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Tips for Buying Business Signs

Get your name out there with the perfect signage for your business.

Introduction
For many small businesses, signs are an important means of advertising a company's existence. However, signs are not for public display only. They can also help direct visitors around your office and alert employees to hazardous or off-limit areas.

This guide is designed to give you the facts you need to evaluate and choose signs for your business. The various sections are listed in the box above. You can choose to read this guide from beginning to end, or jump directly to a section of interest.

Types of Signs
Signs can be created for outdoor or indoor use.

Typically, outdoor signs are used for marketing purposes or to direct visitors. They can be found on rooftops, walls, and awnings; standing alone by buildings; hanging as banners; and even displayed on the sides of cars and trucks.

Indoor signs are usually hung from ceilings or attached to walls. These signs are usually created for use in a reception area or to direct visitors. Signs are also often created for trade show displays

Sign Materials
There are many different materials companies can use to make signs. Sign makers typically break down requirements in terms of lettering and substrate materials.

Sign lettering can be as straightforward as adhesive vinyl or as eye-grabbing as neon. Other materials commonly used for lettering include metal, wood, plastic, and foamcore. Lettering can also be engraved. While once quite prevalent, paint is now much less common as a lettering medium.

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Buyers also have the choice of many substrates, which serve as the backing for the lettering. Materials used for backing include plastic, paper, cloth, vinyl, wood, foamcore, glass, and aluminum. Mixed substrates are also available.

Since sign materials come in varying levels of quality, you should inquire about their durability when comparing quotes. Accompanying warranties for the materials can also serve as a good proxy for quality.

Designing Signs
Buyers need to consider a number of factors to create effective, long-lasting signs.

First, think about the distance the average viewer will be from the sign. In addition, factors such as as sign height, lighting, and time of day can affect how easily the sign can be viewed.

Also think about the sign's expected wear and tear, and make sure the appropriate materials are used. Signs can be destroyed not only from weather conditions, but also from travel and general mishandling.

Choosing a Company
One of the first things to do when choosing a sign company is to find one that specializes in the type of sign materials you desire. Although most companies will not claim any specialties in their advertising, many will in fact be particularly proficient at making a certain type of sign. You will often find faster turnaround, higher quality execution, and better pricing when working with such a company.

Sign companies can also specialize in particular types of projects. For example, some companies have substantial experience in the planning and placement of signs throughout a building. Working with people who are particularly knowledgeable about the issues surrounding a given project can significantly impact the types of signs that are created.

Also consider the capabilities you require. Buyers that do not have designers in house may want to assess the portfolios of graphic designers working at the sign company. Alternately, companies that already know what they want implemented should look for a sign company that accepts computer files on disk for direct outputting.

Complying with the ADA
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires all commercial facilities (which include any building open to the public) to accommodate the special needs of individuals with disabilities by removing physical and communication barriers. This means that buildings such as hospitals, government buildings, public and private schools, transportation terminals, hotels, restaurants, and manufacturing facilities must meet ADA requirements in terms of signage design and installation.

There are companies familiar with the ADA and that can help your firm conform to the regulations. Keep in mind that while there are costs involved with ADA compliance, the government also provides ADA-specific tax refunds for businesses.

About Zoning Regulations
Many towns have specific regulations about the type or size of outdoor signs businesses may erect. If the zoning laws in your area prevent you from installing the type of sign you desire, you may need to apply for a variance to the existing code. Sign companies should be familiar not only with local regulations, but also with the process for applying for a variance.

Pricing
Sign costs depend on size, material, color, and content. They can range from $8 for a small sign (12" by 6" with a basic design) to nearly $100 for a larger sign (30" by 30" with more complicated features). Sign costs can easily climb up to the hundreds or even thousands of dollars when using costly materials or producing gigantic signs.

When comparing quotes, remember to add in any delivery charges.

Special Tips
Allow for Updates if Needed
If you expect signs to change over time, look for a design that is easy to update or change. In many cases, updates can even be made by your staff instead of returning the sign to the signage company.

Consider Stock Signs
Although most signs are custom made, it is possible to find pre-made standard signs. You can often find stock signs for use in laboratories, retail stores, and warehouses. Buying stock signs can be much cheaper than having a sign custom-made.

Make Use of Magnets
Magnetic signs can be a good alternative for companies seeking to add a sign to cars or trucks. That way, employees who also use the car for personal use can remove the sign after business hours.

Be Prepared to Wait During the Summer
Sign companies are generally busiest during the summer. Expect longer turnaround times during this time of the year.

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