11 Tips For Making Your Sign Investment Last

Sitting here in my office and staring out at the grey skies, winter in Oregon has finally hit.  So what?  When you purchase or spec out your sign do you buy products that will withstand the rain, wind, and mud?

It is easy to buy and install a sign for the lovely sunny seasons, but what about the rest of the year?  Over 18 years in now and we have learned a few tricks about what materials really work the best for our winters and best practices for installation for the wet weather.  We have seen some horrible installations that could have easily been avoided and saved that person a lot of money.

To help you, your designer or marketing team, and your budget out, here are our top tips for making sure your sign stands out this winter and lasts for as long as possible. 

Designing for Maximum Visibility:

1. High Contrast Designs:  

Graphic designers are awesome, we have one and we love him, but sometimes they forget they are designing a sign and not business cards, letterhead, brochures, etc.  So high contrast, what do you mean?  Forget nice complimentary colors, ombre effects, shading, muted tones, etc.  We want high visibility, easy to read in the rain, at night, in the fog. See our chart to the right, but some examples would be navy/black and white, yellow and black, or red and white.  Just think of traffic signs, those are made to be seen all…the…time.

2.  KISS: Keep It, Simple Sally

When you design for signs, less is more.  You have less than four seconds to get your message across so you better make that message brief.  We always ask people to watch the cars on the highway and see how much they can read as they drive by.  Test it out, how much can you read on a sign in 3-4 seconds?  It isn’t that much.  So think simple.  Name, phone number, website, one line saying what you do, who you are, or what you offer.  If people want more information they will call you or visit your website.  *** In our example the image on the left versus the image on the right.  If you were driving down the road on a dark rainy day, which one could you read better?

Constructing A Weather Resistant Sign:

Oregon is beautiful, that is why we love it here.  However, we all know what it takes to make that beauty.  Rain, lots of it.  Now how do you make a sign that makes it through winter and still looks good in the sun?

  1. Choose a composite material over wood or MDF.  Wood + Rain is never a good combination.  If you were to go the wood or MDF route, you would need to ensure you repainted the sides at least every other month, taking up more of your time.   However, a composite material such as Dibond or Max Metal has a hard front and back of aluminum and a plastic center.  Plastic + Aluminum + Rain = much better!  The cost may be a bit more, but if you don’t have to replace a sign mid-rain storm or after the winter, that is money well spent.
  2. Looking for a short-term/disposable sign?  Coroplast, also known as corrugated plastic, is your perfect choice.  This material is very inexpensive, weathers awesome, and is easily attached to stakes to quickly go in and out of the ground.  
  3. Stakes – For the winter months, forgo the H stakes.  These are nowhere near sturdy enough to handle the wind that comes with the winter months.  If your sign is laying on the ground that means it isn’t doing its job, Pressure-treated wood stakes are sturdy, inexpensive, and go into wet ground easily.
  4. For banners make sure you have wind holes or choose a mesh banner material.  Wind can do serious damage to banners, especially large fence banners.  A large banner is just like a boat sail or kite.  No one wants their banner flying away or shredded.
  5. Large construction or development site signs require numerous 4×4 posts.  Like we said previously wood plus rain & mud, is not a good combo.  Most people don’t realize there is a replacement for your traditional 4×4 wood posts.  We recommend vinyl HD posts or pressure-treated wood at the absolute least.

Weather Resistant Installations:

You spend the money on getting a sign made for the elements but you need to make sure your sign is ready to stand up to what nature throws your way.  After seeing some of our very own installations go down with the wind, here are our top tricks for a storm-resistant installation.

  1. Always back brace your site signs.  This is one of the fastest ways your sign will end up falling over.  There is a large surface area that the wind can use to topple the best-made sign.  So give your sign a little extra support.
  2. Dig deep and fill your post holes with concrete or gravel.  With rain and dirt comes mud and mud is not nearly as stable as some nice hard packed dirt.  If you know your sign will be moved or removed within a certain amount of time, gravel can be just as good as cement.  This is a method that even professional fence builders use.  
  3. When installing your vinyl HD posts, always make sure you have your caps installed on the top.  This prevents water from going down the center of the post and pooling at the bottom.  Easy breezy fix.
  4. When installing banners, use bungee cords.  This allows your banners to have a little extra give when the wind and rain start to whip.