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What Would You Do? Self-Storage Maintenance Maladies

Self-storage operators must keep their properties in tip-top shape to maximize curb appeal, which sometimes means handling simple maintenance tasks and other times more complex renovation projects. Do you know the best approach to common maintenance problems? Read on for insider advice on leaky roofs, malfunctioning doors and more.

February 25, 2013

6 Min Read
What Would You Do? Self-Storage Maintenance Maladies

The following is part of an exciting 2013 content series titled "What Would You Do?" ISS asked managers and owners how they would react in difficult situations that can arise at any facility. We then asked experts to advise on their recommended course of action. To see all articles and slideshows in the series, enter code WWYD13 in the search box at insideselfstorage.com. The complete sequence will roll out over several weeks and be available in full by March 10, 2013.

Keeping a self-storage facility in tip-top shape can be hard work even when everything runs smoothly, which certainly isn't all the time. In our industry, surprises regularly pop up at a facility. In addition to standard maintenance tasks like tidying the office and cleaning vacated units, operators are faced with roof leaks, malfunctioning gates, jammed doors and a slew of who-knows-what's-next.

Up keeping facility curb appeal sometimes means handling simple tasks and other times more complex projects. Do you know the best approach to common maintenance problems? Is what you would do the same as what you should do?

Inside Self-Storage reached out to facility operators to learn how they deal with specific maintenance issues. They were asked, "What would you do if ..."

  • You found a roof leak?

  • Your office needed a pick-me-up but there was very little money in the budget?

  • Your doors started to malfunction?

The answers were provided by members of Self-Storage Talk (SST), the industry's largest online community. We then asked industry experts James Fawcett, president of Accent Building Restoration (ABR), and Amy Fuhlman, director of marketing for Janus International, to learn what operators should do.

What would you do if you found a roof leak?

Roof leaks are common at older facilities, but can even happen at a newer one. When I notice one or it is reported, I get out the extension ladder and up on the roof I go, says Ralph Driscoll (FHARumRunner), an SST member and manager of West End Self Storage in Richmond, Va. Driscoll says he can usually handle the leak himself by patching, sealing, and retightening or replacing fasteners in the suspected leaking area. Then he keeps an eye on the spot after the next storm to ensure the repair holds.

What SHOULD you do?

Fawcett: If youre comfortable doing this work yourself or have a maintenance person, the first step is to attempt to trace the leak to the possible source. Try to rule out leaking pipes or condensation if this applies. Remember that roof leaks will often travel a long distance from the source. They may pool in an area and drip down, or run along pipes, wires and other structural elements and appear some distance from the source. 

Roof leaks do not necessarily mean theres a hole somewhere, but could instead be a failure of a seal. For example, a common source of failure are leaks at a section of roof flashing that might be along a gutter, vent or other area where the roof covering is penetrated or joined to a different structural element or material.

You may be able to patch minor leaks yourself, but if you can't trace the source, theres structural damage or major water intrusion, which might cause mold or structural failure. If electrical wiring is involved or other potentially hazardous conditions exist, its safer for you and your customers if you call a professional.

What would you do if your office needed a pick-me-up but there was very little money in the budget?

A facilitys office can be viewed as warm and inviting to customers or drive them away. A drab, poorly lit or messy office tells customers you dont really care much about appearance. This will lead them to believe you wont care much about their stuff, either. Conversely, a bright, clean and appealing office shows customers you take pride in your facility.

Fortunately, it doesnt cost major bucks to create an attractive office. A few plants, a fresh coat of paint or even some new window treatments can do the trick. Gina Six Kudo (Gina6K), an SST moderator and general manager of Cochrane Road Self Storage in Morgan Hill, Calif., suggests buying fresh flowers to brighten up an office, and then keeping up on all maintenance and cleaning tasks on a regular basis.

What SHOULD you do?

Fawcett: Paint is the least expensive pick me up  possible. A new wall color or fresh coat of paint is a quick change that gives instant results. Creating an accent-colored wall in the office or adding striping are other options. Creating some new attractive graphic elements or adding pictures where appropriate can also liven up a dull space.

Another idea thats often overlooked is making changes to the lighting. New fixtures can improve the physical appearance of a space, help make the light brighter or diffuse, and can affect the direction of the light. In addition, adjusting the placement of fixtures, adding small accent lights, choosing bulbs with different color temperatures, lumens or special characteristics (i.e., reflectorized vs. LED or fluorescent bulbs)  can help impart a whole different feel to an office space.
Old cabinets and counters can be refreshed with an overlay of new laminate and hardware for a fraction of the cost of replacement.

Do a walk-through trying to see the property as a potential or current customer would. It might even help to have a third party do the same walk-through, as we tend to overlook things if we see them every day. A  shabby appearance in one key area not only sends the obvious message but may send a hidden message about the general quality of your facility and service that may encourage more complaints.

What would you do if your doors started to malfunction?

As unit doors age, theres bound to be some that dont work as well as they used to. Jerry Hughes (SMSSId), an SST senior member and owner and manager of Save Most Self Storage in

Caldwell, Idaho, has come across this problem a time or two. Hes learned to adjust the doors spring tension to keep them operating smoothly. He has also readjusted the tensions in some doors that had not been installed correctly. That was a little tough because of the duel springs. I probably should get a couple springs just to have on hand," he says.

What SHOULD you do?

Fuhlman: Todays roll-up doors are virtually maintenance-free, but occasionally youll find that an adjustment needs to be made so they open and close with ease. First, if youre using an electric operator, be sure its disengaged so you can test the door manually. Next, test the spring tension. Raise and lower the door to test the balance. If the door is easy to close but hard to open, youll need to add spring tension. If the door is hard to close but easy to open, youll need to remove spring tension.

This can be easily adjusted by your self-storage manager. It simply takes a winding bar or screwdriver being inserted into the tensioner on the barrel bracket. Rotate the device clockwise to add tension or counterclockwise to remove it. If tensioning the door does not solve your issues, contact your manufacturer for a visit from a trained door technician.

To read more great content in the ISS "What Would You Do?" business-challenges series, type code WWYD13 in the search box at insideselfstorage.com.

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