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How to install road studs ?

Road studs, also known as road markers or cat’s eyes, are those small, raised fixtures embedded into the road surface that provide guidance and enhance visibility for motorists, especially in poor lighting conditions or during inclement weather.

These clever little devices have been a staple on British roads since their inception in the 1930s, conceived by the talented inventor Percy Shaw after he encountered a near-miss while driving home in the dark.

By reflecting light from a vehicle’s headlamps, road studs illuminate the path ahead, delineating lane boundaries, alerting drivers to curves, and marking pedestrian crossings. Their simple yet ingenious design has undoubtedly saved countless lives over the decades.

Types of road studs

While they may appear rather rudimentary, there are in fact two distinct varieties of road studs employed throughout the UK – reflective and non-reflective.

Reflective road studs

By far the more common type, reflective road studs are those familiar cat’s eye markers that we’ve all noticed dotting the centre lines and edging the lanes on motorways and A-roads. Constructed from a tough, durable polymer casing with a weatherproof seal to protect the internal reflective optics, these studs are designed to provide maximum retroreflectivity. When a vehicle’s headlights shine upon them, the light is reflected directly back towards the source, creating an illuminated trail for the driver to follow.

Different coloured reflectors are used to signify different road markings, with white/clear studs delineating lane lines, amber for temporary diversions or works zones, and red to mark the hard shoulder or trafficked areas. The reflective elements themselves are typically made from toughened glass ‘lenses’ with a mirrored backface and optical design optimised for high retroreflectivity when illuminated near the road surface. Some more advanced stud designs even incorporate Fresnel optics to increase the visibility range.

These reflective studs serve as a simple yet highly effective way to enhance a driver’s view of the road ahead, especially on unlit rural routes or in conditions of poor visibility like heavy rain, fog or darkness. The illuminated trail they provide makes it much easier to discern lane markings and upcoming turns, helping prevent unintended drifting or incorrect road positioning that could otherwise result in collisions or run-off accidents.

Non-reflective road studs

While perhaps not as ubiquitous, the non-reflective road stud serves an equally vital purpose. Often shorter and more robustly constructed than their reflective cousins, these studs lack the internal mirrored optics and instead feature a domed top surface designed to be detectable by vehicle tyres and shoe soles alike. You’ll find these deployed at pedestrian crossings, cycle paths, and other areas where vulnerable road users are likely to be present.

The distinct “rumbling” sensation and audible vibration caused as tyres roll over the raised stud domes provides an intuitive cue for drivers that they are approaching a designated crossing point or area requiring increased awareness. For those with visual impairments, the tactile feedback from the studs underfoot allows them to positively locate and follow the crossing in safety.

The studs’ prominent profile also helps prevent standing water from accumulating on the crossing during rainfall, improving traction and skid resistance. While they may lack the visible nighttime guidance of reflective studs, their robust construction and slip-resistant design makes them ideally suited for use in high footfall areas where long-term durability is paramount.

So while seemingly insignificant, these two humble stud varieties actually serve complementary roles in maximising road safety for all users, whether providing enhanced visibility for drivers or tactile detection for pedestrians and cyclists. It’s just another example of how simple innovations can make a major difference on our transport network when applied diligently.

Glass road colour studs

Installation methods for road studs

There are two primary techniques employed for installing road studs here in the UK – surface mounting and core drilling. The chosen method depends on whether the installation is intended to be temporary or permanent.

Surface-mounted studs

For short-term applications such as roadworks or temporary traffic measures, surface-mounted studs offer a quick and easy installation process. The road surface is first thoroughly cleaned by sweeping and blowing away any dirt, debris or standing water from the designated area. This ensures proper adhesion of the stud base.

A high-strength adhesive or bituminous bonding pad is then carefully applied in accordance with the product specifications. Bituminous pads are often preferred as they can tolerate repeated freeze-thaw cycles without compromising the bond integrity. The stud is then simply pressed into the adhesive bed using a slight twisting motion and even pressure to eliminate any voids or air pockets underneath. It is left for the specified curing time, which can range from 20 minutes up to several hours depending on the adhesive formulation and ambient temperature.

