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Anchor Bolt Holes

Hole sizes for steel-to-steel structural connections are not the same as hole sizes for steel-to-concrete anchorage applications. In the case of steel-to-steel connections, the parts are made in a shop under good quality control, so standard holes (bolt diameter plus 1/16″), oversized holes (bolt diameter plus 3/16″), and short and long-slotted holes can be used quite successfully. However, the field placement of anchorage devices has long been subject to more permissive tolerances (and often, inaccuracies that exceed those tolerances anyway and may require consideration by the structural Engineer of Record).

AISC published Steel Design Guide Series 1, Column Base Plates back in the early 1990s. At that time, it was recognized that the quality of foundation work was getting worse and worse. To allow the erector (and designer) greater latitude when possible, the permissible hole sizes in base plates were increased. These same larger hole sizes were included in the 2nd ed. LRFD Manual. The values there are maximums, not a required size. Smaller holes can be used if desired. Plate washers are generally required with these holes because ASTM F436 washers can collapse into the larger-sized holes, even under erection loads.

The larger hole sizes are primarily intended for the majority of base plates that transfer only axial compression from the column into the foundation. The anchor rods don’t usually do much after erection in that case.

To allow for misplaced bolts, holes in base plates are oversized. The AISC Manual of Steel Construction recommends the following oversized hole diameters for each bolt diameter:

Anchor Bolt Holes

Bolt DiameterHole Size
3/41 5/16
7/81 9/16
11 13/16
1 1/42 1/16
1 1/22 5/16
1 3/42 3/4
23 1/4
2 1/23 3/4

AISC, Steel Design Guide Series 1, Column Base Plates, suggests that using oversize holes meeting these criteria may still not accommodate field variations in anchor bolt placement and suggests adding 1/4 in. to the hole diameter listed. The guide recommends using a heavy plate washer over the holes. The AISC Structural Steel Educational Council cites the following example: “If bolts are misplaced up to 1/2 inch, the oversized base plate holes normally allow the base plate and column to be placed near or on the column line. If the bolts are misplaced by more than 1/2 inch, then corrective work is required.”

Based on AISC oversize holes, the AISC Structural Steel Educational Council recommendations, and concrete contractor anchor-bolt placement techniques, ASCC (American Society of Concrete Contractors) concrete contractors recommend the following tolerance for each bolt location:

  • 3/4-in. and 7/8-in. diameter bolts: ±1/4 in.
  • 1-in., 1-1/4-in., and 1-1/2-in. diameter bolts: ±3/8 in.
  • 1-3/4-in., 2-in., and 2-1/2-in. diameter bolts: ±1/2 in.

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