Choosing a Self-Storage Builder: Industry Experience Trumps Low Bidders

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By Caesar Wright

You’ve done your homework, selected the site for your new self-storage project and received financing. Now you’re ready to hire a builder. Choosing one can be a daunting process. After all, your future prosperity depends on a well-designed building that presents the image you want while providing the income potential you need.

There may be builders who are willing to cut you a deal, but cost cannot be your only consideration, especially if this is your first venture into self-storage. While it’s tempting to go with the lowest bid, contracting with the wrong builder can cause you frustration, time delays and hard cash. Below are some tips to help guide you in selecting your builder.

Prescreening Contenders

First, make sure any builder you consider is legitimate: licensed, bonded and insured. Check with the Better Business Bureau and professional organizations such as the Self-Storage Association. While the law provides some protection from fraudulent or incompetent contractors, it doesn't guarantee honest transactions or quality work.

Do your homework. Your financial investment is at stake. Look at previous projects that are similar in scale to your project and check references.

Industry Experience

Self-storage is an investment that will bring substantial returns over time, and with so much at stake, the builder's experience should be a top priority. It’s not enough to be a great builder. The company you choose needs to be a great self-storage builder.

In most types of commercial construction, architects, engineers and designers would design the building and the contractor would construct what’s dictated on the approved plans. In self-storage, there are construction requirements specific to the industry that an architect who doesn’t have extensive experience in self-storage would not think to include.

Drive aisles, turning radiuses, door size, security, lighting and more need to be considered. An experienced self-storage builder will be able to advise you on these issues early in the design process. He can also help you lay out your buildings to maximize occupancy.

Amenities in the self-storage business can help you attract customers or can be a drain on your budget. An experienced self-storage builder will help you determine when it makes sense to invest in certain amenities that will increase revenue opportunities and when not to.

Engineering and Design Services

Work with an experienced builder who offers site design and engineering services and is willing to consult with you through the entire project, from site development and design through completed construction. These services will not necessarily eliminate the need for an architect, but having a builder who can work closely with your architect to design all the amenities, utilities and structural requirements that are unique to self-storage is going to save you time and money. It’s certainly much less costly to make changes on paper than on the jobsite.

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