What Are the Hidden Risks of Home Storage?

When looking for a new home, convenient and accessible storage is often a big deal. You want big closets and plenty of them. Attics, basements, garages, sheds and other out of the way areas look like attractive places to put items you don't need every day. However, not all storage space is created equal. Some home storage solutions present their own risks and dangers. Before you start packing the attic or putting up shelves in the basement, consider the risks and what you need to store.

Key Points

  • 1 Out of sight shouldn’t be out of mind. Items placed in areas like an infrequently used attic still need regular oversight to make sure there are no leaks or pests damaging your stored belongings.
  • 2 Watch for water. Both basements and attics can be vulnerable to flooding. Be sure to inspect the premises to find any leaks that may be damaging your things and your home.
  • 3 Prioritize security. Storage areas are also often tempting targets for thieves. These out of the way corners don’t get as much traffic and make good entry points.
  • 4 Store delicate items inside the house. Big shifts in temperature can cause damage to delicate items like clothes, furniture or glass, so be sure to keep these items stored where the HVAC system can reach and moisture can’t.

Below Grade Storage

The basement. It’s cool, usually well-insulated and protected from the sun. It’s also often unfinished, so you don’t need to use it as a living space. However, it still might not be an ideal location for storage. Basements are often the collection point for water during the rainy season, so it is important to make sure the basement is watertight before putting anything down there. Basements are also attractive to certain types of pests, like spiders and other insects.

To use basement storage effectively, be sure to put everything on shelves and up off the floor. You may also want to use waterproof containers. Even if there is no direct flooding, basements can be damp and humid, which causes cardboard boxes to deteriorate quickly.

High Elevation Storage

The attic is another place where things tend to be tucked out of sight, but it is important to think about what you intend to store in this area. Attics have many of the same dangers as basements with the added issue of extreme temperature fluctuations. If you live in an area with warm summers, your attic can reach temperatures in excess of 130-degrees. High heat and delicate glassware or wax items don’t work well together. In the winter, temperatures can plummet. In general, anything that might be affected by extreme or rapid temperature changes probably shouldn’t go into the attic.

Water and moisture damage are also a risk with attic storage. While the attic may not flood the way many basements do, it is the first point of risk if the roof starts to leak. A broken window or missing shingles can give water plenty of access to your upstairs storage area.

Pests are also an issue. In addition to insects, attics tend to be one of the areas of your home most vulnerable to rodents, birds and other wildlife. Be on the lookout for mice and other unwelcome visitors. Not only can they chew up your belongings, but they also chew their way in, leaving areas of your attic exposed to the outside.

Safe access is another attic issue. Unless you have a permanent staircase into the attic, it might be best to avoid storing anything large or heavy in there. Trying to maneuver furniture or large boxes along a pull-down staircase or ladder is a challenge. Not only is it more risky for you, but it also raises the risk that you might drop the items you’re trying to maneuver into the storage area.

What to Keep in the Garage

If you don’t use your garage for parking, it might be a good choice for some types of storage. If your garage is attached to your home, it makes convenient storage space for items like lawn care and sports equipment. Detached garages may be less secure, and you might want to install a security system to keep them protected. Garages can be a temptation for burglars.

Garages are also less insulated than the rest of your home and may be outside of the thermal pocket. Temperatures rise and drop rapidly depending on the weather. Be sure to store durable items that won’t degrade due to temperature and humidity shifts.

Using a Storage Shed

Sheds make a great place to keep a rake, gardening supplies, lawn mower and other odds and ends used outside. Tools and home improvement supplies might also fit neatly into a shed. The downside of using a shed is that these tucked away shelters are the most vulnerable spot to keep valuables. Pests, weather and burglars all have fairly easy access. Make sure anything you store in a shed is either low value or not easy to transport.

Making the Most of Your Closets

Closets are often the most secure areas to use for storage in your home. Closets are heated and cooled along with every other room, and they are enclosed and low-light. All of this adds up to an ideal area to store items that might be vulnerable to environmental factors. To get the most out of your closets, plan to use every inch of space. Many closets are deep enough to install floating shelves and other organization options. Even the floor of your closet offers a great place to put things like boxes of photos, extra pairs of shoes or a bin or two of holiday decorations.

Consider Off-Site Storage

When your closets fill up, think about getting a storage unit. While the attic and basement might seem like obvious places to stack your closet overflow, the conditions in these areas are less than ideal. A storage unit comes with the option of climate control to keep your things in the same condition as your closet. There’s no need to worry about security any more than you would at home. Storage facilities come with their own security system and controlled entry. While renting storage can add an extra monthly bill, it can save you the replacement cost on items that deteriorate when stored at home.