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Door and Building Maintenance

July 1, 2003

8 Min Read
Door and Building Maintenance

If your self-storage doors and buildings are not being properly maintained, you may be losing business. Even your best customers will get frustrated with doors that won't open or close easily, or with having chalk or dirt get on their clothes and hands. A well-maintained facility will attract more customers, operate more efficiently and have a higher market value. Customers relate well-maintained, clean properties to safer and more secure facilities. Preventive maintenance can preserve your investment and save thousands of dollars down the road.

Maintenance Challenges

Refinishing doors with a protective coating is a sound alternative to repainting.

Sun, salt air, acid rain and other damaging elements take their toll on the paint on metal doors and buildings. Ultraviolet rays will eventually fade and chalk even the best paint. Salt air can oxidize and pit the metal, causing ugly corrosion. Acid rain can streak and ruin doors. Dirt and dust will settle and stick on chalky or oxidized doors. Metal doors and buildings can remain dull and dingy even after being cleaned.

Acid rain can wreak havoc on your metal doors and buildings, even if you are not in an area with refineries, factories or power plants. Acid-rain damage creates dark streaks on the metal that are permanently etched and cannot be removed. This damage cannot be reversed, but it can be prevented.

Dirt or grit in the door guides can gum up the mechanisms. With more commercial customers renting storage units, the doors may get more wear. If they do not have bearings, the steel-on-steel friction may cause excessive wear if maintenance is neglected.

The effects of acid rain on a standard metal door.

The original paint on metal buildings and roll-up doors is baked on in the factory. Many times, doors will get scratched when they are installed and the contractors will touch them up with matching paint. But paint that isn't baked on will oxidize and fade more quickly than the original, causing blotches to appear. Some swing doors come with nonbaked paint, causing them to fade faster than the surrounding roll-up doors. While some doors and buildings require little or low maintenance, there are some periodic procedures you can use to ensure they are better-looking, longer-lasting and well-working.

Fading and Chalking

Door and building manufacturers are constantly working to offer better paint finishes. Even though metal doors and buildings will eventually fade and chalk from sun exposure, the good news is there is still good paint under the chalk that can be refinished to look new again. If you clean the doors or metal buildings and don't seal or protect their surfaces, they will soon fade or chalk again.

Touch-up paint fades faster than the original paint baked on at the factory.

Some owners repaint their metal doors or buildings to brighten them. There are, however, problems with repainting the metal. Moisture can get between the original baked-on paint and the softer, newer layer, causing bubbling and peeling. Paint that is not baked on will also oxidize much faster than the original, bringing back the chalking and fading problem you tried to resolve.

Instead of using paint to brighten faded metal doors and buildings, refinishing with a high-quality protective coating is a good alternative. Once the surface is cleaned from chalk and other soiling agents, a good clearcoat can restore the doors' former appearance. Make sure the coating will bring back the original color; is easy to work with; will not crack, peel or discolor with exposure to the elements; and will protect from sun, salt air, acid rain, moisture and other damaging elements. A good protective coating will also make the doors much easier to keep clean by repelling dust and dirt. You want to choose a clearcoat that is nonflammable and able to flex with the roll-up door.

If your metal is already peeling or you want a color change, repainting is the only option. Make sure you have the surface properly prepared and use quality materials. If you are planning to slurry coat your property, have the refinishing or painting done first. In either case, the chalky oxidation will have to be removed and can cause stains if not washed off the slurry immediately.

Salt-Air Oxidation

The effects of salt corrosion on a standard metal door.

In areas close to the ocean or even by Salt Lake City, pay particular attention to the tops of doors--especially on buildings that don't get very much sun. Even if you are miles from salt water, you can get oxidation from fog. Rub your hand along your doors. If they are rough, you are feeling salt-air oxidation that can cause extreme corrosion and damage to your doors and buildings.

