I’ve built around 150 billboards in all kinds of configurations and sizes. But one thing is consistent in all of them: I dropped a dime down the hole once digging the foundation was completed. Why is that? In this Billboard Mastery podcast I’m going to discuss why there’s 10 cents at the bottom of every billboard I’ve ever built.
Episode 64: Why I Drop A Dime Down Every Foundation Hole Transcript
I've built about 150 billboards from scratch, went out there, dug the hole, put in the pole, put in the concrete, erected all of the top layer of infrastructure, and at the bottom of every one of those structures down there at the bottom of that hole, there's a dime. 10 cents. If you dug through all of the concrete in the steel, somewhere down there in the earth, at the very bottom of it all, you're gonna find a dime. So why do I have a dime at the bottom of every hole of every billboard I've ever built? Well, here's the situation, when you go to build a billboard, the first step, of course, is the drill comes out and it drills into the ground, typically a hole. Often three to four feet in diameter. Although I've built them as big as five feet in diameter.
Typically going down on the ground, 10, 15 feet, maybe 20. I had one that one time went down 40. Now, when you are drilling this, this is a very critical part of the billboard. Because based on your engineering, that depth of that hole has to be perfect, they can't be kind of close, can't be one foot here, one foot there, because everything about that billboard will be greatly impacted, if that is not the right depth. Number one, safety. If you're not the right depth, then you don't have enough of the pole in the ground to give you the strength you need in those high winds, and most billboards are engineered to withstand a 100 mile an hour wind, but it won't withstand it if that thing is not deep enough in the ground. The other problem is if it's not deep enough in the ground, then the overall height of the structural will be off by a corresponding measure. So if the thing was supposed to be 20 feet in the ground, but it's only 18, your sign will be two feet too high, and that means you may violate your state permit or a city permit and get in all kinds of trouble.
And if you go too far the other way, if you go too far into the ground, what's gonna happen is your sign is not gonna be as high as you thought it was going to be, and therefore maybe all your careful work you did to make sure it didn't get blocked is all ruined, because now suddenly there's a tree or a flag or building in front of it. And I have found that one of the most notorious slackers out there are the people that drill those holes.
Now, why is that? Well, because it's not a high paying job, they don't really care, and so much of things that are built when you drill a hole and put in a telephone pole or something are not that close, not that perfection, it's not that careful to detail. So they'll kinda get kind of close to it, and then they'll quit. And so by putting a dime in the bottom of each one mean I had to be there on site, and I wanted to be there on site because I wanna see what happened when they drilled the hole, and I wanted to be there with my hand and any tape measure to make sure it was the right depth. Now besides just the depth, there are other things that you can find when you look down that hole that may impact what you have going on. Number one, in drilling the hole, they may hit rock, if they hit rock, they're gonna want you to make a snap decision, do we continue on? Do we try and go and bore and destroy the rock and keep digging, or do we move the location over.
Well, if you're not there, number one, you can't see the rock, but number two, you can't see whether you should move the location over not, and if so, where to pick the next location, so you don't violate your property lines, etcetera. Also, sometimes when you draw down, you hit water, sometimes you hit water at such an extent that the bottom of the signs start to do what is called a bell hole, it starts caving in. You end up with a pyramidal foundation, and you need to be there to see that and approve them to continue on. You can't really do these things over the phone, you can't do them from afar, you would never wanna say, "Hey, I trust your judge would do what you think best." Those are fatal words when you're dealing with people who don't really care. So you need to be there to see what's going on. When the person tells you they think they are at the correct depth, get out your tape measure, drop the tape measure down and see where they truly are, and you may find out there are many, many feet wrong. So instead of being 20 feet like they're supposed to, or 18 or 15, whatever the case may be, they can be off by three feet, four feet, five feet, they don't care.
They just wanna leave. But you care, because that means your sign is going to be either illegally too high or not high enough, and additionally not safe enough. So the bottom line to it all is you need to be on site and need to have a ritual, a methodology that you use when you build the sign. I, for example, found in addition to drop in a dime down the column, I like to re-measure the stake which was the center of where they drill the hole, just to make sure no one had moved the stake from before, because I had one horrifying instance on a billboard I was building where some kid for fun had taken the stake and moved it over about five feet, just for fun. I have no idea why they did that. And so doing, if I had not double check the stake, we would have built the sign and completely the wrong position, and it would have been a disaster.
Remember that when you get that, that pole submitted into the ground, there's no turning back, there's nothing that can be recovered there, if that's not on the right spot, you can't just shift it over. They can't just grab with a crane and move it around. So had I not double checked that that kid might have cost me 10000, 20000, who knows how many thousands of dollars. So I think double-checking the stake just to make sure no one overnight jacked with it is also an excellent idea.
The bottom line is, if you have that ritual, and in my case, the ritual is a drop of dime down the hole after I had measured it, those kinds of rituals, as all rituals do will help to keep you out of trouble. And there's certainly nothing wrong with sacrificing the investment of 10 cents down the hole to make sure that you've got a sign that's correctly built, that's the correct height. That's correct and safe.
One other item you need to check is make sure the guy building the sign actually knows what the depth of that hole is. It's very clearly put on the blueprint of the sign, look for yourself at the blueprint of what that sign says as far as the depth of the hole, because once again, they may have read it incorrectly or forgotten it or just bluffing you because they don't really know if someone says, "Yeah, the hole's supposed to be 12 feet deep." "Well, show me the blueprint. Let me see that dimension for myself." Ah, this doesn't say 12 feet. This says 17 feet," to which they say, "Oh, is that what it is? I thought that seven was a two."
It's those little details in the world of billboards that can do all the difference. Because again, things are on such a massive scale and it's so hard to fix if you've made any mistake. This is Frank Rolfe, The Billboard Mastery podcast. I hope you enjoyed this. Talk to you again soon.