How long does your sign need to survive the sun and the weather outside?

This question surprises most of our clients at first because there's a natural presumption that signs last for a very long time.

For indoor signs & letters, that presumption holds true.

Outdoor signs are a completely different story though, mainly because of the damaging effects of the sun. How long will your signs last outside before they look old and faded?

The sun will likely damage your sign much sooner than you expect – here's why:

  • Sunlight causes colors to fade because pigments break down under intense solar heat and UV light exposure.

  • The result is a bleaching effect which causes colors to lighten and look washed out.

  • As colors fade, a chalky white residue often forms on the surface of the sign, due to oxidation.

  • Without a clear, UV protective sealant, the unprotected surfaces on outdoor signs are subjected to the full force of the sun and the elements, which accelerates deterioration.

  • Pollutants and grime left behind from rain deposits can leave streaks and permanent stains on signs.

  • "Budget friendly" paints and inks used on lower priced signs, are not formulated with the industrial quality pigments required to withstand UV radiation long-term.

The life expectancy of your new signs will also be affected by changing weather conditions.

When you see the surfaces of signs that are faded, cracked and peeling, you are witnessing the damage caused by UV radiation, temperature changes and climate conditions.

Exterior signs however, are expected to continuously withstand harsh weather extremes such as:

All of these factors combined reduce the lifespan of signs down to just 18 to 36 months outdoors, on average.

This limited lifespan is actually ideal for signs which are needed for a limited period of time (which we also provide).

You can protect the interests of your organization long-term, by choosing enduring, weatherproof signs.

To meet the long-term needs of your business or organization, TheSignChef's Production Team manufactures a complete line of America's most durable letters, logos and signs. Our most popular custom sign products include a Lifetime Guarantee.

Under this Lifetime Replacement Warranty, if any exterior rated sign product breaks, cracks, peels, fades or otherwise fails, the sign product will be refinished or replaced free of charge.

We stand behind this Guarantee* because the materials and coatings have stood the test of time by withstanding prolonged exposure to water, salt, heat, cold, vibration and UV light.

* Vandalism is not covered.

Our most popular sign products come with a Lifetime Replacement Warranty.

If any exterior rated sign product covered under this warranty, breaks, cracks, peels, fades or otherwise fails, the sign product will be refinished or replaced free of charge.

The initial price is higher to produce exceptional quality, but the overall cost is lower.

Exactly as you would expect, the initial price is higher to produce quality signs on this level.
However, the total investment – over time – is significantly lower.

In fact, the typical savings is more than 260% over the first 10 years alone. And that's because the added costs of replacing worn out signs every 2-3 years, is no longer an ongoing expense (or hassle).

Ironically, the ultimate signage for identification, branding, and permanent advertising, is also the most cost effective.

As a silent ambassador for your brand, impressive signage will quietly yield ongoing returns to your organization, without doing anything more. It's like an investment in prime real estate which keeps rising in value. Signs – distinguished custom signs – help build long-term equity.

With all the immediate and long-term benefits to be gained over the years, your brand and business interests will be well served with high-end, elite signage.

Violations of local sign ordinances can result in fines up to $500 per day or 30 days in jail!

That is not an exaggeration, nor a scare tactic. Here is a typical example you can see in our local jurisdiction, with a serious warning.

What type of signs are you legally allowed to have? What are your options?

The laws governing exterior signs are rigid. Specific sign ordinances have already been established for the land, the building and for the exact space to be occupied within that building.

The permitting department can tell you exactly what you are allowed to display, and what is prohibited. Once you find out the SIZE and TYPE of signs allowed by local sign codes, you will need the property owner's written permission approving the new signage as well (if you don't own the building).

What type of Outdoor Sign are you LEGALLY allowed to have?
And what are the SIZE restrictions?

Violating local sign codes can result in fines up to $500 per day. Outdoor signs must follow your local County and City Sign Ordinances. The information directly below outlines the sign permitting process required for new, outdoor sign installations.

