Frequently Asked Questions

 Road Signs

Q. How long do traffic signs truly last outside?

In practice, most signs last over 10 years outdoors. But, sign durability is a complicated topic!

Signs that face north last longer than sign that face south. Signs subject to constant water (such as dew), tend to fade a bit faster than signs that don’t have the wet-dry cycle. Signs that are made from premium materials, such as 3M High Intensity Grade or 3M Diamond Grade have a longer reflecttive life than signs made from 3M Engineer Grade.

There is also a good deal of variation in our durability is measured. For most applications, a sign is durable if the print is readable and instructions can be read and obeyed. For critical highway applications, a sign is durable only if it’s reflective values are above a certain baseline.

In practice, we have seen refelective traffic signs of ours that still look good after 20 year outside in Florida. In other cases, vandals have taken their toll and the sign is not longer readable.

The cost to install a sign is equal – and in most cases, far greater – than the cost of the sign itself. Adding a few more years of outdoor life make compelling economic sense.

Q. When should I use a Diamond Grade sign? It’s much more expensive.

Diamond grade {“DG”] is best when you need the longest lasting, brightest and most conspicuous sign. Cities also use Diamond Grade signs when there is a good deal of “visual clutter” and they need a sign to stand out against the background.

DG signs are often 2x more expensive than comparable Engineer Grade signs. But, they last much longer. Frankly, many municipal sign suppliers complain that DG signs last TOO long, thereby cutting into sales. One of our customers has their DG traffic signs on a 17-year replacement cycle (in spite of the fact that 3M only warranties these signs for 12 years). The economics of DG signs often come down to installation and lifecycle costs. Give that installation and purchasing costs are often a multiple of the actual sign material costs, many savvy buyers opt for DG.

Q. How are High Intensity and Diamond Grade signs different?

In fact, they are very similar. High Intensity is not as bright and does not have the extended durability of Diamond Grade. High Intensity signs are cheaper. The two films are made in the same manner – yet, High Intensity has small grey bands printed on the underside of the film (and Diamond Grade does not). These bands tend to lower the reflectance. Over time, these bands tend to fade and this means that some High Intensity signs get more reflective over time.

Q. Describe the 3M Matched Component System – and why does this matter?

3M has dominated the traffic sign industry for a generation or two. Others have tried to make inroads, but, to most insiders 3M remains the quality leader. To maintain their reputation and leadership, they insist on control. Control, in turn, tranlsates into a defined set of films, inks, laminates and specifications for the underlying metal substrate. This system of parts is called the 3M Matched Component System.

We are predominately a 3M shop. Quality matters to us and we don’t want to take chances with our long term reputation. As a result, we use 3M and follow their Matched Component System. The pieces are proven to work together and this means the most durable sign possible.

Many competitors, may use 3M films – but an inferior set of inks and lower quality (or no) laminate, often from a disparate set of manufacturers. The components are not matched. We believe that this is a short-sighted approach.

Q. What grade of aluminum is used to make your aluminium traffic signs?

Grade usually implies a hierarchical system in which one grade is superior to another. In aluminum that isn’t really the case. As a result, we talk about types of aluminum. Different types have specific characteristics that are better suited for different applications. In road signs, it’s important to use a rigid alloy that won’t bend easily and have to be replaced.

We offer aluminum signs in two alloys, 5052-H38 and 3105-H191. We carry multiple gauges (thickness) including .040, .063, .080, .100, and .125. All aluminum is processed in-house to better control quality. We flatten, surface treat, cut, punch and radius aluminum coils into road signs, all within our 80,000 square foot production facility. 5052-H38 and 3105H38 are physically very similar in yield and tinsel strength. 3105-H38, however, has a higher content of recycled alloy, whereas 5052 has less.

Q. How deep does the sign post have to be [into the ground]?

Municipal standards often specifity that your install a post two to three feet into the ground. Yet, when you go to the field, most sign posts are actually only buried 18" into the ground. While this is probably okay for most off-street signs (e.g. a Wendy's parking lot), please bury larger signs deeper. 30" stop signs, for example, need to be buried three feet. "The bigger the sign, the deeper the hole".

Q. What’s the best way to install a post and mount a sign?

In Dirt
1. Pick a spot on the side of the street – a 6’ distance from the roadway is common. Mark the spot.
2. Using a sledge hammer, pound the post into the ground. To create leverage, many just stand on the bed of a pickup. Trying to sledge hammer a post from a ladder is a recipe for disaster! Most installers like to use two posts. They start with a 3’ post (that is easy to hammer) and pound this 1.5’ to 3’ into the ground.
3. Fasten the sign to an additional post (for example, a 6’ post). The signs should be applied to the flat part of the u-channel post. This wider side of the U-channel posts gives the sign more stability than a sign attached to the “skinny” part of the post.
4. Attach one bolt from one post to the other, leaving an overlap of three holes. Swing the larger post upright. A second bolt than then be applied. Ideally, the bottom of your sign should be 7’ off of the ground. Choose a post (or a combination of posts) that get you to this height.

