Steel Self-Storage Facility Expansion to Increase Profit

Published July 5, 2017 by Whirlwind Team

steel self-storage expansion

The need for self-storage continues to rise. If you are beginning to max out your occupancy or new developments are under construction near you, you may want to consider expanding your existing steel self-storage capacity.

Your existing buildings do not have to be steel to build on a steel expansion. A steel self-storage addition is a cost effective and easily implemented project that will return your investment quickly and add to the value of your property.

Your options include lean-to type additions to an additional story. Consult with a knowledgeable contractor and steel building manufacturer to help you with your planning and learn more about available products.

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Can you expand your self-storage space?

You need to look into a few things before advancing your expansion plans.

  • What is the condition of the existing building? Is it up to code and in good shape?
  • If you want to add another story, will the foundation and the structure support the additional weight?
  • Will you need to grade, excavate, install new utilities, or do any other preparation?
  • Do you have adequate lot setbacks for additional ground-floor level buildings?

If the existing building is in poor shape or out of code, or if it was not designed or built to support more structural weight, you may be better off with a complete renovation from the ground up instead of expansion.

Duplicating the appearance of the existing facility is no problem when you build it with steel. Steel panels can be fabricated to look like almost any surface and in any color. You can get panels that look like brick, concrete, or wood. Metal roof panels can be manufactured to match any type of roofing material from traditional asphalt shingles to red clay tile. Note that some styles are only available through special order.

What type of expansion should you plan?

You can expand upward or outward.

  • Outward: Expansion from the end wall is one option. If your existing building used expandable end walls, you could easily and rapidly create additions. Even if the end walls are not specifically designed for expansion, you can still anchor an addition directly to the framing of the existing structure. Anchor to the struts under the roof supports to reduce the chance of collapse in high winds or due to excessive weight.

Sidewall expansion is also possible. Some existing metal structures have expandable sidewalls, which can eliminate some labor.

  • Upward: An additional story may be your best option, especially if you are land-locked. If the existing building and foundation can support it, you can quickly double your capacity by building a duplicate set of units on top of the current one.

Some things to consider:

  • Will the roof-line have new roof valleys where ice and snow can collect?
  • How will rain impact a new roof?
  • Is the flashing present and in good repair around all penetrations?

Don't forget about added HVAC or utility needs for the added space.

Expanding with a new design

Multi-story metal storage facilities are gaining favor since land prices are increasing. If you choose this route, you should consider elevators to give renters access and a way to convey the property to the upper floor. Mezzanine level storage can maximize space as well.

Wider and larger units are becoming popular as more people purchase RVs and boats or if you have potential clients with industrial equipment they need to store inexpensively. If you plan very wide buildings, you can eliminate driveways and maximize your net-leasable square footage on the same area of land.

Be sure to check the building codes in your area as they may have changed since you originally constructed your facility. There have been many changes in energy standards and building codes over the past few years:

  • Requirements for more insulation
  • Limiting or prohibiting floating slab foundations
  • Narrowing drive aisles to 20 feet
  • Roll up doors require the same wind rating as the building
  • Firewall locations may have changed

While you are planning your self-storage expansion, review your current offerings to see if you need to add more of the most popular size units or reconfigure existing units that tend to stand empty.

Speaking of RV and boat storage

Is your facility near a popular park or lake? Maybe the local demographics have changed, and more people are investing in RVs and boats.

If so, you might consider adding metal RV and boat self-storage to your existing business. RV and boat owners make stable, long-term tenants. All they ask is complete security, 24/7 access, and an enclosed storage space. Most owners do not like open-air canopy type storage.

You will receive less rent per square foot, and you will need to add room for the vehicles to maneuver, at least 50 to 60 feet of space. The average size of an RV is 14 feet wide and 40 feet long, therefore each RV storage unit will need to match these dimensions at a minimum to accommodate all but the largest RVs.

Boat storage averages 12 feet by 26 feet.

When should you expand?

Don’t wait until you are at 100% occupancy and turning away customers to start planning additional units. When your current facility is at 85% to 95% occupancy, start to put together your ideas. Consult a contractor and steel building manufacturer.

Other times to consider expansion include:

  • If and when newer, more upscale competitors begin to move into your market
  • When the demographics of your community change
  • Large businesses are moving in and require document storage
  • Many startups and small businesses are appearing and require storage for product or surplus

Your market changes constantly. You need to continue to monitor for competitors, especially if they are building more attractive facilities, are in more convenient locations, or have better amenities than you.

Evolve with your customer base. Watch for new upscale residential construction particularly multifamily or an aging population that is downsizing. Military bases average 10% of self-storage rentals although your business will ebb and flow, but if you are near a base, plan for maximizing your rentals whenever possible.


Expanding your existing self-storage facility can be done cost-effectively with prefabricated steel panels and materials. A little savvy market research and the right mix of units, you will pay back your investment and more in short order.

Go forth and multiply your net-leasable square footage.

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