How to do all kinds of flag related things: My guide to commonly asked questions about flags as well as other swell information. This is a new page. Book mark it, more will be added

See also Flag Etiquette for all sorts of protocol and display questions

 

How to fold a flag Flags on Moving Vehicles
How to install a flagpole
How to make your flag last longer
How to mount brackets on brick
How to re-rope a flagpole
How to retire rich
How to rig a snaphook
How to size a flag to a flagpole
How to spot worn out halyard

Regarding size recommendations of flags and poles

You need to pick a flag based on what your pole is engineered to withstand. Only the manufacturer or supplier of the pole knows what the recommended size is for a certain model. We can only tell the recommended flag size for a pole we sell or can otherwise identify by model number and manufacturer. And even then, a recommended flag size does not mean that flags can be flown in all conditions without damage to the pole. When bad storms are expected you should remove your flags .

If a pole is not known to us we have no way of knowing what size flag it can take and can make no particular recommendation. It is not enough for us to know that you have a "really big" pole. Some companies like to tell you that a 30' pole takes a 5x8' flag or a 25' pole takes a 4x6' flag. I have never understood why anyone would rely on that kind of advice. Would that be a 30' pole with a 6" diameter, or a 30 pole with a 3" diameter? Is it a 30' modern commercial pole or is it an ancient home made 30' pole? What is it made of? What is the wall thickness? What is the condition? See what we mean? Knowing a pole's height is not enough.

The larger the flag on any pole, the more stress on that pole.

We always suggest a smaller flag rather than a larger flag. Also know that heavy polyester flags are said to stress poles more than nylon flags especially when they are wet.

Flying more than one flag on a pole increases the stress on it. For the poles we sell, we will always tell what the recommended size is for a single flag. We will suggest that only one flag be put on a pole. But knowing that many people will fly more than one flag on a pole tell them:

"If you're going to fly more than one flag, do it with your eyes wide open. Decrease the size of your flags so as not to exceed the total square footage of flag load as recommended by the manufacturer. And if you get storms, remove your flags. The greater the flag load, the greater the chance that you can break your pole

People sometimes ask us if a pole can break. We make the point that any pole can break. A common way I put it is to say:

"Any pole can break. If you get enough wind anything can break. Your house can blow down, telephone poles can break, big trees can break. If your car axle can break, your pole can break. We caution you to do whatever you can to protect your pole. The main way you can do so is to fly the recommended flag size. Unless we know the exact model number of a pole we sell, we can not recommend a size.

If someone tells us the size of their pole, we only say what is commonly flown on that size pole. Look at the charts on our flagpole pages and you will see what poles of ours take what size flags But we say at the same time that we do not know if your pole can take that size flag. Flag sizes do not constitute a warranty that flags of the size shown may be safely flown in all winds. Remember that wind gusts can be greater than a storm's prevailing winds. Flying greater flag loads or flying them in higher winds than rated may result in damage to the pole. Flags should be removed from any pole long before winds reach the wind speeds shown.

There is a rule of thumb commonly quoted if the flag industry saying that the length of a flag is about 1/4 the length of a pole. We do not offer this as advice on what any given pole is meant to take. If we point out that a pole we sell, which you say is similar to the specs of your pole, takes a certain size, that does not mean that your pole takes that size. We don't know your pole. You do. We will supply you with any flag size you tell us. That is in no way to be understood that we endorse that size to be proper for your pole. It means that you are telling us it is the flag you say is fit for you to fly.

Sometimes people return a flag and say we "sold them the wrong size." On the contrary, we never "sell" anyone on any particular size. We point out our sizes, the customer chooses, and we hand them a flag. They pick. We supply. It is very common for people to greatly err on their own flag pole size. We've seen someone claim they have a 40' pole and have it turn out to be 15'! Yep, it happens. Also, people are often reluctant to simply measure the flag already flying on their pole. Instead they prefer to guess. Or they tell us what is a "proper" size for whatever they guess the height of their pole to be. We never tell them any "proper" size. Instead, we tell them all the above information.

Unless we know your pole, we can not reliably tell you what the recommended flag size is.

 

How to Make Your Flag Last Longer: You can prolong the life of your flags

Pick the right flag for the job. Some people fly a flag 10 times a year under the cover of a front porch. Some people fly the flag 24 hours a day on the New Jersey shore. Clearly, different people need flags of different ruggedness. Don't send a boy to do a man's job. Pick a flag whose ruggedness measures up to the task at hand. In the common 3x5' size we sell flags from five bucks to $57 bucks. We have about 12 different grades in that size. If your flag is all day in the sun and your neighbor's flag is all day in the shade, your flag will wear out much sooner. Sun eats flags like salt eats cars. Location, location, location matters.

How long will your flag last? I don't know, but I can tell you how long my flag will last in front of my shop. At 24 hours a day on an in-ground pole, a 3x5' nylon flag will last me 6-8 months. A 3x5' Iron Man flag will last a year and still look good. You may get more, or you may get less. I have a box of dated test flags flown at my location for known lengths of time. Stop in some time and I'll show them to you. There is no one answer as to how long a flag will last.

