A Comprehensive Guide To Weatherproof Outdoor Signs
By Drew Galvin on October 17, 2023
Are you looking to draw customers’ attention to your business? Or maybe to promote an event to your employees? Your signage not only needs to impress—it needs to stand the test of time.
Ultimately, you want to protect your outdoor signage from weather damage to keep your messaging legible and professional. In this blog, we’re covering the importance of weatherproof outdoor signs for businesses and which materials work best.
Before we review our top 11 weatherproof sign materials, let’s answer some frequently asked outdoor sign material questions.
Outdoor Sign Material FAQs
How Long Does My Outdoor Signage Need To Last?
The lifespan of your outdoor signage depends on a variety of factors. What is the weather like in your area? What is this sign’s intended purpose? After all, a permanent business sign for your storefront should have a different life expectancy than a temporary lawn sign.
As a general rule of thumb, here are the average lifespans of these common outdoor sign materials (though these averages fluctuate depending on your climate):
- Aluminum: 7-10 years
- Aluminum Composite: 5-10 years
- Acrylic or Plexiglass: 5-10 years
- Treated Wood: 3-8 years
- Vinyl: 3-5 years
- Self-Adhesive Vinyl: 3-5 years
- Corrugated Plastic (Coroplast): 1-2 years
- Corflute: 1 year or less
- Colorbond: 1-2 years
- Bubbl-X: 1-2 years
- PVC Board: 5-7 years
Are There Size, Weight, Or Material Requirements For Outdoor Signage?
Always check with your city or county for guidance on specific sign codes and regulations. Most business signs require permits, and certain municipalities regulate signs based on design, location, height, and illumination or brightness.
Other questions to ask yourself when selecting your outdoor sign material are:
- What is my budget for outdoor signage?
- Where will my sign(s) be placed?
- How much outdoor space do I have available?
- What is the wind/weather exposure like in my sign location?
If you are having trouble answering all of these questions right now, that’s okay! There are a lot of different options when it comes to outdoor signage, so let’s explore what some of these look like.
Best Weatherproof Outdoor Sign Materials
Outdoor signs need to be made out of durable, weatherproof materials, but what is the best outdoor sign material? That depends on what you deem most important. Some of the pros and cons of opting for different materials are explained below.
Factors like weather, temperature, and the purpose of your outdoor sign will impact what material you choose. Take into consideration price, durability, versatility, and weather resistance when picking an outdoor sign material. Here are our top 11 recommendations:
It is no secret that metal signs are more durable than plastic. Although steel is sometimes cheaper than aluminum, steel rusts and corrodes more quickly. Aluminum is the cheapest, non-corrosive metal sign material.
Aluminum signs tend to be slightly more expensive than some of the other materials on this list, but this added expense comes with increased durability and longevity.
If you need a sign to perform outdoors for a long period of time, aluminum might be your best option. Most road signs today are made out of aluminum because of their ability to withstand snow, rain, hail, wind, and heat.
Aluminum is also recyclable, making it one of the more environmentally friendly outdoor signage materials.
2. Aluminum Composite
Aluminum composite signs are composed of a pure aluminum outer shell, with an inside that is hollow or filled with foam, plastic, or polymer (e.g. Dibond, Aluminite).
Dibond has a solid polyethylene core sandwiched between thin gauge aluminum on either side. It’s rigid, lightweight, and durable.
Aluminum composite signs are lighter weight and cheaper than aluminum signs. If you are focused purely on longevity and durability, aluminum or aluminum composite sign materials are a smart investment.
3. Acrylic and Plexiglass
Acrylic, or Plexiglass, signs resemble glass but are actually a type of plastic. These signs offer more dynamic aesthetics than aluminum signs, and they are still fairly inexpensive.
Acrylic signs are also semi-translucent, so they make better use of natural light. Lighted cabinet signs and other variations of illuminated signs are often made of acrylic. Reception signage and office signage are some other common places that you may find acrylic signs.
Acrylic can mimic the aesthetic of glass with much better durability and weather resistance. You should not use glass for outdoor signage. However, if you want that polished, glassy look in an outdoor sign, acrylic might be your best option.
4. Treated Wood
While normal wood can be used to make outdoor signs, it will likely rot over time. Well-treated wood makes for a more durable and weather resistant sign option.
Although treated wood is more expensive than regular wood, the cost of replacing regular wooden outdoor signs every time the wood rots makes the treated wood well worth the cost.
