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Spring Cleaning

It's Spring-Cleaning Time! Maintenance Tips and Tricks for Self-Storage Facilities

Self-storage maintenance can be time-consuming and even annoying, but it’s necessary to keep a facility looking great. Follow these tips and tricks to get a better handle on your tasks and keep your facility shining bright.

By Zachary Esparza

It’s not surprising that most self-storage operators dread the idea of site maintenance. They want to grow their business, but more customers and occupancy often lead to more upkeep, which can be repetitive and boring. The good news is the benefits outweigh the costs.

Much in the same way one chooses a well-kept hotel over a shadier option, a customer will often base his storage choice on a facility’s appearance. Upon viewing a worn-out exterior, he can only assume the interior is similar if not worse.

We all need a bit of motivation to tackle daily, weekly, monthly and annual maintenance challenges. It’s time to start a routine. If you already have one, ask yourself: Is it really the most efficient? Everything can be improved, especially maintenance techniques.

Below you’ll find an abundance of tips and tricks to not only preserve your property but streamline your maintenance routine. Provided by your fellow industry professionals, including members of the Self-Storage Talk online community, this information will help you get a better handle on your chores and keep your facility shining bright.

Your Daily Tasks

  • Clean and stock the restrooms.
  • Inspect the entry and exit gates to ensure they’re in proper working order.
  • Make sure the golf cart is clean and operational.
  • Walk the property to pick up trash and other debris.
  • Complete a lock check on every unit.
  • Inspect the buildings and doors for any necessary repairs.
  • Make sure gates and keypads are working properly.
  • Check facility lights for burned-out bulbs.
  • Inspect video cameras and other security devices.
  • Look for signs of pests.
  • Make sure hand carts are in place, clean and working properly.
  • Inspect your landscaping for any issues.

Keep a Tidy Office

There are always some chores that are worse than others. Playing with your toys as a child was much more fun than picking them up. As adults, we’d much rather go out to a nice restaurant or a movie than clean the house or do laundry.

It’s no different for self-storage managers. Leasing units may be more fulfilling than cleaning, but if the facility is filthy, your would-be customers will sprint for the door rather than sign on the dotted line. Remember these tips to keep your office neat and tidy:

  • Keep counters clean of clutter.
  • Wash those windows!
  • Stock your retail area.
  • Vacuum, sweep and mop your floors regularly.
  • Clean corner cobwebs with a duster, mop or cloth-covered broom.
  • Use soapy water to cut through dust and grime on fan blades.

Unit Shape-Up

While most tenants are great about emptying their unit, some will leave behind boxes, furniture or trash. “Cleaning move-outs can be time-consuming if they’re left in poor shape,” says Anne Ballard, Anne Ballard, president of training, marketing and developmental services at Atlanta-based Universal Storage Group, a third-party management company that oversees 52 facilities in 16 states. Here’s your quick guide for inspecting units after a move-out:

  • Toss any obvious trash. Abandoned items may need to be handled per your state’s lien laws.
  • Sweep out the unit. Be sure to hit the corners and ceiling.
  • Make sure the roll-up door is working properly. Check the tension and make any necessary adjustments.
  • Wash the interior of the unit and door if needed.

When to Call a Professional

While you can likely tackle most maintenance responsibilities, there are times when you’ll need to call in a professional. Here are some examples:

  • Something that requires specialized knowledge, such as an electrical or plumping problem
  • A task that’s physically impossible for a manager to complete
  • Damage to the building or a door
  • Repair to the gate or gate operator
  • A job that requires special tools

Necessary, Often Forgotten Tasks

Trying to account for every maintenance need at a self-storage facility can be overwhelming. Here are few tasks that are often forgotten:

  • Cleaning the gutters before they pile up with debris
  • Checking carbon monoxide and smoke detectors to ensure they’re working properly
  • Inspecting the roof
  • Pressure washing the curbs to remove tire stains, dirt and other marks
  • Maintaining the golf cart by checking the tires and battery regularly

Common Errors to Avoid

The most common mistake operators make is neglecting deferred maintenance on driveways and buildings. Set up a reserve account to fund big projects like sealcoating and painting, Ballard suggests. “When you allow things to get in really poor condition, it costs more to repair them than if you had a preventive-maintenance program. Everything wears out and needs to be repaired or replaced, so plan ahead.”

Another mistake is failing to hire a pro when it’s warranted, says Mel Holsinger, president of Professional Self Storage Management LLC, a third-party management company that oversees 51 properties in seven states. “Don’t attempt a repair using cheap materials or labor who are not qualified to do the repair.”

‘Greenify’ Your Facility

The average person generates 4.5 pounds of trash every day, or about 1.5 tons of solid waste per year, according to greenwaste.com. Unfortunately, self-storage operators see their fair share of leftover soda cans, cigarette butts and other trash strewn about their properties. Much of the trash is often recyclable. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates 75 percent of solid waste is recyclable, but only 30 percent is actually recycled. How can you help?

  • Use EPA-certified cleaning products.
  • Purchase an electric golf cart rather than a gas-powered one.
  • Recycle dated or useless paperwork. Better yet, work toward a paperless office.
  • Experiment with natural pest-prevention products.
  • Stock the restrooms with recycled paper products.

While there’s no doubt facility maintenance can be challenging and time-consuming, it’s well worth the effort. Arm with yourself with a plan, add a bit of hard work, and reap the rewards of a job well done!

Zachary Esparza is a sophomore journalism major at Arizona State University in Phoenix. His emphasis is business journalism with minors in film and media studies and business. He recently interned as a contributing writer to “Bakersfield Life,” a lifestyle magazine covering Bakersfield, Calif. After graduation, he hopes to direct movies while writing about his struggles and successes of owning his own business. To reach him, e-mail zachary.esparza@informa.com.

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