How long a flag lasts also varies widely depending on the eye of the beholder. I've had lots of people tell me their "last flag lasted three years". Then they show me their flag. Well, it only lasted 8 months. They continued to fly it for three years.

Drop your flag size: It is a sad fact of life. The bigger they are, the harder they fall. Bigger flags tatter sooner than smaller flags because they catch all the more wind and snap with all the more force. Sure, they are made with more stitching and roped headings. But in the words of the great Mr. Scott, you can't "change the laws of physics." If you enjoy flying large flags, then enjoy it. If you require that you get the longest possible time out of a flag, drop your size. There is likely little difference between a 3x5' and a 4x6'. But when you get up into the much larger sizes, especially 8x12' and into the real giants, you will need to have your flags cut and re-hemmed to extend their life. And always fly only the proper size for your pole.

Hey!! My flag wore out!!!

Don't let your flag flap against anything: I see it all the time- flags caught in and flapping against rose bushes, trees, gutters, sharp telephone poles, building flashing, overhead wires. Rough surfaces will tear up your flag.

 

 

Hey!! My flag wore out!!!

When you install a flagpole keep in mind that one day you may want to half-staff your flag. Install your flagpole far enough away from trees and buildings so that the flag can't flap against anything when it is at half-staff or full staff.

Keep your hardware in good repair: A rusting metal pole or a wooden pole that is splintering is like sand paper. These or other sharp hardware will tear your flag up. Keep your pole surface free of heavy dirt, rust, scale and corrosion and you will protect your flag.

Keep them repaired: At the first sign of wear, don’t neglect repairs. A timely repair can prevent a small fray from becoming a big tear. Usually the fly end of your flag will be the first to fray from constant whipping. When this occurs the end should be cut off and re-hemmed. "A stitch in time saves nine."

Keep them clean: A little care applied to your flags will avoid unreasonably short life – soil dulls the color, helps tear the fabric. This can be overcome in most outdoor flags by washing and rinsing, thoroughly. It is not improper flag etiquette to put a flag in the washing machine. Use a gentle cycle. Damaged flags showing signs of tears or unraveling seams should not be put in a washing machine. Delicate flags such as old silk and taffeta flags need dry-cleaning. Parade flags with gold fringe should also be professionally cleaned. Don't put flags in the dryer. Dirt, dust, smoke and other air borne contaminants will shorten the life of your flag.

Take them in: If you can, don’t fly your flag for any length of time in the rain. Strong winds and rain can affect the dye – even where best quality materials are used, weather will eventually defeat any flag. Prompt cleaning in mild detergent, may remove discoloration from crocking due to exposure to the wind and rain’s abuse. When the wind is working your flag too hard, take it in if it at all possible. The more you expose your flag to the effects of rain, snow and high winds, the sooner it will wear out.

Store them smart: Never store a wet flag – hang it up evenly and let it dry out before you fold or roll it. Dampness causes mildew. Storing or transporting a flag or banner wet can cause the color to migrate.

In the final analysis, a flag is made of fabric, not metal. Every flag will eventually succumb to the ravages of the elements. Your particular use and application is the greatest factor in determining how long your flag will last for you.

Flags on Vehicles

For those who are willing to read a lot of detail about what I know regarding flag wear, here is my response to a Patriot Guard member who asked about flags mounted on vehicles:

J. M. wrote:
> Dear Flagguys,
>
> I am a member of an National organization (Patriot Guard Riders) that has over 100,000 members. (Web site at last count said 170,000 but fair is fair). We exist to honor the service men and women who serve now or have served in the past. We provide flag lines and escorts (mostly motor cycles but some of us ride cars and trucks) to Home comings, Deployments and of course funerals. Many of the Bikes use the "Auto Flags" but some figure ways to mount the 3x5 standard flags and most of us with suv's or Pickups also mount 3x5's (American, POW/MIA and the branches of service).
> How much would it cost to get a flag that would hold up under highway speed. We have found that getting extra stitching along the edges and 2 extra grommets along the leading edge then "super gluing" the stitching improves the length of time that we get out of a flag.
>
> I was actually down to looking for a sewing machine so I could reinforce the stitching of the Valley Forge Flag I Have (it has lasted the longest of all those I have tried so far). I came across your Website and Noticed the point about Yes Sir and No Ma'am so I figured you might respond to this request. I hope to hear from you.
>
>
> */Thank You,J.M.

Hey Pal
I am well familiar with you guys and have been on your national web site many times. The main thing I appreciate about the PGR is that they say on the web site that they don't care what anyone's political views are. It says on the site that they don't care if anyone is a hawk or a dove. "The only prerequisite is Respect." Who can argue with that? So good for you. Good for you guys for caring.

Here is what I know about flag wear after 25+ years in the business. First, you ask what it will cost to get a flag to hold up to highway speeds. Assuming that every driver or rider always obeys the speed limit, that would mean a flag being able to hold up to a minimum of wind speed of 55 - 65 mph.