In Concrete
1. Create a form in the concrete with a 6” PVC pipe. Pour the concrete (say for your sidewalk or median strip) around this.
2. Once set, insert a post into the PVC form and pack graphic or sand around the post. Typically, this in-ground portion of the post will be short: 3’ or 4’. This smaller post piece should be 1.5-2’ into the ground. The bottom of your sign should give you, at least, 7’ of clearance from the ground to the bottom of the sign.
3. Then, overlap this in-ground post with a taller post and this, typically, is a 6’ or 8’ post. Then follow the steps 3 and 4 above.

We also offer a series of flexible posts that can be lag-bolted into asphalt or concrete.

Q. Are more signs better?

Yes, and no! Signs should only be placed as necessary for safety and proper regulation of traffic. The use of too many signs in a given area can reduce the effectiveness of other signs in that location. But, signs are also advertisement for safe driving. And, like any good advetising campaign, repetition helps drivers remember (and obey) your traffic instructions.

Q. What is the difference between Engineering Grade and Engineering Grade Prismatic?

Engineering Grade [“EG”] and Engineering Grade Prismatic [“EGP”] sheeting have the same initial brightness but are made from different materials. Engineering Grade sheeting uses a glass bead technology. Glass beads are coated on one side by vaporized aluminum to make them reflective. Then, they are embedded in transparent plastic. Beaded sheeting has been used for about 50 years and is the original retroreflective material.

EGP is a newer technology and uses microscopic plastic prisms to reflect light back towards its source. EG and EGP give similar outdoor durability.

Q. What is VIP reflective sheeting and is it still available?

VIP Sheeting stands for Visual Impact Performance Sheeting. Originally, only LDP Sheeting (which stands for Long Distance Performance Sheeting) was available. LDP Sheeting was highly effective at reflecting light from far away, but was less effective at reflecting light from sources nearby. Competitors criticized LDP Sheeting for not being effective in cities, where distances are relatively short compared to highways. As a result, 3M came out with VIP Sheeting, which is good at reflecting light from sources nearby. Recently, however, they came out with DG^3 which uses a changed prismatic technology to reflect light back at all distances, thus making VIP and LDP less popular and, for many observers, VIP and LDP signs obsolete.

Q. What is the difference between Fluorescent Yellow-Green and Fluorescent Yellow reflective traffic signs?

Fluorescent Yellow-Green is most common and is used for school and pedestrian crossings, school buses and building evacuation notices.
Fluorescent yellow-green

Florescent Yellow signs can be used for any standard warning signs (e.g. bicycle warning, pedestrian crossing, playground signs). It is not nearly as common. By day, the fluorescen yellow is not as conspicuous as fluorescent yellow-green. At night, though, both fluorescent colors for diamond grade reflective signs, are very, very bright.
Fluorescent yellow

Q. Why are your signs laminated?

3M now recommends that signs have a laminate. There is no questions that a laminate protects the graphics. Recent research into sign durabilty has found that most damage for a sign occurs with successive wet-dry cycles. Strangely, a sign in the blazing sun of a dry desert may last longer than a sign exposed to daily dew / sunlight cycles that might occur in a coastal area.

A laminate also provides protection against abrasion and vandals.

For these reasons, we laminate most traffic signs- even though this is more costly. For enhanced durability, we recommend 3M POF film. POF film has a slight upcharge.

Q. What is the meaning of Flourescent Orange traffic signs?

Fluorescent orange is used for construction and temporary warnings. Examples are road construction, a detour or lane closed ahead. Fluorescent orange is common for logging, roll-up and slow zone ahead signs.
Fluorescent orange

Q. What are the meanings for different traffic sign colors? And how are these different from safety sign colors?

A sign’s color has an immediate impact on how your read the sign’s message. Here are the most common traffic sign color meanings:
Traffic Signs

Stop, Do Not Enter, Wrong Way, Caution, Yield, No Parking
Red Traffic Sign Red Do Not Enter Traffic Sign Red Wrong Way Traffic Sign Red Yield Traffic Sign Red No Parking Traffic Sign

Road Construction, Slow, Detour, People at Work
Orange Road Construction Traffic Sign Orange Slow Traffic Sign Orange Detour Traffic Sign Orange Man at Work Traffic Sign

Hazardous Areas, School and Pedestrian Crossing, Supplemental Speed Limit, Striped Chevrons, Turn Signs
Yellow Hazardous Sign School - Pedestrian Crossing Sign Yellow Striped Chevrons Yellow Turn Sign

