The 7 questions you’ve probably asked before choosing bollards for your project

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Often a forgotten piece of construction projects large and small, the right bollard can become the cornerstone of any landscape feature or architectural facade. 

But just what product is right for you? Where should you start? It’s best to begin with the basics. To help you get started, we’ve compiled answers to the most commonly asked questions our team has received over the years.

A series of black bollards on a sidewalk

#1 – When should bollards be considered?

Bollards are most commonly used as visual barriers tasked with outlining the borders between pedestrian and vehicular areas, as well as deterring unauthorized access. A majority of the products used for this function are not crash-rated. 

Bollards should be considered any time there is a need for pedestrian, storefront or building impact protection. Depending on the nature of a project, documents will specify bollards’ required impact performance. We will explore crash ratings in further detail below. 

In other cases, architects or landscape architects draw bollards into plans as a way to create aesthetically appealing ways to separate spaces. In some of these cases, bollards are purely decorative and provide no impact protection.

It’s the reality on most landscape projects that bollards feature both performance and aesthetic requirements. Removable bollards, like those outfitted with our newly patented Twist andLockmount, can turn any streetscape into a flexible hybrid allowing users to modify pedestrian and vehicular usage according to a wider variety of use cases.

#2 – How much does it cost to install a bollard?

Below are some estimated baselinecosts that a client may expect to see from a contractor for bollard installation. The below figures are estimates only, bollard installation costs vary greatly depending on location and project conditions.

Estimate based on project requiring 15 to 20 bollards equal to BollardsUSA Century Series model.

New construction

*Site graded and prepared for bollard installation

  • Labor & materials: $450 – $700
  • Bollard cost: $578

Total installation cost per bollard: $1,028 – $1,278

Existing surface

*Bollard installed in existing concrete surface

  • Labor & materials: $300 – $550
  • Bollard cost: $578

Total installation cost per bollard: $878 – $1,128

The above figures include essential materials for bollard installation including concrete (1/3 cubic yard per bollard, 3,500 psi mix), concrete reinforcement (rebar and wire mesh) and equipment rental (mini-excavator, skid steer with auger bit or similarly priced equipment). Not included in the above estimate are additional materials and equipment such as traffic control rentals, plywood, pavement saw blades and disposal fees.

Labor costs for a typical bollard installation vary depending on the mounting option selected. Pipe mount installations typically require 24 to 48 inches of excavation which amounts to more labor hours than other methods featuring shallower mounts.

The bollard cost in the above estimate is based on a standard Century Series bollard and fixed mount installation kit. Removable bollards may cost approximately $200 -$300 more per bollard due to the additional components required to receive the bollard and allow easy removal.

Smaller bollard installation projects of two or three bollards will run higher costs in both labor and materials as well as product cost. Due to the cost of mobilization and setup time, short load fees and quantity pricing from suppliers, bollard installations consisting of 15 or more bollards realize a lower per-bollard installation cost than small installations.

The above estimate is not applicable to crash rated or K4 bollards.

The costs associated with crash rated bollard installations are anywhere from 50% -100% higher than that of standard decorative bollards.

#3 – How deep should a bollard be buried?

The correct depth to bury a bollard fluctuates depending on engineering requirements and the desired mounting method. Fixed bollards using in-ground pipe mounting methods generally require a minimum of 24 inches up to 48 inches of concrete embedment below grade.

Many bollard installation methods do not necessarily require in-ground burial of the bollard. Instead, they are fastened to a separate component that is embedded in concrete below ground. A low-profile concrete embedded iron base is cast in concrete at a depth of four inches to secure the bollard in place using an all-thread rod. Similarly, all-thread may be anchored into a pre-drilled hole no more than six inches below grade to secure the bollard down onto an existing concrete surface.

Removable bollards, such as our Twist & Lock product line, often benefit from a lower-profile design requiring only eight inches below grade burial for the concrete embedded receiver casting. Crash-rated bollards may require a burial depth greater than 48 inches, but low profile options are available for these applications as well.

The BollardsUSA K4 shallow mount is installed at 12 inches below grade.

You can find detailed, downloadable product specs on our product page.

