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Poor Storage Of Construction Site Materials & Products: 7 Signs

9 minutes read

poor storage of materials on construction site

When you walk in the front door after work, do you fling your keys and coat into a pile on the nearest chair? Or are you the type of person who dutifully hangs them up?

At home, the worst-case scenario is the dog makes your coat his chew toy, or you’re 5 minutes late to a dinner date because your keys “disappeared.” As a commercial subcontractor, poor storage of materials on a construction site can cost thousands and result in missed deadlines.

Material handling and storage needs to be a focus, not an afterthought – products behave differently under different pressures, temperatures, and so on. 

When you store products correctly, you avoid:

  • Installation issues
  • Repurchasing products
  • Schedule issues due to product unavailability

We’ll walk you through the signs you don’t want to see on your construction site. Don’t worry – you’ll also receive a tip for getting back on track in each scenario. 

Signs Your Building Materials Storage Solution Isn’t Working

Planning, timing, and execution are all big parts of the construction process. All three tie back to proper material storage – and avoiding damage or loss before the project’s even complete.

Depending on the job site, construction products may face exposure to fluctuating temperatures, humidity, moisture, and bumps and bruises. Yet the signs of poor storage of materials on a construction site aren’t always obvious.

Here are seven to watch for: 

  1. Difficulty prepping products
  2. Expansion joints don’t fill gaps
  3. Sealants & primers are difficult to apply
  4. Adherence is a sticking point
  5. Job site progress is slow
  6. Damaged product packaging
  7. Stink, stack, stock

1. Difficulty in Prepping Products

Many construction products require mixing or other preparation steps before application. If fully blending them becomes tough to impossible, they’ll be at risk of premature failure.

For example, improper storage of sealants and certain adhesives can result in the separation of components, chemical degradation, or premature hardening of parts of the product. Extreme temperatures can cause some components to settle or solidify at the bottom, making them difficult to mix evenly. Humidity can introduce moisture into products, affecting their consistency and reaction times.

Concrete is another material that requires planning and preparation to ensure it sets properly. Cold weather and poor organization can mess with the timing of your laying and curing processes.

Solution: Store products in a climate-controlled environment, adhering to the manufacturer's guidelines for temperature and humidity. Products should also be kept sealed and upright to prevent leaks and contamination.

Create a cold-weather protection plan that can be applied to various job sites. This reduces the time spent deciding on your options when cold-weather impacts the site. 

2. Expansion Joints Don’t Fill Gaps

“Operator error” is a real thing, and expansion joints are often a prime example.

If your foam expansion joint installation isn’t filling the gap adequately, you might end up with a host of structural and aesthetic issues. Did you:

  • Leave it out in a storm?
  • Expose it to extreme temperatures?
  • Open it too early?

Expansion joint materials, especially those that are precompressed or have specific expansion capabilities, are finicky about temperature and humidity. Say you have a 4” joint that’s meant to be compressed into a 1” space. If you store it in hot, cold, humid, or sunny conditions, it could expand the second you unpack it. The product is nearly useless if it doesn’t fill the whole gap, and 100% useless if you can’t squeeze it in at all.

Solution: Don’t open them too early – in the case of foam joints, as soon as you do, they’ll start to swell. You better be ready to work once you open the package. 

Follow the manufacturer’s storage recommendations closely. Seek out a controlled environment that maintains a consistent temperature and humidity level. 

Protect heat-sensitive materials from direct sunlight, which can cause uneven warming and alter the product's properties. Give the materials a chance to stabilize in their new home. Leaving joints baking in the sun, then bringing them into a parking garage that’s 20° cooler, is a cue you need to wait at least an hour or 2.

Before installation, a thorough inspection of your expansion joint materials can identify compromised products. Look for inconsistencies in:

  • Size
  • Shape
  • Flexibility

3. Sealants & Primers Are Difficult to Apply

Once it leaves the tube or can, your product enters a whole new world. Air, water, and other environmental presences can quickly change the chemical composition of commercial-grade construction products.

This can be an issue in air barriers and other systems that require a primer. High temperature and humidity can directly impact the primer’s viscosity, making it difficult to apply. A common mishap involves the primer curing on the surface because the user poured too much or didn’t close the bucket’s spout. This could decrease the yield of the product.

Solution: Stick to the recommended storage conditions for the product. Cooler temperatures, proper ventilation, and limited humidity are all positive qualities in a storage area.

