With Independence Day looming, I looked around the web for plans to build a substantial, yet inexpensive flag pole that would be the envy of the neighborhood. I had already installed our rain harvesting barrel to capture those summer showers so I was looking around for a new project.
Unfortunately, most of what I found were either expensive kits or poles that were more like toys than the real thing. So I designed and built a frugal one of my own. And this is how I did it.
I decided to use PVC because its easy to work with, is weather-tolerant, flexes in high wind (I live in hurricane territory), and it wont break the bank. I found all the materials I needed at Home Depot and the total price tag (excluding the flag) was under $40. Not bad.
Material and Tool List
One 10 piece of 2 PVC
One 4 piece of 1&1/2 PVC
One 2 to 1&1/2 reducer
One 1 1/2 cap
Can of PVC primer & can of PVC cement
Two 3/4 awning pulleys (30 lb. safe working load)
Two 2 3/8 X 1/2 snap hooks
One 4 1/2 rope cleat (2 screws included)
One box of #6-32 X 1-1/2 hollow wall anchors
3/16 nylon rope
DeWalt cordless drill with drill bits
A 4 level
10 step ladder
3/4 of an 80 lb. bag of Quikrete® fast-setting concrete
And of course, a 3 X 5 American Flag
Preparing the Hole and Base
The first step, as you might imagine is to select the site and dig the hole. I chose a spot a couple of feet away from the curb in the front yard.
I dug the hole about a foot deep, wider at the bottom than at the top, to give it a bit of a bell shape.
Digging the hole in this shape will make a sturdier foundation. This is important as only 1 of the base will be below the ground level. The next step is to prepare the flag pole base, which is the 10 length of PVC.
One good thing about using PVC for this application is that it wont rot or biodegrade in moist dirt like even pressure-treated wood will.
Given this fact, it is safe to go right into the wet concrete.
To get the maximum anchor effect, the base will go in without a bottom cap, allowing concrete to penetrate the tube. In addition, as you can see in the photo, I drilled some random 5/8 holes for the concrete to gain purchase in.
The next step is to fill the hole with the dry Quikrete and mix in sufficient water with the shovel to get just the right consistency; not too dry, not too soupy. Now I inserted the base into to hole and pumped it up and down with a twisting motion to get some concrete up into the tube and the aforementioned holes.
Use your 4 level to plumb the base in all directions. Since there was no wind, I simply secured it by pressing a couple of bricks onto the concrete and backfilling some packed dirt. This stuff sets up fast.
Preparing and Installing the Top Section
I put the top section together in the shop, both for convenience and to give the concrete more time to set up. The top is the 4 piece of 1 1/2 PVC. You could use a longer or shorter section for your particular application.
Most of the poles I saw in my neighborhood (yes, I scouted the area for ideas and to see whose projects I needed to trump) were made of what looked to be 1 1/2 PVC. Making a taller pole was my rationalization for going with heavier stuff for the base. The top can afford to be a smaller diameter.
I attached the top rope pulley to the PVC cap before I attached it to the top section with primer and glue (PVC cement).
I used a hollow wall anchor to attach the pulley.
The pulley lays flat on the cap/pole but because of the roller housing there is sufficient clearance for the rope to move freely. Next I attached the 2 to 1 1/2 reducer to the other end of the section. Then I attached the lower pulley just above the reducer.
Final Assembly and Flying the Flag
By this time, the concrete had cured sufficiently to put it all together. Before mounting the top section, I threaded the rope through the pulleys. Next I mounted the ladder, applied PVC primer to the 2 opening of the reducer and top of the pole base, and then glued it up and seated the top section, making sure the top was plumb.
The next step was to attach the rope cleat at a comfortable position. I used the two coarse thread screws supplied with it. After marking the holes, I drilled pilot holes in the base with a bit smaller than the screw thread diameter.
Now it was time to attach the two snap hooks to the rope by just running the rope through the ring side and tying them off with a bowline knot. Its my favorite because it doesnt slip, its easy to tie, and comes apart with no needless and fingernail-breaking prying.
And the final step, as you may have guessed, was to run up the flag and tie it off.