Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Flags are generally designed to be flown outside. For many parts of the country, seasons change bringing anything from severe sun to rain, snow, sleet, hail, or even tornadoes. Temperatures range from 105º F to -5º F (or more!). With this range of climate conditions, the flag industry has created a spectrum of flag fabrics, stitching patterns, and over 10,000 different flag pole parts to help you stay on top of your flag display.

Our advice? Become a flagpole-sitter. No, we are not referring to the classic Harvey Danger song. And we are not talking about the even more classic hobby of sitting on the top of flagpoles. We are actually suggesting to babysit your flagpole. A good babysitter does not wait for something wrong to happen, they do what is required to prevent problems.

Like babysitting, most of the time, simple things can easily prevent big future problems. Staying on top of your flag & flagpole through the winter is simple, if you take a moment to learn these 5 tips as well as replace flag pole parts and flags before the cold weather becomes too cold for you or the flag. In our tips, we will focus on flying the American Flag, but the same principles apply to any outdoor flagpole with a flag in winter. Preparing your flagpole for winter before it gets too cold outside will make the job easier, not to mention a lot more fun.

After you are finished reading these tips, visit this FlagQ Checklist to help you stay on top of your flag display.



Tip 1: If the standard nylon flag does not survive, go with a polyester double ply.

Winter weather can be hard on a flag display. The freezing and thawing tends to test not only the flagpole parts, but also the flag. While the standard nylon fabric looks terrific in summer breeze, it is no match for winter. The 2-ply polyester fabric is designed to withstand this abuse. It is about twice the weight of its nylon counterpart and is made with the same lock-stitching.

For those with high winds, FlagDesk offers an additional treatment to the flag. We call these flags, "Reinforced" because of added lock-stitching on the fly end and corners at the most common point at which a flag starts to break down. Reinforced Polyester American flags are offered standard, but all flags can be given the same treatment. Just request a quote. Reinforced Polyester American flags are the most durable flags.

Tip 2: If the 2-ply polyester flag is too frail, flying a flag one size lower never fails.

Some flag flyers have unusually harsh winters. Combined with a fully exposed flag, even the strongest reinforcements can be not adequate for the winter battle. In these cases, flying a flag one size smaller will greatly improve your chances of a lasting flag display through any winter weather.

If you fly a 5 x 8 ft. Nylon American flag during the summer months, try flying a 4 x 6 ft. Polyester American flag through winter. You are going from 40 ft. of square sail to 24 ft. of square sail. The greater the surface area, the greater the resistance. Hence, the less the surface area, the less resistance. You will have a much smaller looking flag on the flagpole than you are used to. If this is something you have a problem with, we suggest trying the Reinforced Polyester American flags first.

Tip 3: If you find your parts are warn, you can be sure the flag will be torn.

Perhaps the most overlooked part of a flagpole we see over and over are the parts themselves. If parts have been replaced, typically we will find the flag flyer used something they found at a local hardware store, or in there tool kit. For those flag flyers, managing their flagpoles with these parts, we commend you, however, you may be using band aids for what could later become a major problem. Further, these parts might be the very reason your flags are not lasting as long as they should.

All flag pole parts break down against the outdoor elements: aluminum, nylon (plastic), or even stainless steel. So it is not a question of if they will need to be replaced but when. Because flags are the central part of a flag display, noticing flag failure is a lot easier to spot than flagpole failure. Flag failure means you need to replace the flag. Flagpole failure means expensive repairs that would have otherwise been easily preventable. Take a look at your setup. Is everything in working order? Do you have the right parts for the job? Here is a list of things to look at:

 Tip 4: If you go through a brutal winter, exchange your rope for wire-center.

Just as flags have varying levels of durability and fly-ability; flagpole rope, known as halyard, also has a few upgrades available. The most important of these is wire-center rope. FlagDesk offers rope with a stainless steel wire-core to the standard unilaterally-woven polypropylene halyard. This is known as Nylon Wire Center Halyard (NWCH).

