Factors to consider when installing temporary signage

Temporary Outdoor Hardware Checklist

Note the word “temporary” in the title. It’s a pliable word, one which means different things to different people. Some hear it (or read it) and think, “One day!” Others drag it on for years, as a sign once meant to hang for a few months crumbles to the ground though the customer refuses to see.

This may be the most important element of a temporary sign program: the definition of temporary. “When the customer says it’s a temporary sign, it’s mandatory to ask what their interpretation of temporary really is,” says Dave Harris, vice president of ImageOne Impact, Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.

Adjustable fiberglass pole-banner.

Adding Value and Defying Mother Nature

Your definition of temporary as a sign and graphics provider is likely based on the materials used for the sign, whether it’s a fabric, a scrim banner material, a display film or vinyl lettering. The hardware used to install and hang the sign should follow suit; in other words, temporary hardware for temporary signs. It’s obvious, yet not so obvious to those who peer through from the outside looking in to our industry.

Once the definition is established and agreed upon, Harris says the next question is how the customer would like to install the sign. The customer may or may not have ideas about the hardware and methods to use, but either way it’s an opportune time to bring your value to the table by leveraging the value of your outdoor sign hardware vendor.

“One of the first questions a sign shop should ask a customer is how you’re going to hang it. Even with a promotional sign, something as simple as a corrugated sign that will be up for a weekend event, the question is how you’re going to hang it,” says Harris. “For the cost of a short term sign they may not want to pay the sign shop to install it, but that doesn’t mean the sign shop can’t make money from selling the hardware. You’ll never get that additional sale if you don’t ask, ‘How are you going to hang it?’”

ImageOne Impact offers this Fiberglass Double Pole Banner Kit, as well aluminum and spring-pole banner kits, for mounting banners to poles.

Hardware for temporary outdoor use comes in a myriad of shapes, sizes and configurations. The permutations are almost endless, thus far too numerous to list here, not to mention that each is specific to the application. The point is that a good vendor will point you in the right direction based on the criteria of the project.

Suffice it to say that outdoor hardware is typically designed with wind and weather in mind. Therefore, whatever the solution—from A-frame hardware and corrugated bracket hardware to banner stands, banner tracks for walls and “flying” banners account for this with the use of straps, stakes, sandbags, bases you fill with water and whirligigs that allow the banner to move with the wind.

Photo courtesy Orbus

For instance, ImageOne Impact offers everything from a plastic bracket for corrugated plastic signs to aluminum banner tracks that can be installed on a wall, either indoors or out. 

“It has a top and bottom rail, which gives the sign buyer a way to change out those banners very quickly and easily. It also promotes change-outs. You mount the banner track to the wall and every week or season they can swap out that banner on the wall and it’s done simply with a thumb screw system,” says Harris.

Once again, it all comes back to finding the right fit—both for budget and application—for the hardware, and ensuring that you’re visible throughout the process as a valuable consultant. 

“The sign shop can dramatically improve their value to that event planner with both setup and tear-down, because an event planner has to manage all those logistics and any help they get is a bonus,” says Harris. “Some sign shops will create these barricade style A-frames and lease them to the event. This way they set them up for the event and then go pick them up and they have all the A-frames back and they can make new graphics for the next event. That’s great additional income for a shop that’s really thinking on their toes. With an event planner, I would encourage any sign shop to ask how they can help with setup and tear-down and help plan for any weather contingencies.”

The Tag-It Bracket and Wall Mount Bracket Kit are two of many different mounting application hardware from ImageOne Impact. The Tag-It Bracket can be used as a wall mount or to a post.

Regulations and Time

Another important factor to keep in mind, as with just about any outdoor sign installation, is local regulations. It’s an easy point to overlook since sign codes are usually associated with permanent outdoor installations, but jurisdictions across this great land can be just as regulation-happy with temporary signs, if not more so, than they are with permanent installations.

“Some towns have different regulations about what can be outside, for how long and where they can be installed,” says Patrick Carrig, director of sales for Orbus Exhibit & Display Group, Bolingbrook, Ill. “For example, in certain locations, stake-based signs can be presented during limited hours of the day or you may not be allowed to stake a sign in the ground at all. Most of Orbus’ outdoor hardware products have water/sand-fillable bases so you can easily get around those permits. Orbus offers units you can stake in the ground, which is a more secure way to ensure your signs stays in place, but most of Orbus’ outdoor hardware products also include water and sand-fillable bases as well.”

Photo courtesy USA Signs

Carrig adds that beyond wind and rain, temperature is also a weather factor to keep an eye on since all kinds of materials like to expand and contract. Temperature change is most likely to affect the graphics, especially vinyl, but if you use water in the base and it gets below freezing it will crack the plastic base. Then, when it gets warm, all the water drains out. Sand is an option that withstands all types of temperatures.

Transportability, says Carrig, is another value you can add to an outdoor sign program. 

“Many of Orbus’ units come with storage/carry bags so they can be easily stored and taken to the next event. The same display can be used in many different applications, and indoors as well, because our standard indoor displays stay under eight feet tall,” Carrig says. “If there is an opportunity to go taller than eight feet, Orbus offers a series of outdoor flag systems that go up to 16 feet high.”

For the seemingly ubiquitous street banners that hang across Main Streets far and wide heralding various festivals and special events, there are a number of ways to secure them. Greg Beatty, owner of USA Signs in Holland, Pa., who’s been installing signs of all types for the past 24 years, usually strings aircraft cable from pole to pole with turnbuckles at either end. He puts snap hooks in the grommets, hooks it up like a shower curtain and draws them tight at the four corners, and “it seems to last forever,” he says.

Spring Load Pole Banner Kits from ImageOne Impact come in double-pole and single-pole configurations. Orbus Displays’ Blast Multi-Flag Outdoor Flag Stand can offer up to five flag graphics, extending up to a full 19’ 8” high.

Beatty came up with a unique system for pole banners, called the Magnetic Banner System (MBS) after suffering through lengthy installs.

“We were putting up 25 pole banners and I was thinking there has to be a better, faster way to install them. I charge by the job, not the hour, so I was looking for a better way to do these installations. I used to hold one banner with my chin and the other with my elbow while I was securing the straps, and this makes it a lot easier. That’s where I came up with the idea for a hands-free bracket, which cuts install time by a third. I came up with a magnetic bracket because it saves so much time during installation, and it gives it extra security,” says Beatty. “We started with double-sided tape to hold it in place while we put the straps on. I grabbed my torpedo level that has a magnet on it and stuck it to the pole. I started researching magnets and worked with an engineer to come up with the bracket. It never touches the pole; it’s just the full force of the magnet and if the magnet fails it won’t affect the aluminum straps holding it to the pole. It helps with the install, making it hands-free and it’s a double security system.”