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Check It All, Check It Often: Maintenance Advice for Self-Storage Managers

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By Kevin Edwards

With all the things we do as self-storage managers, facility maintenance is one thing that rarely gets noticed—unless it isn’t done. Broken or missing door handles, dysfunctional light fixtures, faded or peeling paint, dirty and dusty roll-up doors, beat-up push carts, or a generally unkempt property can really make a bad impression on customers. These are the kinds of details people only seem to notice when they’re subpar, even though they should be attended to every day.

The best way to prevent minor problems from becoming major ones is to pay attention. First, walk your storage property and really look at it. Try to imagine yourself as a new or potential customer. Would you rent here? As you review the site, do the following.

Keep It Clean

Walk the perimeter of your property, around your parking lots and roadside entrances, and pick up any trash. There should never be any cans, bottles or wrappers floating around. Try doing this twice a day.

Also check hallways, floors and doors. Clean, swept and mopped hallways mean you were there and you were paying attention, not only to stuff on the floor, but everything else. Carry a broom and dust pan whenever you leave the office. Depending on the type of doors you have, find a dusting brush or tool that works well on the nooks and crannies. Over-the-counter cleaning products usually work well, just be sure to spray the brush, not the door.

Look for Pests

Always watch for signs of pest intrusion. Check the ceiling insulation for holes, and look for scraps of insulation, food, paper or siding material on the floor. These are signs of rodent nesting and activity. If you see any of this, talk to your pest-control vendor. Don’t wait, as ridding your property of pests can be time-consuming and costly.

Even if you have a pest-control contractor who visits your site once or twice per month, add some pest spray around the edges of each space upon tenant move-out. This will help prevent critters from creeping into units.

Make Sure the Lights Work

Outside lights should be checked and replaced at least twice per month. If you offer 24/7 access to customers, then check and replace them every week. Timers should be working properly. Emergency lights should be tested at full capacity at least once per month by shutting down power to the building for about 10 minutes. (You can always just poke the little button on it as you walk past every morning, too.) Your local fire marshal will probably ask you to keep a record of these tests, so make a file.

Check Other Items

There are many other systems and items to monitor. Here are a few big ones:

HVAC system. Check this every month. Service contracts are great, but they can only do so much. Ask your HVAC technician what kind of cleaning solution you can safely use for the drainage lines and the best way to apply it. Keep notes on temperature settings and filter sizes.

Batteries. Check water levels in the batteries for your golf carts and security gates. A cheap voltage meter is helpful, too, just to ensure they’re charging correctly.

Paint. Painting can be fun—really! Try to make a day of it. Repaint your parking stripes, curbs and bollards as needed. Exterior areas should be touched up as soon as you have the chance, just because they’re more visible to passersby. You may even need to repaint your floors. Our property has painted floors in the hallways and units. We touch up the hallways every so often and completely redo them every year.

Signage. Paint or replace signs as necessary. Attack them with a broom to remove cobwebs or bug nests. Do this to your outside light packs about once per week. Insects love to gather around these things and just hang out. Small static mops work well for this.

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