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When you need custom outdoor signs or letters, where do you actually start?

The process of buying a custom sign is completely new and unfamiliar to most people.

You probably have an idea about the new signs or letters that are needed, but how do you actually turn that idea, into reality? What is the very first step? And what are the next steps that will follow?

As the founder of the company, one of my goals is to empower individuals with an efficient buying process, that can be started in less than 5 minutes. In our newest 2020 Sign Buyer's Guide, you already have immediate access to the complete, step-by-step system, right below. This system can help you acquire the exact signs, letters, logos and graphics your business or organization needs, anywhere in America.

If you choose to follow these steps, you will avoid the high risk of overlooking critically important factors, that you may not have thought about yet.

To assist you even further, look for the Ultimate Sign Buyer's Checklist on STEP 5. This detailed checklist will show you the most important factors and options to consider, as you are deciding what to purchase.


Write down these 3 important measurements.

To illustrate "how to buy a sign", I am using an outdoor wall sign as a prime example. You will need 3 key measurements to start your project.

Identify the space and place where the new sign will be installed, then:

  1. Measure the total height of the wall space, top to bottom.
  2. Next, measure the total width of the wall, left to right.
  3. Then take a measurement of the most distant point where people will need to be able to read the message on the sign. This is the viewing distance.

The viewing distance is the most important part of the sign formula because this measurement will be used to determine the proper letter size.


What type of outdoor sign are you legally allowed to have?

The laws governing exterior signs are rigid – sizes are restricted. Violations of local sign ordinances can result in fines up to $500/day or 30 days in jail.

Specific sign ordinances have already been established for the land, building and for the space to be occupied within that building. The staff at your local permitting department can answer questions and provide interpretations of the sign ordinances - fresh donuts go a long way! They can usually identify the sign types and sizes you are allowed to display, and what is prohibited.

In order to determine he maximum overall size you are allowed, the measurements of the wall will be needed from STEP 1.

Once you find out the SIZE and TYPE of signs allowed by local sign codes, the design can then be developed for final approval by the permitting department and the person authorized in your business or organization.

Obtaining the landlord's written permission approving the new signs, is highly recommended as well.

Here is our Complete Sign Permitting Guide to assist you in this process.

Or read our "Legally Allowed Outdoor Business Signage" section below.


What size should your letters be?

Choosing the right size letters for your sign is critically important. If the letters are too small, your message won't be effective. What size letters are needed for easy readability?

In a joint research study performed by Penn State University, the United States Sign Council and the Pennsylvania Transportation Institute, the letter legibility index was updated in 2018.

As a direct result, nobody has to guess what letter sizes are needed for signs. You can choose from a range of barely legible letter sizes to sizing your advertising message UP, for maximum impact.

Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of the letter visibility charts commonly found online are completely inaccurate. The most current research performed in 2018 renders the old charts obsolete, yet thousands of outdated charts are still posted online.

Our Letter Legibility and Sizing Chart is accurate and complete.

Additionally, we developed the sign industry's first and only Online Letter Sizing Calculator to help you determine the proper letter size. This easy to use tool is readily available on our website.

There is advanced training information included in the video on the calculator page. The video demonstrates a unique mathematical approach to sign design. If you would like some help using this tool, call us anytime during office hours.


What is the main message on your sign?

What will the letters spell out?

If the letters won't fit the wall area, you might consider reducing the number of letters. If you reduce the letter height instead, the impact of your message will be reduced accordingly. Achieving the right visual balance for your brand and advertising message is critically important.

See what fits and what doesn't - get a free layout in less than 24 hours.

To get a free layout, send an email to with:

  1. The 3 measurements.
  2. Any related art files or documents you may have.
  3. Plus, a straight-on picture of your wall.

We will promptly show you what your new sign or letters will look like, right on your wall. See what works and what doesn't.

