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Storage - a complete guide

A guide to storage – what it is, how to use it, what it costs, and whether it’s for you.

Storage - a complete guide

As moving day approaches you’ll find yourself caught in a whirlwind – sorting, packing, contract-signing, sorting utilities for your new home, registering your new address… the sheer number of things to do can feel endless and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. But there are things you can do to ease the pressure – like using a storage facility.

Using a storage facility is a great way to take away some of the stress on moving day because it means not everything has to be done in one day. You can stagger the moving of your belongings, getting stuff you don’t currently need out of the house early and only moving things into your new home when you’re ready to find a place for them.

For example, if you’re waiting for your garden shed to go up then you can keep all your garden tools in a storage facility, instead of having them clutter up your potentially chaotic new home. It’s also a great solution to a number of problems you could experience during your move – like your move date being pushed back, or having to have work carried out on your new home – or a place to keep things you’re not quite sure will fit in your new place yet.

Also, if you sell your property and move your items into storage whilst renting/staying with family, you become a chain free buyer. This can make the moving process simpler in some cases, and allows you to be more flexible, knowing your items are in good condition and safely stored.

What is self storage?

Self storage centres offer units of space for hire, ranging from large lockers to rooms the size of a double garage. They’re designed to be safe (units are lockable from the outside and covered by CCTV and intruder alarms) and convenient (you can hire them for as long or as little time as you want, with size and cost flexible to your needs).

When should you use storage?

Storage is ideal for:
  • Anyone wanting to clear certain parts of the house ahead of moving day.
  • Anyone who is planning renovation or redecoration in their new home.
  • Anyone who is vulnerable to extra complications on moving day – for example, if you’re in a big housing chain or you plan on exchanging contracts on completion day.

How do you choose a storage facility?

There are a number of things you’ll need to consider when choosing a storage facility.

The security

Theft is unavoidably a risk in storage facilities, but it can be minimized with proper precautions.

Be wary of large facilities with 24/7 unsupervised access – the majority of storage facility thefts are likely to be carried out by people posing as customers. This is a particular concern if the individual rooms aren’t alarmed, and the only thing standing between a thief and your belongings is a padlock that is easily cut. Even if you’re totally happy with the customer supervision and CCTV at your storage facility, make sure you invest in a heavy duty padlock of a reliable brand from a proper hardware store and keep the key somewhere safe.

If possible, try to ensure your storage facility is near your new home so you can easily pop over to check on your stuff, and take photographs so you know if anything’s been moved.

The condition of the building

Your belongings might not just be at risk from theft, but also from the condition of the facility. Steer clear of storage facilities where internal conditions such as humidity aren’t monitored, and if the unit doesn’t look well looked after – especially if it’s an old building or a shipping container – then it’s probably best to look elsewhere.
Even if the unit you’ve chosen looks fine, it’s still worth investing in a battery operated humidity operator. If the humidity is over 50% or you notice moisture droplets appearing on the ceilings or walls, use damp sticks and other tools to reduce it.

You may also want to consider how you pack up your items for storage, choosing plastic boxes or vacuum packing items instead of using cardboard boxes where damp could permeate and cause damage.

The route to your unit

When you’re shown around the facility as a prospective customer, the room you’re shown might not be the one you’ll get. If the storage facility is fairly small then this might not be a problem, but in a huge labyrinth of rooms, shifting your stuff in and out of the unit can be a pain if you’re not on the ground floor near the door. And the extra time required by the removal team will push up your bill, so if you are given a room that’s a long way from the door, try to get a discount.

If you are planning on moving your items within a few months, it’s worth considering the ease of access to your unit and confirming this with the facility before you sign a contract.

You can find out more about choosing the right location for your unit in our guest post from We Remove and Store.

Combining removals and storage

If possible, it’s a good idea to have the same company dealing with moving your stuff into storage, keeping it safe while it’s there, and moving it out again. That way one company has responsibility for the whole process, and if anything goes wrong there’s no passing the buck.

Have a look at our removals directory to see which companies offer storage as well as removals services.

How do you choose what size you need?

Choosing what size you need isn’t easy, and it’s made harder by the fact that removals companies tend to quote in cubic feet (volume) and storage companies work mainly in square feet (area).

