Choosing the Right Materials for a Self-Storage Fit-Out

Selecting and incorporating the best materials for a self-storage fit-out (construction) is a key component to a facilitys success.

November 26, 2008

4 Min Read
Choosing the Right Materials for a Self-Storage Fit-Out

Over the last 15 years, the internal fit-out of self-storage facilities has become a specialized segment of the construction industry. Developers are squeezing in more net-lettable areas than ever before. Designers are paying more attention to the potential of the building. Builders are incorporating mezzanine floor designs to give head heights not thought possible before.

This article, based on 30 years experience in the steel-frame, cladding and roofing industry and 15 years of fabricating and building self-storage, offers advice on choosing the right materials for your self-storage facility. To select materials and systems for your storage investment, the products need to be durable and easily installed with no unnecessary parts. In addition, they need to be readily available, delivered on time and designed specifically for self-storage applications.

Codes and Regulations

To ensure you meet all municipal and public service agency regulations, blueprint the design of the complete site including all exits, emergency escape routes, corridor layouts, lighting and smoke detection. If you plan to add a mezzanine floor, test the building’s concrete foundation to ensure it has sufficient load-bearing capacity to support the weight of the additional interior height. This report along with the completed plans should be given to the nominated building regulation agency or outside consultants responsible for obtaining building permits.

Many sites include at least one mezzanine floor. In most cases, this means hiring an expert in design and construction to guide the project from the initial feasibility study to the completed self-storage center.

If preparing the specifications for the work yourself, ensure all work conforms to the newest local and regional codes. Areas often affected by regulations include mezzanine floors, fire lobbies, suspended ceilings, electrics, etc. Most local and national building regulations are available on the Internet.


Apart from the mezzanine, the partition system and the access-control products, most materials needed for the project can be off-the-shelf designed for storage applications. Source the mezzanine floor from a supplier that understands the concept of self-storage layouts (no posts in the fire lobbies, etc.). However, seek advice from industry specialists and compare like-for-like price and specifications.

Several key points should be considered when selecting the best materials for your storage project. They are as follows:

Durability: Whichever systems you chose, be sure they are produced from materials used in an external environment to reduce the problem with erosion. The most common cause of damage to your self-storage facility is from impacts from the consumer pushing trolleys. To protect your investment, budget for corner protection plus kick plates in corridors and all main areas of the site.

Cost-effectiveness: Determine the exact number of units and net-lettable area you’ll have, and plan your unit mix. Small units require more materials. This layout can make a difference in building cost and final return on investment. Determine the type of door and size. In addition, always ask for the exact specification of all products you are getting, including thickness of materials.

Practicality: Have your contractor use local materials suppliers where possible. This reduces the possibility of issues with ongoing maintenance such as light fittings, smoke heads, etc. If you use a national supplier, be sure the company can support its products with ongoing services.

Ensure the materials used for the storage units meet current specifications. Also, choose a supplier that will provide parts promptly during project construction or if you need replacement parts after you open your doors.


In addition, be sure you get your hand-over file from the contractor with a summary of the work and details of all specifications of materials and products.

Health and safety: All products must be safe for customers and designed for the purpose you intend. Products should be fitted in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions and be user-friendly for the consumer with no sharp edges on doors, door jambs, wall joints, etc.

Ease of use: The ideal interior system needs to be relocatable with ease because room changes are common to suit demands of existing and new customers. This system requires the least of amount of parts with maximum inter-changeability.

Take the time to properly research and choose the materials best suited for your self-storage project. This early due diligence will help go a long way to making sure your self-storage project opens on time and provides the services you intend.

Gary Jennings is the managing director for SAS Services Ltd., which provides turnkey solutions for self-storage building conversions and is the European authorized distributor for Sentinel Systems Corp.’s access-control system. For more information, visit

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