Safe and Stored Away

Protect your collectibles: What to look for in a storage facility.

At some point in your life, you will likely rent a storage facility. In the U.S., 2 billion square feet are devoted to self-storage units, and 11 million households rent a unit (that’s 65 percent more than a decade ago), according to the Self Storage Association. Still, most will grant that not all storage units are created equal.

For those who aren’t just trying to get odds and ends out of the way, but are storing collectibles or items that stay in rotation in their homes, choosing the right storage facility is critical. Ask yourself these questions:

How often will you visit, and what security options do you need?
Look for close proximity if you think you’ll be visiting your facility frequently, and business hours for access to your space after hours. Tour the facility and ask not only about working cameras but also their coverage areas. Make sure the facility offers enclosed units with concealing walls so no one can see what’s inside.

How can you minimize damage?
Transporting antiques or art from a truck to a unit can be a recipe for disaster. Look for a drive-up unit or an inside unit on the ground floor. For items such as large paintings, consider hiring professional art movers, who can crate your pieces to withstand the buffeting of a move. Remember never to store framed artwork or mirrors flat, since they can collapse under their own weight. Turn to professional art and antique companies or shippers for advice on disassembling furniture, wrapping, conditioning leather items, and what kinds of covers to use.

Does the facility have climate control?
A properly climate-controlled facility is essential for storage of valuable items like upholstered furniture, archive documents, and paintings and drawings. Climate control should offer a temperature maintained between 50 and 80 degrees, and ask for a dehumidified space. In units that have them, you’ll usually find them on the first floor.

Will you need insurance?
Many storage facilities require proof of insurance to cover your belongings up to at least $2,000, and quite a few offer insurance policies of their own that can be included in your rental agreement. But the best option is to check with your homeowners or renters insurance to make sure your policy covers goods and art (take out special riders for your most valuable items) outside your home.

And no matter where you store your valuables—at home or outside—keep an inventory of every item. Take pictures, do a video walk-through, and make a list with an estimate of the replacement value of each item you’re storing. This will help you make accurate insurance claims in the case of damage or loss and estimate the best coverage levels for your possessions.

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