The first question to ask is how tall your chosen storage company’s units are before trying to compare prices. If the ceilings are low, or if they slant to follow the shape of the roof, the volume of the room is severely reduced and so, as you’re paying for the floor area, you may end up getting much less for your money. Low-ceilinged rooms might also useless for storing large pieces of furniture.

The vast majority of storage users will get something between 35 and 150 square feet – anything outside of this range is unusual, so bear that in mind when choosing your size. The best way to decide which unit to hire is to use your removal van size.
  
Removal van size Approximate unit size
Short wheelbase transit 35 square feet
Long wheelbase high top transit 50 square feet
Luton van 75 square feet
7.5 tonne Luton van 125 square feet
15 tonne Luton van 200 square feet
Articulated lorry 300 square feet

Remember that this is just a guide – the sizes you need will vary if you’re not planning on putting all your belongings into storage, or if the storage units have low ceilings (the standard room height is 8 feet). If you have lots of stuff to go into storage, consider getting two smaller rooms instead of one large one, so all your items are accessible.

How much will storage cost?

It’s difficult to say exactly how much storage costs as it’s dependent on the size of the unit and how long you use it for. There are many elements of the cost of storage that you’ll need to think about.

Look for weekly billing

A lot of companies will bill you monthly, which means if you run a day or two into the next month you’ll end up paying for weeks of storage when you’re not using it. So if you can, find a storage company that bills weekly to give you a little bit more flexibility.

Choose your size carefully

If you arrive at the facility with all your items and find your unit is too small, you may find you have to pay more to upgrade to a bigger size. To be totally prepared for the cost, do what you can to make sure you’re hiring the right size. Be careful of salespeople telling you you’ll need a smaller size, just to get you on board with a lower fee.

You can also do what you can to purge your possessions before looking for storage. That way you know exactly how much you have, and you’ll know you have cleared out anything you don’t need. Paying to move junk you don’t want to keep from one space to another is bad enough, but paying for it to be stored when you’ll just chuck it away later is a big waste of money! Having a good clear out can mean you end up with a smaller storage unit and lower your costs!

Be careful of introductory deals

Many storage facilities offer deals like ‘first month free’ or ‘half price for the first 8 weeks’. Tempting as they are, these deals can end up costing you more in the long run.

Most of the time people keep their stuff in storage for much longer than they plan – the average length of stay in storage is 9 months – and storage companies know it. Discounts in the first couple of months might be cancelled out by the price of the following seven.

Even if you plan on moving to another storage facility after the offer expires, this can still be expensive and very time consuming. So watch out for these ‘bait and switch’ deals.

Insurance

No matter how secure a storage facility looks, it’s still worth taking out an insurance policy to cover your belongings if your existing home insurance doesn’t cover it.

However, beware of ‘inhouse’ insurance policies (insurance policies directly with the storage companies) as they can often be extremely expensive. Because storage facilities are so secure, you shouldn’t really be looking at spending more than a few pounds per month per £1000 of contents.

You should also make sure the insurance policy you choose is FSA (Financial Services Authority) regulated.

What can I do to make things easier on the day?

The day you move your stuff into storage might feel a bit nerve-wracking, but there are things you can do to ease the stress.

Pack properly

There are a number of techniques that will make your life easier not just when you’re packing, but when you’re unpacking too. Make sure you choose your packing materials carefully – choosing the right boxes can make or break a move – and make sure all boxes are clearly labelled.

Labelling clearly which items are fragile is incredibly important – don’t let any fragile items get stored underneath heavy boxes. Also consider whether you’ll need access to some of these items sooner rather than later, and place those closer to the entrance so they can be easily reached.

Have a look at our packing guide for more tips to keep your items safe, secure and well organised.

Make the most of your space

Tricks like storing long items on end to preserve floor space can go far when trying to make the most of a lorry or storage facility. Your removals and/or storage company will help you make the most of your space both in the removal van and the storage unit – they’re professionals at 3D Tetris!

Wrapping and packing items properly will ensure they’re safe and protected from any moisture or damage. If you’ve taken apart furniture to get it into the unit, don’t forget to attach them to the bigger pieces so you’re not searching for screws and other small bits when unpacking the unit!
 
Top tip:
Make an inventory of everything going into your storage unit. This means knowing not only how many boxes and items there are, but what they include. Using a colour key when labelling does make this easier. If you are likely to be back and forth to your storage unit to access different items, you may want to create a ‘map’ of the unit so you know where specific items are located.

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