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Inside Self-Storage Magazine 07/2004: Preventive Maintenance

July 1, 2004

6 Min Read
Inside Self-Storage Magazine 07/2004: Preventive Maintenance

Preventive MaintenanceLack of attention can give storage a bad name

By Bert Brown

When you think of baseball, several popular nicknames come to mind, like The Babe (Babe Ruth), Hammerin Hank (Hank Aaron) or the Iron Man (Cal Ripkin). Every kid who dreams of making it big in the sport probably thinks a great nickname is an indication of things to come. But when I was in my 20s, standing in the batters box at a weekend softball tournament in Nashville, Tenn., I realized the nickname that had been bestowed on me by my comrades of the dirt diamond was not so great. (It was at this point the harsh reality set in that you dont get to choose your own magnificent moniker!)

During our four-hour trip to the game, I had managed to leave on my left turn signal for nearly the entire way, with everyone following behind me. I later tried to explain that my 6-foot, 4-inch height kept the signal indicators from my view, and the deafening blare of the stereo drowned out the flasher sound. As I had been driving at high speed, I had stayed in the left lane the whole wayno need for a signal. Nevertheless, from that point, any time I heard encouragement from my teammates in the dugout, it was addressed to Blinker.

I admit I still leave my turn signal on from time to time. Maybe I dont see or hear the indicators. Most likely, my mind is elsewhere, thinking of all the things I need to do. Maybe Im distracted by things going on around me. Regardless of the situation or my excuses, the truth is I am just not being attentive. Whether I like it or not, perhaps my nickname still applies.

Dont be a Blinker in the management of your storage business. A lack of attention to details, such as regular maintenance, can have a detrimental effect on your facility. If you are not careful, you can get caught up in all manner of distractions while obvious problems become a nuisance to tenants. Let this serve to remind you (< Blink>) to pay attention to the details that can affect your customers.

Have a Plan

While watertight roofs and well-operating doors are the most obvious items for preventive maintenance, many self-storage operators overlook a few less obvious items, such as project lighting, HVAC equipment, and the condition of driveways and parking areas. Every project should have an established and well-documented plan to keep small, seemingly insignificant issues from becoming costly problems.


One of the most important maintenance items is prevention of roof leaks. The obvious problem with a leak in a self-storage facility is the likelihood it will not be discovered until after the damage is done. A good maintenance plan will include quarterly inspections of the roofs, including penetrations and drainage.

Any roof penetration, such as a tek screw or venting, can present a possible leak point. Tek screws used during many roof applications should have rubber gaskets to create watertight roof integrity. Make sure gaskets are in place and in good condition. One common problem that occurs is during installation, the tek screws are over-tightened, causing their gaskets to be destroyed. If this happens frequently at your facility, a steelbuilding professional should be consulted to determine the best method of repair.

Check all joints and penetrations where caulk has been applied to ensure the integrity of the sealant. Inspect gutters and downspouts for obstructions, such as leaves and garbage. The latter is generally the product of a careless tenants lack of access to a garbage-disposal point other than the top of the building. Objects trapped in the gutters and downspouts will obstruct normal water flow and cause water to find its way into the building.

After a heavy rain, check vacant units for water. With every tenant move-out, the unit should be inspected for any signs of water damage. Examine the roof, insulation, floors and walls for any signs of moisture. After cleaning the unit, take time to service the door.


Doors should be inspected for heavy wear. Check the springs to ensure they have a light coating of grease. This will displace moisture and help prevent rust. If grease is needed, apply only a minimal amount to keep it from dripping inside the unit.

While the bearings should be good for the life of the door, make sure they are in good working order. If the door does not have bearings, grease should be applied where there is metal-to-metal contact at the axle and bracket. Wipe down the guides with a light silicon solvent like Armor All to ensure smooth operation. Next, operate the door to check the tension. If necessary, adjust it using extreme caution as outlined by the door manufacturer. Finally, examine the slide latch for engagement and security; and document the service of the unit and door in your records.


Lighting is often overlooked until someone is left in the dark. Make this item part of a routine checklist to ensure tenant safety and a warm, clean, well-maintained atmosphere. By all means, include your signage in this inspection. In many cases, your sign gives customers their first impression of your facility. Most lighted signs have multiple bulbs and can seem dark and aged if not all of them are working.

HVAC Equipment.

Make sure the filters on all HVAC units are changed regularly. A clean filter will help maintain optimum energy efficiency and keep dust to a minimum. To avoid unnecessary water damage, check the unit to ensure condensation handling is not being impaired.


Make a habit of inspecting driveways and parking areas. Ensuring prospects can reach the office and tenants can access their units without obstruction or inconvenience is key. Standing water after a rain can be a problem. Potholes and cracking pavement are issues that should be addressed and corrected immediately. Many of these problems will become significantly more difficult and costly to repair with time.

Being proactive about facility care will ensure less expensive repair costs as your facility ages. Your maintenance schedule should be well-planned and communicated with employees through written guidelines and expected job duties. By taking a positive stance and paying attention to details, you can secure the longevity and success of your investment, without any unwanted blinks along the way.

Bert Brown is director of marketing for Janus International Corp., which manufactures a complete line of storage-facility components, ranging from roll-up sheet doors to self-supporting hallway systems. For more information, call 770.562.2850; visit www.janusintl.com.

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