When it’s time to work, be mindful of the amount you need for the job. Keep the primer in the pail with the spout closed and pour controlled amounts into a paint tray. Don’t expose more primer than necessary to the elements before you’re ready.

4. Adherence Is a Sticking Point

Is adherence a (non)sticking point for your product? Proper adhesion is critical for the structural integrity, waterproofing, and thermal insulation of buildings. Sealants or adhesives that fail to hold elements together could be a sign of poor storage affecting their chemical properties.

Products exposed to unsuitable storage conditions may undergo chemical changes that affect their:

  • Tackiness
  • Curing time
  • Ultimate bond strength

For example, exposure to extreme cold can thicken these products, making them too hard to apply smoothly. Heat can prematurely start the curing process, reducing the open time for application and weakening the bond.

Solution: Store all adhesives in a controlled environment that avoids extreme temperatures. The storage area should be dry to prevent moisture from affecting the products. 

Since these products have a shelf life, rotate stock to ensure the older batches are used first. This minimizes the risk of using degraded products.

5. Job Site Progress Is Slow

If the property owner is complaining that progress is slower than expected, it might be because your actual working day is shorter. By working, we mean the time you spend actually building things. If your team’s consistently hunting down missing materials – or outright losing them – you’re wasting both parties’ time (and your money).

Another sign of bad storage practices is when you lose time or miss your mixing/curing window due to poorly grouped products. If you’re in the middle of pouring Product A and realize Product B is missing, you’re doing it wrong.

Solution: See if reorganizing your supplies can speed up progress. Keep co-dependent products as kits next to each other. This practice helps you start work more quickly, makes visual inventory inspection easier, and prevents wasted pours.

Another way to improve layout is using organized “mixing stations” for certain products (i.e. traffic topping) throughout the job site. In a 20,000-sq.ft. warehouse, for example, you can set up a station every 5,000 sq.ft. Each mixing station could include 10 kits, to cover its 5,000 sq.ft. radius. If it doesn’t, at least then you know you’re applying too much or (or even too little) product.

6. Damaged Product Packaging 

Pro Tip: In addition to keeping products performing to their potential, remember to keep OSHA standards at the forefront of your storage processes. Keep all materials away from hoistways and inside floor openings. Up above, avoid storing anything on scaffolding or runways beyond what you need immediately. 

Exposure to the elements can make a construction product look suspicious, even if it’s only a weathered label. The parties you work with might not appreciate that.

Various threats can compromise the seal or integrity of a product container –  water, UV rays, and so on.

For example: Say a subcontractor has a two-component sealant on-site, soaking in the rain. While the product is still usable, the can has rust on it. If that can is brought to another site, the inspector might say, “That looks expired. … What’s the batch number on that?” This can result in delays or a need for rework

Solution: Don’t leave stuff out.

To elaborate: You should regularly inspect the storage conditions and the state of all product packaging. Look for signs of damage or wear that could negatively impact the product's perception or performance. Consider removing affected products from inventory or marking them for internal use only.

poor storage of materials on construction site_Stacked-crates

7. Stink, Stack, Stock

While many material storage issues on a construction site are the result of chemical reactions, there also are physical threats.

Double- or triple-stacking may reduce storage footprint, but these methods also can:

  • Damage the materials due to excessive stress load
  • Cause inadvertent curing due to air infiltration

An example of the latter: You stack a crate on top of a package of caulking, causing it to crack and squeeze from the tubes. It immediately starts curing in the packaging, making it unusable.

Solution: Train workers on stacking products safely, keeping an organized and accident-free storage area, and gauging environmental conditions. And, of course, don’t put heavy objects on top of fragile packages.

Avoiding Poor Storage Of Materials On Construction Site

Storing building materials on-site is ideal for ease of access and cutting down on transportation time and downtime. But your reputation will take a hit if you’re sloppy about maintaining the site and your tools of the trade.

A covered storage area is best, or, if that’s not possible, a plan for inclement weather. At the very least, be mindful of the general manufacturer guidelines for most building materials:

  • Don’t store below 40°F or above 70°F
  • Don’t store in direct sunlight
  • Avoid exposure to rain, snow, & humidity
  • Keep stacks at reasonable heights

All construction sites face exposure to Mother Nature. By putting away your things (like your actual mother taught you), you can put your best foot forward each day on-site.