Put yourself in the shoes of a potential renter. Would you want to store your valuables at an ill-maintained facility? What kind of message do damaged panels, rusted doors, broken fences or scattered garbage send to a prospective customer? The typical renter has already rented a self-storage unit before, and he may have experienced pest problems, condensation or mold on his valuables, even a break-in to the unit. To convince this already jaded customer, it’s imperative you give him a good first impression.
When first built, your self-storage facility was inherently shiny, new and attractive. As time goes by, you will need to put a little money and effort into maintaining that original appeal. Your customers are the source of your livelihood, but can also be the source of your maintenance issues. The most common maintenance issues include damage to your building caused by careless customers who back into a door or cut a corner a little too tight. Even though you can minimize damages from occurring, you undoubtedly will experience issues such as these.
Know Your Building and Product Supplier
If you’re looking to purchase your first phase of buildings or add on to your existing site, an important aspect to consider when choosing suppliers is how their products will stand up to the test of time, and how easy it will be to replace building parts if damaged. First and foremost, find out the quality of the materials and strength of the parts. You can prevent a variety of maintenance issues by building a facility that uses the most advanced and durable components available in the industry today.
Understand how common building components are installed or replaced. Most companies have customer service departments to assist with the replacement or repair of building components, not only by getting the correct parts sent to your site, but also by providing technical support if needed. The last thing you want is to try to replace a door jamb 10 years later only to find it is no longer available.
Also, ask about the supplier’s procedures for ordering replacement parts. How much do parts cost and how difficult are they to install? Thinking ahead can save you time and money in the event your building is damaged. If damage is difficult to repair because your supplier does not offer easy-to-install replacement parts, you may need to hire an erector, which can be costly.
Finally, ask your supplier for information on how to keep your buildings looking like new. Over time, the paint finish on building panels and doors will deteriorate from dirt, salt and other airborne contaminants. Your supplier should be able to provide tips or products to restore sun-faded building panels and doors. Some products can be applied directly to your steel components, which is less expensive than repainting.
If your facility is fairly new, take preventive steps to thwart fading. Regularly wash your steel building components with soap and water to dramatically increase their life span. A rule of thumb when washing building components is any type of product you can use to clean your car can be used on your building.
Devise a Maintenance Routine
Conducting a regularly scheduled maintenance routine can help prolong the life of your building and its aesthetic appeal. Your building’s roof, in particular, requires regular maintenance since weather elements can damage the panels. If you notice damage at the eave or end of the roof panel, the entire panel may not need to be replaced. Depending on the type of roof, you might be able to purchase a repair panel. The damaged panel is cut back to the first purlin in from the eave, then the new panel slides in underneath. With a little caulk tape and some screws, the eave line is back to new again.
Repair panels reduce material, labor and freight costs, and also minimize the disruption to your business because the repair can be done quickly and, in most cases, will not require you to move a tenant out of the unit. If you should need to replace an entire roof sheet, freight costs may become an issue since the length of the roof panels could require the material to be shipped on a flat-bed truck.
Maintaining your roll-up doors is also important to running an efficient, well-kept facility. Customers do not want to struggle when opening doors to access their units. While a unit is vacant, take some time to perform a few simple routine maintenance tasks to ensure optimal performance of the doors. Apply a silicone spray to slide locks and door guides to keep door operation smooth and quiet. Spray the door springs with a light lubricant to reduce friction on the coils and prevent moisture from accumulating on the spring; friction and moisture can cause the spring to rust and possibly break.
You must replace a spring if it breaks, which is costly for you and inconvenient for your customer. Today, doors feature advanced spring technology that virtually eliminates this kind of required maintenance.
Going the Extra Mile
Not only will regular maintenance of your facility help prolong its longevity and value, but it will also help bring new customers to your site, even as your market becomes more competitive. The curb appeal of your facility can be impacted by trash left from customers or from neighboring businesses. Make sure that trash or unsightly materials are disposed of promptly. Clean any windows, install bollard covers, fix broken fences, and keep up with your landscaping to ensure your site remains inviting and appealing to prospective customers.
People will typically be willing to pay higher rents, or travel a little farther to rent a unit in a facility that is well maintained, secure and visually pleasing.
Jeff Bouchard is the regional sales manager for the north central region for Trachte Building Systems, which designs, manufactures and erects a full line of durable, pre-engineered and customized steel self-storage systems, including single- and multi-story, portable storage, interior partitions and corridors, and canopy boat/RV. Mr. Bouchard can be reached at 800.356.5824 or [email protected]. For more information, visit www.trachte.com.