Most of us have heard of or used self-storage, at least the type that is known as “conventional” self-storage. This is where you pack your belongings, take them to a storage facility, unpack and load them in a storage unit. But did you know that there is a more convenient option that exists in the self-storage world? This option reduces the time and effort of lifting and loading in half. It is commonly referred to as “mobile storage” or “portable storage” and this option has been increasing in popularity in Canada, the GTA, and Toronto over the past few years.
Like conventional self-storage, mobile storage is used for a variety of reasons. This includes storage for temporary purposes, moving, home staging, de-cluttering, business inventory, seasonal goods, etc. With mobile storage, the storage company will typically deliver a container(s) to your business or residence. Next, you pack the container(s) with your goods, (some offer packing and loading labour) and the container(s) will be taken back to a facility or compound, for storage. When you want your container(s) returned, the company will re-deliver the storage container to you.
Due to the growing popularity of mobile storage in Toronto ,new portable storage companies are popping up all over the GTA. Regardless of your reason for storage, you need to know that the storage company you choose will treat you as a valued customer and treat your goods with care. Because there are more variables/moving parts related to mobile storage, users should ask more questions and select their portable self storage company carefully.
Below is a list of questions and concerns potential Toronto portable storage users should address:
- How are containers handled and lifted onto the truck?
- Container design and construction material
- Is labour provided for packing and loading?
- Are inquiries handled through call centres or directly with on-site personnel?
- Payment Cycle (Is there a minimum rental period), is it a monthly or four-week payment cycle
- Accessibility to your container, is the container access area vehicle accessible?
- Container storage, inside-outside
- Pest control
- Rental rates and fees
- Call Center
HOW ARE CONTAINERS HANDLED AND LIFTED ONTO THE TRUCK?
There are two basic methods of loading a storage container onto a truck. One is to lift the container and place it on a truck. This may be accomplished by two different methods. In the first method, a frame type lifting device comes out of the truck and picks up the container, then the truck backs under the container, and it is loaded onto the truck bed. These trucks are designed with an “air-ride” suspension system that provides a softer ride than ‘heavy duty’ trucks that use a spring suspension system. This system provides a gentle, no shake operation. The design of this equipment is quite large which limits placement and pickup of containers. The truck and lifting device are not designed for use on smaller streets in the core of the city. The containers using the above equipment are larger and are typically a good fit for people living in the suburbs. where the residences are larger and the streets and driveways are wider/larger.
The second method of on/off loading is to use a forklift transported on the rear of the delivery truck. This method is common among large chain stores, such as Home Depot, who use this equipment for building supply deliveries. This type of equipment provides the most location flexibility as it can be placed on the customer’s property and because of the maneuverability of the all-terrain forklift. The storage containers can be placed on your front yard, backyard, driveway, etc. In this method, the forklift is fitted with large inflatable all-terrain tires in order to lift and move units with minimum bounce and jolt. The second method utilizes tilt bed trucks, the same design/system used to haul, load and off-load steel containers used for trash and scrap metal. On delivery, the truck bed tilts upward and the container slides off the truck bed as the deck tilts. When the unit is loaded, the process is reversed, now a steel cable is attached to the container and is pulled onto the truck deck (now in the lifted position) then the deck is lowered to a level position. These trucks are designed for heavy-duty loads, which can result in a rough ride for the loads they transport. This can create unfavourable conditions for your household (or other) belongings as the tilting and cable pull-on and slide-off will likely result in shifting, bumping and a rough ride. The pickup at your location, the off load at facility location, the reload and return to your location will result in 4 operations in which a loaded container will be tilted and slid on and off the truck bed so it is recommended that you pack your goods tightly.
CONTAINER DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION MATERIAL
There are 3 materials used in Canada and the U.S. for most, container construction including the construction of containers used for Toronto mobile storage.
