What’s In Your Self-Storage?

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BoxbeeIf you think that self-storage is mainly for those living in small apartments or cramped cities, guess again.

Currently 10.85 million American households rent a self-storage unit, according to the Self Storage Association, a non-for-profit lobbying entity that represents the self-storage industry. Rachel Kessler is one such renter. Her New York City apartment was feeling a bit cramped with all of her stuff, she tells AOL Real Estate. “I was going to move to a larger apartment because I like a clutter-free house, but the timing to move was off.” So instead, the PR professional rented a storage unit this past July.

“Problem solved. My closets can breathe, nothing is stored under the bed, and the cabinets are not overflowing with stuff,” she says.

Even if 1 in 11 families, or 8.96 percent of all American households, up from 6 percent in 1995, are renting storage space, the amount of stuff each household puts into storage has also increased. The

We are a nation devotedly attached to our stuff.

demand means there is a growing number of storage facilities to accommodate all of our stuff.

“If you add up all the McDonald’s, Burger Kings and Wendy’s franchises in the United States, their total number is still fewer than the total number of self-storage stores in this country,” says Mike Scanlon, CEO and president of the Self Storage Association, who spoke this summer at an SSA conference in Illinois. There are 48,500 self-storage operations, like Publix, and CubeSmart, and, yes, even U-Haul is in on the game. By comparison, there are only a total of 4,713 Walmarts and Sam’s Clubs in the U.S.

“A state legislator is likely to drive by far more self-storage facilities than hamburger joints on his or her way to the state capital. We’re way too big to hide,” says Scanlon.

Big indeed. There are 2.47 billion total rentable square feet of self-storage space in the U.S. That’s about 7.3 square-feet of self-storage space for every man, woman and child in the nation; thus, it is physically possible that every American could stand — all at the same time — under the total canopy of self-storage roofing, according to estimates by the SSA.

Courtesy of Rachel Kessler

So what are Americans storing in all this space? “I store out-of-season items like boots and coats and comforters and blankets in the space,” says Kessler. But that’s not all. “I have a lot of things from my deceased grandmother that my heart won’t let me give away. I also store sentimental things like my beaten up childhood stuffed Panda bear (pictured right) and my Girl Scout uniform. These are items that I don’t want to give away, but I prefer an organized, clutter-free home,” she says.

Due to our desire to hold onto so much stuff, the self-storage industry in the United States generated more than $24 billion in annual U.S. revenues in 2013, according to estimates by the Self Storage Association. And all of our stuff is sending dividends from self-storage REITs through the roof. (Self-storage trusts are the hottest REITs right now on the Bloomberg Markets ranking.) Extra Space is the top performer, with an annualized return of 36.7 percent for the last three years, reports Bloomberg.

If you think that self-storage is mainly driven by those on limited incomes living in small apartments or cramped cities like New York, you’d be incorrect. According to data from the SSA, 51 percent of self-storage renters have a household income of $50,000 or more per year, with 15 percent of them earning $125,000 or more. (In 2007, only 9 percent reached the $125,000-plus bracket.) Additionally:

o. 68 percent of self storage renters are from single family households.
o. 65 percent have a garage but still rent.
o. 47 percent have an attic but still rent.
o. 33 percent have a basement but still rent.

Of the rental facilities, 52 percent are in suburban areas, 32 percent urban, and 16 percent rural facilities.

“My storage unit was costing me $80 per month and the cost was rising each year,” says Sarah Hart (pictured left), who lives in San Francisco. “When I looked at the cost over a five-year period, I could have bought the storage unit!”

Although Sarah retrieved her items from the storage facility to save money, she didn’t exactly purge these stored things from her life. Instead, she tells AOL Real Estate, “I switched to Boxbee.”

Boxbee is a storage startup. Rather than pay for a whole storage unit in a dedicated facility, Boxbee renters pay just for the space of each box that they store. They do not consider themselves self-storage because Boxbee drops off plastic boxes at your doorstep, and picks up the filled boxes. Cost: $6 to $7.50 per bin, per month, with no more having to drive 10 or 15 minutes to a storage facility.

