Preventing Outdoor Sign Failure | outdoor signs

outdoor signsWhy do some outdoor signs fail?

We at Sign Clemente like to  take a look at why some outdoor signs fail so we can ensure that yours don’t.  Take a look at the photo.  These letters are what is called in the industry, “foam and plex”, meaning that they are made of acrylic (“plex”) laminated to foam.   We make lots and lots of outdoor signs out of these materials.   It is hard to say what ruined  these outdoor sign letters, it could have been the weather, but in Southern California, it is doubtful.   Birds like to peck at foam sometimes, and that is the more likely scenario .
What can be done to prevent this?  We like to add a stucco finish to the edges of the foam on outdoor signs.   Stucco finishes are really just thick paint that has been mixed with sand.  The rough edges give the letters a creative-looking texture, but more importantly, the coating provides a great deal more protection against hostile elements than paint alone.  Birds don’t enjoy pecking at stucco, and the thicker coating is just more durable.

Metal Letters and Outdoor Signs

Another way to prevent sign failure with outdoor signs is by going with metal letters.  Sure they do cost more, but they last a lifetime.  The industry used to incur failures when metal letters were made of sheet metal.   Sheet metal is a soft alloy that usually has a galvanized coating.  However, it is primarily a ferrous metal and can rust even with the best paint job when used for outdoor signs.  Sometimes you see rusting letters with streaks of rust running down the wall.  Not a pretty sight!  That sign owner would be better off without outdoor signs, because a failing sign like that represents a failing business in the mind of a would-be customer.

The best prevention of  rusty  outdoor signs is aluminum.  Sign Clemente rarely uses sheet metal these days, relying on aluminum.  This metal is more expensive, especially because its manufacture is so labor intensive.  However, paint sets up well on aluminum and it will never rust.  And speaking of paint, we like to use automotive-grade enamels that look great and last for years and years on outdoor signs.
Another failing that we all see often is when  neon outdoor signs becomes defective.  Sometimes the entire sign goes completely dark, but more often you see some of the letters lit, and some out.  When you see a neon sign partially out for weeks and week, you have to wonder how well the sign owner manages its business.  The cause can be several things:  detoriorating wiring, broken or cracked neon or just a transformer that has finally failed.   It often takes a sign installer hours to repair a neon sign by the time he diagnoses the problem and runs off to secure the replacement parts and reinstall.

Who Turned Out The Lights in Those Outdoor Signs?

The remedy for neon failure is LED lighting.  We rarely use neon either.  Not only do LEDs require about 1/10th the power, but they are much more reliable when used for outdoor signs.  You can expect to have problems with your neon sign in about three to five years.  However, LEDs are usually rated for at least 100,000 hours.  Even if one or two LEDs go out, there are enough LEDs in a letter to disguise the fact that one has failed.

Having great-looking and long-lasting outdoor signs requires a little planning and sometimes a bit more investment up front.  But the payback is outdoor signs that keep on selling for you day in and day out for years to come.

Postscript:  You just might get a kick out of this blog from Signs of the Times Magazine:

It’s Better Outdoors | Signs of the times

For years, I’ve been driving past this sign that appears to be in the process of being swallowed by the tree it’s nailed to. Finally today I stopped to take a photo, and I discovered there are at least three of the  outdoor signs.

Publish Date: 02/28/2012 22:08

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