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Creating a Storage Facility with Shipping Containers

13.10.2013 - Posted by Updated On 13.10.2013    

There are a lot of great opportunities to set up a small business these days, and a business model that’s growing in popularity is providing storage other people’s things.  Self storage facilities are very common as people move from one place to another and need extra space to keep the belongings which they no longer use on a regular basis.  Rather than part with them, either for sentimental or other reasons, people are opting to put them in a secure storage facility in case they need it again in the future.

There are two common ways to build a storage facility:  bricks and mortar, or shipping containers.  While brick and mortar structures are historically the most common, building the facility out of shipping containers will provide you with a low maintenance business that can be scaled out over time to meet demand.

Please keep in mind that these are general guidelines and points to start a discussion with.  Your specific area and market may have different needs or requirements.  If you have any questions about containers and finance, we invite you to contact our office.  If you have questions regarding regulations and zoning requirements it’s advised that you speak with a local government official.

Shipping Container Storage Unit

Picking the Location

As with anything, selecting the optimal location is often the hardest part of setting up a new business.  The good thing about setting up a storage facility is that typically don’t need it to be in a “high rent” area.  The area should be easily accessible from a major road, within a reasonable distance of a town or city.  Along with finding a good location, the area should be flat and free from trees and any other ground coverage.

Finding and Buying the Containers

Shipping containers can be found in nearly any major city around the United States and Canada.  The standard sizes are 20’ and 40’ in length, 8’ wide, and 8’6” tall.  Early in the process you’ll need to decide how many storage units you’ll want to offer, and the sizes and features of the units.

Once you know how many units you’ll want to provide on when your facility opens, you can begin shopping for shipping containers.  I’d advise to see what types of shipping containers are available closest to you, and go from there.   New and used shipping containers both have pros and cons, but if only one type is available in your area the decision may already be made for you.

New shipping containers will be more expensive, but will most likely require no additional money to clean them up.  They’ll be a solid color, and are typically equipped with a lock box.  The doors will swing freely, and there will be no dents or other damage.

Used shipping containers will be less expensive, but may need some attention before they are ready for your customers to move in their goods.  Used containers may need to be painted, have a lock box installed, and thoroughly cleaned.

The good thing about using shipping containers for the storage units is that you can scale up the size of your facility quickly, and as demand requires it.

Additional Storage Container Ideas

While 20’ and 40’ standard containers are a turn-key solution for storage units, many business owners add additional interior walls, doors, windows and vents to provide more options to their tenants.  If you have access to welding equipment and cutting tools, many of these options can be installed on your own.  If you will need additional features to be installed you will need to source a local contract that can customize the container to meet your requirements.

 

Shipping Container Storage Units

Preparing the Site

First and foremost, the site needs to be flat.  Putting containers on an uneven surface will mean that over time the containers may fall out of square, and could risk losing ability to keep out wind and water.  A stone bed would be ideal for each container, or at the very least rail road ties to support each end.

Outside of level ground, the rest of your facility design is up to you.  You may want to add lighting, a locked gate and security fence, or even 24 hour video monitoring.

Costs can add up quickly, so it’s best to set up a spread sheet to calculate the total costs and your projected return on investment.

Container Appearance and Security

Once the containers are moved into place you’ll want to make sure the area, and containers, are secure.  If there are zoning restrictions on color or design, used containers may need to be painted to match or arranged in ways that comply with local requirements.

Along with lighting and fencing, security can be increased by adding a bolt on lock box to used shipping containers.  A bolt on box installs in around 15 minutes and makes the lock nearly inaccessible to bolt cutters and saws.

Marketing and Rental Income

Marketing and generating revenue from your storage facility is very important, obviously.  Marketing to local companies such as construction and retail locations, or individual residents, really depends on the demographics of your market.

Branding your company with signage on each of the containers will help to make you identifiable in the market.  It sounds obvious, but it’s important to remember to add your website and phone number to all signs and marketing material.

If you’ve never run a business before, you’ll want to contact a professional, experienced accountant make sure you’re maximizing your income potential.  There may be financing options that you are unaware of or tax benefits for structuring your company in certain ways.

Take-Away Notes and Thoughts

Using shipping containers to set up a self storage facility is a good idea because it’s very cost effective, can be gradually ramped up over time and as demand increases, and is a low maintenance investment.  However, before you rush into any new business you should consider the costs involved, and how quickly you can start earning a return on your investment.

If you have any questions about building a storage facility out of shipping containers you’re welcome to contact our staff and we’ll do our best to answer your questions, or point you in the direction of someone that can best assist you.



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