Given that the National Association of Home Builders reports that the size of the average American home has grown 60 percent in 40 years — from 1,660 square feet in 1973 to about 2,600 square feet in 2013 — one would think that with the additional 1,000 square feet of household space there would be less need for stuff put in self-storage, rather than a growing demand.

But we are a nation devotedly attached to our stuff. And sentimental attachments that come along with marriage, divorce, death, retirement, up-sizing and downsizing, simply make it that much harder for us to want to get rid of the things we just don’t have room for in our living spaces.

So maybe we just need to evaluate some of the best and worst reasons for keeping items in storage — and keeping them there for longer periods of time. According to the 2013 edition of the SSA’s 347-page Self Storage Demand Study, surveyed Americans are renting at the facilities almost twice as long as they were in 2007. A full 30 percent of those surveyed said they had kept their units longer than two years. (In fact, 46 percent of self-storage customers are long-term renters, up from 38 percent in 2007, according to the SSA.)

BEST

1. You’re staging your home for a sale and need to remove some furniture and other belongings. The plan is that all of these items will soon move into your new home, or sold at a garage sale during the moving process.

2. You’re preparing for an estate sale of a relative and need time to sort through the items you’re going to keep and toss, but it’s too hard to do the sorting while you’re still in the early stages of grieving.

3. Seasonal items. Whether it is Christmas decorations, hockey equipment, or off-season clothing, these can be good items to store provided that you will go back and retrieve them and use them when they are in-season.

4. You’re in the military or college. More than 1.5 million self storage units nationwide are rented to military personnel (6 percent of all units), according to the SSA; however, in communities adjacent to domestic U.S. military bases, military occupancy can be from 20 percent to 95 percent of all rented units. Those in the armed forces are essentially waiting until they can put down permanent roots. College students leaving for the summer or other extended period might have the same need.

5. Musical instruments. A rock band from Hawaii used a storage unit to keep their instruments and sound equipment, and found that it was easier to set up the band on site to practice their material, according to ABC Self Storage in Loveland, Co. The band, Breath of Fire, found that it was simpler and cheaper to practice at the storage facility instead of the expensive music studio they were using before. Note: Not all facilities will let a band play on site, or otherwise let an office set up shop. But even if you don’t play on site, self-storage can be a good use for oversized musical equipment.

WORST

1. You’re downsizing to a smaller home but hope that one day you’ll be able to afford a bigger house again, but you don’t know when that day will come. Instead, get rid of the belongings. It could end up being 5 years later, or maybe you’ll never move. That’s what writer Max Wong discovered about a friend who had spent nearly $48,000 over 5 years keeping items in storage after downsizing. Save the money. Buy new stuff when you upsize.

2. You need a place to live. Do not use the storage facility as an inexpensive apartment. They are not living quarters and all facilities ban such use. However, that hasn’t stopped some people. After one mom was arrested on unrelated charges, her two sons ages 5 and 10, were found inside a storage facility where they had been living.

3. You’re a funeral director looking for some extra storage space, or temporary resting place, between embalmings and cremations for deceased loved ones. This was the case of funeral director Alfred Pennine. Decomposing bodies where found after his death in a storage space he rented for his business.

4. You have toxic material. Storing toxic chemicals is against the rules for most self-storage facilities. So running a meth lab is just wrong on so many levels. But that’s what police in St. Paul, Minn., found earlier this year when a man rolled open the door on his unit, reported the St. Paul Pioner Press.

5. Your garage is overflowing so much that you can’t park a cars there. There’s tons of clutter in your home and you just move some of it to a storage facility, but you still can’t fit your car in the garage. You’re mostly likely saving junk. Typical rule of thumb, if you haven’t touched it in six months, you don’t need it. But we’ll give you two years. Toss it if you’re not using it.

So have you rented a self-storage space? Use the comments below to tell us what you stored in the facility, why and for how long.

Sheree R. Curry is an award-winning, 20-year veteran journalist who has been writing for AOL Real Estate since 2009. Send her your tips & ideas. Follow her on Twitter at shereecurry.

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Wacky Ways to Keep Mice Away

deer mouse (Peromyscus treui)

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Tatiana Gettelman/FlickrAs cool and wet weather rolls in, mice invite themselves into your home,

That patter of little footsteps may be mice. Mice like to stay warm and dry, just like you. So as cool and wet weather rolls in, mice invite themselves into your home, chewing through electrical wires and making nests in your attic insulation. And since the gestation period for mice is about 20 days, once mice get in, they’re birthing machines that will produce an infestation before you can say “cheese!”

