By Patrick Galvan, Storage.com
With its wooden body and nylon (or steel) strings, an acoustic guitar is especially susceptible to damage. Whether it’s bumped, stepped on, exposed to water, or subjected to sudden changes in temperature, there are several instances in which a guitar can be damaged beyond repair.
To make matters worse, replacing an acoustic guitar because of irreparable damage is costly. A high-quality acoustic guitar could cost anywhere between $1,000 to $5,000 to replace, and a customized model will start at $5,000 and go up from there. That’s why guitars should always be preserved in a place where these threats can be avoided entirely.
For most musicians, that place is a self storage unit. Depending on the storage facility and its available amenities, an acoustic guitar can be stored in the perfect environment—that, of course, being a climate-controlled space where temperature and humidity can’t wreak havoc on the guitar’s exterior, as well as at a facility with security features like video surveillance or alarmed units.
But that’s also assuming that a musician’s budget allows for all of these features, which isn’t always the case. Nevertheless, out of these storage features, the one that’s a must for acoustic guitar storage is a climate-controlled unit.
“Climate control is absolutely necessary,” says Elaney Johnson, property manager of East Nashville Self Storage in Nashville, Tenn. “[These controls] allow you to adjust the temperature and humidity that could damage the guitar.”
“[It also] reduces major temperature swings from extreme cold to extreme heat, [which] can reduce physical integrity of the instrument,” agrees Bob Braun, regional manager for The Lockup Self Storage in Northfield, Ill.
When it comes to storing a guitar in the right conditions, think about temperatures where a human would be comfortable. “The good folks at C.F. Martin Guitars recommend temperatures between 72-77°F and a humidity level of 45-55 percent,” says Billy Penn, owner of 300 Guitars in Toms River, N.J. “When in doubt, do not keep an instrument in an environment you would not be comfortable sleeping in.”
An abnormally high temperature could permanently damage the instrument’s exterior, which would split the wooden chassis and unfasten the glues and adhesives that hold everything together. That’s why it’s important to keep temperature and humidity levels as consistent as possible in a self storage unit.
“Any location on earth is going to experience change, from hot to cold and humid to dry,” says luthier Dan Koentopp of Koentopp Guitars in Chicago, Ill. “So as instrument owners, the slower we can help an instrument move into changing climates, the better.”
With climate-controlled storage, this is easy. It just requires adjusting the interior temperature of a storage unit little by little to make the transitions as smooth as possible.
Don’t disregard the threats posed by humidity either. Moisture in a trapped environment will become absorbed in the guitar’s wooden components, causing them to expand and essentially tear themselves open. Furthermore, an extremely humid environment might cause the guitar neck to bend, the strings to loosen or snap, or mold to start developing on the instrument.
Obviously, a climate-controlled storage unit is a little more expensive than a standard storage unit, and rightfully so given the protection it provides for storage items. But it’s money well spent when trying to protect an acoustic guitar from damage. Those extra dollars a month ensure your acoustic guitar remains in good condition and will continue to produce beautiful music for years to come.