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Seeing What You Don't See: A Fresh Look at Self-Storage Maintenance and Curb Appeal

By Linnea Appleby Comments
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Heating and cooling system. Preventive maintenance will keep your heating, air-conditioner and ventilating system in tip-top shape. Regularly change the air filters, and have the system inspected by a professional at least once a year.

Lighting. A well-lit facility projects safety and quality. Regularly check for burned-out bulbs and replace them promptly. Also inspect lighting fixtures for cracks and broken glass. Consider upgrading to more cost-effective and energy-efficient lighting, such as compact fluorescent or LED bulbs.

Pests. Keep an eye out for signs of pests such as ants, mice, roaches, and even bees or wasps. This is another area where preventive maintenance—and professional assistance when necessary—can go a long way.

Roof. The best way to ensure the longevity of your roof is to fix small problems before they become expensive ones. When units are empty, inspect the interior for signs of water, which could mean you have a leak. Look for loose or missing fasteners. These can be fixed by installing a new rubber gasket and either a manufacturer-approved sealant or target patch. Check with your manufacture for guidelines.

Signage. This includes all of your exterior signs, from the giant one out front to the “No Smoking” warnings posted around the property. Signage with faded letters or numbers, graffiti, or cracks should be replaced. Make sure all signs correctly represent your brand. This means upgrading those that don’t feature your current logo or brand colors. Tenants will definitely notice mixed fonts and colors.

Unit doors. Your facility doors should open with ease and be free of dirt on the exterior and in the guides. You can wash them with a simple soap-and-water solution. Keep them free of cobwebs, debris and weeds. Once a year, spray the door springs with white lithium grease to keep the coils from seizing up on each other or rusting. Replace the rope handle if necessary.

Creating a Timetable

The complete catalog of maintenance tasks can seem overwhelming, but remember: You don’t need to accomplish all of these items in a day or even a single month. Many to-do’s can be addressed seasonally or even on an annual basis. Others will become a part of your daily or weekly duties.

The best way to keep on top of maintenance is to create an all-encompassing list. An Excel spreadsheet is ideal for this, or you can use a calendar-style format. You can include a completion-date column, and even use colors as coding for categories or timeframes. For example, daily items could be highlighted in yellow while annual tasks are in blue. Group related items to increase efficiency. The goal is to make your system easy to follow, so find a style that works for your particular operation.

While many self-storage operators are able to handle the bulk of their site maintenance, there will be times when it’s best to get help—for example, if have an electrical or plumbing problem, or a unit door that needs a new spring. Never attempt a repair if you lack the ability or confidence to do so. Don’t use cheap materials or unskilled labor. Instead, get bids from multiple contractors and choose the most qualified company to fix the problem.

Maintenance tasks involve effort, and some may even come at a cost. However, you can’t put a price on a fresh perspective. Don’t let your “already, always” thinking stand in the way of your facility appearance. Create a plan to tackle projects big and small, build a budget to pay for them, and get to work. Hitting the reset button on your property will lead to better occupancy and more satisfied customers.

Linnea Appleby is the owner of Lime Tree Management, a self-storage management and consulting firm based in Sarasota, Fla. To contact her, call 941.350.7859; e-mail lappleby@limetreemanagement.com; visit www.limetreemanagement.com.

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