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Harford County Signs and Banners Blog

When It Comes to Outdoor Signs, Is Stainless Steel Just Stainless Steel?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Often you hear people refer to something being made out of stainless steel and it did not hold up or continue to look bright and shiny like they thought it should. There can be a number of reasons for this but 99% of the time it comes down to 2 things:

  1. Material Selection
  2. Contamination

(Sign) Material Selection:

There are numerous alloys that are considered stainless steels. The three basic classes are austenitic, ferritic and martensitic. The most common (most of what people see) are the austenitic stainless steels. These have for the main alloy components chromium and nickel. These are the nice bright stainless items you see like food tanks, tankers and process tanks for dairy and other food products. There are many grades but some of the characteristics we are familiar with are the shiny surface, non-magnetic and resistance to most daily corrosive environments. The austenitic steels have a minimum of 10.5% chromium which results in chromium oxides forming on the surface that creates the protective surface on the metal.

Contamination (of sign metals):

In an earlier post about appropriate sign materials we spoke about sign fasteners and how they had an impact on your sign. The same can be said about stainless steel. When people have said they saw a nice shiny stainless item that had rust on it, it is most often caused by the surface being contaminated by iron. A standard steel fastener or fitting is placed in against or has rubbed against the stainless surface and contaminated the oxide surface that protects the stainless with iron. This can be remedied by mechanically scrubbing the surface with stainless wire wheels or wool, and then passivating the surface with a solution of 10% nitric acid.

So now the real question: How does this relate to signs?

When you deal with dimensional letters they can go just about anywhere. If you are dealing with a location that is close to ocean, or has a large amount of industrial pollution, these factor can impact your choices of materials.

Let's consider being around the ocean. The salt air that we all enjoy contains large quantities of chlorides. These can have negative effects on materials like aluminum, especially if there are residual stresses in the sign from forming. So we would suggest stainless steel letters instead. But in most cases dimensional letters are formed into shape and then welded. This also can cause issues down the road in a salt rich environment. This is where material choices are nice within the stainless family. We have available letters and signs that are fabricated from 316 stainless as well as 304 stainless. In most cases 304 is a great choice but when it comes to a high chlorides (salt) environment, the additional alloying elements in 316 will keep your sign looking better longer than standard 304 stainless. There is a premium you pay for the addition of molybdenum (moly) in 316 as well as the availability, because 304 is much more common. But in the long run, it is "Pay me now or Pay me later" when it comes to these choices.
At Blue Water we know that the choice of sign materials can add lasting value to a sign installation. Making the right material choices early in your decision process can create a favorable impression with customers longer into the future.

Five Tips to Consider When Moving to Digital Signage

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

large programmable digital sign If you’re a small business in Harford County, you’ve seen the digital signs popping up all over the community.  Perhaps you’ve wondered how you can make this technology work for you. Here are five tips to consider if you’re yearning for digital:

  • Know the three key components – hardware, software and content. Figure out your budget and then explore your options. Unless you’re an expert in any one of these areas, look for companies that offer the complete package.
  • Don’t let the hardware scare you. Digital signage comes in all shapes and sizes. Be sure you are happy with the picture quality. There are many choices in pixel spacing which will impact the resolution of the sign. Your customers’ viewing distance and the type of message you choose will play a big part in determining the best resolution for your needs.     
  • Digital software packages should be easy to use, customize and update. They should be intuitive and allow flexibility in formatting and messaging.
  • Make sure you are committed to updating content regularly. Whether you get it from an outside source or create it yourself, you’ll need to give your audience a reason to look at the signage over and over again.
  • Plan for a sign maintenance package that will replace any burned out LEDs immediately and keep your sign in good working order.  

Most importantly, whether you are looking for medical signs, church signs or legal signs, be sure your signage, digital or otherwise, reflects your company’s image and goals.


