Because signage often represents a significant investment, you’ll want to make sure your money is well spent with signs that deliver value over a long term. Of course, if the application is indoors and your signs are mounted in an area protected from the sun, wind, rain, snow and extreme temperatures, their longevity is largely limited only by their relevancy.
However, for exterior signs where the elements can cause greater degradation, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the advantages, disadvantages and applications of the most common outdoor signage materials—commonly referred to as substrates within the industry:
- Aluminum composite panel: Featuring a high-density, corrugated polyallomer (CPA) core sandwiched between two sheets of aluminum with acrylic-painted faces, aluminum composite panel is strong, lightweight and durable, with an average 10-year service life. One of the most popular substrates in the industry today, it is used for hanging, wall-mounted and post-and-panel signs, as well as many other exterior applications.
- Aluminum: A long-lasting outdoor substrate, aluminum will not rust. Offered in a variety of colors, it is a popular choice for parking lot signs and real estate signage, among others. As for longevity, an aluminum sign should last 7–10 years; however, any painted finish on it will be subject to fading or peeling.
- Medium density overlay: A sturdy choice, medium density overlay (MDO) is a plywood panel with a resin-impregnated fiber overlay fused to its surface. It accepts paint readily and offers a long service life. MDO is widely used as a substrate for billboards and traffic signs as well as sign panels for construction projects and real estate developments. Typically, you can expect MDO signs to last 5–10 years.
- Plastics: The faces used in pole or pylon signs and illuminated light boxes are offered in acrylic and polycarbonate, among other plastics. Most resist degrading from ultraviolet light for 5–7 years, with longer protection assured through the use of UV coatings. Plastic letters and logos generally last 7–10 years.
- Vehicle wraps: Depending on the climate in your area, wraps usually last 3–7 years. A bonus? Sections of vehicle wraps can be readily replaced if you’re in a fender bender or if important information needs updating.
- Vinyl banners: Typically, vinyl banners last 2–3 years, depending on the severity of wind and weather in your area.
- Wood or HDU: Often carved or routed, wood signs made of cedar typically last 8–10 years while signage in HDU (high density urethane) will last for 10 years or more. Maintenance is key; repaint as needed to extend their service life.
A final word on durability for signage: While it’s tempting to select the longest-lasting option, resist the thought! While your signage may endure season after season of wind, rain, snow and severe temperatures, your company’s mission, product and service mix and identity may evolve in the meantime.
The recommendation? Consider your signage an investment in marketing that should change as you change so it accurately represents your current branding and style.
Looking for signage that lasts? Look to Signs By Tomorrow.
As one of the industry’s first custom sign and graphics companies, we’re experienced at creating durable, high-quality indoor and outdoor visual solutions that are affordable to businesses of all sizes. Our selection includes a complete range of materials and substrates that bring superior longevity to signage applications of all types.