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Things To Consider When Designing/Building Your Self Storage Facility

Updated: Mar 9, 2021

Guest Post By:

Jeff Wheeler, Ward-Humphrey General Contractors – 470-658-2211

When getting ready to design/build your self-storage facility, cost needs to be at the forefront of your mind. Not just upfront cost but long-term cost, what will save you money in the long run. Is there a cost-effective strategy to attract customers while saving money in the long run? Consider these items:

1. With a facility that operates 24-hours a day, the day-to-day cost of keeping your facility operational and safe needs to be low but how? There are several aspects that need to be considered:

  1. Lighting – The setup, spacing of your lighting and the construction of your finish panels on your units needs to thought through. LED lighting is a must, long term-saving right off the bat, no question. It is wise to use 8’ LED lights placed at every other unit, centered at the dividing partition, this will allow the beam spread disperse over the top of the unit doors providing adequate lighting into the unit. In order to achieve this, I would recommend having your header above your door at max dimensions of 12”-14” with either mesh covering your unit or using burglar bars.

  1. Occupancy Sensors – Using occupancy sensors in your hallways will allow for the lights to be turned on when someone is entering the hallway and will only be on for a certain amount of time. This will eliminate the need for switches or timers.

  2. HVAC – Temperature settings can be automated, high of 80 low of 60-65. Energy savings can be achieved by using a ductless system. My experience has been with using Mitsubishi ductless mini-split system. These operate with Kumo Cloud, which is an app on your phone. The owner or a designated person within the company can control your site(s). The designated person can control all your sites directly from there phone. It can be considered a hassle to have to operate this way but consider that technology is the way of the future. The possibilities here are vast, especially if you have multiple sites. If you have controls set up inside of your facility, customers or even your manager can adjust your settings without notice, thus driving your monthly bills up.

  3. Kick plates – having a thin gauge diamond plate kick guard strategically placed throughout your facility can save your partition finish panels. My recommendation is to have 4’ high diamond plate installed in places that would be considered loading areas i.e., elevator lobby’s and entrances. 1’ high diamond plate should be installed at long sections of finish panels where carts can damage them, especially around corners. Corner Guards are also imperative to saving those finish panels. 8’ high near entrances and elevators, 4’ on all other corners.

  4. Floor protection – The flooring in the corridors and units of your storage facility will usually be exposed concrete. The biggest question is how do you protect the concrete and keep it looking good for as long as possible and as cheap as possible. During construction, after your slab is poured, the contractor should apply a sealer. This should not be the final step; I typically use a water-based concrete sealer in high gloss. There are several results that will come from this. Staining the concrete will happen less frequently, as it is easy to clean up spills, sweeping will become easier with a smooth surface and it will help to eliminate dust, it will impress the client on how good it looks with a shine. This is not a high cost but will hold up for years. One of the tricks here is to only do your traffic areas, the corridors. There is no need to apply inside of the units and they typically will have very little traffic. But you need to be careful of where your termination point is. My recommendation is to apply tape under the threshold of your rollup door on the outside, just past the rubber stop on the bottom of the door. The door can stick to the finish in certain climates as the finish heats up. When the door is closed, no visible termination line should be there.

2. The exterior of your facility is just as important as your interior. Here are some pointers to consider:

  1. A common thing that I see when visiting a new acquisition for a client is the lack of a weather ledge on exterior units. There should be a ledge at the rollup doors that keeps water from intruding into the units. The best setup I have seen is a step down of 1-1/2” from the top of the slab and the indent extends 11” from the edge of the slab. From the top of the ledge there should be 1-1/2” to the top of the asphalt. Of course, the asphalt should be sloped away from the building. This should give you a total of 3” from the top of asphalt to the top of the slab. It is also imperative to have a sheeting notch along the perimeter of your slab. This would be a 1-1/2” x 1-1/2” that allows your exterior panels to extend beyond the top of the slab.

  2. Some developments are set up to have sheet flow (which occurs when there is no underground drainage, the water flows according to the grade like a “sheet”), I, typically, am not a fan of this. However, it may work for many, I see too many problems that occur over time. Water ends up in units, asphalt ends up being washed away, existing landscaping and grade end up getting washed away, etc. The drainage on your site is a huge deal, make sure everything is accounted for. I prefer underground drainage.

  3. Expanding on the above line item, there will most likely be a lot of water come from the roofs of your units. What is the typical way water is dispersed from roofing? Gutters and downspouts, correct. What do you think customers tend to run into around the exterior units? Elbows at the bottom of the downspouts, all of the time. I have had clients do a number of things including, stopping the downspouts 4’ from the ground extending with corrugated piping, just plain stopping the downspout at 4’ from the ground and leaving it to drip. The most effective that I have seen is sloping the roof to the backside if there is no road behind the unit. If the building is surrounded by roadway, I’ve installed rain leaders that tie into the downspouts and the underground drainage, thus eliminating the elbow to get crushed by the renter.

  4. Bollards – I would recommend to not be shy with bollards. This is a very low expense compared to the rest of your facility and can ultimately save you loads of money as well as the headache of having to have things fixed. Bollards should be at every corner of your building(s) that have a drive path and on both sides of your keypads at your entry’s. Anywhere where a vehicle may touch anything of value, put a bollard, it will save you money.

  5. Asphalt – during construction you are going to want to see your property looking the best as it can. On my sites, I like to have the first course of asphalt applied to keep the grade from getting messed up and keeping dirt from getting tracked everywhere. This may not be something that saves you money, but it can keep you in good standing with your local jurisdiction by keeping dirt/mud from getting tracked onto your local roads. Asphalt on your site will deteriorate over time, there is no getting past it. Maintenance is key, there are two major maintenance items that will keep you from having to tear your asphalt up and repaving. Crack fill and sealcoating. When you develop cracks in your asphalt, water will seep underneath and erode the dirt underneath, the problems here can be extensive, simple solution – crack fill. The contractor will come and apply a clay-filled, polymer-modified asphalt emulsion liquid that will infill the cracks at an ambient temperature, it keeps the water out. Seal coating will extend your life-expectancy of your pavement. Seal-coating fills the surface damage and keeps out damaging liquids and UV rays.

Good Luck on your project!!


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