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Building Conversions Open Doors for Self-Storage

Benjamin Riehm Comments
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Some conversions may have radiant-floor heating. If this is the case, it may not be possible to shoot pins into the floor track and door-frame tracks without puncturing the heating lines. An effective solution is to glue down wood, and then shoot the floor tracks into it.

Historic buildings may come with requirements for external aesthetics. Most municipalities issue guidelines for signage and façade coverings. In Long Beach, Wash., for example, one developer was required to use cedar shake or a synthetic material on 80 percent of his façade to blend with the city’s environmentally friendly surroundings.

Parking lots can also pose challenges. Everett Downtown Storage in Everett, Wash., had a parking issue. The building had been built exactly to the property line, which did not allow for the required number of parking spaces. Working with the owner and a commercial designer, the contractors were able to satisfy the city’s requirements by converting existing loading bays into parking. Although the owner had to reconfigure for a smaller office area, he sacrificed very little rentable space.

On that same project, overhead obstructions required the redesign of several units. Using a chalk line, tape measure and some creativity, it was possible to keep unit sizes close to the original mix without having to sacrifice opening sizes and rentable space. Again, in conversions, designers must work with existing structures, so the more flexible you are, the better the design and function. In this case, using highly skilled outside contractors was key in keeping the net square footage at its maximum. 

Inside the Conversion

Finally, let’s discuss the pre-construction interior system details. Roll-up doors generally have about a 16-inch clearance requirement for the coil of the door when it’s in the up position. That clearance space must be added to whatever the rough opening dimension will be. For example, if the rough opening is to be 8 feet wide by 7 feet, 4 inches tall, then you need at least an 8-foot, 8-inch clearance. Typically, developers use an 8-foot, 8-inch-high hallway system to get the most out of the steel they’ve purchased.

Another option is to install swing doors, which don’t have the 16-inch overhead clearance. This can be a viable alternative if there are obstructions such as sprinkler lines, HVAC vents, trusses or beams. It’s a good idea to have approximately 5 feet of hallway width, but check with the local building department for possible width requirements and “dead-end” hall restrictions.

Overall, conversions offer a host of advantages and built-in timesavers. With proper pre-planning and the assistance of experienced vendors, many “open boxes” can be successfully converted into profitable, attractive facilities. 

Benjamin Riehm is the northwest-territory sales manager for Janus International, a manufacturer of self-storage doors, mezzanines and hallway-partition systems. For more information, visit

Related Articles:

Cost-Effective Conversions

Got Dirt? Adding Space to an Existing Self-Storage Facility

Building Through Conversion

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