The best way get rid of a mouse problem is to prevent one. Keep counters clean of food and crumbs, and throw out old newspapers and boxes of clothes that provide nesting material.

Also, keep mice from getting into your home in the first place. Seal up holes and cracks around your house, especially where cable lines and plumbing enter. Also, make sure your chimney caps and vent covers are secure.

But mice, like water, will find a way in, and then you’ve got to get rid of them.

You can call an exterminator, and spend $300 to $500 to wipe out the mice in your home. Or, you can get creative and try some of these “wacky” repellents that will chase the rodents away.

Warning: Anything that can kill mice, can probably hurt you and your pets, too. So make sure you put toxic repellents out of reach by kids, Fido and Mr. Fluffy. Safety first; getting rid of mice, second.

Peppermint: Mice don’t like mint, so start cleaning with mint-scented solutions, or add a few drops of mint essential oil to your all-purpose cleaner. You also can pulverize peppermint Altoids, and sprinkle around mice nesting areas. To keep mice away from your house, plant mint around your foundation. But be warned, mint spreads quickly. So unless you want mint fields forever, plant the herb in pots with saucers, and place them around the outside of your house.

Soda Pop: Mice can’t burb, so when they drink soda pop that makes them gassy, they eventually perish. Pour any sugary soda (not diet) into a shallow dish, and place where you think mice are nesting. They’ll drink, and die.

Tabasco Sauce: This hot sauce keeps mice away in droves. Sprinkle the sauce around your home’s foundation to deter mice from entering. Or add 2 tsp. Tabasco and 1 tsp. dish detergent to 2 cups hot water. Pour into a spray bottle, and spritz where you think mice are hiding.

Dryer Sheets: You may love their fragrance on pillowcases, but mice hate their strong smell. Stuff dryer sheets beneath attic doors, or press them into the baseboards around rooms where mice are living.

Ammonia: When animal urine decomposes, it produces ammonia, a smell mice avoid because they fear it’s from large animals that could eat them for supper. To repel rodents, clean with an ammonia-based solution, or sprinkle drops of ammonia where mice are nesting. But don’t go crazy and slop ammonia around the house. It can be harmful to the heath of humans and pets, too.

Strange Noises: Several companies sell gizmos that emit high-frequency sounds that mice supposedly find irritating, kinda like how you feel about your kids’ rap music. But mice naturally communicate with each other at high frequencies that humans can’t hear, and little evidence exists that mice truly are repelled by sonic or ultrasonic noises. These devices may be more whacky than effective.

Cayenne Pepper: This stinging seasoning repels mice. Sprinkle some on areas where mice enter your house. A horseradish and water solution will work, too.

Cloves: The strong scent of cloves is known to repel mice. Wrap whole cloves in cheesecloth, and place in attics, basements, and in front of walls where you’ve heard mice scampering about.

Toilet Bowl Freshener: You buy them to make your toilet bowl smell sweet, but mice hate the strong aroma of toilet bowl fresheners. Place fresheners on a tin plate, or hang clip-ons from a hook on walls to prevent leaking on or staining wood floors.

Antifreeze: As a last resort, place a dish of antifreeze in mice nesting areas. The sweet smell attracts the rodents, who then drown in or drink the poison. Antifreeze, of course, is toxic to other living creatures. So be careful when using this whacky method to get rid of mice.

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How to Design a Music Studio in Your Own Home

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By Eric Reinholdt

Most musicians will admit to sharing a single core skill necessary for mastering their instrument: control. When it comes to designing spaces for practicing, performing, recording or just jamming, control is equally important to acousticians and architects. We aim to control the sound entering and exiting the studio, the heat and humidity inside and, of course, the acoustics.

While a home music room may not have the demands of a professional recording studio, many spaces can benefit from the sound isolation and acoustic treatment applied to rooms designed for playing music. I’ve designed spaces for music at all scales, from auditorium halls to private listening rooms, and have learned a few basic sound concepts that can dramatically improve the aural environment of any space.

