Flag poles are something that we take for granted. We see them everywhere a flag is flown; whether it is the national or state flags or custom flags and banners advertising a business or product. Yet, in spite of being so ordinary, the installation of flagpoles consists of technicalities which should not be overlooked.
Types of Flagpoles
Currently, there are four materials of flagpoles to choose from depending on your personal taste and budget. These include aluminum, fiberglass, PVC and wooden. The price of your flagpole will also depend on the height.
There are also different types of flagpoles: residential, commercial, nautical, telescoping, colossal and sectional.
Another option to choose from is whether your halyard will be internal, with a cranking shaft or external.
Parts of a Flagpole (Above-Ground)
- Finial – This is the highest part of the flagpole and is normally in the shape of a ball. Other shapes include a fleur-de-lis or an arrow pointing skywards.
- Truck Assembly – This portion of the flagpole is the cap at the top of the actual pole and includes the pulley.
- Halyard -The rope on a flagpole.
- Snaphooks -These come in metal and plastic. The plastic snaphooks are in case you do not want to hear their clanging on a metal flagpole.
- Flagpole – Also referred to as mast or flagstaff; the actual pole.
You do not have to be Einstein to install a flag pole. You simply have to be able to follow directions. When installing a metal flagpole, the most important instruction you need to follow is to make sure you do not touch any overhead wires with it or you WILL fry. There are countless statistics where the installers failed to follow this step and were killed. Also, make sure your pets and kids are out of the way. You don’t want to trip over them during your flagpole installation process.
First, pick a day with no wind. Due to the fact that 80% of the pole will be above you, the logistics of keeping it steady and straight are of utmost importance. Also, ensure that the place where you will be digging your hole does not have drainage problems. You do not want the area to be moist and soggy. Some cities have a number that you may call prior to digging to ensure that the spot you have chosen does not conflict with electrical wires or water pipes.
The hole you need to dig for the installation of your flagpole is 20” deep and approximately 12-18”in diameter. If the area where you are digging your hole is sandy, then it must be deeper and wider. The looser the soil, the bigger the hole. Also, build the hole 2-4” deeper than the length of the ground sleeve. The purpose of this is to be able to backfill it with gravel to ensure more sturdiness. As the diagram below denotes, some people also like to use sand to stabilize the pole.
Insert your pole in the hole and start layering with gravel and sand. Once the flagpole is relatively sturdy, start filling the rest of the hole with concrete until it reaches the top of the hole, all the while ensuring that your pole is straight.
Once your concrete has dried and the pole is firmly cemented to the ground, place the flash collar and caulk it to prevent water from seeping in.
With your flagpole parts on the floor horizontally, pull the halyard (rope) through the pulley which is located at the top of the last segment, and screw the ball into the threaded hole. Then, tighten the nut holding the ball in the truck and slip the truck over the pole.
Once this part of the flagpole installation is completed, tighten the set screw which holds down the truck on the pole. There is also a set screw at the top of the truck which bears down on the stem of the filial. Tighten this screw also, but not too tightly because it bears down on the ball’s threads.
Due to the fact that the rope cleat has already been mounted on the pole by the manufacturer, there is no need for you to drill this part in.
Each section of the pole consists of skinny and fatter ends. Simply insert the skinny segments into the larger (fatter) segments, one at a time, in order of either top to bottom or vice versa. Lastly, tie your halyard onto the cleat.
Two other parts that a metal flagpole has that a PVC one does not are the steel plates which are welded to the sleeve and the spike. The purpose of these plates is for additional sturdiness, due to the additional weight of the metal flagpole (versus the weight of a PVC flagpole).
Flagpoles and Lightning
If the pole you are installing is made of PVC, then you have nothing to worry about with regard to lightning. Should you be installing a metal flagpole then it will come with a lightning spike, which is normally 3/4” in length. The obvious purpose is if lightning should strike your flagpole, the charge will be conducted through the spike and into the ground. Once in the ground the charge breaks up into the ground itself and “dies”.
There is a lighting protection system called “PreVectron 4 Ease”. The system is composed of a piece of equipment which sits where a finial would normally be placed. This piece’s lower electrodes collect energy from the environment’s natural electrical field. It is normal for this electrical field to increase as much as 10 thousand times when storms approach. This collected energy is then stored within “capacitators” located inside the Prevectron. When lightning is about to strike, the atmospheric electrical field increases. This activates a triggering device which releases the energy that has been stored initiating an upwards leader. The Prevectron’s upwards leader then connects to the actual lightning (downward leader) resulting in the lightning strike to be directed through the central rod into the ground in a safe manner.
Parts Requiring Upkeep
Two parts which you must check periodically are the snaphooks and the halyard.
Due to the fact that the flag’s metal grommet constantly grinds the snaphooks, the latter become worn down and need to be replaced.
The halyard (or rope) needs to be inspected for wear. Once you denote that the halyard has begun to wear down, replace it. Letting it go and having it snap will end up costing you money to hire a bucket truck to get to the top of the flagpole to release it.
Replacing a Flagpole Section
If you have purchased a very tall flagpole – say 60 feet, and you find that you need to replace a section of it, be prepared to use heavy machinery, such as a crawler crane, for this task. These flagpoles are extremely heavy – enough to stand up to hurricane strength winds. If not done properly; this chore may also end up causing you great bodily harm and even killing you.