What Would You Do? Self-Storage Maintenance Maladies

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The following is part of an exciting 2013 content series entitled "What Would You Do?" ISS asked managers and owners how they would react in difficult situations that can arise at any facility. We then asked experts to advise on their recommended course of action. To see all articles and slideshows in the series, enter code WWYD13 in the search box at insideselfstorage.com. The complete sequence will roll out over several weeks and be available in full by March 10, 2013.

Keeping a self-storage facility in tip-top shape can be hard work even when everything runs smoothly, which certainly isn't all the time. In our industry, surprises regularly pop up at a facility. In addition to standard maintenance tasks like tidying the office and cleaning vacated units, operators are faced with roof leaks, malfunctioning gates, jammed doors and a slew of who-knows-what's-next.

Up keeping facility curb appeal sometimes means handling simple tasks and other times more complex projects. Do you know the best approach to common maintenance problems? Is what you would do the same as what you should do?

Inside Self-Storage reached out to facility operators to learn how they deal with specific maintenance issues. They were asked, "What would you do if ..."

  • You found a roof leak?
  • Your office needed a pick-me-up but there was very little money in the budget?
  • Your doors started to malfunction?

The answers were provided by members of Self-Storage Talk, the industry's largest online community. We then asked industry experts James Fawcett, president of Accent Building Restoration (ABR), and Amy Fuhlman, director of marketing for Janus International, to learn what operators should do.

What would you do if you found a roof leak?

Roof leaks are common at older facilities, but can even happen at a newer one. “When I notice one or it is reported, I get out the extension ladder and up on the roof I go,” says Ralph Driscoll (FHARumRunner), an SST member and manager of West End Self Storage in Richmond, Va. Driscoll says he can usually handle the leak himself by patching, sealing, and retightening or replacing fasteners in the suspected leaking area. Then he keeps an eye on the spot after the next storm to ensure the repair holds.

What SHOULD you do?

Fawcett: If you’re comfortable doing this work yourself or have a maintenance person, the first step is to attempt to trace the leak to the possible source. Try to rule out leaking pipes or condensation if this applies. Remember that roof leaks will often travel a long distance from the source. They may pool in an area and drip down, or run along pipes, wires and other structural elements and appear some distance from the source. 

Roof leaks do not necessarily mean there’s a hole somewhere, but could instead be a failure of a seal. For example, a common source of failure are leaks at a section of roof flashing that might be along a gutter, vent or other area where the roof covering is penetrated or joined to a different structural element or material.

You may be able to patch minor leaks yourself, but if you can't trace the source, there’s structural damage or major water intrusion, which might cause mold or structural failure. If electrical wiring is involved or other potentially hazardous conditions exist, it’s safer for you and your customers if you call a professional.

What would you do if your office needed a pick-me-up but there was very little money in the budget?

A facility’s office can be viewed as warm and inviting to customers or drive them away. A drab, poorly lit or messy office tells customers you don’t really care much about appearance. This will lead them to believe you won’t care much about their stuff, either. Conversely, a bright, clean and appealing office shows customers you take pride in your facility.

Fortunately, it doesn’t cost major bucks to create an attractive office. A few plants, a fresh coat of paint or even some new window treatments can do the trick. Gina Six Kudo (Gina6K), an SST moderator and general manager of Cochrane Road Self Storage in Morgan Hill, Calif., suggests buying fresh flowers to brighten up an office, and then keeping up on all maintenance and cleaning tasks on a regular basis.

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