- Fibreglass. Fibreglass units are commonly used custom-designed containers. The fiberglass design creates a secure, waterproof container. Most are vented to prevent condensation. The companies using these units typically offer 2-3 sizes, …..W x …..L x …..H, …..W x …..L x …..H, …..W x …..L x …..H. The smallest size can accommodate a small apartment or condominium and the largest will provide the space needed for a small house. These units are designed with a large roll up door (self-storage type). Care should be taken in the loading of these units because if the load shifts against the door it may cause difficulty in opening the door and damage to your belongings. These containers offer a good value for users needing a medium to large storage space but cannot be used if space for loading is limited.
- Wood. Wood is the most common building material used in Canada and the U.S. Condensation will not occur within these units. They are usually 5’W x 8’L x 7’H. Because of the size and handling equipment (forklifts) they offer the most flexibility in placement on your property. Another major advantage is that wood absorbs the shock and jarring encountered in loading and truck transportation. They are typically designed with a 4’ x 7’ swing door which allows easy loading of larger items. When delivered to your property they are covered with an 18oz. waterproof transport truck type vinyl tarp.
- Steel containers. Steel containers are the most susceptible to condensation. In fact, if stored outside there will be condensation indefinitely. These units are designed for goods being shipped across oceans on exposed ship decks, so they must be water/air tight. Due to the size and off/on load methods, there are severe limitations related to the placement of these containers on ones’ property. Most of these containers are a minimum of 20’ in length, the largest being 40’. They most certainly do not lend themselves to users in or near city “core” locations. Their large size is not practical for a small apartment/condo resident who typically needs half or less of the 20’ size. …..W x …..L x …..H,
ACCESS TO YOUR CONTAINER
Limited access to your storage unit can be a problem. Users should confirm the days, hours and cost of accessibility. It is also important to inquire about the access area where the unit is placed. You do not want to access outside in the rain, snow, etc. Some companies offer drive in access which is great because it accommodates cars, vans, U-Haul trucks and large moving trailers. Here are some things that mobile storage users should consider
Container storage: Are your goods (container) stored in a building or outside? Is the building heated? Does the building have a 24 hour monitored fire alarm and security system? Does the building have a back-up power generator?
Pest Control: A self-storage facility may be designed to have pest proof walls, doors, windows, air tight, no cracks, openings, etc. The problem is that some users bring in moths & mice in their packed belongings. This is of course unknown to the storage company. Users should ask about the pest control contract. There are some companies that offer moth and mice traps for the storage containers. It is also important to ask for proof of pest control.
PACKING AND LOADING LABOUR
Because mobile/portable storage is an extension of self-storage few companies provide labour. Most companies offer referrals to companies that provide these services, and most offer good service rates.
CALL CENTER & CUSTOMER SERVICE
Some companies use call centers in the U.S. to handle calls and product information. This can be a problem if one requires a quick answer to problems related to deliveries, pick-ups, and after hour calls.
- Photograph or video the loading of your goods, this will be helpful if you need to retrieve items
- If you store legal papers place them at or near the front of the container
- Do not place heavy goods in one area of the container as this may cause difficulty in handling
- Does the company offer conventional self-storage? This may be important to a user in that if the container(s) are full and you have a few more things to store you do not need to rent another container
- Are your goods insured and for what amount? Can you purchase additional coverage?
- Go online, look for and read Google reviews!
Many companies do not prorate the prepaid rent of unused days on move out but some will, if they are informed in advance as per the terms of the contract. Users should ask about the terms of their payment cycle and contract. It is common for companies to prorate the first month and then charge on the first of the month rent cycle. Some charge rent on an anniversary cycle (move in on the 10th and pay on the 10th of each month). Both options reflect a 12 payment a year amount. There are companies that charge rent on a 28 day cycle. First, this is confusing because every month the rent is due on a different date. Few if any mobile self-storage companies provide a mail out invoice. This means the user must be aware of the due date each month. A potential user should always clarify these terms of the lease. Most portable self-storage companies offer a month to month rental contract, but it is always important to ask to be sure!