Yes, getting the perfect sign is quite a process! At the same time, this methodical approach shows you exactly how highly experienced sign professionals determine proper overall sizes, that won't violate local sign ordinances.


What should the final design of new custom signs include?

In the final stages of designing a sign, all of the design specifications should be included.

"The devil is in the details" is an old phrase from the 1800's, attributed to a German-born architect, Ludwig Mies van der Rohebut. When seemingly insignificant details are neglected, problems are more likely to emerge soon thereafter.

This timeless wisdom not only applies to architecture, it also applies to how custom outdoor business signs are constructed and produced.

Some of the tiny details of signs may truly seem insignificant at first. However, they can prove to be monumentally important later. Overlooking just one small detail, can suddenly become a HUGE PROBLEM to overcome. Nobody wants that headache.

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How do you ensure predictable and desirable results, up front?

When new signage is thoroughly assessed in all aspects during the purchasing process, the risk to the successful outcome of the project, is minimized or eliminated altogether. The most efficient way to make a thorough assessment up front, is by utilizing a comprehensive checklist.

The Ultimate Sign Buyer's Checklist is still the only complete checklist available anywhere in the world. I can't overstate the importance of using this checklist to your advantage.

The detailed checklist below will show you the most important factors and options to consider, as you are deciding what to purchase.

Custom Outdoor Sign Q & A Checklist

The very first step in the sign buying process is to take 3 measurements. The first 2 measurements are the height and width of the wall where the sign will be mounted.

A 3rd measurement is recommended to determine the legibility of the sign. From the wall, measure to the most distant point the sign needs to be readable. These 3 measurements complete Step 1.

You can see the next 4 Steps by accessing the complete, 2020 Sign Buyer's Guide on this page.

A professional design starts with quality ingredients which includes:

  • The right message
  • Properly sized letters for easy readability.
  • A logo (optional)
  • Plus, a pleasing color scheme.

Starting with these design elements, an experienced graphic designer can begin developing a custom layout for your business signs. A complete Design Checklist is accessible through this page, to ensure all aspects of your layout are fine tuned.

  • Main Identification Sign
  • Branding
  • Directional / Wayfinding
  • Promotional / Advertise products or services
  • Health and Safety Warnings
  • Announcements for Shows and Events
  • Historical Markers and Plaques
  • Educational
  • Employee Recognition and Appreciation
  • Inspirational / Motivational Messages
  • Support for a cause
  • Beautify Building.
  • No lighting
  • Internal illumination - front lit
  • Halo lighting – backlit
  • Exterior lighting – floodlights, or
  • Reflective letters.
  • Standard Hardware
  • Sign Posts, Frames and Stakes
  • Scroll Brackets
  • Hanging Hardware
  • Projection mounted
  • Decorative
  • Raceway
  • Studs
  • Adhesive
  • Velcro
  • Blind (unseen) Hardware.

Main layout considerations:

  • Font
    Which letter styles will be incorporated into the design?

  • Kerning
    Does the spacing B E T W E E N the letters look uniform and consistent?

  • Artwork
    Include logo, photo, clipart or custom graphics?

  • Color Scheme / Brand Colors
    Brand Standards? PMS Color Matching? Background color? Complimentary colors for text and artwork?

  • Art File – Type and Specifications
    Logo, Photo, Clip Art or Graphics File.

    • High resolution art file or vector-based file for optimal image quality.

    • Raster
      • .psd
      • .ps
      • .pdf
      • .jpg or .jpeg
      • .tif or .tiff
      • .png
      • .gif
      • .bmp

    • Vector
      • .ai
      • .pdf
      • .eps
      • .dxf

  • Main Message
  • Secondary message - tagline or slogan
  • Phone Number
  • Address
  • Website Address
  • Description of Products or Services
  • Hours of Operation
  • Free Estimates
  • Free Delivery
  • Commercial and/or Residential
  • Directional Arrow
  • QR Code

Yes, sign permits are legally required to install signs and 3D letters outdoors. If a sign permit is not authorized by the officials in the Building Department, significant fines and/or jail time could be imposed.

