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Utility Pole Inspections to Measure Rot or Strength

POSTED BY: Ashley Little on 01.22.2014

inspecting utility polesWhat is the current state of your utility poles? How old are they? How solid? Over time, wood can rot and decay, be eaten away by insects, or develop any number of other problems that spell disaster for wood utility poles. If a pole gives out unexpectedly, it can be a nightmare on several different levels. Not only does a downed line disrupt electrical, telephone and a variety of other types of service for people in the area, it causes even bigger problems for you as the pole owner, as well as all the other people (attaching companies) who make use of the utility pole.
Not the least of these issues is liability.

There are a number of factors that determine a utility poles' strength and how long it will last. For instance, what part of the country is the pole located? Has the wood been given any extra preservative treatment, or simply left alone? With a little effort, you can minimize problems simply by making sure the utility poles you own are sturdy enough to perform their function.

The way to make sure of that is through regular utility pole inspections to measure rot or strength in the wood. Having your poles professionally inspected periodically gives you an idea of how much longer they can be expected to last. Here are some of the tests that a utility pole inspector will perform:

  • Visual inspection. Many of the utility pole inspections to measure rot or strength can be performed with the naked eye, simply by looking closely enough. Is there visible rot or decay in the wood? Are there cracks, holes, burn marks or other imperfections in the structure? These things can significantly impact a utility pole's ability to handle stress.

  • Soil test. What is the ground like around the pole? If the ground is made up of soft, loose or wet soil, it might have problems supporting the pole, particularly through changes in stress. Also, how deeply is the pole buried? Is there evidence that it used to be buried deeper than it currently is? If so, the pole may not be planted solidly enough.

  • Hammer test. The inspector takes a hammer and, starting at the bottom, strikes the pole sharply. This is continued every few inches, up to about six feet. The resulting sounds from the utility pole can indicate its structural integrity. Sturdy, solid wood will produce a clear, resonating sound. At places where there might be rot or decay, the wood will produce more of a dull thud. The hammer will also rebound more sharply on solid wood.

  • Bore test. If any points of probable decay are found, the inspector bores into them with a drill. This allows them to measure the level of decay within the pole.

  • Resistograph. Another method of testing is using a Resistograph, a handheld device used to drill into the pole to look for internal holes or decay in the pole not visible to the naked eye. Patented by Frank Rinn, this device provides the most scientific approach to inspections by providing a visual graph of any cavities or decay within the utility pole.

Once the inspection has been performed, the pole can be treated to prevent further damage. Utility pole inspections to measure rot or strength are essential for any pole owner. Not only do they decrease your liability, they can greatly extend the life of utility pole assets. With proper treatment and periodic inspections, your pole will stand tall and strong for years to come.

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Topics: Utility Asset Management

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