In Praise Of Bollards

Webster’s Dictionary defines “bollards” as “any of a series of short posts set at intervals to delimit an area (such as a traffic island) or to exclude vehicles” but self-storage owners define them as a way to save thousands of dollars on building repairs on a regular basis. Indeed, installing bollards in your self-storage facility may be the best idea you have this year.

What is a “bollard”?

A bollard is a post that protects your building from being hit by a vehicle. It’s a simple concept, yet many self-storage owners screw up the mission and end up not accomplishing their goal – which is particularly frustrating since it could have been easily avoided.

Protect every building corner

The first thing you have to do with bollards is to place them strategically – which means pretty much at the corner of every building. Remember that the purpose is to stop a driver from hitting the corner of the structure when backing up or simply turning too sharply. No corner of your building should be left exposed. There are some corners, however, that are clearly more dangerous because of turn-around or turning radius issues (such as at dead ends or where a sharp turn is required.

Put them away from the corners

One huge mistake some self-storage owners make is to put the bollards too close to the wall. Here’s the problem. If a car or truck hits the bollard, it’s going to bend it over to some degree. If it bends over and strikes your building than you’ve accomplished nothing. So place the bollards a reasonable distance from the building so that you can bend them at a 45-degree angle or so and still not hit the wall of the structure.

Make them substantial

Bollards are supposed to protect your building. But some storage owners use bollards made of PVC pipe with no reinforcement – how will that stop a vehicle? The purpose is not to alert the driver that he’s not paying attention, but instead to stop him from striking the building. The best bollard design is typically a steel pipe set in concrete and filled with concrete, thereby creating a barrier that most trucks and all cars will not be able to plow through at low speeds.

Make them visible

It should go without saying that an effective bollard should be highly visible, but some storage owners are more concerned about aesthetics and ruin the whole plan. If you have a red brick building, then painting the bollards the same color red may make the property look nicer but will not deter a driver from crashing into what they can’t see. In most applications the correct bollard color is yellow. But don’t stop there. Placing red reflection mylar will make the bollards more visible at night.


Bollards are a terrific idea for any self-storage facility. If you do them correctly you will save thousands of dollars in damage to your structures from bad driving or unaware drivers. They are inexpensive to install and are a great investment in building security. You should have them on your existing property, or add them if you are buying a new storage facility.

Frank Rolfe has been an active self-storage investor for around two decades, with self-storage units in many states throughout the U.S. His nuts and bolts knowledge of what makes for a successful self-storage facility has led to a three-decade career without a single failed property.