Di and Hugh Scrimgeour are having to store their belongings because their house is being underpinned and they have had to move out for several months.
'I expect we will be renting for up to nine months,' Mrs Scrimgeour says. 'Luckily my brother-in-law has a storage company, so he has all our furniture.'
Storage companies are two a penny, but the type of storage and how much you pay vary considerably. You can choose open (conventional) storage, where your goods are put either in a bay in a vast warehouse or in boxes that are stored on warehouse shelves.
Or you could opt for container storage. These containers are usually large wooden boxes, some big enough to stand in. Usually the company storing for you will come to your house, pack the items straight into the containers and take them away to be stored in a building until you want them.
The third option is to rent a locked room. These come in all shapes and sizes and give you the advantage of access if you need to take things out during the time they are being stored.
Mrs Scrimgeour's brother-in-law is Tom Deakin, director of Cadogan Tate, which has a warehouse in north-west London.
'We offer lock-up rooms, which vary in size,' Mr Deakin says. 'A 100 square feet one would cost pounds 30-pounds 35 a week, exclusive of VAT.'
A container, which is 250 cubic feet, costs between pounds 10 and pounds 12 (plus VAT) a week, depending on how many and for how long.
This is sealed in front of the client for extra security and an inventory is made out. 'If anybody wanted to take something out of it, they would have to give us a few days notice,' Mr Deakin says.
His warehouse is temperature controlled and the company also offers serviced rooms, which means staff do the packing for you and will help you get at anything during the time it is stored.
Not all warehouses are heated, but as long as you choose one that is built for the job it should be perfectly dry. As with anything, you get what you pay for, so you should check out the storage facilities beforehand to see that the building is not damp, that there is good security and that the place is well-organised.
Any decent storage company will have full security, including alarms and video cameras, and you should be able to get to a lock-up at any time the company is open, often seven days a week.
Thefts, more often than not, are internal affairs involving cowboy operations rather than robberies by a third party. This is why proper care is needed to ensure that every piece is itemised and correctly located if it is in open storage.
Another company offering container storage is Vanguard, which has branches in London, Bristol, Portsmouth, East Anglia, Coventry, Manchester, Bury, Glasgow and Newcastle. Vanguard reckons it could get the contents of a large two-bedroom house into four 250 cubic foot containers, which would cost pounds 32 a week plus VAT. It also has open storage where your goods are packed into a lockable caged area. This costs pounds 35 a week, but there is considerably more space, enough to take the contents of a three or four-bedroom house.
If you are storing for longer than six months and are willing to pay in advance, most companies offer discounts of between 7 and 10 per cent. If you remove the goods before the time you have paid for, it is normal practice for the company to refund the money for the unused weeks, as long as you give the required notice. Some companies have a minimum storage time.
Pickfords offers storage facilities all over the country in about 100 locations, mostly in containers. It has 300 cubic foot containers costing pounds 11 a week, which is about pounds 140 a month for a two-bedroom house. Prices used to vary around the country, but since the recession these have evened out as the company has become more competitive.
The cheapest place I found was Anderson Removals and Storage in Edinburgh. Your furniture is wrapped and packed into wooden boxes, stored in a secure, open-plan warehouse and 100 square feet of space would cost just pounds 2 (plus VAT) a week.
Another company with branches in London, Manchester, Coventry and Bristol is Moves, which offers conventional storage. Geoff Bennett of the company says: 'We bubble-wrap any special pieces, put blankets over the furniture, sofas and chairs are put in special storage bags and an inventory made on site. We charge pounds 3 per cubic foot per annum, which works out at around pounds 200 for a two-bed house.'
Abacus, which specialises in individual storage rooms, from 25 to 3,000 square feet, charges pounds 40 to pounds 50 for its smallest unit. A room of 100 square feet would cost pounds 120 per month.
Each of the 300 steel rooms has its own padlock, to which you are given the key, and you can visit at any time during opening hours. The company has eight warehouses including one in Nice, in the south of France.
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