American Flag Selection Guide

The American flag selection guideFinding the best flag for your intended display is no easy task. Depending on your flag’s function, your location and where you want your flag displayed, available options can vary drastically.

When choosing a flag, it’s important to consider its purpose, as that will help you determine the size and the material of your potential investment. If you’re considering setting up a display for an indoor setting, like in your home or a public lounge, you’ll have a large variety of materials and flagpole compositions to choose from.

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However, this will change if you choose to construct an outdoor display. Where you live in the country will limit the types of flags you can buy. Certain flag fabrics cannot survive in harsh or windy climates, while others perform poorly in wet weather.

You may even need to upgrade your flagpole, so your display is within the safety guidelines attributed to your region. Moreover, flag size and pole height are intrinsically linked, because the height of your pole will determine the dimensions of flags it can safely fly.

Choosing the right materials for your display may seem overwhelming. But with the help of this selection guide, you can determine which setup will meet your needs with minimal effort.

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Choose Your Material

Cotton: Cotton flags are made entirely of heavyweight, untreated cotton. Cotton flags are excellent for indoor displays because of their conventional appearance and texture. Because the fabric of these flags isn’t treated with preservatives, they are not as durable as other flag types and will wear quickly if placed outdoors.

Nylon: Nylon flags are a great option for anyone interested in flags with longer lifespans. These flags are composed of 200 Denier SolarMax nylon, a common lightweight material chosen by many flag manufacturers. Nylon flags can be used for either indoor or outdoor display, as the durability of the material allows the flag to keep its colors for up to one year.

Denier SolarMax nylon resists damage caused by ultraviolet radiation (UV), making it an ideal choice for potential flag owners who live in the sunnier parts of the country. Nyl-Glo brand flags are a prime example of flags made with denier SolarMax nylon material.

American flag waving in windAnother important type of nylon is the heavyweight 100% DuPont nylon. DuPont nylon also has SolarMax capabilities, meaning that these flags are resistant to UV ray damage.

What sets flags with DuPont nylon apart from their Denier nylon cousins are their fast-drying capabilities. These flags are the go-to choice for individuals who live in rainy or humid climates. With their strength, longevity and quick-drying capabilities, DuPont Nylon flags, like those from Perma-Nyl, are some of the most versatile flag options available.

2-Ply Polyester:  2-Ply polyester is a long-lasting, industrial material made from spun-woven polyester fabric, designed to weather harsher climate conditions. Although flags made with this material have the same visual aesthetic as cotton ones, they don’t share cotton flags’ fragility.

2-Ply polyester flags are constructed using an open-weave pattern that reduces the stress applied to the fabric, resisting high wind speeds. These polyester flags are great for large outdoor displays, and their fade resistant capabilities keep their colors rich all year-round. A notable brand that features this fabric is Tough-Tex.

Cotton Sheeting: Another excellent heavy-weight option is cotton sheeting. Flags made from this material are usually inexpensive, which is perfect for the budget-minded consumer.

However, its affordability doesn’t detract from its longevity. Cotton sheeting is a rather sturdy material, and flags made with this fabric will last a long time. Cotton sheeting flags are primarily used as indoor decorations or for inexpensive U.S. flag displays.

Satin: Satin is an elegant, affordable material that is as striking as it is enduring. Few flags are made from satin, as it is primarily reserved for banners and miniature decorative flag items. Satin displays have an almost regal shine and a high-gloss finish.

This material is visually pleasing, but offers very little protection against the weather. Satin banners and flags function perfectly as accent pieces or for small-scale ornaments, like decorative car flags.

Closeup silky American flagSilk Polyester: As the name suggests, silk polyester is a smooth, synthetic fabric, specifically woven to imitate the luster and feel of real silk. Like other types of polyester material, silk polyester is durable and long-lasting. It is fade resistant, and dyed colors retain their vibrancy for at least a year.

Silk polyester is stain resistant and water repellent, and the fabric can withstand considerable amounts of tension. Silk polyester is ideal for flags in indoor or outdoor displays. However, this material is generally used for smaller flags or handheld flag and pole sets.

Knit Polyester: Knit polyester combines the aesthetics of silk polyester with that of 2-Ply polyester fabric blends. This material is composed using an open-weave construction to increase its durability, but it has a glossy sheen.

Knit polyester flags are resilient against tension, wear and stretching. They are also lighter and easier to produce than nylon flags. Flags made from knit polyester material are water repellent and lightweight, making them a prime choice for flag enthusiasts living in areas with wet and windy climates.

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Indoor vs. Outdoor Displays

If you aren’t sure which type of flag will meet your needs, deciding where you want your flag displayed will help narrow your choices. While there are many versatile materials that can withstand different weather conditions, some types are more suited to a particular environment than others.

For example, if you live in an area that receives significant amounts of sunshine throughout the year, you should consider purchasing a breathable, UV-ray-resistant flag made from nylon, like those from Nyl-Glo. However, if your area also frequently experiences high winds, a heavier nylon flag, such as those manufactured by Perma-Nyl, may be a better choice. As noted earlier, individuals who live in areas that experience wetter weather conditions or high levels of humidity should purchase from brands that offer flags with water-repellent or quick-drying properties, like Tough-Tex or Poly-Max.

Indoor flagpoles generally consist of floor stands, parade poles or short, mountable flagpoles. If aesthetics is your chief concern, you can’t go wrong with the traditional feel of 100% or near 100% cotton flags, or elegant satin banners. These fabrics are perfect for flags placed on walls.

