Climate controlled indoor long term storage facility corridor with blue doors

Are you moving to a new home and planning to downsize? Or are you staying put, but outgrowing your old place?  Perhaps you’re redecorating and looking for a place to stash your stuff. Whether you’re a growing family or empty-nesters, a growing small business running out of room, or just starting over, you may need to rent a storage unit. Storing things you don’t need right away is a convenient way to reduce clutter and make space for new items, or just to open up space for other purposes.  Everything from extra furniture, to toys and sports equipment, excess books, tax records, your winter wardrobe, or maybe even those family antiques and collectibles you haven’t gotten around to selling, may end up in storage. But, before you rent a storage unit, make sure you know what to look for.

What Kind Of Storage Do You Need?

There are different storage options for different needs. Your decision may depend on things like the size and number of   items, how bulky they are or if they’re hard to move around, whether they need climatized storage or can handle any weather, how valuable or irreplaceable they are in case they  need to have extra security. Whether you pick a self-storage unit or a managed storage facility depends on all these things as well as your plans and  budget and how long you need it. Managed storage is great for short or long term big loads to be stored, such as if you’re moving to a new house that isn’t quite yet ready for you. Your mover can provide short term, palletized storage for your items so you don’t need to do anything. If you have large items, or want convenient, organized storage, a managed storage facility can do a lot of the moving, lifting and retrieving of items for you. Your items will be stored in a large, well-organized warehouse with other people’s items. Usually these facilities are secure and busy places, climatized and maintained, so your items are safe.  If you’re a business storing inventory or records, or your personal items are of high value, you may want this more secure form of management of your items. Your items will be inventoried and you can typically request to have a box or item retrieved with 24 hour notice (check to see each facility’s policy as some are not open on weekends and holidays).

Another choice of course is the popular self-storage unit. You will do most of the work with these, but you’ll save money on cost and have quick, convenient access to your items. Most families have minimal or incidental storage needs for items like toys or sports equipment. Some just move boxes of family items to a storage unit to make room in closets or the garage. For most smaller storage needs like these, a self-storage unit works well and is usually very cost effective for families or small businesses on a budget.

Whichever type of storage you choose, you probably want your storage unit to be conveniently located near you, so identify a few local storage companies and check their online reviews. Pick out three to talk to that best meet your needs based on their online reputation and other details to investigate further. Let’s look at some important questions to ask before you decide on one of them.

Storage Facility Customer Service

What kind of customer service do they offer? Is there an onsite manager? How about security, such as onsite security patrol, cameras and alarms? How well trained, experienced, and professional is the onsite manager? During what hours is management available? And is there 24-hour service for emergencies? You will want to check to see that they have video surveillance and an active security system. You should also perform a ‘walk around’ inspection of the storage unit you intend to rent to make sure it cannot be accessed through a damaged wall or roof.

Make Sure the Storage Facility Premises are Secure

Interior self-storage units with secure padlocks

You’ve already asked about their security services and checked out the physical security of the facility. Now, it would be a good idea to do a bit of research into the crime rate in the area. Many criminals prefer to steal from storage units as there would be no one inside to protect the items, and because many criminals believe that it is an easier crime than breaking into a house. Ask the manager about police response times to the area and check out crime rates in nearby neighborhoods. And, yes, pay attention to the location as you drive in and out. If you don’t feel safe in the neighborhood, besides knowing you’ll have to travel in and out, there’s a chance your stuff may not be either.

Finally, while we’re on security, many security systems are non-functional, and only provide the illusion of security. Even if you see what looks like security cameras, ask the manager if their security system is functional and active at all times. Make sure their process provides you with a security code for entry so that you can access your belongings when you need to. The security gates and system you access should be robust, sufficient to deter strangers from driving or walking into the facility to keep out intruders, robbers and burglars.

Is your Storage Unit in Good Condition?

Now let’s look at the storage unit itself. Look at the roof and walls of the unit you intend to rent to check for damage, rust and corrosion, leaks, pest infestations and other hazards. Your storage unit should be well-sealed against water and weather. Ask if the facility has had a problem with roaches, termites or other pests. Remember, it’s possible to carry an infestation to your home should you ever choose to move your belongings out of storage. As a safeguard, you can place a couple of insect or rat traps with your things just to be sure.

Should you get an indoor unit or outdoor? This choice may depend on whether you want easy access so you can drive right up to your storage unit door (outside unit).  Inside units might be a bit safer from break-ins and weather, and sometimes are a bit cheaper because of the inconvenience. Most have freight elevators so you don’t have to worry about moving things up and down stairs, but be sure to check. Usually, smaller units are found indoors, and larger ones have outside access, but if it matters to you, keep looking until you get the unit you want.

Pricing your Storage Unit

Most storage unit facilities and storage service providers offer an introductory price. This introductory price usually lasts between 30 to 90 days. Some of these companies may not want to be upfront with you about the price you will pay each month after the initial introductory period. This is a major red flag and a strong indicator that you should keep shopping around for a reputable storage service. Ask about ways to lock in your price by paying a month or more in advance. Other options for price locking may be available. Ask if the quoted price you are given includes insurance.

How Big Should your Storage Unit Be?

Don’t rent a unit that is going to be too big or too small for your needs. The storage facility will have a guide or should be able to assist you in estimating how much space you need. Typically, for example, a 10 x 15 foot storage unit should hold about 3 rooms worth of stuff. If in doubt, get the unit a little bigger than you need so you have room to move around and organize things. Check out any pricing specials on specific sizes, shapes or locations of units in case you can snag a deal, but don’t compromise if it will cause problems for you later. It’s a hassle to move storage stuff more than once.

Finally, if there are any obstructions within the storage unit you are considering renting, like pipes or wiring that effectively reduce the amount of available storage space, ask if you will be receiving a discount for the inconvenience. Keep in mind that any such structural intrusion into your rental space also poses an increased risk of damage to your belongings such as fire or flooding. Worse, if you should damage your belongings by hitting them against any protruding structural feature, the storage company may not compensate you, and any insurance they offer may not cover it either.

A New Self Storage Unit with Security

Preparing your Items for Storage

You’ve chosen a storage facility to your liking that meets all your needs and fits your budget.  Now it’s time to properly protect your valuables and other belongings by wrapping, boxing, sealing, padding, and protecting them as well as you possibly can. Damage to your items while being moved or stored may not be covered by the facility’s insurance carrier, especially if the damage is because the items were not properly packed or stored. Even if you are compensated for any damage it may not be for full value of certain irreplaceable items. This is especially true if you are storing antiques, heirlooms, rare items, or anything of sentimental value.

If your mover or managed storage facility is moving the items for you, get their advice for packing and preparing items for storage. They may also be able to do that for you, or help you find insurance coverage for special items that you want to protect.

Taking the time to ask all of these questions and by making the right preparations  will go a long way to ensuring that your storage experience is a safe and successful one, and that your belongings will come out looking as good as they went in. For a quote on professionally managed, climate controlled short or long-term quality storage for your household goods, specialty items or anything else, contact the friendly customer service desk at Move 4 Less for more information.