By T.J. Kuehn
The best way to keep your self-storage doors appealing to customers and in peak working condition is through regular maintenance. But as anyone who has worked at a storage facility knows, once the property is open, you never have access to every unit at any one time. Therefore, maintenance must be accomplished when it can, amid the comings and goings of customers throughout the year.
As a facility owner or manager, you need a plan for door maintenance. Below is a checklist of items to address during your next unit changeover. You want to cover all cleaning and mechanical issues, and try think through product options as far in advance as you can.
A well-cleaned facility establishes a positive first impression for potential customers. The changing seasons, regular wear from customers and the simple passage of time take a toll on any storage location. Make sure your facility is consistently cleaned throughout the year, and wash out any vacant unit as soon as it becomes available. Here’s how:
- Sweep out the unit and clear any debris inside the bottom of door guides, around the rain lip, or other crevices with trapped debris. Check gutters for excess buildup of leaves and sediment.
- With a simple soap and water solution, wash the complete interior and exterior of the unit. Include the interior-facing side of the door.
- In cold-weather climates, the bottom bar tends to get salt buildup. A good rinsing will help, but some water and detergent on a light bristled brush is better.
- Check your door guides to ensure they’re free of dust and dirt. Spray them down with water and/or soapy solution as needed.
- Wipe down the guide wear strip with a damp cloth. A further spray-down with Armor All will get them smooth and clean. It’ll also keep particles from sticking to the guide strip and transferring friction to the doors’ painted surfaces.
- Facilities in northern regions can see a lot of salt and harsh weather conditions. Apply a light coat of auto wax before winter sets in to help protect exterior doors.
Most mechanical issues are directly related to the function of the door itself. If you completely ignore maintenance, you run the risk of a broken spring and door. But it’s important to remember that even if the door doesn’t break, neglected maintenance can result in a door that fails to operate smoothly and is difficult to use. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Most anyone can perform the general tasks intended to prevent maintenance issues, but a door professional should be called when something breaks.
- Many facility operators don’t realize that interior and exterior doors are the same product. While interior doors aren’t exposed to weather, they have the same general maintenance needs.
- Door springs are often neglected. The expansion and contraction of steel with the changing of the seasons is often the reason for breakage. Spray springs with white lithium grease to keep the coils from seizing up on each other or rusting, and to help the steel move more freely during cycles. Ideally, this should be accomplished once a year.
- Check and tighten all hardware: nuts, bolts and brackets.
- Look over the latches. Most doors will have a felt covering over the latch nuts and bolts on the inside of the door. If this felt is missing, ensure the nuts are secured. A loose latch can mean an easy break-in.
- Inspect the condition of the bulb astragal, which is the rubber seal between the bottom bar and the door. The astragal has a tendency to dry rot over time as it’s exposed to the elements. Watch for excessive wear and replace as needed.
- Swing doors don’t have springs, so the main thing is to tighten up the hardware and keep the door clean.
Every door vendor is different, but below are some upgrades that may be available for your storage doors. At the very least, they shed light on what most facility owners consider their “pain points.” They address common complaints I’ve heard over the years.
- Of all the door parts, the bottom bar probably sees the most weather-related wear. I suggest an aluminum bottom bar, which resists corrosion better than galvanized steel.
- An open barrel design allows for easier access to the springs for quick lubrication and better maintenance work.
- Tensioning brackets on the ends of the barrels can be used to adjust how easily a door moves up or down. Too much tension and the door will slam up; not enough, and it will be difficult to open. Of course, each user will have his own setting preference.
- Electric operators can typically be installed on any model door. They may provide a quick solution for ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) compliance.
When it comes to door maintenance, each season and region presents its own challenges and opportunities. Review your doors’ curb appeal and function regularly to ensure they look nice and work well for customers.
Disclaimer: This article provides only a recommended list of preventive maintenance for self-storage doors. Please refer to your manufacturer’s instruction manual for information regarding the required maintenance for your particular door systems.
T.J. Kuehn is the marketing brand manager at DBCI, a manufacturer of steel roll-up doors at facilities in Arizona, Georgia and Texas. He has more than 15 years of experience in product development and marketing for both consumer and business-to-business brands. For more information, visit www.dbci.com.