Brush or spray paint your wood with polyurethane to protect it. Brushing the wood is fine, but spraying the wood tends to give you a more even coating. You can also use different wood preservative chemicals to treat your wood for protection from severe weather.
Crezon, or crezone, is an example of an exterior grade plywood that is treated and pre-painted white. Crezon is often used in colder climates because it is crack-resistant and can be easily screwed or bolted to sign posts. Billboard advertisements, real estate signs, a-frames, and construction site signs often use crezon.
Vinyl’s popularity stems from its low cost. It is probably the least expensive material you can find for outdoor signage that still holds up against most of the elements.
Although vinyl is not the highest quality material, it is very cost-effective if you don’t need the sign to last for years and years. In the short-term, vinyl might be your best option if you are on a budget.
In particular, fabric flag signs have gained popularity in recent years. These signs can be found at trade shows, event tents, farmers markets, and even on sidewalks outside of commercial businesses.
Their popularity derives from the durable polyester fabric used to make the flag sign, and the ease at which you can customize one or both sides of the flag with your logo, company name, and brand messaging.
Fabric flags can also withstand wind speeds of up to 37 miles per hour, so they are perfect for outdoor use. If you need an eye-catching, wind-resistant, outdoor sign to complement your booth display or stand out on a busy street, a fabric flag sign is a viable option to consider.
6. Self-Adhesive Vinyl
Self-adhesive vinyl, or SAV, is one of the more versatile outdoor signage options. SAV is particularly useful for branding areas with large surface areas like walls or windows.
SAV comes in many different forms. You can even apply SAV to road surfaces. Removable SAV, permanent SAV, clear SAV, and road SAV are just some of the different options available.
7. Corrugated Plastic (Coroplast)
Corrugated plastic (coroplast) is hollow, unlike regular plastic, making it much lighter. Corrugated plastic is commonly used for temporary promotional signs, but generally isn’t durable enough for permanent outdoor business signs.
Political campaign lawn signs, for example, are commonly made out of corrugated plastic. While these signs aren’t necessarily recyclable, there are more eco-friendly ways to dispose of them rather than just throwing them out.
Coroplast is also one of the more economical outdoor signage material options. It’s lightweight, weather resistant, and can last up to 2 years depending on your outdoor weather conditions.
Corflute is lightweight, versatile, and fairly inexpensive. Bollard covers and standees are 2 of the most popular types of outdoor signs created with corflute.
Corflute is also a durable sign material, making it a popular choice for sporting event and festival signage.
Colorbond signs are built to endure inclement weather. This material is often used to make construction signs because of its lightweight and weather resistant nature.
The caveat with colorbond signs is you are not supposed to move them much. If you need signage that moves from place to place, colorbond is probably not the material for you.
Bubbl-X is lightweight and environmentally friendly. It is also blue bin recyclable, making it an excellent choice for businesses that are environmentally conscious and trying to reduce their carbon footprint.
Similar to coroplast in look and feel, Bubbl-X actually offers a smoother surface for more sustainable printing than coroplast. Instead of flutes, Bubbl-X has a core that’s similar to bubble wrap.
This material is waterproof, lightweight, recyclable, and more eco-friendly than other materials on this list.
11. PVC Board
PVC board behaves a lot like wood, but it has a hard, smooth finish that is ideal for printing single or double-sided displays. PVC board can be cut like plywood, but unlike unfinished wood, it is waterproof.
How To Make An Outdoor Sign Waterproof
A lot of outdoor sign materials are already waterproof (e.g., aluminum, aluminum composite, vinyl). However, if you are working with a material that is not already waterproof, there are ways you can still make it suitable for outdoor use. Wood, for example, can be coated in water-repellent paint.
Plastic edge caps are another way you can protect your outdoor signs, particularly against high winds and collisions with other surfaces. Commercial real estate signs, for example, frequently add plastic edge caps onto the acrylic for extra protection.
How Safeguard by Innovative Can Help
If you are having trouble deciding on waterproof outdoor signs, Safeguard by Innovative’s team of experts is here to help. Our team can assist you in the design, creation, and printing of event signage, pull-up banners, pop-up displays, posters, and more.
Whether you need a few signs or many, Safeguard by Innovative is here to help. We serve businesses of different sizes and within various industries. With the decades of experience of our team members, we are able to provide recommendations for outdoor signs and event materials that fit your marketing communication needs, support your business’ goals, and match your budget.