Re-Designing a Self-Storage Facility: Renovations Add Curb Appeal and a Competitive Edge

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When purchasing new doors, operators should look for ones with tension adjusters and bearings as standard features, cylinder latches for additional security, stainless-steel latches and extruded aluminum-bottom bars to prevent corrosion and rust, suggests Terry Campbell, vice president of sales and marketing for BETCO, a single-source self-storage manufacturer.

Campbell also suggests purchasing doors with a bulb-type astragal over a blade-type to provide a better seal, and to look for a good paint warranty and long-life spring. "If you have a problem in a building, it will most likely be in the door and it’s most likely to be with the spring," he says.

Safety and maintenance are also important factors to consider. "A tenant's claim due to a poorly-operating door could be financially disastrous for an operator as well as the tenant," Fuhlman notes. "The door should open an close with ease and have an easy tensioning device on the springs to adjust when necessary."

The cost to replace a facility’s doors varies depending on the size, the number of doors and any additional services. The approximate cost to remove an existing door, document the replacement process, replace the door and dispose of the old door is $350, Fuhlman says. Approximately 20 doors can be replaced in one day, she says.  

Facility roofing is another common construction to-do. When a roof leaks in multiple areas, is weathered-looking, cracked, damaged or rusted, it may be time to repair or replace. But before making a decision, operators should have a reputable roofer evaluate the existing structure. If replacement is recommended, operators should solicit a quote from three quality companies, suggests Mick Handloser, national account manager for RoofConnect, a roofing trade organization comprised of more than 60 independent commercial roofing companies.

When comparing bids, Handloser suggests operators consider the manufacturer system, functionality, material warranty, workmanship warranty and cost. Once construction begins, the process can be as short as five days or last longer than two months, depending on the scope of work and size of the roof.

Costs vary depending on the type of roofing system, although operators should consider other factors than just the price tag. "There could be local, state or federal energy savings incentives for installing reflective roofs and/or additional roofing insulation," Handloser says.

Safety: Protect The Tenant and the Facility

Due to the delicate nature of self-storage, certain precautions are required when a unit will be exposed or entered, which is likely to happen during the construction process. Williams recommends constant communication with the facility manager about restrictions on the property. It’s especially important to notify tenants when the construction team will have access to a unit, such as when a door or the roof is being replaced. "The more informed [tenants] are about what's going on, usually the less problems you have," he says.

Often, the construction team will invite tenants to supervise the unit if anyone from the construction team needs to enter. "They have certain rights as a tenant, and it's a courtesy to them," William says. "You give them as much opportunity to be there and watch as possible."

William also makes sure to have a member of the team video record the unit when it’s entered or exposed during construction.

Sometimes construction can be isolated within a facility to avoid safety  and privacy issues. Apple Self Storage in Ontario, Canada, was able to do this when renovating its downtown Toronto facility. In this five-story self-storage facility, tenants had access to the upper floors via an elevator while the lower level was under construction. "We were able to segregate all the construction on the main floor so it didn't impact our tenants whatsoever," says Phil Allan, president of ASL Properties and the owner of Apple Self Storage.

Whether big or small, a renovation can be the stimulus a facility needs to get back in the game. Fresh landscaping, a new roof or an updated office can keep a facility looking fresh, attract more customers and ensure operators enjoy improved functionality and profit. "A renovation can turn a property around in ways that nothing else can,” Williams says.

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