While fast, this surface-mounting method doesn’t provide the same longevity or ruggedness as core drilling installations. Surface-mounted studs are far more prone to working loose over time due to the repeated loading inflicted by vehicle passages, as well as thermal expansion/contraction cycles and moisture ingress degrading the adhesive bond. Their projected service life is typically just 1-2 years before requiring replacement.

Core-drilled studs

For permanent installations on major routes intended to provide many years of maintenance-free service, the core drilling technique is favoured for its enhanced durability. In this process, a pilot hole is precisely drilled or milled into the road surface using a pneumatic drill or circular road saw. The hole diameter and depth must conform to the stud manufacturer’s specifications to ensure proper fitment.

Once the hole is created, it is thoroughly cleaned and dried to remove any dust or debris which could compromise the grout bonding agent. A quick-setting and highly durable cementitious or epoxy-based grout compound is then gunned into the hole to approximately three-quarters depth. The stud base is immediately inserted into the remaining cavity using a twisting motion to ensure full encapsulation.

Additional grout is topped up over the stud base until the compound is level with the road surface. As the grout cures and hardens, it forms a unified reinforced monolith securely anchoring the stud in place. This methodology provides a far more robust installation that can easily withstand the stresses inflicted by heavy traffic volumes, vehicle impacts, snowplough strikes and adverse weather exposure over many years.

While more labour-intensive than surface mounting, the core drilling technique virtually eliminates issues of studs coming loose or being dislodged prematurely. Installed to the recommended specifications using approved materials, core drilled studs can be expected to provide reliable service for 7-10 years, reducing long-term maintenance burdens.

Big size glass reflective road studs

Road studs : step-by-Step installation guide

Whether opting for surface-mounting or core drilling, there are some universal best practices that should be adhered to for a proper stud installation:

  1. Prepare the road surface by thoroughly sweeping and blowing away any dirt, debris or standing water from the designated area. This helps ensure maximum adhesion. For core drilling, mark out the specified hole locations.
  2. If core drilling, use a proper roadsaw or pneumatic drill with the manufacturer-approved bit to create the installation holes at the precise spacing and depths per the job specification. Holes must be cleanly cut to avoid microfracturing the surrounding surface.
  3. Thoroughly clean out each hole by brushing and vacuum extraction, ensuring no loose material remains before applying adhesive or grout. Any dust or debris left behind could compromise the bond integrity.
  4. For surface mounts, follow the product guidelines for proper adhesive application. This may involve gunning the adhesive directly into a rounded cavity or using pre-fabricated bituminous bonding pads.
  5. Position the road studs squarely over the adhesive using a slight twisting motion. Apply even pressure to fully embed them into the adhesive/grout bed, ensuring no voids are left underneath.
  6. For core drilled holes, fill them approximately three-quarters depth with the specified quick-setting cementitious or epoxy grout compound using a caulking gun or pressure pot.
  7. Immediately insert the stud base into the remaining cavity hole using a twisting motion to displace any trapped air pockets. Apply steady downward pressure.
  8. Top up any core drilled holes with additional grout, ensuring it fully encapsulates the stud base and is level with the surrounding road surface.
  9. Remove any excess adhesive or grout compound from around the stud using a putty knife or trowel.
  10. Allow the specified curing time before brushing/vacuuming up any loose debris and re-opening the area to traffic. This can range from 20 minutes to 24 hours depending on the adhesive/grout formulation.

Safety considerations

Like any roadworks operation, there are a number of critical safety protocols that must be diligently observed when installing road studs to safeguard both workers and motorists alike:

Traffic Management – Proper temporary traffic control measures are an absolute must to create a safe working zone sealed off from live traffic. This starts with pre-planning the installation and carrying out a site-specific risk assessment to determine the appropriate traffic management plan.

