Permanent exterior signage is crafted to be durable, and can certainly withstand your normal rainy/frosty/foggy PNW weather season. At least in theory. While it’s not the highest task on your to-do list – especially during a rain-soaked busy week – you will benefit from performing a preventative monthly signage check to keep problems at bay down the road. Permanent signage solutions have a long shelf life as long as they’re maintained with some regularity and updated when it’s required.

Routine maintenance

So what are you looking for when you give your exterior signage the once-over? Common sense takes care of most of this. Look out for rust, mold, standing water, paint discoloration and broken hardware. Obviously, if your sign (or the base or frame it’s held up with) isn’t made of wood, these are not deal breakers. Mold should be cleaned off immediately to prevent spreading (plus it’s unsightly and doesn’t leave the best impression of your business). Paint discoloration could be a result of a number of factors that affect the longevity of your investment. Does your sign have brackets or a frame that has visible space you can stick a finger-width into? Open it and make sure there aren’t any critters nesting inside and there isn’t a buildup of dirt, mold, excess water or unidentified objects.

If you have an outdoor directory or wayfinding sign system: Do you see any cracking or peeling on lettering or on the base? If vinyl decals or letters are lifting off there may be an adhesion issue. If colors that previously matched are turning random shades, they may not be properly coated or protected. The sooner you identify these issues, the easier and more effectively they can be remedied.

If there is standing water at the point of sign posts, you may need to re-grade the ground surrounding it. How? Add a trench, make sure the water directs away from the area. Remove excess debris (leaves, trash, etc.) and provide some drainage solutions like rock beds or inclines to help direct water away from your sign foundation. This is especially important during heavy rain season (late fall and winter). Updated landscaping not only keeps your investment intact, but it improves your curb appeal.


This before-and-after of a recent project for a local school shows the dramatic difference that simple cosmetic upgrades can make – cleaning, painting and creating new panel faces on an existing sign base.

Freshening up your look

Paint. You can absolutely transform the look and feel of your exterior signage by making a cosmetic fix that will give you instant gratification and extend the shelf life of your materials. Does your sign attach to a base or frame that’s looking weathered and discolored? Invest in exterior grade paint (latex, oil-based, or polyurethane) that is built to withstand UV-radiation and protect materials from weather elements. It is essential to choose exterior paint vs. interior for the added protection it provides.

Trim. If you have a plywood sign, consider adding metal or plastic trim around the edge to seal the wood. This prevents water intrusion from a logistical standpoint, and just looks sharp from a cosmetic one. Trim should be functional, and provide added reinforcement and edge protection.

Design and branding. If you’ve rebranded your business, updated your logo or otherwise made changes in the appearance of your brand, it’s time to update. Don’t send your customers and supporters a mixed message by not updating your public-facing branded materials. Know all your costs up front, consult with your sign vendor and make a plan to strategically update everything for consistency. Consumers pay attention, and they notice these details. When you care about your appearance, it speaks volumes.

New sign faces. You don’t have to start completely over to freshen up your look. Making over your existing sign faces can make a HUGE difference, and cost a fraction of the investment you make starting over from scratch. Often, we have customers who come to us with their existing cabinet faces or removable panels to see what their options are with regard to updates. In some cases, as long as the original material isn’t damaged or removal of graphics won’t be prohibitive, we can use what’s there and either wrap a new face on it (non-illuminated signs) or find some middle ground to work with your material.

In the case of lighted/illuminated sign cabinet faces, sometimes that’s not possible. It depends on the original application of graphics (direct print won’t allow you to just cover it up without the original art shining through to wreck your new design). But there are a number of quality (and affordable) substrates and options available that will give you the versatility to make changes moving forward for a small investment. You can course correct without spending a small fortune. And we’re happy to advise on materials that will give you a beautiful and functional result.


Temporary signage (One to six months)

Many of our customers use exterior banners and sidewalk signs year-round as a means to promote seasonal campaigns and sales. If you’re a food truck or your business relies heavily on foot traffic to pull in customers, these tools are essential. And often, these exterior signage pieces are getting daily reuse and taking a bit of a beating.

Storage. We cannot stress how important safe storage is for banners and signs that get put in and out on a regular basis. Rolling up banners and laying sign inserts flat in a protected box or space where the edges aren’t jammed in every which way will save you valuable dollars. If signs are wet, a quick towel-off or removal from the base will also prevent mold and dirt from damaging the signs you’ve invested in. Simple, clean storage will extend the life of your hardware, base and inserts.

All about that base. While the message is important, no doubt, it really is all about that base. Cars will run over them. People will knock them down. Weather will send them flying off your curb onto another one if they’re not secured properly or a mini-monsoon hits. Your sign base takes a lot of abuse. You can’t babysit your signs all day long, but if you notice that it’s tough to keep it upright, the frame that holds the inserts is cracked and broken or you’re MacGyver-ing a solution daily, it’s time to replace it. We will have a chat with you about what style of sign you’re currently using, what products will serve you best and find the most cost-effective means of finding the perfect replacement at the best price point.

Sign inserts. You can save time and money if you plan the need for inserts out in advance and send in a bulk order. That’s a no-brainer, and especially helpful during busy retail seasons like the holidays and summer tourist and festival season. You should be using exterior grade materials, like corrugated plastic or thin rigid plastic. You can even opt to print and mount vinyl to these materials, increasing the shelf life and reducing wear and tear on direct print. These materials are durable for extended use and will not peel or turn into an unprofessional mess like laminated paper. Investing a little will save you from having to replace inserts even during the rainy season.

Mesh exterior banners offer airflow, vibrant color printing and stand up to the seasonal weather elements with a great return on investment.

Banners. All banners are not created equal. If you are in the market for something portable and durable, however, exterior grade vinyl and mesh banners offer you excellent options for longer-lasting results. And there’s one tip that you want to spend the extra few $$$ on – hemmed edges. Hemmed edges provide added durability for exterior and heavy use. These reinforced edges add durability to grommeted pieces, and they tend to look more finished.

What about wind and weather? If your banner is going to stay in place and not take off like a sail with every wind gust, you have a few material and finishing options: wind slits (scrim or premium vinyl) -or- mesh. The key here is airflow. Some customers don’t want to see wind slits interrupt their design or messaging. Or in high wind areas still see their banners take flight even after tie-downs and making changes to the height or placement of the banner. And that leads us to: mesh. Mesh banners have a breathable airflow (30%) and they print cleanly. You’ve probably seen them gracing the sides of construction sites or festival/sporting events, but mesh banners are suitable for cabling placement on the side of a building and are great for large format messaging. (We even have mesh banners installed on our own building if you want to take a look at the print quality). Either option allows for brilliant full color printing that lets you get creative, draw the attention you’re looking for, and presents a professional image of your brand.

Have other questions about exterior signage maintenance or would you like to schedule a consultation? Give us a call, shoot us an email or fill out our online contact form to set up a free consultation. We look forward to working with you!