What Is the Best Material to Use for Outdoor Signage?

Mike Alexander

Outdoor signage must be designed to protect the information, lettering, branding and symbols displayed from every kind of weather – from strong sunshine and UV exposure in the summer to rain, hail, sleet and even snow in the winter.

Selecting the right material for outdoor signage depends on a number of variables, such as the location of your signage, the nature of your site, and whether your positioning offers natural protection from the elements, such as tree cover or shading.

In this article Fitzpatrick Woolmer covers some of the popular materials used in our high-quality, durable signage models and explains the properties and features of each solution to help you make informed decisions.

Stainless Steel Outdoor Signage

Stainless steel is often used in exterior signage as a corrosion-resistant metal that will remain pristine without signs of rust, even after heavy rain or damp conditions. The challenge may be that stainless steel can be dense and heavy to manoeuvre and is less suited to off-road locations, such as along nature trails or cycle paths.

However, stainless steel signs can be compact or large-scale and feature high-profile lettering and bespoke logos, with a finish that attracts attention and looks professional alongside busy commercial compounds, next to traffic routes, or in other settings.

For customers based in exposed areas, such as the north of England or higher elevations with greater chances of snow and harsh winter conditions, stainless steel may be preferable since it can cope with these sub-zero temperatures without deteriorating.

Aluminium as an Outdoor Signage Material

Traditional Fingerpost With Finial Cast Aluminium

An alternative is to consider aluminium – a lightweight material used in exterior signage panels or as a backdrop for other signage components. The slim structure of an aluminium panel makes it easy to use for printing and pliable for bending or conforming to signage designs and shapes.

While aluminium isn’t as durable as stainless steel, it is scratch-resistant and can withstand exposure to water and rain. We may not recommend aluminium for path-level signs since it can dent, and the natural shimmer of the metal can make signage harder to read.

Choosing a solid aluminium signage panel or a notice board with aluminium components is common for signage within parking areas and site access entry notices. It is used throughout highway signage because of its ability to remain in good condition in high temperatures, rain, and hail.

Aluminium is also a great choice for clients looking for sustainable signage since it is a highly recyclable option.

Find out more about our metal signage.

Using Recycled Plastic

Recycled plastic signage refers to signs that are made from recycled materials, specifically recycled plastics. These signs are created by reusing plastic materials that have been discarded, diverted from landfills, and processed to create new products. The process involves collecting, cleaning, and melting down plastic waste to form new sheets or moulds for signage.

Recycled Plastic Street Name Sign
Recycled Plastic Street Name Sign

Here are some reasons why recycled plastic signage might be used:

  • Environmental Sustainability: Using recycled plastic helps reduce the demand for new raw materials, conserving natural resources and energy. It also diverts plastic waste from landfills, contributing to a more sustainable and circular economy.
  • Waste Reduction: By repurposing plastic waste into signage, the amount of plastic entering landfills or oceans is reduced. This helps address the growing issue of plastic pollution and its impact on the environment.
  • Cost-Effective: In some cases, recycled plastic signage can be a cost-effective alternative to traditional signage materials. The cost of recycled plastic may be lower than that of new materials, making it an attractive option for environmentally conscious businesses or organisations with budget constraints.
  • Durability: Recycled plastic can be durable and weather-resistant, making it suitable for outdoor signage. This durability can contribute to a longer lifespan for the signage, reducing the need for frequent replacements.
  • Corporate Responsibility: Using recycled materials in signage aligns with corporate social responsibility initiatives. It demonstrates a commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainability, which can enhance a company’s reputation and appeal to environmentally conscious consumers.

Find out more about our recycled plastic signage here.

Vinyl Outdoor Signage Options

Vinyl is a well-known and low-cost signage option used in various displays, from banners and murals to temporary floor and window graphics. While it tends to be less resistant and long-lasting than the other materials we’ve explored thus far, it is cost-effective for short-term applications.

For example, a seasonal promotional sign could be created with vinyl. Another use is to select an outdoor sign produced from another material with self-adhesive vinyl arrows or symbols.

Engraved lettering and details remain permanent, whereas vinyl labelling can be adjusted or replaced at any time.

Treated Hardwood Timber Outdoor Signage

Routed Timber Signs
Routed Timber Signs

Our final option to consider is a hardwood, such as solid oak – a sustainable, eco-friendly and natural signage material often prioritised by outdoor visitor attractions and nature reserves where the objective is to create signage that does not intrude on the environment or have an impact on wildlife or ecosystems.

Preservative finishes and coatings help protect the integrity of an oak signage display, which, over time, develops a beautiful silvery sheen that is characteristic of natural oak.

Read more about our oak signage here.

Selecting the Right Outdoor Signage Material

As we have seen, there are numerous materials and finishes used in exterior signage, and the best options depend on several variables, including the following:

  • The weather and average temperatures: Are you based in the south, with hotter summers, close to the coast with higher wind speeds and salt corrosion considerations or further north in an area where snow and ice are common in the winter?
  • Exposure to UV rays: Signage that has no coverage from direct sunlight can degrade faster than other signs, making it important to pick a signage material that won’t fade quickly during the warmer months.
  • Expectations: Do you need durable signage that will last for several years, or do you require event signage where there is a strong likelihood you will replace your signage for future events with adjusted dates, branding and details?
  • Maintenance: The cleaning and repairs required to keep outdoor signage pristine will vary based on the above, the location and nature of your signage, and the site or business.
  • Budget: While premium materials may offer advantages, it remains important to pick signage consistent with budgetary constraints and that can deliver the augmented visitor experiences you expect.

If you require advice and information about the most suitable signage materials for your business, site, facility, or around which outdoor signage solutions adhere to your budget, the Fitzpatrick Woolmer team is always available to assist.

Professional Outdoor Signage Design Expertise

We recognise that the broad scope of outdoor signage models on offer can make it tricky to make informed decisions, balance cost efficiencies with durability, and ensure your signage presents your brand or attraction in a favourable light.

Here at Fitzpatrick Woolmer, signage is our speciality. We can walk through alternative signage models and displays, discuss the types of signage that are consistent with your branding and compare the costs and features of varied signage materials to ensure you can place your order with confidence.

Please get in touch with the team, give us a call, or submit an enquiry form, and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

Mike Alexander

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