At a minimum, this will involve clearing the work area of traffic using temporary signs, cones and barricades to provide positive protection around the worksite. On higher-speed roads or multilane carriageways, a rolling road closure using impact protection vehicles may be required.

Accredited traffic marshals should be present to control traffic flows and permitted entry into the worksite. And of course, all personnel must be trained in proper safety protocols for setting up and working within a temporary traffic management area.

Personal Protective Equipment – Without exception, all workers must be outfitted with full personal protective equipment (PPE) appropriate for the installation task and environment they’ll be working in. As a bare minimum this means high-visibility clothing, hard hats, steel-toed boots and safety glasses.

Additional PPE may be mandated depending on the specific job risks, such as heavy-duty gloves, dust masks/respirators, hearing protection and high-viz coveralls. Full body harnesses and fall protection could also be required when working at heights or positions exposed to traffic.

Handling Hazardous Materials – Many of the adhesives, grouts and epoxy compounds utilised for stud installation contain hazardous chemical components that require careful handling and use of proper precautions.

Operations like gun-applied caulking or grouting kick up airborne particulates, so approved respirators or forced-air masks must be worn to prevent inhalation. Skin and eye protection is also critical when working with caustic or solvent-based materials through the use of coveralls, chemically-resistant gloves and safety glasses/goggles.

All hazardous materials must be properly stored, handled, prepared and disposed of in accordance with the manufacturer’s guidelines and all applicable regulations. Absorbent spill containment and clean-up materials should also be readily available on-site.

By rigorously adhering to these safety fundamentals of traffic management, PPE use and hazardous materials protocols, crews can effectively mitigate the inherent risks of this type of roadside installation work. Safety can never be compromised or shortcut, as the wellbeing of workers and road users alike is the top priority on any worksite.

Maintenance and longevity

While often taken for granted, those seemingly innocuous road studs play a vital role in ensuring safety and visual guidance for motorists across the UK’s road network. However, their ability to perform this critical function doesn’t come without some routine maintenance and eventual replacement as they reach the end of their service life.

With proper installation using approved techniques and materials, reflective road studs can typically maintain their retroreflective effectiveness for 3-5 years under normal traffic conditions. The more heavy-duty core drilled stud installations may even last a decade or longer when installed to specification. However, all studs will eventually succumb to the ravages of traffic loading, vehicular impacts, environmental exposure, and general wear and tear over time.

To maximise their longevity, it’s recommended that highway authorities carry out biannual inspections and cleaning of their road stud assets, particularly along major traffic routes. This allows any damaged, dislodged or underperforming studs to be identified and replaced in a timely manner before visibility is significantly compromised.

The cleaning process involves using specialized truck-mounted vacuums and rotary brushes to remove built-up grime and detritus from the stud surfaces. This restores reflectivity in the short term until the studsStart to show signs of degradation in their retroreflective elements or polymer casings become brittle and cracked.

Once a stud falls below acceptable visibility levels through wear or damage, it should be scheduled for replacement during the next periodical maintenance cycle before the situation becomes a safety hazard. Leaving ineffective or missing studs in place diminishes the integrity of the road marking system and could contribute to poor lane discipline, inappropriate road positioning, or even collisions in low visibility conditions.

The replacement process for surface-mounted studs is fairly straightforward, involving using a heating tool or diamond cutting wheel to break the adhesive bond before the old stud can be removed and a new one reinstalled with fresh adhesive. Core drilled studs that have become loose may need to be re-grouted or have the entire hole re-cored and regrouted if the original grout has degraded.

While representing an ongoing periodic maintenance burden for road authorities, the benefits of diligent stud replacement far outweigh the costs. By ensuring a consistent, effective line of visibility and guidance through retroreflective studs, countless nighttime accidents and incidents are prevented each year on UK roads. It’s an essential part of providing a safe, codified road system that all motorists can rely upon, day or night.