How To Properly Engage A Contractor For Your Storage Facility

Your roll-up door broke off. The electric is flickering in a unit. There’s a roof leak. All of these events require hiring a contractor to make the needed repairs. But how do you do that? Here’s how to properly engage a contractor in a storage facility.

Define what the mission is

Contractors all have their own specialties. There are plumbers, electricians, carpenters – various basic skill sets. You need to find a contractor that is an expert in the basic skills set needed for your project. In the problems shown above you need a 1) carpenter 2) electrician and 3) roofer, respectively.

Make a complete list of vendors

Now that you know what kind of tradesman you need, it’s time to make a list of the potential vendors – which you can easily do with a simple search on Google. Based on the market you’re in, that list should normally be 10 to 30 contractors, which is more than enough to start with.

Make a lot of calls

It’s painful from a time standpoint, but you need to call all of these up and see if they 1) can do this work and 2) can do it immediately. Some of these contractors will tell you they don’t do that exact repair, and others will say they are full up and can take no new accounts. But you will end up with a subset that is interested and can start soon.

Get written estimates

The next step is to get firm written bids from these interested parties on the job – which is to include both parts and labors. It needs to be one total price. Never enter into any agreement with a contractor that is open ended (for example, labor shall be $20 per hour but with no firm number of hours). These always end up with a sad ending, and often in court, as the 4 hour job becomes 40 and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Check references

All bids should include three references. This is necessary to 1) confirm they have at least three happy customers and 2) give you the ability to talk to others to see how they perform. Be sure and call all three references as here’s what you often find 1) they’ve never heard of the contractor 2) they have a lawsuit with the contractor or 3) the contractor disappeared on them and their job is sitting undone. Needless to say, you would only want to use a contractor with at least three happy customers.

Confirm insurance

Contractors should also include a copy of their insurance. These needs to be vetted by your insurance agent to make sure it’s currently in-force and gives you the coverage you need. When that roofer falls off the building and ends up disabled, you’ll be glad you had the correct insurance.

Have a guaranteed start and completion date

An agreement is of no value if it does not have a start and ending date. The contractor needs to commit to when they’ll show up to begin and when they’ll be done. And there needs to be some type of financial penalty for every day they are not finished. This makes them focus on getting done on time.

Manage for success

Don’t get too friendly with contractors – it’s a recipe for disaster. Instead, be friendly but strict. You chose them from others who wanted the work and they need to meet their commitments. Don’t let them walk all over you. At the first sign that they are not going to meet their obligations, fire them or threaten to. There’s an old saying “it’s easier to change people than to change people”.


Every storage owner has to manage contractors from time to time. This list will get your off on the right foot. A well-managed vendor is a successful vendor.

Frank Rolfe has been an active self-storage investor for around two decades, with self-storage units in many states throughout the U.S. His nuts and bolts knowledge of what makes for a successful self-storage facility has led to a three-decade career without a single failed property.