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By Barriers Direct on 31/05/2019

The Comprehensive Guide to Bollard Maintenance

The Comprehensive Guide to Bollard Maintenance

Bollards are a vastly useful and reliable method of demarcation, protection and security in a great variety of spaces, both indoor and outdoor. Whether separating pedestrians from vehicles, delineating parking spaces or simply marking a spot on a coastal path, bollards come in a number of base materials for every environment and situation.

Bollards are an inherently hardy and steadfast mainstay of society, so their maintenance is often overlooked — sometimes to the detriment of those responsible for their upkeep. In the long run, the implementation of a simple, periodic and well-informed regime of inspection, cleaning and repair can save on the unnecessary costs of replacement.

When it comes to bollard maintenance, there is a huge amount you can do yourself without needing to enlist professional help!

 

What causes damage to bollards?

It is paramount to effective bollard maintenance to understand where the initial damage to your bollards may be coming from. There are 2 primary causes:

  1. Environmental conditions: Bollards are specifically designed to withstand adverse weather and environmental conditions, but these will still take an inevitable toll over time. Strong winds, torrential rain, snow, ice, even just sunshine — it can be a tough old world out there for the humble bollard! Furthermore, coastal environments are subject to saltwater spray; high-traffic areas are subject to abundant particulates and other pollutants.

  2. Human interaction: The very purpose of many bollards, especially in car parks and on roads, is to act as a visual aid to drivers — but drivers make mistakes! Bumps, scrapes and scratches are part and parcel of the life of a bollard, and understanding how to deal with these can save on costs. Furthermore, oftentimes a bollard will be blighted by the wayward creative instincts of disenfranchised youths armed with spray-paint cans — or even just a well-meaning but misguided attempt at maintenance or repair by someone who hasn’t read our guide!

 

Understanding the environment

Not only is there variation in the base materials from which bollards are made, but the places in which they are used also differ quite pronouncedly.

The British Constructional Steelwork Association provides an excellent table on atmospheric corrosivity categories, along with examples of typical environments. Not all bollards are steel, of course, but their environmental categorisations prove a nonetheless reliable guide to understanding how to approach bollard maintenance with respect to environmental conditions.

In the name of completeness, we have included interior environments in the table. Whilst we generally think of bollards as solely exterior objects, they are highly adaptable and oftentimes utilised indoors, such as at swimming pools or boatyards.

Corrosivity category and risk

Examples of typical environments in temperate climate

Exterior

Interior

C1

Very low

 

Atmosphere with low level of pollution; primarily rural

Heated building with clean atmospheres, e.g., school, hotel, office, shop

C2

Low

Unheated building in which condensation may occur, e.g., depot, sports hall

C3

Medium

Urban/industrial atmosphere; moderate sulphur dioxide pollution; coastal area with low salinity

Production room with high humidity and some air pollution, e.g., laundry, brewery, food-processing plant, dairy

C4

High

Industrial/coastal area with moderate salinity

Chemical plant, swimming pool, coast, boatyard

C5-I

Very high (industrial)

Industrial area with high humidity and aggressive atmosphere

Building/area with almost permanent condensation and high pollution

C5-M

Very high (marine)

Coastal/offshore area with high salinity

Building/area with almost permanent condensation and high pollution


Inspection

Now you’ve got to grips with how the location of your bollard affects its maintenance, it’s time to get up close and personal.

When inspecting a bollard, you should be checking for a number of issues:

  • Breakdown of surface finish

  • Buildup of dirt, salt or atmospheric residue

  • Vandalism

  • Vehicle impact

  • Reduced performance (particularly with telescopic bollards)

  • Loose fixings

  • Wear and tear

If you know in advance the fittings and fixings that your bollard takes, it might be worth having them ready for immediate replacement during the inspection to save time later. On average, a bollard won’t have changed much since your last inspection — those things are built to last! — but getting into a routine of inspection will ensure problems are noted and resolved as soon as possible. So just how often should inspections take place?

In rural environments (C1–3 in our table), bollards should be inspected monthly. Harsh or coastal environments (C4, C5-I, C5-M) require more regular checks because they are more frequently coming into contact with concentrated atmospheric pollutants, whether chemical or marine. In these cases, inspections should take place weekly.

Another crucial aspect of bollard inspection is using your professional judgement to ascertain when a bollard is damaged beyond the scope of your maintenance skills. If damage is undermining the integrity and utility of your bollard, it may be time to consider either calling in professional help or, on balance, replacing it altogether.

