How long should a painted sign last?

How long should a painted sign last?

One method that can be used to increase the life of a sign is for the sign to be painted.

In order for the paint to last as long as possible – when referring to signs that means a period of five to seven years – there are three important factors that need to be present.

 1. The substrate – underlying material – must be well prepared

2. A good and appreciate primer must be used, and

3. A good quality paint must be used.

As with every paint job, proper preparation is essential if the paint is to adhere properly and last a long time. Proper preparation beings with cleaning the substrate, then sanding the substrate to ensure adhesion, then cleaning the substrate to ensure the surface is dust free before painting begins.

Once the substrate has been properly prepared the substrate must be primed with the correct primer. The correct primer is essential to ensure adhesion between the paint and the substrate. While not all substrates require primer – some modern paints have mixed in etching properties that work very well on certain substrates, removing the necessity for primer – most signage substrates still do require priming. If the primer is ‘left out’ of the process, there is a very good chance that within a short time of being exposed to the weather, the paint will most likely begin to chip and peal, as can be seen in this photo.

painted signs

Why preparing the sign before painting is essential

Different quality paints do exist, and while good quality paints do cost more than their ‘cheaper’ competitors, there is good reason for that. Generally the better quality paints use better quality pigments which last longer than, so the paint will not fade as quickly as a cheaper paint. The more costly paints also use better quality mixing agents, making them adhere better and they also spread better than cheaper paints.

At SignForce we ‘mostly’ use 2K automotive paint, because it is the most cost effective good paint that is easily accessible. Sometimes we use QD (short for Quick Dry) which is also a thinners based paint, but doesn’t tend to have the life of 2K. The benefit of QD is that, as the name says, it dries quickly – it is touch dry withing an hour versus almost eight hours for 2K.

Unfortunately 2K paint is not environmentally friendly, so newer, more expensive cars are now painted with more environmentally friendly, water soluble paints. At the time of writing this article the cost of the water soluble paints are still excessive when compared to 2K, but it looks that in time, the use of 2K will be replaced by the use of the environmentally friendlier water soluble paints.

While SignForce use 2K paint, ‘enamel’ paint can be used – as can a number of paints that fall between the two. The reason SignForce use 2K is because the pigments tend to last longer and the paint tends to adhere better to more substrates and the various primers. If the primer and paint are not fully compatible the paint may, at worst, bubble immediately, or at best, result in a reduced life of the paint.

While it is possible to get ‘long life’ (five to seven year) vinyl that can be cut, the range of colours is limited. Digital printing does an excellent job of overcoming the limitation of matching colours – as almost any colour can be printed, however, digital prints have a life expectancy of no more than three years. In some instances it is more cost effective to use a digital print and budget to renew the sign in 30 to 36 months, but this is not always the case, as there are times then the cost of refurbishing the sign is substantially more than simply replacing the face – be it because the sign is not easily accessible or because the sign is facing north in the harsh South African sun which burns the vinyl into the substrate so the entire substrate needs to be replaced or because the exchange rate is unfavorable so the print is simply much more three years later than it cost initially.

For cost effective signs that are made to fit your requirements, be that a tight budget or for the sign to last a long time, and sometimes the two at the same time, contact SignForce at either or david          Telephone: +27 11 440 7525