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Friday, September 25, 2015 by Elizabeth Maxwell


Summer may be a time for cookouts, pool parties, and the beach, but while you are looking forward to warm weather, your business signage is dreading it. Sun and heat will damage anything left outdoors for an extended period of time. Being in the sign business for 39 years means that we have some very old signs out and around Asheville, and like anything left outdoors, they will start to show their age after a while.

During the past several weeks we have refurbished two different kinds of signs. Perhaps the additional heat of the summer had something to do with it; according to Time Warner Cable News, “this summer in North Carolina … the temperature data from the Southeast Regional Climate Center for June through the first week of August shows the summer of 2015 in is the top 10 hottest summers on record for several cities.” Ouch!

One of the signs we refurbished was for Ravenscroft Suites in downtown Asheville. It was only three years old but had extensive damage due to several conditions: It was a routed face, not sandblasted, so it had a lot of flat surface area to absorb maximum solar radiation. Secondly, it was painted a very dark chocolatey- black (the darker colors absorb more heat; if you’ve ever stepped on black-top parking lot in full sun you know what I mean). Third, it faces south-southwest with no shade, so all day long and into late afternoon it absorbs the notoriously harsh western sun.

We glued cedar splines into the cracks and used catalysed fillers in knot holes that had opened up from the heat. Then we sanded, primed and painted, and when we were done, a striking new-looking sign reappeared. The next three years won’t see this kind of damage, as the majority of shrinking and moving is done. Another refurbishment several more years down the road will accomplish this same miracle.

The second sign we restored is in south Asheville for Dawnwood Condominiums. Interestingly, the sandblasted (cedar-color) background looks nearly perfect, even after the 15 years since we initially put it up. Along the top edge of the black border, the paint was peeling, and the full-color mountain/lake rendering had faded. Restoring this one was much easier. After priming and fresh paint the sign looked good as new once again.

Although wood signs will benefit from an initial servicing as described here, no synthetic or HDU (high density urethane) sign will ever have the character of a real wood sign. HDU signs come with their own set of problems. They are susceptible to acid rain, paint will still fade, and they lack the integrity of real wood: a wood sign is much more likely to survive an impact than a synthetic sign. It has occurred to me that while you can have panels made from wooden boards or HDU, I have yet to see a house made from HDU … wonder why.


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