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How To Install A Flagpole

FlagpoleA flagpole is a wonderful enhancement to any piece of real estate. Installing a flag pole isn't extremely difficult. In fact, it's a lot like planting a tree - except that with a flag pole, you want to get it perfectly vertical (plumb) and you want to make sure that it will stand up to strong winds that may occasionally affect your area. 

You may be interested in this article if you are considering purchasing a flagpole or have already have one but don't have any mounting instructions handy. So, we'll take you through the steps. 

This article is geared toward installation of residential flag poles - 25 feet in height or less. Installation of commercial flag poles follows much the same procedure, however commercial poles are usually taller and require heavy equipment for their installation. It is assumed that professional installers will already be well aware of the following steps.


Step 1 - Selecting A Location For Your Flagpole

The location in which you install your flagpole can, of course, have a large impact on how much enjoyment you get from it. You may want to consider the balance between being able to see it from your window and having it be visible to others as they walk or drive past your home (or other installation location). Additionally, you should consider putting your flag pole in a location where it is accessible to wind. By that we mean, that if your flag pole is too close to a stand of trees or even a large building, it might not get enough wind to make your flags fly. Much of the beauty of flagpole ownership comes from seeing your flag or flags waving majestically in the wind. So try to choose an installation location that will allow the wind to reach your flagpole and flag from multiple directions.

Lastly, consider lighting. Again, placing your flagpole a good distance from other trees or buildings will allow maximum natural light to reach the flag. This will also enhance your flag's beauty when it is flying.


Step 2 - Make Sure It's Safe To Dig There

This is one of the most important steps and the one most likely to be ignored - with unpleasant and even dangerous consequences. In our modern world there are so many important wires and pipes buried under the ground that it's easy to accidentally cut through one of them while digging a hole for a flagpole (or a tree, or fencepost - whatever). And usually, once you "find" that buried wire, it's too late. 

Consequences can range from loss of services like power, cable TV or telephone, to more serious consequences like broken water pipes, to broken electrical power sources which could lead to serious personal injury. And there can be significant costs associated with paying for the repairs needed after you've damaged one of these utilities. 

Fortunately, there's a simple solution than can eliminate the risk of causing damage or suffering personal injury as a result of digging. Just call 811 - "Call Before You Dig". (Their number is easy to remember it's just one digit off from 911 and many states have laws requiring you to call this number before you dig.) They'll send out a technician to survey the area where you've decided to place your flag pole and make sure that there are no wires or pipes under the ground in that spot. You can find more information on Call Before You Dig here.


Step 3 - Dig A Hole For Your Flagpole

Once you've selected your flagpole location and gotten the go ahead from Call Before You Dig, you're ready to start installing your flagpole. The best tool for digging this kind of hole manually is a post hold digger. If you really want to get it done fast, you can use an auger. These are available for rent at many Home Depot stores for a nominal fee. And, if you are going to be installing several flag poles, an auger is a great idea.

When you dig your hole, you should make it about 4 to 6 times the butt diameter of your flagpole. If you know your conditions tend toward the very windy side, you may want to go with 6 times the butt diameter. Also, if your ground conditions are sandy, a bigger foundation hole is better. With hard packed soil and generally mild wind conditions, you can go with a slightly smaller foundation - i.e.4 times the butt diameter. In the end, it's a judgement call and you can't go wrong by digging a slightly larger hole.

As for depth, you should have received a ground sleeve with your flagpole. This is a plastic or metal tube that the flag pole will sit inside of. It determines the depth of your hole. The depth of your hole should be such that the ground sleeve sticks up about 2" above the level of the ground (grade).

But you probably want to dig your hole the full depth of the sleeve. This will allow you to place a small amount of gravel at the bottom of the hole to help with drainage.


Step 4 - Create a Strong Foundation

Once you have your hole dug, place some gravel in the bottom of the hole. Then recheck the depth with your ground sleeve. Continue to add gravel until the sleeve sticks up above the ground about 2 inches.

Now that you have your hole to the proper depth, it's time to set the ground sleeve and and add cement. To do this, first set your ground sleeve in the center of the hole. Using shims or other pieces of wood and a level, make sure that the sleeve is plumb (level on tow axes) and then secure it in place. It doesn't have to be strongly secured. Just enough that it won't move when you add cement to the hole. Stuff a wadded up piece of newspaper or other paper into the top of the ground sleeve (or otherwise cover the ground sleeve opening) so that no concrete of other material falls inside the ground sleeve.

Mix your cement. The amount of cement you will need will vary depending on how big your flag pole and hole are. Associates at stores like Home Depot and Lowe's can assist you in calculating how much you will need. We like to buy more than we need to be safe and then return any unopened bags after the installation is competed. It's best to mix one 80lb bag of cement at a time so that you don't waste money by mixing too much.

Once you have mixed your cement, begin to gently shovel it into the hole around (not inside) the ground sleeve. Continue filling the hole and packing the cement lightly with a trowel or your shovel. Stop adding cement when you have filled the hole to 1 or two inches below ground level. This will allow you to add top soil after the cement cures, which will allow grass to grow around your flag pole.

