Building Your Boat/RV-Storage Center: Design Considerations for New Builds and Expansions

The demand for high-quality, safe storage for boats and RVs is on the rise, and storage-facility design is evolving to meet the need. Here are some considerations for building or expanding a storage center to accommodate high-end vehicles.

By Todd Trepke

With boat and RV ownership on the rise in the United States, many storage-facility operators are eager to capitalize on consumers’ need for quality, safe vehicle storage. In the past, boat/RV storage may have been relegated to open dirt or gravel areas. Now, vehicle owners are demanding more secure and sheltered environments for their toys and are willing to pay a premium for storage space.

There are different types of storage that can be built at varying costs and financial returns. If you’re building a new facility or expanding an existing one, here are some design considerations to help you best serve the expanding boat/RV-storage market.

Building Types

When building boat and RV storage, there are a few things you need to consider at the outset. The first is your building type. There are three basic kinds of storage for vehicles: open canopies, rigid-frame buildings and fully enclosed suites. Each has its own advantages and construction costs but can be designed based on the criteria your target demographic might demand.

An example of open-canopy storage at All About Storage in Villa Rica, Ga.Open-canopy storage is the least expensive type of construction and can offer a great deal of flexibility. It’s very similar to the old pole-barn type of construction. Supporting walls are comprised of columns with cross members, and purlins/rafters run longitudinally to support the roof.

Typically, these structures feature individual bays separated by the bearing walls. In many cases, there are no bay dividers, and the end walls are left open so you can “double stack” the bay if you have access from both sides of the building. The bay depth can be infinite, and widths of up to 20 feet are achievable.

Rigid-frame buildings offer the storage developer an abundance of options. These structures allow for wide openings, can be easily racked, and can be built to huge dimensions without obstructive center columns. Further, with these buildings, parking configuration can be easily changed.

Rigid-frame storage, like this building at Freedom Self Storage in St. Mary’s, Ga., allows the parking configuration to be easily changed.

The boat/RV suite is a newer concept in the industry. Usually offered to high-end clientele, these buildings typically offer private, fully enclosed bays, built in the same fashion as standard self-storage buildings, but with a few exceptions. Suites can vary in their amenities, but most share common features including climate control and plug-ins for electrical, water and, in some cases, waste. Some suites are so big that they can double as media rooms with large-screen TVs and refrigerators.

Building Design

After deciding on the type of building you want to build, there are a few crucial considerations left: ingress/egress, eave height and bay width.

First, you must have easy ingress and egress for customers. Narrow drive aisles, blind curves and narrow bay entrances will not work. For customers to navigate their RVs and trailers through your property, you’ll need to add 45-foot drive aisles. In some cases, you may need to go larger. You can mitigate some of the drive-aisle width requirements by racking the building to allow for angled ingress and egress, thus maximizing the usable land space.

Next, consider your eave height. It’s prudent to have an eave height of no less than 14 feet, 6 inches. While most outboard boats can be stored in buildings with eave heights as low as 10 feet, you’ll find the majority of RVs cannot fit under this eave. Thus, to make your building more versatile—so it can store anything your customers can imagine—it’s often sensible to go with a higher height.

Second, the bays for these buildings need to be wider than your standard storage bay. While it’s conceivable that boats and RVs can be stored in a standard 10-foot-wide bay with an 8-foot, 8-inch door opening, this is not a wise practice. To give your customers room to maneuver and walk around their vehicle, 12-foot-wide bays with at least 10-foot openings are advised. This will save you from having to make repairs in the future, as your customers will be less likely to run into the building. It will also make it easier for them to access their vehicles.

Offering boat and RV storage can be an excellent opportunity for a storage-facility owner to generate additional income. When developing a new project or capitalizing on undeveloped land at an existing site, keep the above design considerations in mind.

Todd Trepke is vice president of operations for Compass Building Systems Inc., a supplier and erector of self-storage buildings, including boat and RV storage. Based in Powder Springs, Ga., the company also offers design and consultation services. For more information, call 800.243.8438; visit

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