Some people view self-storage building installation as though it were as simple as an oversized Meccano set. This not the case! Poor building erection is a pitfall that can and will drain a developer’s cash flow.
After spending the time and money to develop a project, you expect to recoup your investment and make a profit. You’re looking for a quick, easy lease-up and don’t want to be plagued with roof leaks and constant repairs. Such problems can destroy a site’s potential for getting off the ground and into a profit zone. Construction is not the place to penny-pinch because, in the long run, it will cost you more than it saves.
Never compromise on concrete or erection work, and don’t allow your project to become the victim of a tight budget in phase one. You will jeopardize everything else you have done, potentially losing business and your reputation, if you skimp during installation.
Finding qualified erectors can be aggravating because these are specialized steel workers who custom fit every odd angle. It’s especially tough to find them in hard economic times because there’s a never-ending list of wannabes who need work and will take any job at any price.
Watch out for the unusually low bid. Also be on the lookout for erectors who are just regular contractors, or contractors who hire their brothers, sons, uncles and friends to build your project. The wrong erector can create a costly future for you if he’s training on your job.
It’s true that basic buildings can be easier to complete, while insulated buildings with steps, large beams, interior hallways, utility rooms and elevators can be tricky. For the qualified self-storage erector, a basic building will simply go up faster than one with challenges. To protect your bottom line, hire an erector who is qualified to complete all aspects of a building regardless of its requirements, in a high-quality finish with organization and speediness.
Finding a good erection company begins by getting quotes from at least three self-storage contractors and reviewing them for differences. Make note of how quickly the contractors return your calls. Ask questions and request five client references from each company. Call references for an opinion of the company’s workmanship, diligence, attention to detail, ethics and timing of the schedule. Keep in mind the erector won’t refer you to any jobs that turned sour, so listen intently and read between the lines for hints of potential challenges.
Make sure all candidates have built self-storage buildings before and, if possible, travel to those sites to examine the workmanship. Do they have a site in development? If so, visit the work in progress and ask yourself: Is the material laid out in an organized fashion? Is the site clean? Do the employees look like they’re working as a team?
Meet and Greet
Arrange to meet your candidates and review your facility plans. Ask them for a sample set of drawings to review general details. They should also bring an example of a more complicated job to demonstrate how they overcame a particular challenge. Listen closely for their professional description of the work. This will give you an opportunity to see if the erectors can read drawings and evaluate their level of knowledge.
Here are some poignant questions to ask your prospective erectors:
- How many storage buildings have you completed?
- How many phase-one, -two or -three project references do you have?
- How many standing-seam roofs have you installed? (Always choose standing seam over screw-down or shingles.)
- Are pinning and gluing insulation used at the eave?
- Have you worked with all of the major door systems?
- Do you unload the building and supply the unloading equipment?
- Do you supply the concrete anchors, bits, metal bits and cutting blades?
- How many workers will be on site?
- How long will it take to complete the project?
- How busy is your schedule?
- How do you handle extras? (Extras should be submitted in writing and at a discounted hourly rate since they are already on site.)
- How do you handle manufacturer problems?
The interview will help you screen out the inexperienced erectors from the successful ones who will get you through the project without problems. If you choose well, the erector should have the experience to solve any unforeseen situations as they arise while moving your project forward in a timely fashion.
Your finished building should be clean and presentable and pass structural inspection. The units should be swept out, the site cleaned and all doors in working order. When the project is complete, inspect the building with the foreman and address any items before he packs up and leaves the site.
All erection crews in Canada must have two types of insurance: liability and workers’ compensation. Get written confirmation of these coverages. Do not hire an erector without insurance because you can and will be left holding the bag for liabilities. Keep in mind that any and all subcontractors used along the way will also need to present insurance.
Misunderstanding and miscommunication is the greatest nemesis to a smooth and successful self-storage development. Take the time to read the erector’s terms and conditions carefully, and be sure to discuss, clarify and satisfy in writing any precarious items.
Finding the right erector company is the gold in your investment. The installation is the first step to ensuring your long-term profitability, not a mere requirement or obstacle along the path to success.
George Gray is the president of the Ontario-based Grayveld Builders Corp., a design/build/erection company specializing in self-storage development. For information, call 866.855.2769; visit www.grayveld.com.