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Preserving Paint at Self-Storage Facilities: Buildings, Doors and More

Paint is often one of the first considerations of maintenance plans. But did you know annual losses attributed to improper paint maintenance runs into the billions of dollar? Read on to learn how you can save, instead of lose, on your paint upkeep.

One of the most important aspects of paint maintenance is regularly inspecting the paint and taking care of any problems before they become worse. Semi-annual inspections are recommended to identify and solve issues as they occur.

Your paint inspection should include checking for weathered areas, chalking, cracks, loose paint, nail stains, dirt or mildew. Surfaces expand and contract as temperatures change from season to season, causing minor defects such as cracks in caulking or mortar. Keeping up with repairs keeps maintenance costs to a minimum.

As a general rule, you should recoat or repaint when the previous application is just beginning to show signs of deterioration, before it loses its ability to protect the building. The original, baked-on paint can last eight to 10 years on metal before it needs refinishing, but paint on wood, stucco or block may need to be repainted after three to five years.

Exterior Paint Maintenance

A self-storage door with restored paint (right).

For metal doors or buildings, check the paint finish by wetting a small area with a wet cloth or sponge to see if the color changes. If it does, the protective finish is gone. A quality, clear protective coating can be applied to protect the paint before it chalks and oxidizes. Once the paint loses its protective finish, chalking will accelerate. Customers won’t appreciate the mess on their clothes; business customers will likely be upset because white chalk on navy suit is not pretty.

If your facility is within 10 miles of the coast (or even Salt Lake), check for salt corrosion by running your hand over the upper ribs of doors on the north or east side of the building where moist salt air takes longer to dry. Salt corrosion is rough and bumpy. If you use salt for ice or snow control, check the bottoms of doors or metal buildings for corrosion. A quality, clear protective coating with resins that are salt-resistant can protect doors and buildings from further corrosion.

Acid rain can also damage your paint. Even if you’re miles from refineries, factories or power plants, acid rain can etch and ruin metal surfaces. Telltale signs of acid rain are dark-streaked, permanent etchings. Acid-rain damage can’t be reversed but can be prevented. Also, bird droppings are corrosive and should be cleaned off painted surfaces immediately.

Keeping paint free of dirt will extend its life. Don’t use harsh chemicals that can harm the paint. Use mild soap and water and a soft bristled brush to wash doors and exteriors. Rinse without using a hard spray to avoid getting water in units. To avoid water spots, don’t wash metal in direct sun. If your water is extremely hard, consider getting an inexpensive in-hose filter available at an RV-supply store.

If paint is peeling or bare aluminum is showing through, the metal should be painted. As with any coating or painting project, preparation is critical. The metal must be completely cleaned prior to paint application. If you paint over chalk or metal without removing contaminants, the paint will fail. Quality paint is recommended; quality prep is essential.

Check stucco or block surfaces for cracking or peeling paint, repainting surfaces that show damage. Moisture can get into the block and lift paint. Moisture also causes damage and unsightly efflorescence, a white powder that stains the surface. If water infiltration continues, mortar can eventually deteriorate and cause costly damage.

Wood not protected by paint or stain swells and shrinks, resulting in cracking and possible water damage. If wood remains wet, it will rot.

Interior Paint Maintenance

Even though inside doors, hallway panels and other interior metal won’t chalk from exposure to U.V. rays, they still can get grimy handprints (those who rent to mechanics know what I mean), marks and grunge. Facilities close to freeways or railroads accumulate greasy, stubborn dirt on doors.

Using water in interior hallways is dangerous. People often store cardboard boxes on the floor, and if any water is accidentally spilled in the hallway, water can seep under the metal panels and damage belongings. A quality one-step waterless wash and wax can be used for easy removal of grimy handprints or for general cleaning. Some waterless wash and waxes can even remove permanent-marker graffiti. Waterless cleaners are not expensive and make the maintenance of interior metal much easier. Microfiber cloths make cleaning much easier, are inexpensive and readily available.

Don’t overlook paint in the office and bathroom. First impressions are critical. Cracked paint or dirty walls give the impression that the entire facility is dirty or not well maintained. Any cracks should be fixed, then painted.

Bathrooms should be painted with a quality, washable paint that can be wiped down periodically with mild soap and water. For high-moisture environments, moisture- and mildew-resistant paints are available.

If office walls are dingy, apply a fresh coat of paint. Low- or no-VOC paints nearly eliminate the lingering smell you expect from other paints. Marks, fingerprints or dirt are easily erased with a new type of cleaning pad made by Mr. Clean or Scotch-Brite, available in most grocery or hardware stores. These pads can erase black scuff marks on floors, too.

If you take care of your paint—both inside and out—your paint maintenance will pay off with a well-kept property that has better curb appeal, happier customers and a more profitable bottom line.

Teresa Sedmak is president of Everbrite Inc., which manufactures Everbrite Protective Coating and ProtectaClear as well as building cleaners. She is also a licensed painting contractor with extensive experience and knowledge of protective coatings. For more information, call 800.304.0566; e-mail teresa@everbrite.net; visit www.renewstorage.com.

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