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Creating and Managing Your Self-Storage Construction Timeline

By Steve Hajewski Comments

Once you’ve decided to build a self-storage facility, one of the more vexing tasks is creating and managing the construction timeline. Following are some of the steps involved in the process and an overview of the various stages. For the purposes of this article, we’ll assume you’re building a basic drive-up facility, which is fairly simple to construct, and you’re going to serve as your own general contractor (GC), as these types of projects still comprise a significant percentage of new builds in the industry.

General Timeframe

How long will it take to build a typical self-storage project? Expect the process to take six to 16 months from the time you have your approvals to the day you open your doors for business. If you’re on the fence about whether to serve as your own GC, timelines are a significant factor to consider. An experienced, local GC will have better resources to complete your project faster.

When serving as your own GC, expect that timelines are going to be fluid. Most tasks will be dependent on the completion of prior steps. Weather as well as your subcontractors’ general workloads will affect your timeline. Also, it’s worth noting that there’s a serious labor shortage in most areas right now. This means some projects may take even longer than expected.

Planning Phase and Budgeting

During the planning phase, the amount of risk you’re willing to take will impact your project speed. Generally, developers try to avoid investing in civil engineering until after they have an offer accepted on a property. However, a detailed survey is the foundation of everything else to come, so the sooner you get an engineer involved, the further ahead you’ll be. The risk is that if the land sale falls apart, the money spent on planning that parcel is wasted.

On larger multi-building projects, such as Quiet Corner Self Storage in Putnam, Conn., many trades can be working at the same time. Frequent communication with subcontractors is required to coordinate work.One common hiccup at this point will be budgeting and financing. Your lender will most likely require a detailed construction budget. But when construction is a long way off, contractors may set aside your requests for quotes to tend to more urgent projects (in their minds) that they already have underway.

When requesting quotes, have your act together and provide details. Your electrical request, for example, should include cut sheets on the fixtures you want as well as where each will be located on your buildings. It should specify what amperage service you’ll have and where it will be located. Give your subs all the details they need to get you a price.

In most cases, it’s not essential for your contractors to look at your building site. Work through e-mail and have your civil engineer add layers of detail to your plan to help the trades. Plan every detail upfront, so you don’t need to add items later. Many new developers don’t think about details such as gates and cameras, for example. However, these items will affect other trades. Your underground conduit needs to be laid for data and power connections. Concrete pads are required for gates.

Also, plan the infrastructure for future phases now. In the long run, you’ll save time and money by designing the facility to accommodate your next phase with buried conduits ready to serve future expansions.


Your building supplier or architect will most likely provide a permit set that will be used to obtain permits from your local or state building departments. For complex projects, these detailed plans can take some time to prepare, so order them as far in advance as possible.

Tru Blue Storage in Henrietta, N.Y., was paved prior to the installation of buildings. This makes for a clean work environment and aids in the speed of construction.In some areas, it may be possible to get a “foundation-only” permit. This may allow you to begin sitework while waiting for the final structural building permit set and approvals. The risk here is that changes to building plans may affect foundation or grading.

In some communities, a conditional-use permit may be required, and there may be additional guidelines for landscaping and architectural standards. Parking requirements per building code are often excessive for storage. If you plan to seek a variance, apply for this early. Due to meeting-notice requirements and various committee approvals, it can easily be a 90-day or longer process for a city to grant any type of approvals.

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