Preventive Building Maintenance for Self-Storage

Terry Campbell Comments
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Many owners of self-storage facilities tend to overlook the value and necessity of regular maintenance on their buildings. In fact, when they first open their doors for business, the furthest thing from their minds is maintenance—particularly preventive maintenance. Initially, they are concerned with more immediate issues, such as increasing leases and occupancy rates, staffing, marketing, or whether the competition has come up with a service or two they don’t have. It’s only natural to take care of first things first.

Of course, most owners realize a part of their monthly expenses will necessarily be devoted to maintenance, but that often obscures the “bigger picture,” which has to do with a regular, preventive-maintenance program. This kind of program may not be reflected in terms of actual savings, but it will definitely be reflected in fewer dollars spent on repairs in the future. At any rate, there is no doubt having a regularly scheduled maintenance program in place is money well spent.

Setting Priorities

Even if an owner chooses high-quality buildings, it takes only a few short months before regular maintenance becomes a priority, particularly if the owner is paying attention. That’s because maintenance must be considered a regular priority, like making bank deposits, surveying the grounds, or having the manager make new business calls in the neighborhood. It should become a way of life, as regular as clockwork. The point is, any good maintenance is preventive maintenance forestalling a lot of headaches down the road.

Invariably, there will also be times when the unusual will occur—inclement or severe weather may be the culprit, scattering limbs and debris on the roofs and grounds, or a sloppy tenant vacates and leaves an unsightly mess. Even normal wear and tear on perfectly good moving parts may require a closer look.

A Proper Attitude Can Lead to Savings

Some owners may not want to hear it, but their attitudes toward the issue of maintenance is important. The truth is performing regular preventive maintenance on your facility is not only a smart habit to develop, but will save money as well. How? Because systematic upkeep of your buildings lengthens their life, and that means less maintenance costs in the future. A good analogy is the way we treat our automobiles. It’s a fact that regular maintenance can add miles to the life of a car.

With customer expectations increasing every day, and more aggressive competitors entering every market, the smart owner must now maintain a more diverse facility. Certainly there is normal maintenance on traditional single-story structures, but owners and managers must be prepared to look at multi-story buildings, climate-controlled units and converted buildings, which sometimes require special attention. Here are a few tips on how to stay on top of building maintenance on a regular basis.

Roofs

Walk your roofs regularly. Reliable roofs are plenty strong and can easily handle the extra weight. You can expect the residue from natural causes, such as wind or rainstorms, but you may be surprised at some of the debris you’ll find—such as cans, bottles, scrap metal, even shoes—discarded by careless tenants or workers. Be aware that if some materials are not removed, your warranty may be in jeopardy.

It’s also necessary to clean out gutters and downspouts, particularly in the spring and fall. Debris can clog the downspouts and rainwater will have nowhere to go, pooling on the roof. And if there is a place that water can get through it will causing roof leaks.

Exterior Walls

At least once a year (or more), exterior walls should be washed to remove dust, dirt and grime. Regular carwash cleaner will work just fine. It will keep paint surfaces clean and help prevent the paint from dulling.

Doors

When doors are originally installed, door axles, springs and door tracks are lubricated to ensure smooth movement. Even with high-quality doors, oils dry out over time, and problems arise where rubber and plastic surfaces come in contact with metal doors and tracks. When a unit becomes empty and you do a “clean-out,” doors should be rolled down, and springs and axles lubricated with spray-on lithium grease. At the same time, spray door tracks with clear silicone. Cans of lithium grease and silicone are available at any auto-supply or home-improvement store. These simple, preventive measures will help your doors work better with very little time and effort.

General Inspection

An opportune time for managers to inspect the units for structural integrity and general cleanup is when tenants move out and units are empty. It’s a good idea to use this time to wipe down the walls and clean the concrete floors of grease, paint or other foreign matter that will look unsightly to a new tenant. Consider purchasing a good pressure washer. Other suggestions include spraying the units for bugs and possibly setting traps for mice if this becomes a problem.

Building Interiors

With the increase in multi-story, climate controlled and converted buildings, owners must be aware of special maintenance considerations for these types of interiors. For example, elevators or lifts in multi-story or converted buildings need to be regularly checked, particularly in converted buildings, where they may be older and more susceptible to malfunction.

Converted buildings require periodic inspection of entrance doors, stair rails, hallway corridors and security bars. Make sure wire-mesh ceilings are tight and intact, and check that partition walls are securely fastened to the existing building.

Hallways and roll-up doors in multi-story and climate-controlled buildings should be inspected on a regular basis to make sure doors are functioning properly, corridors are clean, and partitions and filler panels have not been damaged or marred by hand trucks or other moving equipment.

Customer Perception

One of the important intangibles of regular maintenance is the impact it has on your customers. It’s hard to measure, but an attractive, well-cared-for facility will affect a customer’s perception of your operation. That perception will always come back to your bottom line, long after you remove your grand opening flags.

Maintaining your facility buildings on a regular basis is smart business. In fact, it is neither expensive nor time-consuming; but if you neglect it, it can be costly.

Terry Campbell is vice president of sales and marketing at BETCO Inc., a single-source manufacturer of self-storage buildings that has been in business since 1984. For more information, call 704.872.2999; visit www.betcoinc.com.

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