Dropping a Tower
Safely Lowering an Antenna Tower
Taking down an old or damaged antenna tower can be a difficult job. If you can afford to hire a crane, do so, but if the tower isn't more than 25 or 30 feet you can safely lower the tower if you take some simple precautions.
Start by finding a pair of separated hard points on one side of the tower to tie your lowering ropes to. A post or tree or other solid attachment point gives you a place to hook up a come-along. If you don't know what that is, it's a hand winch with cable attached that allows you to tighten and loosen the cable by cranking a lever back and forth. Get one with enough cable to equal the height of the tower. If you don't have a large enough come-along to hold that much cable, you'll have to use temporary braces and reattach the come-alongs as you go. You don't want to do that. If you have a 40 foot tower, have a winch that will handle 40 feet of cable.
Once you've rigged up the lowering ropes and come-alongs, tie down the legs to a stake or hardpoint on the opposite side toward where the tower will fall. This way the legs don't slide toward the guys on the lowering ropes and hurt somebody when you lean the tower over. Now unbolt the legs from the base or cut them free with a metal cutting rig or torch. Leaving the guy wires in place prevents the tower from falling when the legs are cut.
Now, cut the guy wires on the same side as the lowering ropes and leave the guy wire attached on the side toward which the tower will fall. Begin letting out the come-alongs and let the tower begin to lean over. Work the come-alongs simultaneously if you have help or let out a few turns at a time on each side.
Lay the tower all the way down and then cut it free and haul it away.
A Note on Safety:
Do not skip steps or use less wire or fewer come-alongs than you need. A tower like that, however lightly constructed it may seem can do a lot of damage to you when it falls. During the last 45 degrees of lean, the stress on the come-alongs can get pretty fierce. You might consider using a scaffold or brace under the tower top to reduce the weight. Lower the come-alongs a few inches a time and the reset the brace. Putting a big log or something heavy directly below can help prevent the tower from crushing your foot if it drops on you. Better by far simply to stay out from under the tower when it's being lowered. If it falls it falls.
Also stay clear of the sides of the wires. If one parts suddenly, it can cut you up badly as it pops loose. That's why you want to make sure you use heavy enough wires to handle the load. As the angle between the wires and tower become narrower as it comes down, it puts a lot of pressure on those support wires.
Better to use too strong a wire and come-along than ones that are too light. Rent equipment heavy enough to more than carry the load. Or rent a crane. Cranes are good too.
Good luck with that bad boy!
Tom King - Flint, TX
© 2009 twayneking
twayneking (author) from Puyallup, WA on October 22, 2013:
Point taken, Jack. We're talking about the TV towers that people used to have when they lived way out in the country before there was cable. They seldom run much more than a couple or three stories high and the reason you're taking them down is because you don't want them anymore - the operative words being "old or damaged". We're not talking about 200 foot tall TV station antennas here. We're talking about a farmer scrapping an old antenna he doesn't need anymore because he bought DISH Network. And these towers are not really the kind you want to climb for any reason. If there's room you can unbolt them and push them over - good clean redneck fun that! Otherwise, you need to control how they fall and this is one way to do that. I suppose you could climb it and disassemble it or hire someone to do it, but why would you want to put the thing back up? Maybe if you were buying an old tower to reuse as a broadcast antenna tower for your ham radio station or something you might want to hire the crane. But even being careful, I wouldn't climb an old or damaged TV tower for however much you wanted to pay me - especially at my current tonnage.
Jack on October 22, 2013:
This is a fine method if you are throwing the tower away or scrap. It will not be used again even if lowered slowly, they are not designed to have sideways stress. I would not climb a tower that fell!
twayneking (author) from Puyallup, WA on July 07, 2012:
Probably taking one down so far as the danger is concerned. The temptation is to cut it down and run out of the way, but usually the terrain won't allow a tower like that to free fall safely. If you take care and precautions as shown you should be okay, just don't do short cuts. I was a rigger for Brown and Root at one time and we raised and dropped some incredible stuff. Mostly it's a matter of rigging the equipment properly.
usvirginislands on July 07, 2012:
Interesting article, would you say it is more difficult to put one up or take one down?
twayneking (author) from Puyallup, WA on May 04, 2012:
Thanks. Somebody had to take one down and having done some time as a rigger, I put together a step by step for next time. I wish I'd take pictures.
TVantennainstalls on May 04, 2012:
You are one of the few who actually have an article discussing how to take down a TV antenna tower. There is plenty of info on the internet for erecting one... that's for sure. It's good that consumers can find this type of information to make this job safe and done right.