Recognising high-priority problems before they get out of hand can again save on costs in the long-term. The most common are:

  • Dents

  • Breaks

  • Cracks

  • Rust

Rust can be particularly pernicious, as it may appear less significant or harmful than it really is, especially to an untrained eye. It should be removed as soon as possible.

And finally, always observe safe lifting protocol when inspecting telescopic bollards that are in the lowered position. Those things can be far heavier than they look!

We’re now well versed in what and when to be on the lookout for threats to the maintenance of your bollards. How best to negate potential damage and reduce existing wear and tear? Whilst macroscopic damage to bollards is part and parcel of the life of a bollard and often necessitates replacement or professional repair, there is a massive amount to be said for a good old-fashioned clean!

 

Maintenance

How you approach maintaining your bollard is highly dependent on the base material from which it is made. Tailoring your maintenance regimen with respect to what products and implements you use is crucial, not only in keeping your bollards to a high standard both in terms of utility and aesthetic, but also to keep you from inadvertently damaging them further.

Regardless of base material, you generally want to be cleaning your bollard with warm soapy water or warm water mixed with detergent. This simple method alone will remove a great deal of surface dirt and greatly improve aesthetic. A soft brush should be used, preferably nylon, and the bollard should always be rinsed and dried with a soft cloth.

So what do you need to be aware of when maintaining your bollard?

  • Steel bollards — These are often galvanised for extra protection. This means it is imperative to avoid abrasive cleaning products, as they may compromise the integrity of the galvanisation and lead to premature rusting. Galvanised steel has the ability to ‘self-heal’ minor knocks and scratches. However, if you are facing damage beyond this self-healing process, repair paint is available in either paste or spray form.

  • Concrete bollards — Precast concrete requires little to no maintenance – but, as you’ve probably learned by now, this is by no means an invitation to pass over the maintenance process! Dirt will naturally accumulate over time regardless of material hardiness, but a standard cleaning regimen will tackle the majority of this buildup with ease. Note, though, that surrounding masonry and concrete should be thoroughly drenched beforehand, lest the dirty runoff water gets absorbed into them. Protective gloves should always be worn to prevent abrasions and contact with concrete dust.

  • Timber bollards — These come in a variety of hard- and softwoods, but the most common is opepe (known as bilinga outside of the UK), an African hardwood. Timber bollard maintenance begins immediately; all wrapping must be removed within 72 hours of delivery to ensure the wood doesn’t sweat and discolour. A unique maintenance issue with timber bollards is, of course, splintering and sharp edges, both of which should be lightly sanded off. The natural properties of timber also mean it tends to move, split and surface-check. There is little that can be done about this. As and when your timber bollards begin to deteriorate, replacement should be considered. Replacement bollards may have a different shading to their neighbours, illuminating the inevitable weathering effect that occurs over time.

The impact of environmental conditions on your bollards is heavily contingent on their base material. Nevertheless, as a rule of thumb you want to be cleaning those in rural and urban environments (C1–3) every 3 months. For harsh or coastal environments (C4, C5-I, C5-M), in which your bollards are in regular contact with concentrated atmospheric pollutants, cleaning should be at least monthly.

When removing graffiti, solvent cleaners should be avoided; instead, use either a T-cutting compound or specialist cleaner. Test your product on a small, inconspicuous area of the bollard to assess efficacy before committing to cleaning the entire bollard with it.

Finally, it is important to record all inspections, cleaning and maintenance, detailing not only the method of cleaning but also what products were used and what, if any, repair work was undertaken. This saves from ambiguity, misunderstanding and miscommunication, potentially saving a lot of time and money in the future.

 

What a load of bollards!

Bollards are a strong, reliable and ubiquitous part of almost all types of outdoor space, as well as some indoor: roads, car parks, coastal paths, promenades, yards, walkways, swimming pools. Understanding how to inspect and maintain your bollards correctly can pay you huge dividends over time, both in terms of time and money saved and in the positive impact on your business of aesthetic and well-maintained bollards.

Here at Barriers Direct, we have a wide and varied selection of bollards for your business, in a plethora of designs, materials and colours. Looking to invest in some new or replacement bollards? In need of advice on choices, maintenance, what products to use? Get in touch today and draw on our wealth of expertise on all things bollards!

By Barriers Direct on 31/05/2019
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