That is the same thing as saying that you want a flag that can withstand a "Severe Cyclonic Storm"

A storm with only 10 minute sustained winds of that speed is classified a 10-11 on the "Beaufort Wind Force Scale." The scale only goes up to 12! 12 is the worst. A storm with 55-65 mph winds is classified a "Severe Cyclonic Storm" in the North Indian Ocean, or a "Severe Tropical Storm" in the NW Pacific. The names differ around the world depending on which country's agency is rating the storm. But I think you see where I am going with this illustration.

Put a flag on your vehicle and drive for only 10 minutes at 55 mph and you have put your flag through a "Severe Cyclonic Storm". That kind of wear is devastating to flags and even more problematic with the hardware.

Flags are simply not made for that kind of wind. No matter what you pay for a flag, there is no flag manufacturer that would claim their flag is made for that kind of sustained wind. On land, the advice would be to remove your flag from your pole if a storm of that type is coming. You mention Valley Forge. Most of the US flags I sell are made by them. I have sold their flags for about 25 years and they very fine. I can also tell you after years of testing many different brands of flags that I have never found a measurable difference between brands. There is a big difference between fabrics and classes of flags. Everyone's heavy polyester flag will do better than everyone's nylon flag.

But here's the thing about fabrics. The heavier they are, the greater they stress your hardware. And that is when they are dry. Add rain and the polyesters get even heavier because they are way more absorbent than the nylons. I read an article that claimed the heavy polyester flags stress poles 40% more than nylon.

That can be a real danger with flags on a moving vehicle. So much so that I make it clear on my brackets page that I have no hardware at all meant for moving vehicles. I fundamentally do not recommend it. If at all, flags of any size should only be on moving vehicles at parade type speeds. That means a WALKING speed of about 3 miles per hour. I have however seen substantial custom made hardware meant for smaller flags along the 12x18" or so size. That is a very specialized application about which I know nothing. I have only seen it close up on the presidents' Lincolns at the LBJ and George Bush Sr. Presidential libraries. It is pure custom hardware made by guys whose pay grades are way higher than mine. I have no hardware meant for moving vehicles.

You mention there is a variety of sizes. There is the other problem. I know from decades of experience, the bigger they are the harder they fall; larger flags wear out quicker than smaller ones. Below the 3x5' size you won't find the heavy polyester anyway. Well hardly at all. If you are at 2x3' or below, you will only find nylon or the real lightweight polyester. That brings up the next point. With flag wear there has always been two schools of thought.

Some guys figure on getting the heaviest best wearing flag they can. Say you get my heavy polyester I call the Iron Man flag, 3x5'for $48.95. Depending on the application and the preferences of the consumer, that may be the best choice. But some guys figure, Hey, I can get a dozen, 12 3x5' #PC35 polyester/cotton blends for $62.00. That is 12 flags for $5.17 each. So you can get 9 of those for one of the Iron Man flags. Some guys just figure, Hey, I'll just change them more often. And there is a real point to that approach. If the flag is being flown on your front yard, 9 of those flags could just last you many many years. On my front lawn I can probably get 6 months out of the cheap one. It doesn't look the same, but depending on the user and the application, that is maybe just fine. Every one will get a different result depending I think mostly on sun exposure. Naturally wind, dirt and pollution play a big part too.

Now, back on the highway, again all bets are off. But the same relativity will apply. If we are talking about 3x5', the heavy grade polyesters will always be the most rugged. The nylons are the next step down followed by the various lightweight polyesters and the poly/cotton blends. This year, all the military branches and POW are also newly available in the heavy "Iron Man" grade of polyester. As far as gluing and doing after market things to flags, you likely know more about it than I.

I have had guys telling me about various successful glue jobs done to the little 4x6" antenna flags. I have no direct experience with it. On my antenna flag page there is some pretty good information from a guy who tested those flags. That is the only flag I sell for highway use.

All this information illustrates that I have found there are tradeoffs between all the choices. Also note: When trying to compare different flags there is the difficult task of being fair and accurate. Unless you are really keeping track accurately and trying to log your miles and speeds, you might not have a real basis for thinking that one flag really did outperform another.

What I would do is this: Take a look at the cheaper flags on my bargain page. There are a few
special deals right now. And remember, I say "cheap" is NOT a dirty word. Are you looking for 3x5' flags? Let me know. If so, I have an idea for you. I hope this information helps.

And oh yes! The sewing machine. Extra stitching has is proponents and its detractors. But EVERYONE agrees that repairs are a no-brainer. If you have the ability to cut your tattered flag back past its tear and re-hem it, you are guaranteed to extend is life big time. You can prevent a 1" tatter from becoming a 10" tear. A stitch in time does save nine.

And thanks a million for all you guys do.
PS: Thanks for noticing Candice's book. I hope you add one to an order.

Al Cavalari
The Flag Guy®