A row of bollards by a staircase

#4 – How far apart should bollards be spaced?

Bollards should be placed between three to five feet apart to allow for pedestrian traffic access while simultaneously prohibiting vehicular traffic. In addition, bollards must allow for full wheelchair access in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Exact distances may differ depending on specific project requirements.

#5 – Do bollards need to be filled with concrete?

While most bollards are set within a concrete base, not all bollards are required to have a poured concrete interior. Generally, large-scale bollard manufacturers will sell products requiring concrete-filling post-installation. 

Often a misconception of product performance, proper interior pipe installation can make internal concrete and threaded pipe crash rating differences negligible. BollardsUSA products are installed using a threaded pipe interior, accompanied by an additional top cap allowing owners to screw the pipe into place.

With appropriate steel or cast iron parts inside the product, concrete may actually be the least necessary in terms of impact protection. 

However, certain projects do require bollards with filled concrete interiors, in which case our products will arrive without the top cap to allow for alternative concrete fixation.

Several bollards by a sidewalk

#6 – What are bollard impact resistance requirements?

In most cases, bollard impact resistance requirements are defined by the nature of the project in mind. While some project specifications define the aesthetic quality of the product, more high-risk locations may demand more significant levels of site security.

K-Ratings

Developed in 1985 by the U.S. State Department and revised in 2003 following the rising prevalence ofdomestic terrorism, K-Ratings certify products based on the distance the front bumper of a 15,000-pound vehicle is able to pass after impacting a certain barrier. Ratings are classified based on speed (K-ratings) and penetration (L-ratings) performance. 

K4 bollards, testing against a 30 mile per hour benchmark, are the most common. K8 (40 miles per hour) and K12 (50 miles per hour) bollards are often specified by projects requiring a higher emphasis on building or pedestrian security, such as for Federal building plans.

New ASTM ratings

Within the last decade, the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) published standards F3016 & F3016M – 19: Standard Test Method for Surrogate Testing of Vehicle Impact Protective Devices at Low Speeds. These are more meticulous than the State Department standards they replace, defining ratings within categories broken out by vehicle weight and testing speed.

The ASTM classifications are: M (15,000 pounds), C (2,430 pounds), PU (5,070 pounds) and H (65,000 pounds). M40, for example, refers to testing M-category vehicles at 40 miles per hour. 

An additional rating specification was implemented to track penetration distance after impact, broken down into the following: P1 (≤ 3.3 ft), P2 (3.3-23.0 ft), P3 (23.1-98.4 ft) and P4 (≥ 98.4 ft).

#7 – How do I find a bollard installer in my area?

We recommend getting quotes from small, local concrete contractors.

In our experience, larger regional concrete contractors are not great candidates for bollard installation because they’re built for larger civil engineering projects requiring much more concrete than is needed to install bollards. Project specification, size and location may affect installer options.

Consult with us

At BollardsUSA, we understand that questions can be guided by specific project requirements. Our team is always available to answer your questions and help turn your vision into a reality.

Get a personal consultation.

Everything you need to know about bollard installation

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Correct installation of bollards is one of the most important aspects of any streetscape or landscape project where these fixtures are included.

In fact, the only thing more important than getting them in the ground properly is making sure you’ve chosen the right ones. (Learn more about that here.)

Understanding installation matters because the time, complexity and cost associated with it can vary significantly depending on the product type you’ve chosen and whether it must serve protective as well as aesthetic purposes.

Keep reading to ensure these considerations don’t catch you off guard too late.

How function determines installation method

Your bollards’ role will be the most important determining factor in how the products are installed.

Installation requirements fall on a spectrum of difficulty and cost depending on:

  • Whether bollards serve primarily aesthetic or protective purposes — or a blended multi-purpose role
  • Whether bollards are permanently installed or designed for removability

Permanently installed bollards

Purely decorative bollards that need not offer any protective or deterrent value are the most straightforward and least costly to install. Often, surface mounting via some simple hardware and a masonry drill is sufficient. Engaging a concrete contractor is not strictly necessary for installing purely decorative bollards, although many buyers engage these professionals anyway. They make quick work of it.

