Whether you’re moving home, moving abroad or moving forward with your new business, self-storage can provide a convenient, cost-effective storage solution that could make your life a great deal easier.
But before you jump at the first reasonably priced storage facility you come across, it’s crucial that you know exactly what you’re signing up for.
In this article, we list the five most important questions you need to ask any storage facility before you sign on that dotted line. While everybody’s storage needs are different, these essential questions will help you understand whether a company’s storage services are fully aligned with your storage needs.
1. What type of self-storage do you offer at your facility?
Indoor vs Outdoor storage
Self-storage facilities will generally offer either indoor or outdoor storage, while some larger facilities may even offer both.
With indoor self-storage, all storage units are housed under one roof and accessed via the main entrance of the facility. This helps protect stored items from the elements and keeps storage unit temperature consistent throughout the year. However, accessibility is limited with indoor self-storage as you cannot simply drive straight up to your unit.
Outdoor self-storage has the advantage of allowing customers to drive right up to the door of their storage unit. There’s no need to lug your storage items through the corridors of an indoor storage facility to the door of your unit. While accessibility is definitely a big benefit with outdoor storage, the weather can be an issue. Your storage items may be more susceptible to outdoor elements and, if the storage units are not fully secured and waterproof, it can lead to damage from water and pests.
Climate controlled vs non-climate controlled
Most indoor storage facilities will have some form of climate control, either naturally because the facility is enclosed or artificially via an air conditioning unit. While some outdoor storage facilities may offer climate controlled units, it is not the industry norm. Non-climate controlled storage facilities are generally cheaper because their maintenance costs are cheaper.
Whether or not you should opt for a climate-controlled unit will depend on what you want to store and how long you plan on storing it.
If you are storing household furniture for a couple of months as you move house, climate control will probably not be necessary. On the other hand, if you are storing wooden antiques or important paperwork for a number of years, you’ll probably want humidity and temperature control to prevent the wood from warping or to protect the documents from the mould.
Other types of self-storage:
- Warehouse storage – storage facilities consisting of large, open buildings where all customers’ storage items are kept in one expansive room. Warehouse storage can be cheaper than other types of self-storage but it comes with an increased risk of fire damage as fires spread quickly in open-plan buildings (more of this later).
- Storage containers – storage facilities that allow customers to rent container storage units (typically shipping containers) to store their belongings in. While container self-storage is generally outdoors and doesn’t offer climate control, they allow easy access for cars and vans.
- Lock-up storage – garage-style storage facilities where customers are assigned an outdoor ‘lock-up’ unit. While lock-up facilities offer one of the cheapest self-storage options, they generally don’t offer the level of security provided by a warehouse or container self-storage facility. In most cases, the garage padlock is the only security measure in place.
2. What security measures do you have in place at your facility?
The safety of customer storage items should be the number one priority of any storage facility.
While no two storage facilities are the same, there are some fundamental security measures that a storage facility needs to have in place before you seriously consider them:
- 24-hour CCTV surveillance
- Security alarms
- Fire alarms
- Heavy-duty padlocks
- On-site personnel
- Fully trained and vetted staff
- Secure code access system
3. How accessible would my storage items be?
Renting a storage space from a professional, high-security storage facility is one thing, gaining access to and from your storage unit is another.
It’s hard to beat outdoor storage facilities when it comes to accessibility. This type of facility generally allows 24-hour access, where customers use their unique code to gain access through the security gates.
Indoor storage facilities tend to be less accessible. Most of these facilities will only allow access during office hours when the building is open. While this generally includes weekends and evenings, it is still not the round the clock access that outdoor facilities offer.
As discussed above, warehouse facilities and other forms of indoor storage will require extra effort moving items from your vehicle to the door of the storage building and then to your unit or vice versa.
4. Are your storage facilities water and fireproof
Fire damage protection
In the past year alone, there have been two major storage facility fires: the first was in a Shurgard depot in Croydon at the start of the year, while the other was at a Storing.com facility in Bedford in November. Hundreds of their self-storage customers watched their precious belongings go up in smoke.
Both of these buildings were open-plan, warehouse-style storage facilities.
While there is no way to remove the risk of fire completely, outdoor and containerized storage units are generally safer from fire damage. This is because fire spreads much faster in open-plan buildings where air circulation is good and there are no walls to slow them down.
Individual rooms and steel containers slow fires down and give emergency services the precious time they need to get fires under control.
While lost storage facilities have efficient fire alarms (with some even having sprinkler systems), outdoor container storage facilities offer your storage items greater protection from fire.
Water damage protection
Water damage is less of an issue with indoor storage facilities but high humidity can still damage delicate items and encourage mold and mildew. In the UK, we luckily don’t have the extremes in temperature and humidity that warmer climes do but climate-controlled units can still offer complete protection.
It’s crucial that any outdoor self-storage facilities ensure their units are completely protected from the elements. Even a small amount of water leaking into a storage unit can lead to mold growth and prove disastrous.
Ask your prospective storage facility if they can guarantee that their storage units are waterproof and, if not, how can you make sure your belongings are covered in worst-case scenarios…
5. Do you offer self-storage insurance?
Sometimes, despite all of the safety precautions a storage facility might take, fires, theft and extreme weather can still damage stored items.
While there is no way to truly replace sentimental belongings or unique items, financial compensation can offer some level of consolation.
Traditional contents insurance will generally not cover your storage items so you will need to take out special self-storage insurance to cover your stored items against theft or damage.
Some storage facilities will offer to insure your goods as an additional storage service but, as with choosing a storage facility in the first place, it’s always worth shopping around to get the best deal.
At Flexible Storage, we offer adaptable self-storage insurance policies as well as secure document and self-storage to individuals and businesses alike. Supplying storage services across London, Kent, Essex and the rest of Home Counties, our storage containers are both water and fireproof. Get in touch with us today to receive a free insurance quote or to learn more about our self-storage services.