Planning

Understanding the use of the space is the first priority. A practice space for your garage band and a space used for vocal recording or listening to chamber music will have some obvious differences.

The location of the studio space will greatly affect the degree to which you’ll need to isolate it from the rest of your home. Imagine how the sound isolation requirements for a practice room located next to the nursery versus one in the garage might differ. No amount of acoustical caulk is going to make the former practical. Sensibly locating the music room is step one.

Spaces

Isolating listening and recording spaces from outside noises — coming from the street, your neighbors and even mechanical equipment — is a high priority. So is the actual size of the recording equipment. So interior, lower-level, windowless locations are good starting points, but true recording studios are so nuanced that an experienced professional should be involved from the outset to be sure your goals are being met.

More informal performance and practice spaces are usually more concerned with containing the sound transmitted from them to adjacent spaces, as well as with sound fidelity and instrument housing – and some instruments can be quite large. For these spaces, isolation construction strategies and controlling how the sound behaves in the space are more important.

Room Shape

The next part of planning is defining the actual proportions of the space. There’s much debate in the acoustical design community regarding the ideal proportions, and the math gets complicated quickly.

For the casual audiophile, it’s generally accepted that the Greek golden mean proportions of 1:1.6:2.6 (height by width by length) will yield an acoustically pleasant room. As an example, if we begin with a typical 8-foot ceiling height as a starting point, we should aim for a room that’s roughly 13 feet by 21 feet.

The space shown here makes use of a clever device that can alter the shape of the room and its acoustics. The pivoting panels seen at the rear wall of the stage area can be used to fine-tune the geometry and control the way sound is reflected around the room.

A few other guidelines:

  • Larger volumes are always better than smaller ones.
  • Avoid completely regularized forms. Perfect cubes and long, narrow spaces with parallel walls are poor acoustical performers.
  • Irregular shapes and surfaces (walls, floors, ceilings, bookcases) as well as convex forms allow sound to be diffused in a space, which is desirable.
  • Avoid concave surfaces, which tend to focus sound.
  • Avoid room dimensions that are direct multiples of one another (1:2:3) – for example, a 16-foot by 24-foot room with 8-foot ceilings – because they will amplify resonating frequencies, making for an acoustically muddy and noisy space.
  • Avoid parallel walls and flat ceilings. These are generally considered a bad thing in acoustical design because parallel walls turn a space into a tennis match of sorts, bouncing sound waves back and forth between the wall surfaces and causing echo and flutter. This is one reason performance halls are shaped the way they are with splayed walls, floors and ceilings.If you’re repurposing an existing space with less-than-ideal room proportions, don’t worry, absorption strategies can help to overcome this shortcoming (more on this later).

Sound Check

When sound waves strike a surface, three things happen:

1. Some of the sound is reflected back into the room.
2. Some of it is absorbed by the material.
3. Some of it is transmitted through the material. These are the three main things we control when designing a space for music.


Reflection

Hard surfaces reflect and disperse the sound energy in a space; soft surfaces absorb it. Much of contemporary architecture is defined by hard lines and surfaces, like concrete, hardwood and drywall.

These are all highly reflective surfaces. The bouncing of sound is known as reverberation. For a live recording environment, a certain amount of it can be desirable. But reflection generally needs to be controlled. This is especially true for smaller music rooms so it doesn’t render the sonic nuances of the music unperceivable.

We control reflection primarily in two ways: through diffusion and absorption. Ideally, a music room has surfaces that diffuse or break up the sound waves and scatter them about. Rough surfaces (like the exposed framing seen here), brickwork, rough stone, wood slats and fixed or pivoting panels all aid diffusion. But too much reflection will make music sound muddy in a room. To counteract this most rooms need some means of absorbing or deadening sound waves.

Absorption

To reduce the sound energy in a space, we use absorption. Rugs, drapery, couches and wall hangings all help to absorb sound, especially at higher frequencies, which are usually perceived as unpleasant.

Absorption in a room controls reverberation and reduces ambient noise. In spaces without a lot of furniture or drapes and many hard surfaces, special acoustic absorbers (foam, acoustical plaster) can be used to deaden a room.