Even if the rope begins to fray, or if a heavy storm suddenly comes into the area and leaves your flag and flagpole exposed, a wire-core will prevent the flagpole rope from breaking (which can be a costly fix). For those of you who fly 24-7-365, a wire-center halyard can be the difference between a happy flagpole for years to come and a vacant flagpole which takes time and money to fix.

Note: NWCH flagpole rope is for external halyard flagpoles only. Internal Halyard flagpoles use either a stainless steel cable or a wire-center rope assembly (with nylon woven coating).

 Tip 5: The truck is at the top of the flagpole with the pulley, it must be operating fully.

Rotating Flagpole Truck (Black)
Many conversations with other flag flyers help us see, it is difficult to learn all the flagpole terminology. For example, the most important flag pole part on your flagpole, is the truck. The reason it is the most important part of the flagpole, is because it allows the entire mechanism to work.

The truck includes the pulley which is set in an aluminum casing (in some cases fiberglass). Some flagpole trucks have two pulleys. The flagpole truck could rotate or swivel, depending on the model.

When changing your flag for winter, check the truck to make sure the pulley (or both pulleys) is/are functioning properly. If the truck is designed to rotate, move the halyard around to check its range of motion. If the truck IS having problems, perhaps you can get through the winter and have a plan for replacing this component next spring. A failed truck can result in parts breaking down much quicker, and flags wrapping around the flagpole/fraying much sooner.

Note: Many times, if we get a call from a sign company, they will want to just replace the pulley. The cost is in the labor, not the parts. Replacing the pulley ensures there will be another problem in the near future. Replacing the entire component, even if you have to cut off the top of the flagpole and add a PTA (Pole Top Adapter), will ensure you get the most flag life (aka flag value).



Tip 6: Just 2 Inches, cut back the line and your cable will be fine.

The Internal Halyard Flagpole system involves a stainless steel cable (whether cam cleat or winch). All of the stress for the system falls on the point where the cable meets the pulley. This is usually the first place you can find signs of the cable starting to fail. If you have a crimping tool or can rent one, it would be worth the do-it-yourself project. This only needs to be done once every two years.

If you have not done this before or if you have not cut the cable back in a long time, perhaps this is the season! You will need a copper crimp for cable or an aluminum crimp for rope. Lower your flag, detach the flag from the snap hooks, fold and store in a safe place. Next, remove the counterweight, retainer ring and flag arrangement. All that should remain is the cable or rope assembly. With wire cutters, cut the rope two inches above the crimp. Re-attach the thimble with a new crimp. This will change the point at which the cable rests on the pulley system in the truck. Now you can attach the flag arrangement, beaded retainer ring, and counterweight.

Tip 7: Check your line, rope or steel, rough or damaged points by feel.

The best way to check flagpole parts for an internal flagpole is by feel. If any of the flagpole parts (snap hooks, cables, attachment points) feel rough, this will result in the fabric of your flag being ripped apart as the flag runs along the exposed rough edges in the wind. Many times anger at the flag failure is not because of the lack of flag quality, or extreme weather, but rusty, rough edged parts.

If your system is discolored, you can also be sure the oxidation is wearing off on the flag, effecting its vibrancy and breaking down the fabric.

Tip 8: Lubricate the winch if you have this type of pole, make sure to use a non-water-based spray in the access door and winch-handle hole. Just a drop will do.

Doesn't require a great deal of oil, but a non-water-based lubricant in the winch joints can help greatly. Stainless steel winches are expensive. If the winch is left unattended, eventually, the winch will seize up. When this happens, there is nothing the flag flyer can do. The cable will have to be cut, and the entire system re-rigged.

In general, take good care of the winch. The self-locking system can release if you are raising or lowering the flag too quickly and if you let the cable in the winch bind. Most winch-based flagpole systems allow you to raise and lower the flag without opening the access door. Every so often, open the access door when you are raising and lowering the flag to make sure everything is lining up correctly, and the crank is smooth. 
Visit this FlagQ Checklist for more helpful information!