A traditional self-storage structure is built on a 5-by-10-foot grid with 4-inch, 16-gauge Cee studs, girts and Zee purlins. Cees are vertical supports, girts are horizontal supports, and Zees are the roof members. To expand the building to the greater heights or widths needed for RVs while maintaining structural strength, the builder must use more Cees, girts and Zees, or stronger members (6- to 8-inch and 14-gauge). Additional strength can also be obtained by building with clearspan or rigid-frame buildings.
Adding height to a building also increases the need for greater wind resistance. In canopy units, the roof will catch the wind like a kite, so it must be appropriately anchored. The more walls the structure has, the less uplift there is against the roof. The amount of reinforcement required depends on the height and width of the building and wind-load regulations for the area. These factors are normally determined by your structural engineer or metal-building provider. Some building companies also offer free engineering and design services and will gladly help you determine the requirements for your RV-storage project.
For enclosed units, doors must also meet higher wind-load requirements. Roll-up doors larger than 14 by 14 feet tend to catch wind deflection that could make them jump their tracks. Any door larger than 100 square feet should have a chain hoist or other door-opening mechanism.
Optimize Your Space
The most important element in determining the viability of adding boat/RV storage to your facility is space. RVs take up a lot of it, and the requirements for drive aisles and turn radiuses are twice those of a typical self-storage property. You’ll need to provide plenty of access space to the boat/RV-storage buildings, but you don't want to waste land in the process.
Whatever size vehicle your customer wants to store—whether it’s a 20-, 30- or 40-foot RV or a boat with a trailer—make your drive aisle a minimum of 45 to 50 feet wide to allow safe access to each unit. Drive aisles for open-air storage should be 50 to 60 feet wide for perpendicular spaces, and at least 35 feet wide for spaces angled at 60 degrees.
You’ll need to ensure there’s a nice flow to the property, where the boats and RVs can easily get in and out without having to back up. (Backing into a unit in tight quarters is an invitation for disaster.) This may require a second exit gate if there isn’t adequate turning distance around the buildings. “Pull-though access” is often promoted in advertising for boat and RV storage because operators recognize the value of easy maneuverability. If your site is difficult to navigate with a large vehicle, your customers will look elsewhere—or worse, they could damage your buildings or their vehicle.
RVs and boats can cost anywhere from $500 to well over $1 million, so security is paramount. At a minimum, you’ll need perimeter fencing, which can consist of anything from chain link and razor wire to solid block walls.
As 24-hour access is often a requirement of this type of storage, camera surveillance and key-coded entry gates are often employed. Ingress and egress keypads should be positioned at 42 inches and 66 inches from the ground to accommodate the window heights of cars and RVs. It’s wise to have a camera aimed at vehicle license plates as they enter and exit the facility. You can also use proximity-card readers, adding limited-access zones for only those tenants with stored vehicles.