Similarly, if you use salt for snow and ice control, keep an eye on the bottom of your doors and metal buildings for corrosion. This decay needs to be stopped before it does major damage. Paint alone cannot stop rust or corrosion. Paint breathes and will allow moisture to penetrate, and rust can travel underneath or quickly penetrate back through. In areas where salt air is a problem, check your interior doors for corrosion as well, especially if your hallways are open. The moist salt air can settle on the doors and corrode the interior doors. A quality protective coating formulated to stop salt oxidation will halt additional damage.

Door Numbers

Door numbers will eventually fade and crack, creating a poor impression for potential tenants. When replacing numbers, use the highest-quality vinyl numbers possible in an easy-to-read, block style. Otherwise, you will be replacing your numbers more often.

Periodic Maintenance

When a unit is vacated, there are several procedures to ensure your doors remain in good working order:

  • When you sweep out the unit, sweep any cobwebs and dirt out of the guides on the door. You may want to wipe them down with a rag to remove dirt that will interfere with the smooth operations of the door. Do not use grease or WD-40 on the guides, as it will attract dirt and grime and gum up the rollers.

  • Check to make sure the door is securely screwed into the wall. The screws may have backed out after excessive use. Sometimes none of the screws are in place.

  • Oil or lubricate the springs with a very light coat of oil to reduce friction and prevent rust. Check the tension and adjust according to the manufacturer's directions. Maintaining the spring tension and making sure they are balanced is critical. People who hurt their backs trying to raise doors that stick or open unevenly can file lawsuits.

  • Check the pull cords, especially if they are on the outside, as they wear very quickly. Frayed cords do not give a well- maintained image. Nylon rope is very durable when used for pull cords, particularly in colder areas where routine winter maintenance (i.e., snowblowing) can damage them. The cord ends can be melted or singed so they won't fray.

  • Inspect the unit for signs of leakage, and replace worn weather seals as necessary.

  • If your doors are dented, dent tool kits are available that fit the doors of several manufacturers.

  • If you must paint older doors, make sure to readjust the springs to compensate for the extra weight of the paint.

Building Maintenance

Metal buildings can be refinished. Stucco, wood or block buildings can be maintained by painting. Start by thoroughly cleaning the area to be painted. Paint won't stick to dirt, grease, grime or dust. If mildew is a problem, a bleach and water solution can be used to kill it. Always use quality materials.

Tenants tend to run into corners of buildings with moving trucks. Any broken corners should be repaired before painting. Any cracks in stucco should be filled with caulk or elastomeric paint. Broken or bent gutters, metal trim or downspouts can be replaced, which will not only enhance the look of the facility but increase the life of the roof. Broken gutters can contribute to roof problems by allowing water to pool on roof surfaces. Not only is water itself detrimental, but its weight can be a serious problem.

Also pay attention to your signage, gates and fencing. First impressions are extremely important. If you have rusty gates and faded signs, what impression are you giving about the rest of your property? Painting your curbs and bollards can also make a huge difference in the overall appearance of your facility.

Roof Maintenance

The best preventive maintenance one can do is perform quarterly or semi-annual inspections to identify and solve problems as they occur. Roofs get more abuse from the elements than any other part of the building, and preventive maintenance is a key element to saving money by providing a longer service life.

  • Clean all debris from the surface of the roof. This includes debris that has gathered behind HVAC units, pipes and pitch pans, and any other roof penetrations. Debris has a tendency to hold water, and water will expedite roof deterioration.

  • Make sure water does not pool on your roof. This adds to the weight of the roof and can cause major problems.

The appearance and smooth operation of your facility projects your image to the public. Maintenance does not cost you money, it makes you money, and keeps your customers and employees happy. Preventive maintenance is a service to your customers and is not an option when it comes to maintaining a profit.

Teresa Sedmak is the president of Everbrite Inc., which manufactures and markets Everbrite Protective Coating, and Pacific Pride Products Inc., the company's contracting division. She is also a licensed painting contractor with extensive experience and knowledge of protective coatings. For more information, visit www.renewstorage.com or www.everbritecontractor.com. Call 800.897.9659; e-mail [email protected].

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