Wait for the concrete to setup. We find it best to let the concrete cure overnight and then complete the last steps the next day. But you can follow the concrete manufacturers recommendations on cure times if you are in a hurry and need to finish the job in one day.


Step 5 - Prepare Your Flag Pole For Standing

Before you stand your flag pole in it's new foundation, there are a few more things you will want to do. Namely, you will want to fully assemble the pole and attach all ornaments, trucks (the part at the top of the flagpole that contains the pulley) and the halyards (rope). You can add snap hooks and the cleat later, but as long as you have the pole on the ground and you have your tools handy, you may want to go ahead and attach these items too.

If your flag pole is in sections, you'll want to go ahead and swedge (slide the end of one piece inside the end of the next piece) the sections of the pole together. After you've done this, you can attach the truck (if it isn't already attached) to the top of the pole. Screw in the top ball or eagle ornament. Then thread the halyard through the pulley. Don't trim your halyard at this point. We'll do that after we stand the pole and make sure exactly how much may need to be trimmed. Attach the cleat to the bottom section of the pole. The manufacturer should have pre-drilled holes for you. Loosely wrap and tie the halyard ends around the cleat.

You should now have the flag pole completely assembled and laying on the ground. Everything should be on the pole except the snap hooks and the flag.  


Step 6 - Step or Stand Your Flag Pole

Warning: This step can be dangerous. We advise having at least one helper for this step - maybe more, depending on the height of your flag pole. 

Before you begin to stand your flagpole, first be sure that there are no overhead power lines that could come in contact with the flag pole as you are standing it up. If the flag pole contacts a power line while you and your helpers are holding it, you could be electrocuted.

Once you are certain that all is clear and you can safely stand your flagpole, place the flash color (if you purchased one) onto the bottom of the flagpole and push it up on the pole a couple of feet so that it will be out of your way as you place the pole into the ground. Move the butt of the pole near the opening in the ground sleeve. Remove the paper that you put into the ground sleeve in a previous step. Hold the butt of the pole over the opening in the ground sleeve and ask your helper(s) to begin lifting the pole from the top end. As they lift it, guide the butt of the pole into the ground sleeve. As the flag pole stands more and more upright, your helpers can slide their hands down the pole toward you. Be very careful that you have the butt of the pole inside the ground sleeve and that you keep a downward pressure on the pole to keep the butt inside the sleeve. Otherwise the pole could pop out of the sleeve and fall to the ground behind your helpers, potentially damaging the pole or injuring someone.

Eventually, the flag pole will slide all the way down into the ground sleeve. Hurray! The hardest part of the job is done.

Now you want to level or plumb the flag pole. Get a bag of sand and a level. Have one of your helpers hold the level against the flag pole and get it level on two axes. Since it has not been secured, they will be visually trying to maintain this level. Slowly start to add sand into the sleeve. Check level on to axes frequently as you slowly continue to add sand. As you add sand, the pole will gradually become less movable. That's why you add the sand slowly and continually recheck for level.

Fill the ground sleeve in this way until it is filled to within about 1/2" of the top. Check level again. Using a thin piece of wood, or other slim tool, pack the sand into the sleeve. Add more sand as needed.

Once you have filled the sleeve with sand to within 1/2" of the top and have fully packed it into the tube, you can add a layer of sealant around the pole and over the sand. This should fill in the sleeve the rest of the way and will provide a protective barrier against water getting into the sleeve.


Step 7 - Raise Your Flag or Flags

We're almost to the best part, and certainly the most emotional part of the project - raising the flag for the first time. But before we can do that, we need to tied up some loose ends, so to speak. We need to connect the two ends of our halyard rope so that it forms one giant loop. 

It's very possible that your flagpole came with a halyard that's already the correct length. But in case it isn't (and it's too long) you can trim it to the perfect length. We recommend that the tied halyard hangs below your cleat by about 2 feet. This gives you plenty of room to wrap the halyard several turns around your cleat. So if you need to trim it, trim is so that the loop hangs about 2 feet below your cleat. Be careful not trim too much! It's easy to cut away some rope, but hard to put it back. 

Once your halyard is cut to the proper length, you need to tie the two ends together. The double fishermans knot is a good knot for this purpose.

Once your two ends are tied securely, you can attach the snap hooks. Most snap hooks have a loop which is used to affix them to the halyard. The easiest technique is to fold a loop in the rope and then thread it through the loop in the end of the snap hook. Next bring the loop over the snap end of the snap hook and then pull tight. To make sure that everything works correctly when you raise your flag, we recommend that you put the top hook just above the knot where you joined the two ends of the halyard together. That way, you can be sure that the know won't ever keep you from raising your flag. 

Next attach the top snap hook to the top grommet of your flag. Using your flag as a measuring tool, make another bend in the rope just below where the bottom flag grommet will connect. Thread this snap hook the same way you did the top snap hook. Attach it to your flag and raise it up!


Step 8 - Admire Your Good Work!

At this point, your flag should be up and flying. Congratulations! Good work. Now you can sit back and revel in it's beauty. And if you flagpole is where neighbors can see it, prepare for a lot of compliments.