A Construction Primer for New Self-Storage Owners

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By Rob Wright

The majority of owners who get into the self-storage business come in as neophytes, with little to no understanding of how to be a successful investor. That’s because many don’t start their careers in self-storage―they’ve spent most of their adult life learning and perfecting their skills in other industries. Some get into storage to supplement their existing income; others view it as an investment. In reality, self-storage owners are as diverse as the tenants they serve.

But you don’t have to be an expert to be successful in the storage industry. You just need to align yourself with professionals who can help guide you through the necessary phases. There are a number of issues a new owner will face, such as obtaining financing, finding a suitable location, establishing a relationship with a building manufacturer, erecting buildings, and marketing and managing the facility.

One of the most important decisions a new self-storage owner will make is in the area of construction. Once you’ve established a relationship with a manufacturer and ordered building components, the next step is to prepare the site for erection of the buildings. Following are suggestions that may alleviate possible problems and help keep the opening of your facility on schedule.

Building It Right

Having a site in good physical condition will expedite construction. First, the slab surface should be clean and unencumbered, ready for the components to be delivered, positioned and attached. Then there needs to be a solid base of stone, gravel, paving or concrete around the perimeter of the foundation slabs and staging area. This will reduce downtime in the case of bad weather, and will also prevent materials from being damaged or soiled. If materials have to be replaced, you’ll lose time and increase your costs.

When it comes to pouring the foundation, hire a qualified concrete contractor. Some contractors may be capable of pouring a driveway, but lack the experience to pour a slab that meets the specifications for a self-storage building. Concrete must be poured to the correct dimensions of the structure, and your contractor must have the tools and abilities to do this. Incorrectly poured slabs can delay a project while materials are modified or repaired to adjust. This kind of expense can and should be avoided.Concrete must be poured to the correct dimensions of the structure.

You should also employ a professional and certified construction crew. Your building manufacturer may able to provide its own. Without the proper erection procedures, personnel, materials and expertise, this very important phase can become unduly expensive and time-consuming. Using an experienced erector is crucial because the construction will move faster, there will be fewer misused parts, and the overall quality of the product will be enhanced.

Not all self-storage construction crews are alike. While most are familiar with metal-building installations and can do a competent job on a variety of generic buildings, the better ones will be familiar with your specific manufacturer’s product. Each building is designed differently and requires unique parts. A crew familiar with your particular manufacturer can hit the ground running without constantly reviewing its parts lists and plans to understand which items go where, how they fit together, and how they’re attached. This crew can be more efficient, and the quality of work will be superior.

Supervision Makes a Difference

Unfortunately, some companies that provide labor will send construction crews to a site with no supervision. This is a mistake because a site supervisor conducts progress checks as the project moves along and final walk-throughs as it winds down. Plus, a supervisor’s presence will ensure every phase of contruction stays on track. Using an experienced erector is crucial.

Every phase of the self-storage business is important, but the ultimate product tenants use is the building itself. Unless the construction process is planned and properly executed, owners can lose time and money. Avoid this by taking the selecting and preserving your site, and then hiring the right personnel to see your project through to completion.

Rob Wright heads up project management for BETCO Inc., a single-source manufacturer of metal self-storage buildings. He can be reached at rwright@betcoinc.com ; visit www.betcoinc.com .

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