Sign of the Times

Thursday, October 13, 2011
Effective October 1, 2011 a Maryland state law took effect that levies a fine to people who have illegal signage in right–of-ways. These include commercial lawn signs, and owners will be fined $25 for putting an illegal sign in a state right-of-way or median. Permits are required to place signs there. Harford County will be implementing a volunteer program to remove signs already in place illegally.  

So, if lawn signs are part of your advertising plan, make sure getting the right sign permit is part of that plan as well. Don’t waste time and effort on a great sign that is just going to be taken down and is unlikely to be returned. As we noted in last month’s post about lawn signs, they can serve a great purpose. But as in real estate, the key is location, location, location! Be strategic. You don’t want your sign among 20 others in the median strip. You’re trying to break through the clutter, not be part of it.

Create signs that are slightly larger and use colorful, high-impact corrugated plastic to stand out wherever they are posted. Use your own business’s lawn or the lawns of clients who will allow a sign posting. These locations are much more valuable to you and they will help you maintain your sign’s value, too.

Before placing any signs in a public right-of-way, be sure to check the laws in your own state and/or county.


What Material?

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Did you ever wonder why a sign you saw looked so bad? Was it rusty or grubby looking? Were there streaks or stains in certain areas? Many times that is the result of poor material selection for either the substrate, the structure or the finish material used. In this post we'll focus a little on the materials used in the substrate and structure - and why some materials are better than others when designing a business sign.

The material used in the structure of a business sign is most often controlled by the size and the cost. For smaller post and panel signs, they are often wood posts, with either wood or aluminum sign panels. We use vinyl components as often as possible because they do not require maintenance and they maintain their good looks for years. Often, if the strength of wood is required, we can use a vinyl post to slide down over the wood post creating a sleeve that will maintain that bright look for years.

But here is where many people make a mistake: Let's assume we used a vinyl post sleeve over wood, and we used an aluminum panel for the sign itself. How do you fasten the panel to the post? The best way is to design the system to interlock and use no fasteners. But when screws are required, you have to choose the right type. Use a standard steel screw that may be coated, and over time you'll watch your sign corrode away. The aluminum - being more reactive than the steel - will become a "sacrificial anode" and it will begin to corrode, protecting the steel screw. For those who might be familiar with boat motors, this is the same principal that applies when outboard engines require a set of "zincs."  These will corrode away, protecting the aluminum engine and lower units.  

The point here is that the choice of materials can have a distinct impact on the appearance of your sign over time - as well as the amount of maintenance required. Choose the wrong materials, and not only will you see deterioration on the sign, but your customers will see that deterioration as an impression of your company.

In upcoming posts, we will cover some other sign materials that can be used or not used in specific environments that will have an impact on your signage.

Blue Water Signs in Forest Hill, Maryland can help you with a wide variety of custom signage. Give us a call at 410-420-2400 or visit us at


Digital and Outdoor Signage Market Soaring

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Digital Place-Based Advertising (also called Digital Out-Of-Home advertising, these are the digital TV displays and billboards you see at strategically targeted locations to reach a particular audience) and outdoor signage are fast-growing sectors of the signage market, according to the recent release of figures from the DPAA – Digital Place-Based Advertising Association. The digital place-based sector ranked second only to syndicated television advertising revenue for the first half of 2011. Advertising revenue for the digital place-based sector grew by more than 16 percent over the first half of last year. That’s more than five times the growth rate of the U.S. ad industry overall, which grew just over three percent.

Outdoor advertising signage revenue grew 11.8 percent for the same period.

These advertising sectors are growing because they are able to target consumers on-the-go. Venues such as airports, stadiums, restaurants, movie theaters, and grocery stores are reaping the benefits of digital and outdoor signage because these are the places people live their everyday lives. If your business is related to any of these venues, either in concept or proximity, taking advantage of digital or outdoor signage is a strategic move. Not only can you target your message, you can reach the consumer close to the point-of-purchase. It increases the chances that you’ll capture that consumer.

Blue Water Signs can help develop the ads to appear on these digital networks. If you even come close to the growth success of this industry, your business will be thriving!


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