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Outsourcing Self-Storage Facility Maintenance: Common Misconceptions Revealed

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Researching what is involved to complete a project prior to obtaining bids is also a smart way to protect against disingenuous bids or paying for unnecessary or low-quality work. “Always ask questions and be sure you understand the scope of the work the contractor will do and that the specifics are included on the bid,” suggests Gina Six Kudo, general manager of Cochrane Road Self Storage in Morgan Hill, Calif. “For example, a painter needs to clean and prep surfaces, not just slap a coat of paint on. If the bid doesn't include cleaning and prepping, call the next painter on your list.”

Myth 3: The Manager Can Maintain the Doors

It’s cheaper to have a manager clean and maintain doors than to hire an outside company.

Among the most visible components of a storage facility are its unit doors, and their appearance and working condition can speak loudly to customers. Faded, dented or rusted doors and parts can give an immediate, negative impression. But with the potential for hundreds of doors at any single property, is it cost-effective for a manager to tackle the tasks of cleaning and maintenance?

This myth actually holds a lot of truth, depending on the severity of the project. “Having your manager clean the doors is fine on a daily or move-out basis. In fact, cleaning the entire unit upon a customer moving out should include the inside of the door and the tracks,” says Teresa Sedmak, president of Everbrite Inc., which manufactures Everbrite Protective Coating, ProtectaClear coating and a variety of building cleaners. “However, for restoration of oxidized doors or metal buildings, it can be less expensive to have an outside company come in. The manager is typically busy with customers and may not have the time, equipment or training to do the job properly.”

One of the common mistakes Sedmak sees that winds up costing operators money in the long run is the use of harsh cleaning methods. “Some people use cleaners with silicone, like Pledge, which create nightmares in the future when painting or restoration is needed,” she says. “Nothing sticks to silicone, so adhesion becomes a problem when restoring or painting the metal.”

Pressure or power washing can cause water to seep into seals and jeopardize tenant belongings, and the acid in vinegar can rust and corrode the metal parts of a door such as the hasp, lock and aluminum strip at the bottom, Sedmak says. “The best thing to use to clean doors is to hand wash them with a mild soap and water and a soft brush or cloth,” she notes. “Rinse with plain water to rinse off the soap. Original Dawn dish soap is an excellent cleaner. It does not leave any film, and it rinses clean.”

Myth 4: All Snow-Plow Companies Are the Same

Snow-plow companies are pretty much the same; look for one that is cheap and efficient.

Self-storage operators in every geographic region must contend with seasonal maintenance issues, whether from snow, rain or a relentless heat and UV rays. Snow plowing is among the most common and costly winter maintenance tasks for operators in many states. Many tasks can be handled effectively in-house with a reasonable investment in equipment such as shovels or a snow thrower, but clearing an abundance of snow is often counterproductive.

As a large regional player in the Midwest, Pogoda Cos. knows snow all too well. Not all plow companies are the same, says George, who highly recommends hiring an outside company with experience in plowing self-storage sites. “The company needs to understand where to push the snow and that the doors can be easily pushed in by the snow. Improperly placed snow piles could require additional heavy equipment at a hefty cost,” he explains. “In addition, using an experienced snow-plow company will help keep your building safe from inexperienced driver damage and any damage to your customers’ belongings.

“Another reason for not getting the cheapest deal in town is that the company will plow you to death. If a company promises to plow at $80 per time, it will more than likely try to plow your lot two to three times per occurrence or will charge you a ton of money for salting the property. In the end, you end up paying more money. It’s best to have strict guidelines. These guidelines include when to plow, how many inches to plow, and how to determine the snowfall amount.”

When it comes to keeping costs low, these perceived maintenance-company myths certainly have elements of truth, but they can quickly be dispelled if operators underestimate the technical difficulty of a project or overestimate the maintenance skill of a manager. The severity of the miscalculation can be particularly costly if in-house maintenance and repair projects interfere with the daily efficiency of facility operation or compound an existing issue and cause the need for outside expertise that would have been less expensive at the outset.

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