Permanent exterior signage is durable by definition, but that doesn’t mean it needs no maintenance. From channel letters to building signs to monuments, they all need some care to last and be effective in the long term.
Why You Should Maintain Your Signage
There are several reasons why you should regularly maintain your exterior signage.
A lit cabinet sign where only half of your brand name lights up is clearly not effective. Make sure your signage always works as it should to optimize its effectiveness and leverage your investment.
What does dirty, shabby, damaged signage say about your brand? Prospective customers will judge your company from its exterior, and a broken sign tells them your quality standards are low. Well-maintained signage shows you take pride in your business and is a testament to your professionalism.
In some regions, extreme weather conditions may damage your exterior signage. For example, signs exposed to rain, ice, and humidity for a long period are more prone to electrical damage or rust, just as sun exposure can wear and fade their colors. Maintaining your exterior signage when the weather is particularly harsh can protect your investment and make your signs last for longer.
Personal Injury Liability
Poorly maintained signs can sometimes cause accidents, for which you will be liable. Poorly attached letters could fall off your sign. Exposed electrical cables could cause personal injury to a customer, passerby, or employee. The easiest way to avoid any potential liability or lawsuit is to simply keep your signs maintained.
Make a Routine of Checking Your Signage
A monthly check of your signage is usually enough to make sure there are no issues that need fixing, although it doesn’t hurt to check more frequently. For example, if your area has recently been hit with a storm, you will want to check your signage to make sure nothing has broken or blown away.
A monthly check should include the following:
- Verify lighting is working properly. Check all lights and bulbs, as well as your electrical system.
- Look out for rust, mold, standing water, or paint discoloration of your signage.
- Verify there is no other visible damage, such as broken parts, cracks, etc.
- Check that your sign is well attached. Verify that wall brackets are in good condition, that your sign is well-grounded, and that none of its elements are at risk of falling or moving out of place.
- If you have vinyl decals, verify they are not peeling or cracking.
After your check-up, proceed to maintenance tasks such as regular cleaning and, if necessary, repairs.
Maintenance and Repairs
Keep your exterior signage looking as good as new with a few simple steps.
Wash and Tidy Up
Cleaning your exterior signage is essential not only to protect them in the long term, but also to keep them attractive for your customers.
Most exterior signs can be washed with a simple solution of water and a mild household cleaner or car shampoo. Please note that car shampoo contains protective wax, which can be great for some surfaces but not for others. Contact your sign provider for guidance on the best type of detergent to use for cleaning your sign.
For monuments made from brick, stone, and other materials with an irregular surface, power washing could be the best option for a deep clean. Again, check with your sign provider before using a power washer.
Cleaning exterior signs also means removing leaves, twigs, debris, cobwebs, insects, and other dirt from nooks and crevices.
If you find mold on your sign, you should clean it as soon as possible. Because mold removers are stronger than regular household cleaners, you should contact your sign provider for tips on the best way to clean mold from your sign without harming the surface or the colors.
Another important thing to check your sign for is rust, which can permanently stain your sign or even cause structural damage. Inspect the sign, the mounting device, and any other metal involved in your signage for rust.
Replace any damaged screws with rust-proof screws to prevent rust from dripping on your sign when it rains. If your sign has metallic surfaces or parts that can rust, consider giving them a coat of anti-rust paint.
If you have a plywood sign, verify that humidity has not damaged it. If humidity is starting to warp the wood, consult your sign provider for how to (re)seal the plywood. It could be as easy as applying a protective coat of wood sealer. You could also consider adding a metal or plastic trim around the edges of the wooden parts. A trim is not only effective against humidity, it can also add to the appearance of the sign.
Give It a Paint Touch-up
If the only problem with your sign is that it’s looking a bit dull, grab a can of touch-up paint and freshen up your sign. Make sure to use exterior grade paint (latex, oil-based, or polyurethane), which is designed to protect materials from UV radiation and weather elements.
If your signage is tagged with graffiti, discolored from weather conditions, scratched, or otherwise damaged, a lick of paint can quickly refresh it and make it as good as new again.
Fix Cracks and Other Damage
Fix broken parts, cracks, and any other damage you see on your sign as soon as possible. If the damage is something you can’t fix on your own, contact your sign provider; they should be able to provide the necessary repairs before the situation gets any worse.
Check the Electrical Lighting Components
Whether you have a neon sign, cabinet letters lit with bulbs, or LED lighting, you may at some point need to replace bulbs or other electrical components—or, even, rewire the sign. Flickering lights, burnt bulbs, or any other sign of defective lighting means it’s time to check the electrical system of your signage. If you’re not sure how to fix the issue, call an electrician or consult your sign provider.
Clean Your Monument Base
For monuments and signs attached to poles or other bases on the ground, verifying that the base is sturdy should be part of regular maintenance.
Monument bases are sensitive to standing water as well as to collisions with vehicles or people, who may knock them down or damage them. Often, a sign installed on a grass patch will get hit, scratched, or dented by a lawnmower. Finally, there are pets who may use your sign to mark their territory.
Start by cleaning the base of your sign from dirt and trash and by repairing it, if needed. In the case of standing water, you need to level the ground around the base and add a drain to remove the water. To avoid collisions and pets, you could plant low, stiff, or thorny bushes around the base. You could even add a ring of mulch so there is no need to mow near the sign. Mulch also creates a visual barrier for people and drivers.
Updating the landscape around your sign or monument not only protects it, but it can also make it more appealing.
Trim Nearby Trees
Trimming trees is not exactly sign maintenance, but it’s a good way to prevent future repairs to your exterior signs. For example, when it’s windy or rainy, trees that hang over signs can drip rainwater and dirt onto the sign, or scratch or break the sign if a limb falls off.
There are also more immediate benefits, such as trimming back an overgrown tree so customers can see the sign properly.
If your sign is damaged beyond repair—for example, if the colors have faded, or the electrical system is outdated and needs to be replaced—you may want to consider updating or even replacing your sign to protect your brand. Sometimes, exterior signs are just beyond maintenance.
You might also want to change your signs if you change your branding. A consistent image is critical to maintaining your client base.
Sometimes you can update your branding with only small changes needed. For example, changing a paint color, or changing the vinyl face of your light cabinet, could be enough to refresh your brand at a relatively low cost.