How to Properly Set Up a Mast to Let Your Mind Free

Want to let your true colors fly? Whether it’s the American flag, the flag of Arizona, your favorite sports teams (the Saints and LSU) or welcoming a new season, raising your flag high in the air lets everyone world to know that you are proud of where you come from and what you stand for.

With help from our friends at This Old House, we’ll walk you through the steps to selecting and installing an in-ground flagpole.

Anatomy of a mast

A flagpole has many components. Knowing what they are will make installation much easier. Carrot-Top Industries explains them below.

Finial – A decorative ornament that is mounted at the top of the mast, above the truck. Typically, a finial can be shaped like an acorn, ball, or eagle.

Truck – Pulley assembly that mounts to the top of the mast. Fixed carriages mount to the top of the mast and are secured with set screws, while rotary carriages screw into the top of the mast with a national standard 1 ¼ inch threaded spindle. Spinning trucks are mounted with bearings that allow them to spin with prevailing winds.

Carabiner – Also called a flag carabiner, the carabiner is a metal or vinyl hook with a spring-loaded closure, used to attach the flag to the halyard. Carabiners are similar to the type of closure often found on a dog’s leash.

Halyard channel — Usually several feet long, the halyard channel extends upward from the cleat, covering the outer halyard and helping to protect against theft or vandalism.

Halyard – The halyard is the rope used to raise or lower the flag and can be located inside or outside the mast. The halyard runs through the pulley system in the mast truck and is attached with the cleat to the base of the mast.

Cleat – A metal T-shaped device that holds the hoisted flag in place by wrapping the halyard around the cleat several times. The cleat is usually mounted on the post about five feet above ground level.

Butt – The base end of the mast; the larger lower end of the mast rod.

Flash collar – A cover that wraps around the base of the mast at ground level, usually the same color and material as the mast. A flash collar gives the mast a clean, finished look and helps protect the mast and foundation from the elements.

Foundation Tube – A steel or PVC tube that is placed in the ground to support and hold the well securely in place.

Location and height

Now that you know the terminology, it’s time to decide where the post will be placed.

Assemble a model with PVC pipes and fittings. Have someone hold the pole in different places so you can judge the effect from afar. Consider the height of the house or building when choosing post height: 18 to 25 feet for a one-story building, 25 to 30 feet for two stories, and 30 to 40 feet for three stories.

You may find it useful to read the laws on flying the American flag. You may refer to “Conduct While Raising, Lowering or Passing the Flag” in Section 9 of the Flag Code.

Post types

There are several types of posts to consider.

Wood: Historically authentic and the most expensive option. Like the wood on the exterior of your home, it must withstand the weather for a long time, and therefore requires regular maintenance.

Aluminum Standard: Although lightweight, easy to fit and available with internal rigging – no halyards to snag against metal. Note that some painted aluminum poles are chipping, leaving uncoated spots that can stain. Choose a durable finish with a clear-coated brushed metal, which often looks incongruous against a white clapboard home.

Fiberglass: Look for one with a UV resistant finish and constructed with the majority of fibers running vertically. Horizontal fibers are not as strong and can cause failures. Fiberglass poles are available in different colors and are lightweight, easy to install and maintenance free. The rig can be passed inside the pole to eliminate the noise of the snapping halyards. Lowering the flag takes a bit of work.

Telescopic aluminum: The model has retractable knobs and joints and is easily transportable. Assembling and disassembling them only takes a few minutes.

Installation of the post

You will need these tools and materials for proper installation:

• auger
• Wheelbarrow
• Shovel
• Level
• Sawhorses
• Drill driver
• Forest
• Ratchet and sockets
• Work gloves

1. Dig a foundation for the anchor: the day before installation, dig a foundation hole 30 inches deep and 24 inches in diameter, using a shovel and an auger. This will hold the painted steel anchor, which supports the post and prevents soil moisture from seeping in and rotting the wood.

• For soils that don’t drain well, add six inches of gravel or crushed stone to the bottom of the hole you dug.

• Following bag instructions, mix one batch of Redi-Mix cement. Several bags will be needed. Fill around the base of the post (about six inches of concrete). Let it set according to the mixing instructions, then drop the anchor.

• Let the concrete set at least two days (a week is best) before using the post.

• Check the alignment of the anchor using a spirit level or an 18-inch laser level, then fill the hole with concrete and smooth it with a trowel.

2. Drill holes for the pivot bolt: After the concrete has set for 24 hours, set the post on two padded trestles.

• Center the cleat on the halyard side of the pole, measuring 42 inches from the bottom.

• Using an 11/16 inch drill bit, drill holes for two ⅝ inch bolts.

3. Secure the finial: To secure the truck (the flanged top that holds the finial and through which the halyards are threaded), place the double pulley in a notch on the top of the pole, so a pulley with the halyard pulled through across the lines with a cleat on the base.

• Before screwing down the truck, coat the inside and edges with silicone caulk for a tight seal.

• Insert the finial into a ½ inch threaded hole in the center of the truck.

4. Install the post: place the post in the anchor and insert the pivot bolt. Adjust the pole until it’s plumb, checking how it looks from a distance while an assistant holds it steady.

• Maintaining the preferred position, mark the post at the pre-drilled holes on the anchor. Remove the post, lay it on the padded trestles and drill holes for the locking bolt.

• Insert the post back into the anchor and install the pivot bolt.

• Finally, install the locking bolt and tighten it by hand. Again, check that the post is plumb.

If you want your flag to fly from dusk to dawn, according to the flag code, it must be illuminated. Add a solar lamp. You won’t have to dig a trench for a power line or deal with expensive outdoor lighting! Solar flag pole light kits are available at most flag retailers and online.

Once installation is complete, attach your flag.

When you’re ready to buy or replace your American flag, look for the Flag Manufactures of Association of America Certified American Made seal to know you’re buying a flag made here in America. The flag we have in our online store is made by the Valley Forge Flag company and has the platinum seal.

If a flagpole isn’t an option, purchase the Stainless Steel Flagpole Mounting Bracket, also available from our eStore and hoist your flag high in the sky!

Join Rosie on the House every Saturday morning from 8-11am on KTAR News 92.3 FM. If you would like to send us questions or comments, send an email to: [email protected] Follow us on Twitter and “Like” us on Facebook. For more DIY tips, head to rosieonthehouse.com. An expert in the Arizona home construction and renovation industry since 1988, Rosie Romero is the host of the Saturday morning syndicated radio show Rosie on the House. Call 888-767-4348 with questions and comments.