What makes up the cost of a sign?

What makes up a sign’s cost?

This comment could be viewed as a follow up to the article ‘Are All Signs the Same’, because it stems from a similar thought.

Not only are all signs not the same, even when they look the same, the materials used to manufacture the signs can vary extensively.

A client asked me to replace a fallen letter on a sign consisting of a number of cut out letters. He sent me a blurry photo (taken while he was driving past the sign) so I thought it would be best for me to go see exactly what needed to be replaced. I went to the site to take measurements and photo’s, and when on site I touched one of the remaining letters of the sign and it fell off the wall. I subsequently removed the sign to repaint and re-secure it. When I returned it to the factory the first thing that was pointed out to me was that the paint was pealing BECAUSE the Aluminium had not been primed. A simple oversight?

In general the cost of a sign consists of the cost of material plus the cost of labor plus a margin for profit plus a contribution to overheads and such.

While there are a number of factors that contribute to the material cost – one tends to pay more for longer lasting material, material cost is generally 30 – 40% of the final cost of a sign. That said, if the cost of material can be kept down – either by getting larger discounts from suppliers OR by using cheaper material OR by leaving out steps in the process (regardless of the long term consequences), the business can make larger profits.

Sadly the thinking of many (sign) businesses is that they need to sell one level of quality but deliver a lesser quality, and although the material costs are not the largest single contributor to costs, they are the first and possibly easiest to be cut back on, as the sign maker knows that generally, by the time the ‘omission’ has been discovered the guarantee (assuming there is one) would have expired.

While it is possible for oversights to happen in any business – the reasons for oversights varying from lack of supervision to lack of training to lack of time and many more – if the oversight is that, an oversight, then it can and should be chalked up to an avoidable error.

The difficulty for new clients is to determine how often ‘oversights’ happen, and if any necessary re-do’s have been costed into the original quote – if it is not in the original costing the chances are the supplier will never come back.

While oversights can and do happen, even with the best of manufacturers and processes, from the buyers side, while it is almost always tempting to choose the ‘cheapest’ supplier, the buyer should always be aware that when a sign seems like a bargain, as with almost everything in life, there could well be hidden costs that you will only become aware of later, possibly too late.

It can thus be seen that not all signs are necessarily created equal, not all costing methods are the same and not all material inputs are of the same quality. Here are an additional three reasons why sign buyers are encouraged to improve their understanding about the signs they require, and also to stick with sign companies that have a reputation, or at least one with references that can be checked, and one who is known to honour their guarantees. If a sign company is not prepared to offer any guarantee why are you even considering using them?

If you are in the market for professional looking signs that are made using the material that has been quoted, or simply require advice on what signs may best market your business, email arnold@signforce.co.zaor david@signforce.co.za using the subject line: ADVICE PLEASE


Can my sign be installed onto glass?

Can my sign be installed onto a glass surface?

When asked if a sign can be installed against a glass surface, I am always tempted to immediately say YES, signs can be installed onto almost any surface, but I have learned to temper my enthusiasm, as simply saying YES may give the designer, and / or the buyer, incorrect and false hope.

While MOST signs – both internal and external – can be installed against glass, among the factors that need to be considered are the following:

Will the sign be inside or outside?

If outside, will the sign be exposed to rain and direct sunlight?

Will the sign be exposed to water, either from washing or weather?

What look is being sought and material will be used to manufacture the sign?

What is the weight of each element of the sign?

Will the sign be attached to GLASS, or some other clear ‘glass’ like product?

How long is the sign intended to last?

Will the sign be viewed and visible from both inside AND outside of the glass?

While there are a number of excellent adhesives that can fix almost any material to glass, so long as the material being fixed to the glass is not too heavy per square centimeter, certain adhesives will only work indoors, others work best outdoors, and with a number of the adhesives the rear of the sign will look unsightly, while possibly being read backwards. Still other adhesives are so strong that the only way to remove the sign may be to replace the glass, which can become a costly exercise if the glass sheet is very large. My point is there are a number of variable factors that MUST be considered BEFORE a sign is attached to glass.

If the sign is to be located outdoors then the adhesive must be able to sustain weather changes (extreme temperatures) as well as direct sunlight and rain.

Other factors to consider when attaching signs to glass include the size of the sign, especially the area that makes contact with the glass, the weight of the signage element, and the ‘coefficient of change’ of the material of the sign. Simply stated the coefficient of change is the difference in the expansion and shrinking properties of the sign material and the glass, as well as the adhesive, as if the coefficient is too large, the glass is likely to break. For example, if a strip of Aluminium is attached to a glass sheet, and the Aluminium heats up faster than the glass, and the adhesive is too rigid, the Aluminium will effectively pull the glass apart with the pressure points being where ever the aluminium is attached to the glass.

Then same could apply if the material that is attached to the glass is a plastic based product which can be expected to expand a mere 1.6mm over a three meter length when it heats up sufficiently, that expansion could be enough to break the attached glass if the glass expands much faster, or much slower.

As it is with water and electricity, it almost goes without saying that the above comments are even more relevant when water is thrown into the equation of the coefficient of change, especially if the water is in the form of a sudden storm – as is common during the South African Highveld summer afternoons – when the glass and the substrate are already at their warmest, and the sudden cooling of the rain add an additional element to what can be an already pressured ‘relationship’.

When referring to GLASS signs, a lot of people do not necessarily mean glass, but are instead referring to a transparent substance – such as Plexiglas, Acraglas, Ultra High Impact or Perspex, all of which have one property similar to glass – they are transparent – but can often be more easily worked and can have the edges polished to give a clear view. Some ‘plastic glass’ products are resistant to hard knocks – they are not as brittle as glass and will not break on impact and are less likely to suffer from the effects of coefficient of change – but plastic based substrates do tend to scratch more easily, although the scratches can also be more easily worked away.

To sum up, most signs can be attached to a glass backing, but it is important to do your homework before attaching signs to glass, in order to make sure that the adhesive and the sign are compatible and give you the results you intended.

If you are thinking of getting a ‘glass’ sign, a sign attached to glass, are in the market for professional looking signs, or simply require advice on transparent signs, and you wish to get a return on your investment in your sign, act now and email arnold@signforce.co.za or david@signforce.co.za using the subject line: ADVICE PLEASE


SignForce have moved to a new home

SignForce have moved, relocated, transferred…

Exactly 14 years to the day after SignForce moved into our Wynburg, Sandton, premises, we moved to what we expect will be better premises.

Better because, in time, they will help SignForce operate in a more productive, more cost effective manner, which will help us to continue to give you, our wonderful clients, competitively priced signs.

It has take a while to make the move, and has been fairly disruptive, so thank you all for your patience over the past few weeks. We are now settled in so we can once again focus on getting you your quotes, artwork and signs with speed.

Our new premises are a mere 10 (or so) blocks from our old premises, so we are still in the same general area.

Our new address is 51 2nd Street, Kew.

Our existing number 011 444 3331 will continue to work, but will not link to the switchboard which has new numbers.

Our new telephone numbers for the switchboard are:

011 440 7525 and 011 440 7524 as well as 0861 SIGNFORCE or 0861 744 636

Our new fax number is 086 656 3302

If you would like to come visit – and we would love you to, please give us advance notice so we can afford you the level of hospitality we want to, and we know you deserve.

You can find us by clicking here for the link from the facebook map: https://www.facebook.com/SignForceSouthAfrica/page_map