It’s common that bollards serving a primarily architectural purpose still must offer some degree of protection. When this is the case, the bollard will need to be embedded within new or existing concrete. If protective bollards are installed in an area without concrete, a subsurface concrete foundation is still necessary for the bollard to perform its protective role. As such, installation is more complex and comes at a higher cost. A concrete contractor is definitely recommended.

Finally, the most complicated (and costly) installation is for bollards serving primarily protective purposes in venues where they must meet specific crash ratings. Owing to these more strenuous requirements, installation is much more complex. Installation locations must be prepared for the excavation and pouring of footings that, in some instances, can go as deep as four feet below ground level. Further, a civil engineer must sign their approval that bollards are crash rated. Concrete contractors are necessary to perform the installation.

Removable bollards

But how do installation considerations change when bollards — whether they’re protective or decorative or both — must be removable?

This is generally harder to accomplish so engaging the right concrete contractor is key. However, BollardsUSA has made things a bit simpler with our patented Twist & Lock removable bollard system.

Twist & Lock installation involves embedding a casting into new concrete which is engineered to accept the bollard design of your choice. Then, just like the name says, bollards are twisted to lock into place. 

And if you’re worried that anyone could twist the fixtures out of the ground and walk off with them, our systems are designed such that they can only be removed via special anti-theft tooling.

Again, because installing Twist & Lock bollards involves embedding hardware in concrete, a concrete contractor is required. And if removable bollards must meet specific crash ratings, be prepared for a much more complex and strenuous installation process to ensure required engineer impact certifications are met. 

Searching for inspiration? Aesthetic appeal, pedestrian delineation and removability all make an appearance in this case study from Huntingburg, Indiana. Removable bollards help transform the busy downtown into a safe, pedestrian-oriented gathering space for events and festivals.

Consider K4 mounts for unique protective applications

In some cases, buyers need bollards that offer crash-rated protection but site conditions prevent them from installing fixtures to the required depth below ground level.

There’s a way around that: shallow foundation mounting. 

These bollard foundations are designed with a wider, shallower footprint and can be embedded roughly 12 inches below grade. This design spreads the energy of an impact laterally within a wider but lower-profile concrete slab rather than vertically through a very deep, narrow footing.

A side-by-side comparison drawing of deep mounting and shallow mounting for bollards.

Site prep considerations

Bollards are installed under two basic project scenarios: either they’re incorporated into a newly planned landscape or construction project, or they’re incorporated as an additional element in an existing space.

It’s comparatively easy to install bollards in existing spaces without demolition or other significant site prep if the bollards do not need crash ratings. As noted earlier, it’s just a matter of drilling into the existing concrete of a sidewalk, roadside or plaza and setting the fixtures in place with the necessary materials and hardware.

More often, though, bollards are but one part of a larger new landscape or streetscape project. Site preparation is obviously more involved under those circumstances.

Take care not to let your bollards’ required degree of crash protection go overlooked in project planning.

To achieve a crash-rated foundation, you’ll need sufficient space either deep below grade or wide. Be sure your preconstruction survey reveals what, if anything, lies underground. Remember that some bollards must be mounted as deep as four feet below grade. If you don’t have enough room that far down, you’ll need to go shallower but wider.

For example, during recent work in Newark, New Jersey, the specification of K4/M30 shallow mountings helped project leaders achieve maximum crash protection without worrying about the tangle of subsurface utilities they were sure to encounter in a dense urban environment.

Does BollardsUSA install bollards?

BollardsUSA manufactures and ships bollards nationwide from our foundry in Middlesboro, Kentucky, but we do not install bollards on-site. We always recommend engaging a trusted local concrete contractor for that.

That’s one of the most common questions our team is asked. See answers to the others here.

Get a quote or consult for custom options

It takes just a couple clicks to receive a quote for bollards for your next project. Start here — it’s super easy to select the product, choose colors and add-ons and review installation options.

If your upcoming work requires a more customized approach, our designers are ready to lend a hand. Connect with one here or give us an old-fashioned phone call at 1-502-554-1178. 

A real human in Kentucky will answer the phone.