The 2020 Sign Permitting Guide is readily accessible on this page for guidance and insights.

From flexible vinyl banners to rigid HDPE panels, sign materials are sorted by thickness and panel strength.

This Strength Chart will show you direct comparisons between different exterior-rated materials used for custom signs.

  • Temporary or Permanent need?
    Short, medium or long-term weather resistance and durability outdoors?
  • Appearance
    • Smooth and flat.
    • Dimensional sign with background.
    • Individual 3D Letters and Logos.
    • Engraved.
    • Metal finish.
    • Distressed.
    • Weathered.
    • Natural.
    • Textured.
    • Carved.

  • Strength
    Low strength, Medium or High strength (rigid and wind resistant).

  • Thickness
    Thin, Thicker or Thickest.

  • Weight
    Lightweight, Medium or Heavy Duty.

  • Shape
    Square, rectangle, circle, oval, capsule, triangle, octagon, rounded corners, inverted corners or custom shape.

  • Finish
    High Gloss, Luster, Satin or Flat Matte finish.

  • Border or Edge Treatment
    Standard border, inset border, decorative border, edge cap, frame or plain edge.

  • Sides
    Single-Sided, Double-Sided, 3-Sided or 4-Sided.

  • Installation Accessories
    Do-it-yourself installation templates, installation instructions or how-to videos.

  • Mounting Holes
    • Diameter / Size
    • Placement
    • Quantity
    • Ensure the hardware matches the hole size.

  • Size of Area.
    What is the total area of the wall space where the sign will be mounted?

  • Viewing Distance.
    How far away does the message on the sign need to be readable?

  • Overall Size of Sign
    What is the ideal size for the new sign?

  • Letter and Logo Size
    How tall should the letters be for easy readability?

  • Size of Margins and Negative Space
    Do you have adequate spacing to avoid over-crowding?

Considerations are durability, appearance, ease of use, brand image:

  • Metal
    • Aluminum
      • Brushed Silver.
      • Mirror Polished Silver.
      • Brushed Gold.
      • Mirror Polished Gold.
      • Painted or Printed Any Color.
    • Alumalite
    • Bronze – Mirror polished, Brushed, Aged / Patina?
    • Copper
    • Corten Weathered Steel
    • Dibond
      • Brushed Silver
      • Mirror Polished Silver.
      • Brushed Gold
      • Mirror Polished Gold.
      • Brushed Copper
      • Painted Finish
    • Dry Erasable Metal
    • Reflective
    • Stainless Steel
    • Steel ACM (Magnetic Receptive)
    • Titanium

  • Plastic
    • Acrylic
    • Acrysteel
    • Acrylite SG
    • Coroplast
    • Dry Erasable Plastic
    • Ultra-Foam Core
    • HDPE
    • Lexan
    • Plexiglas
    • Polyethylene
    • Reflective
    • Rigid PVC
    • Styrene

  • Wood
    • Armour-Wood
    • Birch
    • Dura-Wood
    • Cherry
    • MDO Plywood
    • Oak
    • Pine
    • Plywood
    • Redwood
    • Reflective
    • Western Red Cedar

  • Synthetic
    • Decals
    • EPS Foam
    • Fiberglass
    • HDU - High Dimensional Urethane
    • Magnetics
    • Mesh Banner
    • Panaflex
    • Perforated Window Vinyl
    • Interior (rare specialty)
    • Exterior
    • Poster
    • Reflective
    • Retractable Banner (with stands)
    • Table Banner
    • Trailer and Vehicle Lettering
    • Vinyl Banner
    • Vinyl Graphics
    • Vinyl Letters
    • Wallpaper
    • Wrap Vinyl

  • Basic
  • Upscale
  • Corporate
  • Clean
  • Bold
  • Industrial
  • Modern
  • Contemporary
  • Adventurous
  • Fun
  • Professional / Conservative
  • Playful
  • Fancy
  • Feminine or Masculine.

