Ensuring Form, Function and Long Life: How to Properly Care for Your Self-Storage Unit Doors

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Roll-up doors are a critical part of any self-storage facility, so it’s important that they be well-maintained! Not only do they contribute to curb appeal, they’re a big part of the tenant experience and can be a safety hazard if left untended. Follow this guidance to keep yours in the best shape.

Being a “door guy,” I’m often asked by self-storage operators for recommendations on how to care for their roll-up unit doors. While this building component seems like a simple apparatus, it actually needs regular maintenance if you expect it to last. Consider the following to guarantee your doors operate efficiently for years to come.

The Basics

Even when your self-storage units are occupied, there are aspects of your doors that should be inspected regularly. For example, examine the curtain for damage and check the latch for tampering. If the unit has a header draft stop or jamb brush seal, determine if they have excessive wear and replace them if necessary.

Once a unit becomes vacant, there are other items you should inspect before renting it to the next custuomer. First, consider the latch. If it’s worn or appears to have been tampered with, it’s time for a new one. If it’s loose, tighten the nuts on the back.

Next, assess the bottom seal. Ensure it’s in good shape with no tears. If it is, wipe it down with a protectant such as Armor All, which will help keep it from deteriorating in the sun. If the seal is torn or damaged, replace it with a new one.

With the door is at chest level, ensure the handles are in good condition and securely attached. If the rope is in bad condition or a handle is cracked or missing, replace it.

Finally, check the door guides. Make sure they’re free of debris and wipe them down as needed. If your guides have a runner, inspect it for damage and swap out any broken or torn pieces. If the runner is in good shape, wipe it down with a wax or silicone coating to assist with door operation and protect it from the elements.

This would also be a good time to ensure all the guide screws are secured tightly to the jamb. If they’re missing or loose, fix or replace them.

The All-Mighty Springs

The most common adjustment to your self-storage doors as they age will be to spring tension. Properly tensioned, the door will open easily. Once it’s about two-thirds open, it should roll up the rest of the way on its own. If it closes too rapidly or requires significant force to open, the springs need more tension. Most doors have a ratcheting mechanism that allows you to make adjustments.

For the next task in your spring inspection, you’ll need a flashlight or headlamp. Roll the door down and look at the springs. If they’re broken or rusted, replace them. If they’re in good shape, lubricate them and check for bird or wasp nests. Clean out any debris that may have accumulated inside the coil. A long-handled dusting tool helps clean out the cobwebs.

Also, scan the felt tape on the back of the door. If it’s worn, torn or missing, change it. Examine the door brackets to confirm they’re secured tightly to the header. If not, secure them.

Weather Woes

If you’re in an area that requires wind-locked doors, inspect the brackets and confirm they’re secured to the door. If they aren’t, drill out the old rivets and put in fresh. If the door guides come with a wind-lock insert, ensure they’re also secured at this time.

If you’re renting units that meet requirements for the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), inspect the kit and confirm it’s in good shape, then trade it out as needed. If you’re renting vehicle-storage or ADA units that have door operators, this is a good time to perform any maintenance, check connections and add fresh batteries in the visor remote.

For self-storage owners in northern climates, one of the key tips to ensure door (and steel-building) longevity is to not use salt to melt ice at the doors. It’ll only accelerate corrosion and shorten the life of all metal components.

Finally, most paints and coatings used on modern roll-up doors should look good for 30 or more years. However, given enough sun exposure, they’ll eventually chalk and fade. Restorative coatings work but aren’t a long-term solution. If you own an a facility that’s 30-plus years, consider a mass door replacement. Swapping out an entire building’s doors that are nearing the end of their life is a great way to increase curb appeal and support higher rental rates.

Chris O’Hearn is a regional manager with Trac-Rite Door, a division of Trachte Building Systems, a manufacturer of self-storage buildings and components. He has more than 15 years of experience in the self-storage industry and is involved with the company’s research and development efforts. For more information, call 608.837.8895 or email tr@tracrite.com.

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