Written by: Nick Hargrove

Director of Clarke Signs Midlands Limited, based in Tamworth, in Staffordshire.

Nick has 36 years’ experience in the sign industry, 26 years spent with one company, before leaving to set up Clarke Signs 10 years ago. During his time in his previous company, he held a number of positions and for the last two years was General Manager of their Maintenance Division, as well as a Key Account Manager

Why Have Sign Maintenance?

Always an emotive subject this. I am always asked why should I bother having maintenance visits to my sign(s), presumably they are manufactured correctly, installed correctly, so shouldn’t need any attention and if they get dirty, I can always ask my window cleaner to have a look.

There are a number of reasons:

  1. Signs are a big investment, the better you look after them, the longer they will last.
  2. They portray your company. Companies pay a lot of money to get designers to design a logo for them. What is worse than having the logo which is looking dirty or tatty? Remember often the first sight that people will see of your business premises and company is the sign. If it is clean and bright, you will look more professional, dull and dirty, will that reflect on how people perceive your business?
  3. If the sign is illuminated, what is worse than seeing a sign which is half out, or has different colour tubing lighting it? It may look clean on the outside, but if there is dirt inside, when illuminated this will reflect through the sign and make it look dull and patchy.
  4. With a proper maintenance visit, by a skilled sign engineer, not only does your sign get cleaned, internally and externally, any illumination faults are picked up and repaired, but key is the security of the sign to the building. The fixings are visually checked and any that look like they need replacement are replaced, thus ensuring the security of the sign to the building – would a window cleaner do this? A skilled sign engineer knows that sometimes it is not the sign itself that might be an issue, but the fixing background. Usually if the sign is installed to a timber fascia or a rendered brick fascia, the timber can rot, the render can fail. Getting a report at the time of a sign maintenance visit, gives the customer advance warning of any potential issues, allowing them time to sort it out before something disastrous happens.

There are two specific instances that spring to mind:

In January 2013 a fascia sign fell down from a betting shop in London and a passer-by was killed. Yes it was strong winds that ripped the sign off the fascia, but was the sign poorly fitted, or was the timber fascia in such poor condition that it could not support the sign? I don’t know and I am not aware if this question has been satisfactorily resolved. What I am sure of though, is had the sign received a maintenance visit from a skilled sign engineer, this unfortunate incident might not have occurred, because these issues may have been picked up in advance and dealt with sooner.

Recently a very large pylon sign blew over in the high winds, thankfully in the early hours of the morning, when no one was around. I am not aware of the reasons for the failure and can only suggest that had the sign received proper, regular maintenance visits, would this have happened? Pylon signs by nature tend to be large, heavy objects, but does anyone ever really think about checking the security of the fixings of the sign to the internal frame, any fixings holding the frame together, or the holding down bolts which are generally mild steel and will corrode and work loose as the sign is flexing in the wind.

When maintenance is being considered, I am often asked at what frequency the signs should be maintained. Some large corporate companies, especially those on the high street, want their image kept at its best all year round, so will have four visits per year, two as an external clean and inspection, two with an internal clean and inspection as well.

If the sign is illuminated, I always recommend at least two visits per year, a full visit in the Autumn, to ensure the sign is fully operational, clean and ready to stand up to the weather thrown at it over the Winter months, then an external visit in the Spring, to make sure the winter elements have not had a detrimental effect to the fixings of the sign and to wash off all the winter muck.

If the sign is non-illuminated, as a minimum it should have a good maintenance visit at least once a year to clean it and inspect the sign fixings and building it is fixed to.

Of course accidents will happen, but by having proper maintenance visits, the risk is dramatically reduced, the company is seen as taking their Health and Safety responsibilities seriously and should anything happen, your insurance company and the Health and Safety Executive should take into consideration the efforts made to ensure the signs are well maintained and fit for purpose.

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