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GENERAL LEGAL ADVICE: This is just a list of the general sign laws found in most towns and jurisdictions. Please consult with your local authorities to get your specific sign laws before installing or erecting any type of custom business outdoor signs or letters.

    Wall signs are referred to by other names including Building Signs and Storefront Signs. Less familiar references include signs mounted to the facia or façade (the face) of the building.

    What TYPE of wall mounted sign are you legally allowed to have by your local sign ordinances?

    Lighted Channel Letters?
    Lighted Sign Cabinet with Plastic Face?
    Non-Lighted 3D Letters?
    Dimensional Non-Lighted Sign?
    Wood Carved Sign?
    Flat Sign Panel?
    Projection Mounted Hanging Sign?

    Street signs are often referred to by other names including Roadside Signs, Main Identification Signs, Entrance Signs, Post and Panel Signs, Monument Signs, Pylon Signs and Pole Signs. Are you legally allowed to have a sign out by the road installed? If so, what TYPE are you required to have? And what are the overall height and size restrictions?

    Low profile ENTRANCE Signs may be allowed, in addition to a Main Identification Sign out by the road. These smaller directional signs often serve the public interests and are sometimes allowed. Be sure to ask, if you want the extra exposure for your enterprise.

    The sign ordinances regarding Glass Window Signs and Front Door Lettering, vary widely. In most municipalities, signs posted on the windows are considered Outdoor Signs and require permits. In other areas, if the advertisement is on the INSIDE of the glass, then the sign does NOT fall under the laws governing outdoor signs. Another variance is that ANY signage visible to the public, outside, is considered to be an Outdoor Sign The "real estate" on your glass windows may provide a significant opportunity to post your advertising messages where they are readily visible to the public.

    The same sign ordinances that apply to Glass Window Signs, usually applies to Front Door Signs, but not always. Be sure to check the amount of signage you are allowed to have on your front entrance.

    As sign ordinances have become increasingly restrictive, business owners have gotten creative! Wrapping a company vehicle in an advertisement that's parked by the street offers a tremendous branding opportunity. Local businesses have even purchased LARGE BOX TRUCKS to turn into roadside billboards. Some municipalities still allow this type of "outdoor signage". A growing number of areas around the country though, are making this type of advertising illegal. Be sure to check your local sign ordinances to see if you are legally allowed to park advertising displays on company vehicles, around your business.

    Where are you legally allowed to have new signs installed? The location where your signs will be mounted, will influence the overall size you are allowed.

    On a wall, the maximum length of the sign is usually restricted to no more than 75% of the space available. For example, if your storefront is 40' wide left-to-right, then your sign is typically limited to 30'.

    How far away do you want your letters to be legible? Knowing the viewing distance is critical to determining the proper letter size. Most people don't have a 100' tape measure laying around though to get an accurate measurement. But there's a good way to estimate distance, with a vehicle – an SUV to be exact.

    The average SUV is 16' long. Since were all familiar with vehicles and parking spaces, it's pretty easy to guess the number of car lengths from one point, to the next. For example, I can tell it's about 5 car lengths from the front of our building to the road. We're pretty close. So that's a viewing distance of about 80 feet (5 x 16' = 80').

    Using the letter visibility chart, a good size letter to start with is 8" for easy readability. The absolute minimum size though is 3" – 4".

    Outdoor durability, weatherability, and fade resistance is a strong consideration when choosing the type materials to be used for your new sign. How many years do you need your signs to last?

    If you have a short-term lease, there are different decisions to be made versus meeting long-term expectations. The durability and weatherability of sign materials vary widely. Knowing you have options to invest less or more, will enable you to make fully informed decisions.

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