Chemical Storage Building Buying Guide


A Buying Guide/e-book with recommendations from industry professional Grant Hart

Why do I need a storage building?

If you have more chemicals than you can legally store in an area (an amount above the Maximum Allowable Quantity/ MAQ) then you need a chemical storage building. That building can be assembled inside your facility and used as a storage room, or outside, as a separate building.

Another reason you might need a chemical storage building is if you buy chemicals in bulk and you need to keep them in a safe place, away from the facility. In this circumstance you would need a storage building or something else specifically constructed to safely store the chemicals.

What are the primary design options for Storage Buildings?

There are 2 basic categories:

A storage building for material that’s moved with a forklift, such as palletized drums or IBC totes. A building of this nature is often referred to as a “rack storage building”. It is essentially a large storage rack inside a building.

A storage building for individual drums or containers is a walk-in style building with optional shelving for your materials/chemicals. You can add a ramp and walk a dolly in and out with your drums on it.

What is a fire rating? How do I find out which one I need?

A fire rating is the declared fire resistance time of the walls on a building, typically 2-hour or 4-hour. This how much time a building can be on fire or near a fire before the flames can get into the building. The type of rating you need is based on the chemicals and location of the building and the rules of your city / county / state. You can call your local Fire Marshal office to learn the requirements in your area.

What is the difference between a 2-hour and 4-hour Fire Rated building?

The structural difference is the amount of fire-rating material used in construction. Typically, it is either drywall or sheet rock and the more layers used result in longer fire resistance. The walls are assembled in a lab where it is tested against a standard temperature curve to ensure it meets the required rating.

What are a few important guidelines to follow to ensure my Chemical Storage Building is Compliant?

The most important thing anyone can do is talk to their local AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction) and in most cases that’s going to be the local Fire Marshal. That’s the individual who will ultimately sign off on where the storage building is placed and whether the chemical quantities and method of storage is compliant. The Fire Marshal should provide you with the guidelines you’ll need to follow. Find out the requirements before you purchase a building to avoid unpleasant surprises.

In case of a chemical spill, do the Storage Buildings have any features (for instance, a sump) to meet EPA requirements?

Yes, it is a general requirement that all chemical storage buildings have a sump. For most storage buildings the minimum is 10% of the aggregate volume or as large as the largest container, whichever is greater. For example, 20 drums would require a sump with the capacity of 2 drums. There are sometime local standards that require larger sumps, check with your AHJ or Fire Marshal.

What comes standard on a storage building?

A building purchased without any accessories includes only the building with a sump and a door. (A rack storage building will also include racks.) Other items like lights and ramps need to be added as custom accessories.

What accessories are offered for storage buildings?

You can add almost anything, but the typical options include:

  • Fan – An explosion resistant fan to evacuate fumes
  • Lights – An explosion proof light
  • Shelving
  • Ramp
  • Heater and/or Air Conditioner
  • Fire Suppression System – ABC dry chemical fire suppression system. Dry chemical doesn’t require sprinkler water and outside buildings need to withstand freezing temperatures.
  • Liquid Level Detector – A liquid detector in the sump that will alarm once liquid gets to a certain level.
  • Vapor Detector – A vapor detector set to respond to a certain level of hydrocarbon vapor.

Many manufacturers also offer a special sump liner such as a polyethylene sheet lining, depending on the chemical compatibility requirements of the products being stored. Often they can also substitute standard galvanized steel grating for fiberglass.

What information should I gather before I request quotes for chemical storage buildings?

To get an accurate quote, you need to know How, Where, What and How Much:

  • How are you storing/handling the material?
  • Where do you plan to place the building?
  • What is the material you’re trying to store?
  • How much of it do you have?

What is the process for purchasing a chemical storage building?

  • The manufacturer will work with you to determine what type of building is needed, what accessories are appropriate, etc.
  • You will be provided with a quote and a drawing to submit to your Fire Marshal for approval.
  • Once the drawing is approved by the Fire Marshal, you can approve the quotation.
  • A down payment is made.
  • The project is released for fabrication and custom-built based on your drawing and specifications.

What else should I be aware of when storing chemicals?

It’s important to know if the chemicals you’re storing are incompatible. The most common problems arise when storing acids and bases. There are two options in cases such as these:

  1. Purchase 2 separate buildings, one for the acids and one for the bases.
  2. Customize your building with a split sump and store acids on one side and bases on the other. This way accidental leakage will not allow incompatible chemicals to mingle in the sump and cause negative chemical reactions.

Another important consideration with chemicals is whether they are temperature-sensitive. If they are, what will happen if they exceed their max temperature during a hot summer spell? Some chemicals will simply spoil, but others can explode and destroy a city block! When purchasing a chemical storage building, these details are very important. Our engineers will use the information you provide to craft the type of cooling or heating system that your building will potentially need.

Do Storage Buildings come preassembled?

Generally, yes. Optional alarm systems would need to be installed, but any custom piping and electrical come assembled.

How should a Storage Building be Installed? Does it need to be anchored?

A storage building needs to be installed on a level concrete slab with footers that are compliant with the weather conditions. Buildings are required to be anchored. There are specific anchoring points on every building and they’re typically anchored with wedge bolts. The industry standard is a 3/4” wedge bolt, the length of which is based on the building size. The bolts are drilled into the concrete.

The required size of the wedge bolt can also vary from location to location based on the weather conditions. For example, a bolt may need to be longer for a unit in California due to earthquakes.

How is it delivered and how do we prepare for delivery?

The building will arrive on a flatbed truck. Depending on the size of the building, either a forklift or a crane will be necessary to lift it off the truck and place it on the concrete slab. Once the building is in place it can be bolted to the concrete. If there’s electrical installed, an electrician will need to hook up the building.

Please note: Buildings larger than 12’ x 50’ are very difficult to ship via a highway. Larger buildings may require a different strategy.

How long does a Storage Building take to arrive?

This depends upon the standard fabrication time and current workload at any given factory. Although manufacturers try to keep a lead time within 8 weeks, the average lead time is typically 8 – 10 weeks, and if special engineering is required, the lead time will increase to 11 – 13 weeks.

Always start the process several months early if you have a deadline!