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Your Self-Storage Maintenance To-Do List: Critical Items to Add

When it comes to self-storage site maintenance, managers often focus on the “big” items, but the small, daily details really matter in the long run. Here are some tasks to keep in mind as you build your routine to-do list.

It seems like every day there’s a new product, idea or technology that promises to make our jobs as self-storage facility managers easier. That’s well and good for some office operations, but everyday site upkeep really couldn’t get much simpler. I’m not saying it’s easy; it can be time-consuming and even tedious. Still, maintenance matters, right down to the smallest details. Some of the seemingly unnecessary tasks we do at our facilities every day truly make a difference to our tenants as well as to our owners and their investors.

There’s a quote I heard once that I’ve never forgotten: “If you walk past a problem, you have approved it.” It came from Jim Sullivan, CEO of Sullivision.com, which offers service and leadership training programs to the food-service industry. We don’t want to walk past problems, big or small, at our self-storage properties. While proper maintenance has a lot of facets, following are a few areas to watch and tasks to add to your routine to-do list.

Unit Doors

One of the most important maintenance tasks is to keep your roll-up doors working properly. The door interior and exterior should be checked every time someone moves out, before the next tenant moves in.

Checking and adjusting the springs will help with smooth motion on the track and easier latching. It’ll also ensure the door doesn’t “creep” down while in use. Thoroughly inspect the weather strip and the door track.

Some storage facilities are subject to humid summers with salty air, so corrosion and rust are a genuine concern, especially on the exterior. A little WD-40 on the latch goes a long way slow the progression of damage from the elements.

Doors can be easily freshened with a good cleaning. Washing them accomplishes a lot more than you’d think! Use a mild solution that won’t damage the finish (try Murphy Oil Soap). Also, sweep the back of the door with a broom. It’s odd how many managers don’t do this and then wonder why they get comments about “dirty units.”

Facility Exterior

While our facilities may not be as pretty as big resorts, fancy hotels or five-star restaurants, folks want to know we care about our property’s appearance. Just because we’re a “commercial” or “industrial-type” place doesn’t mean we have to look like it! Here are some general tips to keep the exterior looking great:

  • Keep your grass neat and tidy. Lawn food and weed-control chemicals aren’t expensive. They last a good while between applications and can be put on in a single morning. There’s no excuse to have weeds—ever!
  • Keep trash and debris out of your planting beds and lawns as well as your entry ways and parking areas. Not only is this a cleanliness thing, it’s a safety issue.
  • No weeds.
  • Dead flowers gotta go. Think happy, bright flowers only!
  • Flowering bushes and shrubbery along entry ways or walkways can help take up vacant space and fill in some of those blank areas.
  • No weeds!
  • If you use hanging or potted plants, try to be strategic in their placement to avoid injuries (you don’t want them to be too low or in the way).
  • Small battery-powered blowers are handy for a quick touch up to your sidewalks and driveways before you open for the day.
  • I mentioned no weeds, right?

Lighting

Your facility lighting has as much value from an aesthetic perspective as it does for security. Check all outside lights regularly (once a week or so should be good). During winter, this should be easy, as they should be on before you leave for the night. Parking areas and entrances should be a primary focus.

Properly positioned, even landscape lighting can improve security along walkways and building exteriors. Standalone solar-powered lights have made exterior lighting much easier in the last few years, so have some fun with it. Maybe add colored spotlights during the holidays. Of course, that’ll depend on your local ordinances, but it looks festive. Making your facility visible and attractive at night—without it looking like a prison during an escape attempt—is much easier than it seems.

Don’t forget your emergency lights! Depending on the ordinances from your county or city, you’ll want to be sure to keep records of when you test them on file (once per month at least).

Interior lights should be addressed as soon as any issues become apparent. Don’t wait for bulbs or wall packs to burn out before you buy them; have extras on hand for emergencies. Dark stairwells and hallways aren’t only dangerous, they’re kind of creepy. You don’t want any dim areas in your buildings. Take full advantage of LED bulbs, motion sensors, timers, photocells, smart lights—anything to improve your coverage and save electricity.

Roofs

Don’t forget to look up. The inside of a ceiling can tell you a lot about what’s going on outside the building. Stains, sagging or odd discolorations can indicate roof leaks or condensation. Stains on interior walls may indicate a leak from overstuffed gutters. Clogged gutters and downspouts can allow water to back up and “sit” on a rooftop, depending on its pitch, and it will find a way to get in.

Check the rooftops, too, but only if it’s safe to do so. Roof panels can expand and contract in the heat and cold and can loosen seals and seems. Any debris can trap water up there. It may not be so much of a leak issue right away, but rust and corrosion under that debris could eventually lead to one. Use non-skid boots for this, please! No slipping on wet metal roof panels, OK?

Some insulation rips on building and unit interiors can usually be explained away by tenants trying to (unsuccessfully) navigate large pieces of furniture through hallways, but insulation or debris on the floor under a tear or hole may indicate nesting critters. Time to call a professional!

Perimeter

Any exterior barrier, be it a fence, brick wall or natural berm, deserves as much attention as every other part of your property. Keep walls looking fresh and clean. Fill in cracks, touch up paint and signage, and don’t forget to decorate them during the holidays! If you have a chain-link fence, keep it in good repair. This type of fence is easily damaged and looks kind of tacky, especially when it’s bent, rusty or just plain neglected.

In some areas, vines and weeds can tear apart a fence or wall. Try and keep any vegetation from encroaching on or growing up through your fence line. Vines crawling up brick or masonry walls may look pretty or even classic, but they can allow water penetration and cause big problems down the road.

Details Make a Difference

These are just a few maintenance essentials to which we all should be paying attention. It’s best to create checklists (daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly) to cover these basics and keep you on track. Also, learn how to fix common problems yourself whenever you can.

Never lose focus of your mission: to offer a clean, welcoming self-storage site. With proper time management, training and a bit of self-discipline, you can make all the difference on your property.

Kevin J. Edwards has worked in the storage industry since 2014. He’s a site manager for the Bradshaw Group of Hilton Head Island, S.C., and a licensed property manager in the state.  His experience includes site management, manager training, maintenance, digital marketing and advertising, and audits for multi-facility owners and third-party management companies in the Southeast and Washington, D.C. For more information, call 843.422.3461; e-mail kj.dl.edwards@gmail.com.

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