Doors From Closed to Open

September 1, 1998

6 Min Read
Doors From Closed to Open

Doors From Closed to Open

The first self-storage in the late '60s used lightweight sectional doors with agalvanized-steel finish. They were later painted--per manufacturer's instructions--withonly mixed success. These doors had a very poor locking system. Plus, the tracking systemused for opening and closing the doors intruded into the storage area, taking up valuablespace. Worse, there was the problem of broken springs, which created a dangerous situationand were difficult to replace.

For smaller-sized units, some owners used a lightweight, hollow steel door with aprimed finish. This door was not very weather-tight and allowed rainwater to seep inside,which eventually led to another hazard: rust along the bottom of the door.

Some owners learned that the exterior swing doors could give a real jerk if the windhappened to grab them as they were opened. Another looming disaster for the facilityoperator who had installed swing doors was the possibility of someone exiting a unit viathe door, having their field of vision blocked on one side by the door. In an unfortunateevent, a tenant might step past the open door into the driveway and right into the path ofan oncoming vehicle.

Fortunately, the self-storage industry and door manufacturers have been savvy enough tolearn from past mishaps and mistakes. Let's continue to study the evolution of theself-storage door and facility construction as a whole.

Changes in the '70s

In the next decade, we saw three manufacturers begin to make a low-cost, steel, roll-updoor. Two of them were of a modified slat design and one was a lock-seamed steel. Thismarked a major convenience breakthrough for door manufacturing because this model costless and saved space. In addition, the door jambs did not need inside wood-jamb facing.Finishes were limited, however. Facility owners could select doors that were primed forpainting or opt for the white, baked-enamel version, which is still the norm forsectional-type doors today. Also at this time, most buildings were of masonry constructionand partitions were built from dry wall. Sites that are built in this manner are generally24 years old or older.

By the late '70s, unit mix became the rage. A project that offered a variety of popularsizes rented much more quickly than a facility that offered a limited unit mix. Forexample, projects with 600 10-by-20 units or a site with 500 5-by-10s were missing theobvious need for different sizes. They were slow to rent up and, as a result, owners oftenneeded to lower rental rates in order to reach higher occupancy levels.

Roll-up doors could be made any size, including smaller sizes down to 3-feet wide.Masonry openings could be 8-feet or 8.8-feet wide, allowing them to accommodate one orone-and-a-half block columns. A 12-inch vertical mullion was used to divide units into3.6-feet­ or 3.10-feet­wide doors, depending upon column size. These changes addedflexibility in unit mix, making the facility attractive to a greater variety of potentialclients. Therefore, the changes had a positive effect on the bottom-line profit. Needlessto say, owners/operators should recognize the fact that small units rent for a lot moreper square foot than do large units.

The Next Generation

The '80s brought a period of rapid development to the self-storage industry. In theearly '80s, several door colors became available: Sunset Orange, Royal Blue, Tangerine,Valentine Red and other bright colors came on the market with a rush. The industry becameknown for bright flashy colors. As material prices increased with high interest rates andinflation, little attention was paid to quality and value. As we look back, we now realizethat better paint finishes and higher-quality materials should have been used. We seedoors badly faded and in need of repainting. Price wasn't everything.

The Present

Let's take a look at how self-storage has evolved out of the '80s into the '90s andwhat lies ahead for the next millenium. Climate-controlled interiors are now used for bothnew construction and the conversion of older buildings. The thought in the industry isthat climate control is offering a new option that is driving the recent building surge.Swing doors, roll-up doors and partitions are all part of a systems approach promoted bymanufacturers. Interiors are now bright with glossy-white finishes, and doors are colorcoordinated. In addition, it is not uncommon to see areas of large quantities of4-by-4-by-5 stacked lockers and units as big as 20-by-20.

The variety of sizes, bright clean colors and good security are attractinghigher-income customers, who likely feel more secure in storing more furniture andhousehold goods in an upscale self-storage property. After people realize the need tostore, they generally look for three things in making the decision to rent:

  1. No moisture or water

  2. No bugs or rodents

  3. Good security

As mentioned earlier, climate control can resolve matters of humidity and extremeweather conditions. Plus, security--in the form of door alarms, motion sensors, smokealarms, TV cameras and entrance controls--are standard on most self-storage facilitiesbuilt in the '90s. Door manufacturers accommodate all available forms of security in theirdoor and hallway designs. Managers use video and audio monitoring to add additionalsecurity.

Hallway and partition systems are available in Gavalume-finished steel or inbaked-enamel white. Knowledgeable owners have moved completely away from galvanized steel,which is known for heavy staining, finger printing and white rusting. Galvalume, acombination of zinc and aluminum, has a bright neutral finish, which will not change foryears, if at all. Galvalume is standard for roofing as well as interior partitions. Doorscan be obtained in as many as 20 colors. The present trends are for doors to match metalroof and trim colors.

Partitions and hallways are usually configured in heavier flush panels or in corrugatedpatterns. Roll-up doors are supported by columns and swing doors by an attached integralframe. This leaves a clear, fastener-free appearance. Five-foot wide hallways are usedwith several varieties of soffit systems. These are used to reflect light, hide theair-conditioning ducts and to enhance security. Glossy-white baked enamel is used formaximum light reflectance and clean appearance.

Partitions usually run vertical to avoid the dust that catches on horizontal surfaces.Some systems use horizontal partitions to give the building diaphragm-loading capability.This decision may be hard to make, as costs are lower with a post-and-perlin system usinghorizontal partitions. Most vertical partitions are seamed together for flexibility,maximum security and easy installation.

Into The Future

What's next for self-storage as the millenium approaches? Will the trend towardinnovation continue? There is evidence that innovation and added value are here to stay.Owners and lenders know that value put into a project reaps several benefits:

  • Higher rents

  • Less deferred maintenance

  • Higher resale values

Considering only cost without regard for lasting value will lose favor with buyers. Thefuture will bring even better, higher-quality self-storage-door products. In thisindustry, the doors are never closed. We are always open to new ideas.

Dan Curtis is vice president of Doors and Buildings Components Inc. Based inDouglasville, Ga., the company provides the self-storage industry with roll-up steeldoors, filler panels, partitions and complete hallway systems, as well as other services.Mr. Curtis is a frequent contributor to Inside Self-Storage magazine and well-seasonedspeaker at Inside Self-Storage Expos. For more information, Mr. Curtis may be reached at(800) 542-0501.

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