The Importance of Building Maintenance in a Competitive Market

Posted by Poppy Behrens on Aug 18, 2011 12:00:00 AM
Building Maintenance

The furthest thing from the mind of a new facility owner is building maintenance. He is concerned with more immediate issues, such as increasing occupancy, lease rates, staffing, marketing, and whether the competition is offering services he doesn’t have. It’s only natural to take care of first things first. But in a scant few months, building maintenance will become an issue — particularly preventive maintenance, i.e., taking care of potential problems before they happen.

When one considers that self-storage has become highly competitive, with many more facilities per market than a decade ago, owners must always be aware of how their facility measures up against the competitors. That should be motivation enough to pay attention to maintenance, even though keeping tenants happy is the first priority.

So, what maintenance issues should owners pay particular attention to and how often should they be concerned about them?

In a nutshell, here are the physical areas owners should be concerned with: roofs, gutters, exterior walls, interiors walls and units, and roll-up doors.

1. Roofs and Gutters

You should inspect your roofs regularly, if you have a quality, sturdy roof, you can climb onto and walk around. You may be surprised at the debris you’ll find. Of course, you can expect the fallout from natural causes, such as scattered limbs and leaves from wind and rainstorms, but you may also find throwaway items, such as scrap metal, cans and bottles, discarded by careless tenants or workers. In fact, if some materials are not removed, your warranty may be in jeopardy.

It’s also necessary to clean out gutters and downspouts, particularly in the spring and fall of the year. Be aware that clogged up gutters are one of the primary causes of roof leaks. Keep this in mind: Your weather-tightness warranty may be voided if you don’t regularly clean out your gutters.

2. Exterior Walls

At least once a year, or more, exterior walls should be washed down to remove dust, dirt and grime. Regular carwash cleaner will work fine. It will keep paint surfaces clean and help prevent the paint from dulling.

3. Interior Walls and Units

When tenants move out and units are empty, is a good time to take care of any required maintenance. Wipe down the walls and clean the concrete floors of grease, paint, or other foreign matter that will look unsightly to a new tenant. Perhaps a good pressure washing will do the trick. Other suggestions include spraying the units for bugs and possibly have an exterminator set traps for mice.

4. Roll-up Doors

When units are vacant is an ideal time to check and maintain your rollup doors. When doors are originally installed, door axles, springs, and door tracks are lubricated to ensure smooth movement. Even with high quality doors, these oils dry out over time and problems arise where rubber and plastic surfaces come in contact with metal doors and tracks. We suggest doors be rolled down and springs and axles be lubricated with spray-on lithium grease. At the same time, door tracks should be sprayed with clear silicone. Cans of lithium and silicone are available at any auto supply or home improvement store. These simple, preventive measures will make your doors work better with very little time and effort.

How often should owners be concerned about building maintenance?

5. Look at Maintenance as a Way of Life

Even if an owner is smart enough to chose high quality buildings to begin with, which will ultimately make maintenance easier in the long run, regular maintenance should not be overlooked. Preventive maintenance will avoid a lot of headaches down the road.

Some owners may not want to hear it, but the attitude they have toward the issue of maintenance is important. It should be a regular priority in their mind, like making bank deposits, or surveying the grounds, or having their manager make new business calls. It should become a way of life, as regular as clockwork. That’s because the truth is this: Performing regular preventive maintenance on your facility buildings is not only a smart habit to get into, but it will save you money as well. How? Because systematic upkeep of your buildings will lengthen their life, which means less maintenance costs in the future.

A good analogy is the way we treat our automobiles. Conventional wisdom says change your oil every 3,000 to 4,000 miles and your car will last longer. Plus, your customers will appreciate your facility more when you offer clean, attractive buildings and units in which they can store their valuables. It’s a fact that between 60% and 70% of those making the storage decision are women, who are inherently concerned with eye appeal and cleanliness. To that end, the afore mentioned tips will help you keep your buildings clean, well-maintained, and attractive.

Keeping an eye on building maintenance regularly is smart business. In fact, it will increase the value of a facility, for the time when the owner is ready to sell. It is neither expensive nor time-consuming, but if you neglect it, it can be costly. As the old Fram oil filter commercial reminded us, “Pay me now, or pay me later.”

Terry Campbell is Vice President of Sales & Marketing for BETCO, the premier single-source manufacturer of self-storage buildings and components. Contact him at