You’ve probably seen egg-crate acoustic foam absorbers. Obviously, absorbers can look strange in the home environment. But there are creative ways to cover them, as with this colored fabric applied to a special acoustically absorptive surface. There are also acoustically porous plaster finishes available, which look no different than standard drywall but absorb rather than reflect sound energy.

Absorption shouldn’t be confused with our next control point: isolation. Adding absorbers in your garage won’t keep the sound from being transmitted to your neighbors; it will only improve the way the space inside sounds.

Transmission and isolation

To keep the peace with your neighbors, you’ll need to focus on isolation. Because sound is transmitted by vibration, it makes sense that to minimize sound transfer between spaces, we should minimize their points of contact. In standard wall construction, walls that separate spaces typically share framing members — the studs. To truly isolate a space acoustically, you want to keep the perimeter framing of each space independent from the adjacent spaces as well as from the surrounding structure. This includes the floor and ceiling.

Many acoustical designers refer to sound isolation in construction as decoupling. The goal of it is to keep the sound waves from touching the structure of a home and allowing it to vibrate.

There are various means of decoupling:

  • Use floating walls that are framed independently and isolated from the surrounding structure with special padded isolation clips and hangers
  • Isolate the mounting of materials using resilient channels and wall clips to hang drywall
  • Isolate the vibrations induced by building systems like plumbing pipes, electrical appliances and mechanical equipment
  • Add an air space between walls to create a sound-isolating medium
  • Seal all the joints, including electrical outlets, studs, drywall doors, windows and trim
  • Use specialty acoustical products like membranes, mass-loaded vinyl, underlayments and acoustical insulation
  • Use special insulated duct treatments and grilles to minimize air noise

Think of your room as being like a fish tank: Any openings, even small ones, that aren’t sealed will leak. It’s these leaks that can undermine all of your hard (and expensive) soundproofing efforts.

This means larger openings, like doors and windows, need special care. For the best sound isolation, an airlock consisting of two back-to-back doors is ideal. The door bottoms should have self-actuating bottom gaskets that seal when closed. For windows, you’ll want insulated units with at least one of the panes made of laminated glass.

Resonance in Construction

Most residential walls are constructed using 2-by-4 studs with ½-inch drywall as a finished surface. Think of a wall as a giant speaker. It will have a frequency at which it resonates – acousticians call this the room mode. For a recording environment, resonating walls can muddy the sound of the room. This is especially true of small rooms, because there’s less room for the sound to dissipate.

By simply varying the thickness of standard materials on the walls, we can decrease the chance that resonating materials will be a problem. For example, alternating ½-inchdrywall on one side and ⅝-inch on the other will ensure that the resonant frequencies aren’t the same.

Retrofitting

So, now you know a lot about how sound moves and how you can control and contain it, which is great information if you’re designing from the ground up, but many of us don’t have that luxury.

Converting an existing space can essentially be done in two ways. The first is by adding acoustical treatments to an existing room. You can modify the absorption and diffusion fairly easily in this way; even altering the room shape is possible with freestanding panels or objects. This option is most appropriate for renters, because it’s less permanent. However, it’s also less successful, because acoustically isolating a space is a difficult and more intrusive process.

See how to cut noise pollution at home

The second way is by designing your studio to be a room within a room. If you have the room and a plan to stay put long-term, this is the better solution. The more you’re able to isolate your studio from the surrounding structure, the better. If you’re able to construct floating walls, use a gasketed door, double the layers of Sheetrock and add some absorptive materials, you’re well on your way to creating a dramaticallyimproved acoustical environment.
For a garage space, consider adjustable features, like large swinging or sliding doors, which can help to both contain transmitted sound and act as diffusers. Add coverings or drapes to any existing windows to help minimize unwanted reflections and increase absorption.

Open framing in a garage is actually acoustically quite nice, but an uninsulated garage can make for some tense neighborly relations. By adopting the room-within-a-room approach, you’ll greatly reduce the amount of sound transmitted to the outdoors in a garage space. This interior room lining can be constructed using relatively inexpensive off-the-shelf materials if the concepts discussed are followed. Isolate first, then balance absorption and reflection.

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Phone: 530.410.6741
Web: http://www.sellingredding.com
Email: inquiry@sellingredding.com
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