Life of a Flag
Just how long will a flag last?
Many variables influence longevity – the most significant are:
- The material used to make the flag. Refer to What You Should Know About Flag Cloths for a full description of the strengths, weaknesses and best use of the various cloths in modern flags. Some flags are not intended to last, such as a souvenir, or used for waving at a sporting event. Some are purchased because they are cheap, and there’s nothing wrong about that unless you want the flag to fly on a pole. At the other extreme, those purchased for constant use on a flagpole are expected to have a respectable length of life. The articles on flag cloths above are fair comments and can be confidently relied upon to choose the type of flag you want.
- The amount of wind it is subjected to. Wind is the enemy of a flag, not the rain, and the sun will only reduce the original colour brilliance over time. Usually by the time the flag has significantly worn in the wind the colours will have faded to a point where the flag should be replaced. So the wind is the telling factor in length of life of a flag, and this can usually be judged by how much it “lifts” most of the time. For instance, is it streaming out in the wind most of the time? Does it lazily lift and wave and fall back against the pole indicating gentle breezes? Or does it spend most of its time hanging down? These three stages of flag performance have different flag lives, and there is no fair and reasonable time factor possible in this essay, but as a rough guide we can say that a bunting flag by Flags of All Nations lasts 15 to 24 months in most locations in Australia, less if it streams out most of the time, longer if there is not much prevailing wind. It will last years if brought in at night, and many years if flown only on special occasions.
- The height of the flagpole. The higher the pole, the more wind the flag will be subjected to, and this in turn will influence the life of the flag. The most popular flagpole height in Australia is 6 metres, and this is attractively dressed by a 2-yard flag. The above comments on the amount of wind are fair comments on flag life and pole height, but for higher poles — and correspondingly larger flags (see Choosing the Right Size Flag and Common Sizes of Flags and Poles) — there is more wind and therefore more wear. It is our experience and that of our long term customers that life of flags up to 4-yard size is pretty much similar to that for 2-yard flags on 6m poles. It is when we get into 6-yard, 11-yard, and larger that ballpark comments are not reliable. For instance, the 8-yard Australian flags flying over Sydney Harbour Bridge last only a few weeks. The flag on Parliament House Canberra is brought down every three weeks for maintenance repair. If flag life and pole height are important to you, it would be best for you to contact us to be put in touch with customers in similar situations.
- Whether the flag is repaired when wear is first noticed. Wear in a flag starts immediately it is raised! Fibres in the weave rub against themselves and the lint blows away. This is similar to the lint in a laundry tumble dryer which is collected by the filter. Wear is greatest in the outside or “fly” edge, and extends all the way back to the flagpole end but in reducing amounts. When the flag is significantly worn you can notice how thinner the material has become further back from the fly edge. Wear in a bunting flag will be apparent by a thinning in the two fly corners, leading to holes appearing within the hemmed corners. This is the critical moment for most effective repair, as the worn end can be cut off, the flag re-hemmed, with extra life resulting. However, if allowed to wear, the hems will soon break through at the corners and wear will rapidly extend further into the flag, depending on the amount of wind. All may not be lost at this point. If the thinning of the fabric has not extended too much too far into the body of the flag, the worn area may still be removed and replaced by new material. However, if the body of the flag is too worn and therefore too weak to support new material, the flag may now be a write-off. It is clear therefore that if you keep an eye on possible wear in your flag, we can probably keep it flying longer for you.
- Exposure to wear, e.g. whether flown permanently or only on special occasions. All of the above comments apply to this question. Longevity depends on the time spent flying, and the conditions under which it flies. Please remember that a flag is a piece of cloth, light enough to lift in a breeze, tough enough to tolerate a certain amount of wear, but at the same time not everlasting. Flags of All Nations makes high quality, economically priced, long lasting flags with the longest life, and when the price:longevity ratio is applied in comparison with all other materials, our flags invariably come in cheaper in the long run!
When using proper flag bunting and flying permanently, flags flying at great height, e.g. Sydney Harbour Bridge where they are streaming out all the time, can be worn out in weeks.
A domestic sized flag at a beach front site might last a year in the prevailing sea breezes. The same size flag in the suburbs will probably fade before it wears out a couple of years later.
So common sense applies. There are no strict rules for flag life, only tips on care, but if a good reasonably long life is desired, ALWAYS insist on a Bunting flag.