Flagpoles are typically set into the ground in a concrete footing, a mass of concrete approximately the size of a standard 5-gallon pail, encasing the base of the pole underground. Safely removing the pole requires either removing the pole and concrete footing, or cutting off the pole a foot beneath grade, and landscaping the area.
Excavate to the Footing
Use a spade point shovel and excavate the area around the base of the flagpole. Remove enough earth to create a hole approximately 24 inches in diameter. Dig down until the top of the cement footing is uncovered.
Evaluate the Footing Size
Dig around the perimeter of the footing and attempt to discover the approximate size of the footing. Smaller flagpoles will have only a small footing, which is traditionally the size of a 5-gallon pail. Larger and taller poles can have a footing three to four times larger. Removing the footing entirely is the more desirable course, so that future projects will not be hindered by hidden concrete in the ground. Decide whether the concrete can be reasonably removed with the manpower and tools you have available.
Lower the Pole
If choosing to remove the footing, use a contractor-grade reciprocating saw and cut the flagpole off about 3 feet above the ground. Two men should be involved in the process. While one person cuts the pole, the other should use the rope that is tied to the top of the flag pole to control the pole as it falls. Flag poles are not heavy, but the height makes this process difficult. By using the rope fastened to the top of the pole, the two men can control the pole and lower it carefully to the ground.
Excavate the Footing
Continue to excavate the concrete footing until it give up its hold on the earth. Once loosened, the remaining portion of the pole, which is still encased in concrete, can be used as a lever to pull the concrete from the ground. Fill the hole with earth and top soil, and the project is complete.
Removing the Pole and Leaving the Footing
If a determination is made that the footing is too large to remove, cut the flagpole directly above the concrete so that the remaining footing and pole will be at least 12 inches underground. Use a hammer to bend down any sharp edges of the pole that remain. Landscape over the top of the footing with appropriate soil.
In either case, the soil used to fill the hole will settle over time. Therefore overfill the hole, creating a slight mound of earth. The dirt will soon settle to create a flat and level area over the footing.
Since 2003, Timothy Burns' writing has appeared in magazines, management and leadership papers. He has contributed to nationally published books and he leads the Word Weavers of West Michigan writers' group. Burns wrote "Forged in the Fire" in 2004, and has published numerous articles online. As a trained conference speaker, Burns speaks nationally on the art, science and inspiration of freelance writing.