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Urethane Use in Telephone Poles

Utility Pole Maintenance–Repairs and Protection

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How many linemen does it take to change a utility pole?

An even better question–although arguably less humorous–is: Why be put into a position of having to replace a utility pole in the first place?

Utility pole maintenance and repair is essential to preventing the costly replacement of utility poles. Often, utility poles that are damaged, or that are in an area that cause them to be susceptible to damage, can be treated or repaired with a compound that helps maintain or replenish the integrity of the utility pole during its lifetime. The key is to be proactive rather than reactive.

The expected typical lifespan of wood utility poles is some 40 to 50 years, depending on service conditions. Studies show that with proper maintenance the lifespan can be extended beyond 75 years.

The most frequently encountered issues are:

  • Decay caused by moisture,
  • Damage caused by wildlife, and
  • Exposure to brushfires and pole fires caused by frequent flashover.

This article describes simple precautions that can prevent these issues–specifically issues caused by brush fires, and damage caused by woodpeckers and insects.

Proactive and Preventative Treatment Will Save Time and Money

When protecting utility poles from the elements, an early investment is cost effective in preventing unnecessary future costly replacements. Why rush to replace or save a utility pole when you can protect the utility pole from the onset?

Being proactive in protecting your utility poles will ensure they are safe for maintenance because it prevents damage from ever occurring. Utility poles can be damaged from the top to bottom because of the destructive forces of nature's elements. Whether it is rain, ultraviolet or even fire, there are ways to protect utility poles before they are installed.

In California, for example, there are regions that experience extreme water drought. This has a direct impact on the increase in brush fires.

According to National Geographic's 2014 article on wildfires, on average, more than 100,000 wildfires clear 4 million to 5 million acres of land in the US every year.

When deciding on a product to protect wood utility poles from brush fires, it is best to consider something that provides an impenetrable protective layer. Something that is intumescent and will expand to create a protective barrier around the pole once a fire has made contact will ensure the integrity of the wood pole is not affected by the brush fire.

A product such as Blaze Fighter from Crosslink Technology Inc. can protect the wooden utility poles you currently have in high-risk areas and spare the need of switching them away from wood. The intumescent spray-on or brush-on protective layer provided by Blaze Fighter can prevent a utility pole from being damaged from brush fires.

Blaze Fighter is a two-part urethane product that:

  • Is easy to apply,
  • Gaffable after full cure,
  • Requires no heavy containers to carry to and around the job site, and
  • Requires no mixing (spray on version).

The ability for the material to fully cure within 15 minutes means that if you can anticipate a brush fire 20-30 minutes away from the high-risk area, then you are able to apply the Blaze Fighter material and save the utility pole from any damage in emergency situations. In many cases, there will likely be residual coating remaining on the utility pole, effective for another potential brush fire–depending on the intensity of the initial brush fire and how much of the initial coating has been burned off.

It pays to be proactive. If you are in a high-risk area for brush fires, then the ability to protect utility poles makes economic sense. Avoid being reactive and not having any choice but to replace compromised utility poles.

Repair, Don't Replace

Just as the weather elements can damage utility poles, animals and insects can cause even more significant damage. The damage caused by woodpeckers, specifically the Pileated Woodpeckers that live heavily in the Southeast US, to along the entire Canadian border and up to the Northwest US, result in significant annual economic loss to utility companies. As Richard E. Harness and Eric L. Walters discuss in their article, "Knock on Wood," in some regions the effect of woodpecker damage to utility poles outweighs the damage of groundline deterioration, which is otherwise known as the most common form of deterioration to utility poles.

There are currently many products to address the repair of utility poles after woodpeckers and insects have caused damage. The two main types of products typically being used are epoxy or urethane based.

Crosslink Technology designed a two-part urethane called Pecker Patch, which has many advantages over epoxy-based products. Pecker Patch has maximum ease-of-use and efficiency, while ensuring it is safe for the linemen during application. Unlike an epoxy-based compound, a urethane-based compound allows for linemen to gaff into the material once it has cured, whereas they may slip when trying to gaff into an epoxy-based compound.

Another important note is that urethane is safer and cleaner to use–Pecker Patch is a 1:1 mix ratio, allowing for consistent cure–even at 10F. Applying the Pecker Patch urethane is as easy as loading the caulking gun and attaching the mix tube prior to dispensing.

Pecker Patch is safe and easy to use, and it is effective. It is designed to accommodate pole flexing without cracking or creating stress lines, as an epoxy might do, and it is non-nutrient to fungi–filling voids and bonding to the cavity wall.

Although a utility pole will never get its full integrity back with the use of a urethane or epoxy compound, it is important to use a product such as Pecker Patch that impregnates or soaks up the decayed material to prevent rot within the pole. This ensures the utility pole does not start to rot from the inside out and also prevents further weather damage within the hole caused by the woodpecker or insects.

Prevent Pole Replacement

In a time where cost savings and efficiency are priorities for all businesses, there is no better way to be efficient than to be proactive and preventative with maintaining utility poles. Taking proactive measures to increase the longevity of utility poles makes the most economic sense. The goal of Pecker Patch and Blaze Fighter is to avoid pole replacement, allowing business to save on resources, time and expense.