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Harford County Signs and Banners Blog

Let the Wind Blow

Friday, September 12, 2014
If you’re using vinyl banners for outdoor signage this Fall, here are a few tips for both storing and hanging them so they are secure and stable even in windy or stormy weather.

First, start with the banner construction process.  Take into consideration the banner’s purpose, use and location.  Details like location will influence the material selection.  For example, indoor banners use light-weight scrim materials, but outdoor banners that may be subjected to the elements require a heavier, more durable material.  Web mesh can be added to the banner for additional strength.  Next, your signage professional will recommend ways to hang the banner and design it according to your needs.  Banners can be secured in a variety of ways, but many of the methods require a manufacturing process.  One way to secure vinyl banner is by using ropes sewn into the material for weight and support.  Or, if the banner will be hung on poles, it can be manufactured with pole pockets.  

All banners should have hemmed, or finished, sides on all four sides.  This not only gives the banner a more professional appearance, it gives it some reinforcement and weight around the edges to protect it from damage.  Corners can be further reinforced and grommets can be incorporated into the edges.  Your signage professional will also provide recommendations for grommet placement around the banner.  The more grommets, the less stress placed on the corners of the banner.  Strategic grommet placement results in a flat, fully stretched banner that lasts longer. 

Finally, ask for storage recommendations for your banner and follow them carefully for maximum banner life.  In general, never fold vinyl banners.  You’ll get creases and fold marks that are difficult to remove –no, they won’t just “hang out.”  When rolling banners, roll the printed side inward to protect it, but be sure it doesn’t stick to itself.  Store the banner in a cylindrical tube in a temperature-controlled environment.  

A Sign to Freshen Up

Friday, January 17, 2014

outdoor signJanuary and the beginning of a new year is a good time to re-evaluate your signage needs and freshen up your physical signs. First, ask yourself whether or not you need new signage. If your business outdoor sign is more than five years old, you might want to consider a face lift. Sprucing up the sign with a heavy-duty cleaning that will leave it sparkling, or investing in a new sign are good options. Ask yourself: Does the signage still reflect the personality and brand image of your business? If you’ve had a branding change, any updates in your communications strategies or simply changed your mindset about how you do business, reflect those changes in your signage. Patrons will notice and stop in to see what’s new.

Even if your sign is less than three to five years old, regular maintenance is important. Make sure you are cleaning it properly and keeping it safe from nature’s elements. Consider an awning where possible for protection of the sign. Depending on the material you chose for your sign, wind, rain and snow can still be damaging and fading, making a sign look dirty and worn. Find ways to make your sign updatable. If you haven’t invested in digital signage, think about switching to a colorful LED board that can have up-to-the-minute messages. Or, add a message board to your existing signage – your sign professional can tell you how. These message boards move you into the high-tech era and give you the capability to “talk” to your customers. Once you’ve evaluated your outdoor signs, look at all of your signs – from trade show banners to window signage and point-of-purchase signs. They should all reflect your current brand image, be clean and sleek-looking, not tired and in need of repair. Your sign is really another of your “faces” to your customer. Put on the best one.

Banner Up!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Summer is a great time to gear up for fall and winter activities like trade shows and sponsorships. If you have these plans on your calendar, now is the time to get your signage in order – or on order. Get out the trade show banners or outdoor banners that you used in years past and examine them closely. Are they clean? Are the colors bright? Does the lettering “pop?” Is the vinyl still sturdy? Is the message current?   

Vinyl banners can be cleaned easily and safely with a mild soap and water solution or as directed by the manufacturer. If the colors are faded or the material is weakening, you probably need to consider new signage. If the message is no longer current, then you definitely need a new banner. You have plenty of time to have it made for fall events – that’s why you checked your calendar and your stock so early!  

Depending on the complexity and artwork, a vinyl banner can be completed in anywhere from one to three weeks’ time. Your Harford County sign specialist can guide you in creating a banner that is best for your needs, whether it’s a school banner, church banner, trade show banner or sports banner. Vinyl banners can be custom sized to fit the front of a table, the back of a trade show booth, or the expanse of a fence. 

Your signage professional should recommend the best grade material for your purposes, so that the sign is durable and long-lasting. Based on the type of background, you’ll choose the colors and lettering style that will have the greatest impact. Remember to supply your logo or brand image for the sign. Make sure you understand how to store and hang the banner when the time comes. Your trade show signage and event signage can be ready for fall and winter with a little advance planning and a little professional signage help.

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.

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


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