Alternatively, nylon flags offer a special kind of resilience and versatility that are ideal to have in your home. Nylon flags are fast-drying and fire retardant, meaning they’ll be able to survive even the worst of accidents.

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If your flag will be displayed in a public environment, such as a school, a lobby, a ceremony or at a festival, consider purchasing accessories appropriate for its purpose. Stand ornaments, such as gold eagles or flag spears, can make a flag display the highlight of its setting or procession. Note that flag etiquette for any public display reserves eagle ornaments for American flag usage only.

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Flagpole Composition

If you choose to display your flag outdoors, you may be interested in purchasing a flagpole. Where you live in the country will also determine the type of flagpole you can choose.

If you opt for a flagpole display, it’s important to gather information about the average temperatures and the wind speeds your area experiences during the year. If your location has low wind speeds, telescoping or residential flagpoles are the ideal choice. These poles are offered in either aluminum or fiberglass.

Fiberglass poles are created by subjecting several layers of intertwined fiberglass and polyester resin to extreme pressure. The process produces slender, reinforced flagpoles with incredible tension strength and the ability to weather wind speeds of up to 120 miles per hour.

Putting together a telescoping flagpole is much easier than setting up a residential one, because it doesn’t have a halyard, which is the pulley system that raises or lowers flags. There are two types of halyard systems: internal and external.

Flag pole on sky backgroundInternal halyards are hidden within the flagpole and accessible through a side compartment. This type of halyard is typically secured using either a winch, a mechanized gear that raises or lowers flags with cable systems, or a clam cleat, an apparatus attached to the flagpole that the (rope) halyard is wrapped around to prevent the flag from moving.

External halyards refer to the type of rope or cable system that is mounted on the outer edges of your flagpole. External halyard systems can have slightly different mount designs or orientations, such as outriggers.

Outriggers are external halyard flagpoles that are installed on the side of a building, extending at an angle. Other options include vertical-wall flagpoles, which use special brackets to attach the flagpole to buildings in an upright position.

Like telescopes, telescoping flagpoles are constructed using a series of interlocking tubes that can be manually extended or retracted, depending on the desired flagpole height. You won’t have to worry about halyard wear or replacing cables because telescoping poles don’t require any sort of pulley system. These poles are usually made from 16-gauge aluminum, and their heights typically range between 15 and 20 feet, but some products can extend as far as 25 feet.

Telescoping poles are made from lightweight anodized aluminum, meaning they are easy to transport and are rust resistant. Residential flagpoles, which are available in fiberglass or aluminum, usually have external halyard rope or cable systems and average at 20 to 25 feet.

American flag flying windFor areas that frequently experience higher wind speeds, like the southeastern coast, Illinois, the tundra areas of Alaska, Wyoming and areas prone to hurricanes or tornados, sturdier flagpoles are advised to avoid property damage, personal injury and flag misplacement. For these areas, commercial or industrial-grade flagpoles may be necessary to withstand strong gusts.

Commercial flagpoles are similar to the ones you might see in school yards or on government properties. These heavy-duty poles average around 20 to 30 feet, but architectural and nautical pole series can extend as far as 80 feet. Unlike residential or telescoping poles, most commercial-grade flagpoles will require professional installation.

If you are trying to achieve a particular aesthetic, know that fiberglass poles can be prepared in a variety of colors using gel coating. Aluminum flagpoles have limited color options, usually ranging from brushed silver to a dark gunmetal-like finish.

Anodization allows for a slightly wider color range, such as variations of bronze, brown and gold. Anodized aluminum poles are slightly more weather proof than their regular counterparts, which require specific cleaning tools and solutions to preserve their shiny finish.

There is one thing to remember if you’re purchasing a pole for a commercial or government location. The American flag must fly on top, as per nationwide flag protocols.

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Flag Size and Flagpole Height

Flagpole height and flag size are linked, as the height of your flagpole will determine your flag’s maximum area. If you choose a flag that is too small, your display may not reach the level of visibility you desire. Flying a flag that is too large is unsafe, because it can place unnecessary stress on or break your flagpole.

A good rule of thumb to follow is keeping your flag length about 1/4 of your pole’s height. Use the following reference chart to determine the flag size for commercial or residential flagpoles:

Min. Flag Size Max. Flag Size Flagpole Height
2.5 x 4ft 4 x 6ft 15ft
3 x 5ft 5ft x 8ft 20ft
3 x 5ft 5 x 8ft 25ft
4 x 6ft 6 x 10ft 30ft
5 x 8ft 8 x 12ft 40ft
6 x 10ft 10 x 15ft 50ft
8 x 12ft 12 x 18ft 60ft
10 x 15ft 15 x 25ft 70ft
10 x 19ft 20 x 30ft 80ft
20 x 30ft 20 x 38ft 90ft+

Mounted american flag on home porch

Flag sizes for non-decorative or mounted displays tend to be around 2 x 3ft or 3 x 5ft. Indoor flagpole heights generally range from 7 to 9 feet, but special poles can have heights up to 12 feet. Use the following guide as a reference for appropriate flag sizes and pole heights for indoor displays:

Suggested Flag Size Flagpole Height
2 x 3ft ~ 3 x 5ft 7ft
3 x 5ft 8ft
4 x 6ft 9ft
5 x 8ft 12ft+

Remember to check with your local urban planning department for acceptable flagpole height guidelines before purchasing any in-ground flagpoles. Indoor poles must meet fire safety regulations for public or commercial buildings.

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