Self-Storage Roof Maintenance: 3 Tips for Keeping Units Dry Year Round

A self-storage facilitys roof must be properly maintained year round. Here are three tips to help self-storage operators keep their units and customers belongings dry.

June 24, 2012

5 Min Read
Self-Storage Roof Maintenance: 3 Tips for Keeping Units Dry Year Round

By Mick Handloser

According to the national Self Storage Association, there are approximately 7 square feet of storage space for every man, woman and child in America. Therefore, its physically possible that every American could standat the same timeunder the total canopy of self-storage roofing. If it were raining on that huge canopy, all of America would hope to stay dry!

Bad roof fasteners can lead to leaks.Millions of people keep their valuables in storage, so its very important to keep these units safe from wet weather. Simply put, a facilitys roof must be properly maintained. Here are three tips to keeping your units and customers belongings dry.

Tip No. 1: The Visual Inspection

Before renting out your storage units, make a visual inspection of the interior. On your inspection check:

  • The floor and ceiling for water stains

  • The roller-door rubber gasket pad to see if its properly attached

  • The batten insulation for moisture and sagging due to leaks

Water stains on a storage unit floor.If its an interior unit, look in the hallway for evidence of leaks under skylights or HVAC duct work. Even if the customer insures his belongings, some items are irreplaceable, so make sure your inspection is thorough every time.

Tip No. 2: Keep Water Flowing Off the Roof

The self-storage industry uses many types of roofing. Some common roof systems are asphalt shingles, EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer), TPO (Thermoplastic Olefin or Polyolefin), built-up roofing and standing-seam metal. A high percentage of storage facilities have metal roofs. These roofs are designed to shed water by means of gravity. If a standing-seam roof holds water for any period of time, it will eventually leak.

The best way to keep the water flowing off the roof is to properly install and maintain water-diverting flashing around all penetrations, at wall joints and any mechanical equipment on the roof. If water is flowing down the slope of a roof and the flow is interrupted by a pipe, debris, a skylight or a screw head backing out of the roof, then backflow is created and water could make it into the building. As long as the water is flowing, the roof will perform as it should. All these items should be inspected and maintained annually.

The ability of water to flow through downspouts is critical to roof health.Heres an important note on metal roofs. All roofs are like living things. They expand, contract and move through temperature change and weather-related activities. Metal roofing expands and contracts, and this action creates stress on the fasteners and forces them to back out of the roof, creating a potential leak point. Annually, inspect the roof for fasteners that need to be addressed. Fix them by installing new rubber gaskets and either a manufacturer-approved sealant or target patch. This will keep the roof in good working condition.

Also, review the seams and joints for openings and separations. You can address these areas with an elastomeric-coating product that can move with the panels. Even this form of preventive measure needs to be monitored annually. However its a cost-effective repair option and will keep your customers items protected from water intrusions.

Before Tropical Storm Allison hit in June 2001, I moved my family to Houston. We put our belongings into a 10-by-20 unit while our house was being built. During the storm, the six-day rainfall in Houston amounted to 38.6 inches. The deluge flooded 95,000 automobiles and 73,000 houses throughout Harris County. The rain also caused a major leak in our storage unit. The damage was limited to the front of the unit where the gutter became overwhelmed and water rolled back under the eave and into the storage unit. This is a common leak issue in storage units.

Tip No. 3: Keep Gutters and Drains Clean of Debris

To avoid water pooling on the roof, keep gutters free of debris.If the gutters fill up, then the water will overflow under the eave and into the unit. The biggest personal storage companies in America face a real dilemma when it comes to cleaning gutters. They need to be cleaned at least once a year, and these companies have millions of feet of gutter to clear. The work load to clean all the gutters in Americas self-storage can be daunting, but keeping the drains and gutters clear will prevent angry calls from renters.

One of the biggest issues with storage unit gutters is that most moving van drivers are amateurs with no experience driving a giant box truck. This leads to many crushed and damaged gutters in front of storage units. Another part of the prelease inspection should include a look at the condition of the downspouts and gutters around the units.

Roof leaks are like toothaches. When a toothache starts, its impossible to think about anything else until its fixed. When the water is pouring in the storage unit, the renter will not be able to think about anything else until the leak is addressed and his valuables are safe. Following these simple roofing tips will help prevent many of these leak issues before they become a problem.

Mick Handloser is a Registered Roof Observer (RRO), and a member of the National Roofing Contractors Association and the Roofing Industry Committee on Weather Issues Inc. He currently manages the accounts in the south-central and southwest U.S. for RoofConnect, which offers national roofing services. To reach him, call 870.942.5613; e-mail [email protected]; visit

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