scheduled separately.

Logic and manufacturers’ instructions are the best guidelines to follow in establishing inspection or service frequency. Vendors and service providers are generally very helpful in answering questions regarding maintenance. In addition, several good articles have been written on proper maintenance procedures and how often individual items should be inspected. Some can be found on the ISS website at www.insideselfstorage.com. You can search for topics by keyword using the search box in the upper-right corner of each web page; or click on the “Facility Maintenance” category on the left-hand menu.

Step 4: Establish a Schedule

Once you have determined how often each item should be checked and what services should be performed, it’s time to establish a schedule to incorporate the complete maintenance program into the workflow of the facility. The format the schedule takes depends on your facility, staff and maintenance budget. A combination of calendars, checklists and maintenance procedures can be used to cover just about everything.

Calendars are great for long-term scheduling, but can be too cluttered and less effective for daily and weekly routines. Any task with a frequency of more than once per month or an irregular schedule is most easily handled on a computerized version.

Here are some things to include in your maintenance calendar:

  • Contract renewal or termination dates. Enter a warning notice of pending contract events to leave time for comparison shopping before negotiating a new contract.
  • Seasonal items such as tree trimming and winter-weather preparations. Any scheduling that fluctuates with the seasons such as checking roofs and cleaning gutters in the fall or adding algaecide to AC systems in the summer can be scheduled for dates that are likely to achieve the goal, and rescheduled as necessary to accommodate actual events.
  • Large projects such as resealing floors in climate-control buildings that only need to be done at long intervals. These can be scheduled on a rotating basis by floor or building. This helps to spread the work load if it is being done in-house and doesn’t impact the entire site at once. Also, when client access is involved (as in floor and asphalt resealing) notification dates can be entered into the schedule to warn customers of pending activities.
  • Periodic items such as changing AC filters and cleaning camera lenses. These can be entered at intervals appropriate for your location.

Checklists

are best for items that occur monthly or weekly. These might include:

Weekly

  • Mop office and restrooms.
  • Sanitize restrooms.
  • Check golf-cart battery and water level.
  • Inspect dollies and carts.
  • Clean entry doors.
  • Inspect gates and tracks.
  • Check pest traps.
  • Spray weed killer on fence line and drives.

Monthly

  • Mop hallways.
  • Replace air fresheners.
  • Add HVAC algaecide.
  • Clean golf cart.
  • Clean and check drives.
  • Lubricate gate chain.
  • Empty computer recycle bin.
  • Defrag computer.

Maintenance procedures

for daily or other repetitive items are the most efficient. Just as you have forms and procedures for renting units, you should also have a written protocol for routine tasks such as office maintenance and unit cleanup after tenant moveout.

Office

  • The office should be clean and well-organized.
  • Carpets and flooring should be swept or vacuumed daily.
  • Countertops should be clean and clutter-free.
  • All brochures and merchandise should be restocked.
  • Windows and doors should be clean and free of fingerprints.
  • Wastebaskets should be emptied daily.
  • The office bathroom should be clean and well-stocked.

Unit Cleaning

  • Sweep.
  • Wipe down walls.
  • Remove cobwebs.
  • Check insulation and repair if necessary.
  • Check door stop and ease of door operation.
  • Adjust door tension and lubricate per the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Check and clean weather stripping, guides and tracks.
  • Check latches for alignment and operation.
  • Spray for insects.

The key to successful maintenance is diligence, achieved through accountability. Schedules in the form of calendars, checklists and procedures encompass seasonal requirements, functional necessities and routine tasks. By defining what needs to be done and when, these tools incorporate maintenance into the normal work flow. They are the essentials that comprise an effective maintenance program. 

Donna May is president of Cross Metal Buildings, part of The Parham Group, where she has focused on self-storage for 11 years. Ms. May is the past president of Joshua Management and a real estate broker. She has a bachelor’s degree in business and has been a partner in 11 startup self-storage projects. For information, call 210.477.1260; email ask@crossmb.com; visit. www.crossmetalbuildings.com

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