Reserved Parking, Go Ahead, Bike Lanes, Street Signs, Directions, Distances to a Destination
Green Reserved Parking Sign Green Bike Route Sign Green Street Sign Green Direction Sign

Hospital, Parking Directions, Ice Alert, Disabled Parking
Blue Hospital Sign Blue Parking Sign Blue Ice Alert Sign Blue Disabled Parking Sign

Black on White:
Speed Limit, Regulatory
Black on White Speed Limit Sign Black on White Regulatory Sign

Safety and Property Signs
Danger, Exits, Alarms, Do Not Enter,

Red Safety Danger Sign Red Exit Sign Red Alarms Sign Red Do Not Enter Sign

Warning, Biohazard
Orange Warning Sign Orange Biohazard Sign

Caution, Wet Floor, Hazardous Areas
Yellow Caution Sign Yellow Wet Floor Sign Yellow Hazardous Areas Sign

Recycle Instructions, Safety First
Green Recycle Instructions Sign Green Safety First Sign

Safety Notices, Restrooms, Hygiene Instructions
Blue Safety Notices Sign Blue Restrooms Sign Blue Hygiene Instructions Sign

Q. How high should traffic signs be?

In general, the federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) controls traffic sign placement. The following graphic is a good summary of common sign-mounting requirements. For more details, see the MUTCD.

Q. Must traffic signs be reflective?

They must be reflective or otherwise illuminated. Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices § 2A.07 says, "Regulatory, warning, and guide signs and object markers shall be retroreflective ... or illuminated to show the same shape and similar color by both day and night, unless otherwise provided in the text discussion in this Manual for a particular sign or group of signs."
Must traffic signs be reflective?

Q. What is the MUTCD?

The federal highway manual, the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, was written in 1935, and was meant to standardize road signage and make those uniform. Signage gradually evolved through a combination of experience and research; by 1961, signage had largely evolved into its modern form.
Since then, relatively minor changes have occurred. These include the introduction of orange as a construction color in the 1970’s, and more recent changes to reflect new urban planning fashions, in particular, signage for bicycle, light rail, and pedestrian crossings.
What is the MUTCD?

Q. What does a No Pedestrians sign mean?

No Pedestrian signs mean that pedestrians are not allowed in a particular area, or that no pedestrian crossing is allowed at that point. sells a wide variety of no pedestrian signs.
What does a No Pedestrians sign mean?

Q. What does a No U-Turn sign mean?

A "No U-turn" sign means that taking a 180-degree turn to reverse direction is forbidden.
What does a No U-Turn sign mean?

Q. What is Engineer Grade reflective?

Engineer grade retroreflective signs are coated by a glass-bead sheeting made by 3M that provides good nighttime visibility. As of the most recent revision to the MUTCD, Engineer Grade signs cannot be used for warning signs, but can still be used for signs with white, green, and red backgrounds. While the least expensive option, they are also the least durable option we offer, with a service life generally ranging from 7-10 years. They are cheaper upfront, but our other reflective grades may offer a lower total lifecycle cost.
What is Engineer Grade reflective?

Q. What is High Intensity reflective?

High Intensity grade retroreflective signs are coated with non-metalized microprismatic reflective sheeting that makes them both more durable and more reflective than our Engineer Grade line of signage. High Intensity signs' microprisms make them easier to see from an angle than Engineer Grade signage.
What is High Intensity reflective?

Q. What is Diamond Grade reflective?

Diamond Grade signs offer ten times better reflectivity than Engineer Grade signs, and they have superb durability. Diamond Grade signs use full cube retroreflective prisms for first-class reflectivity and are warrantied for 12 years. They are most effective in dense areas with many light sources, because they stand out among visual clutter. Diamond Grade signage even comes in fluorescent orange, yellow-green and yellow.
What is Diamond Grade reflective?

Q. When should I use Fluorescent traffic signs?

Fluorescent signs began as a way to protect vulnerable construction workers, children on the way to and from school and pedestrian crossing notices. Over time, however, the hard-to-miss conspicuity of fluorescent signs found their way into other critical applications, such as evacuation instructions, slow down warnings and child at play signs.

All fluorescent signs excel at both dawn and dusk, the most frequent times for accidents to occur. The principle behind these fluorescent signs is that they “borrow wavelength” from both sides of the color spectrum and then concentrate the light you actually see in the narrow wavelength of that particular color. Fluorescent orange, for example, is brighter than standard orange in that the fluorescent sign takes some of the light energy from the yellow and red wavelength and then returns to this your eye as orange.

Q. How thick are street signs?

Standard street signs are 0.080" ("80 mil") thick. Our novelty street signs, and signs intended to be used as gifts, are 0.060" thick, but we can make novelty signs as thin as 0.040".

Q. What is POF coating?

POF coating, made by 3M, is a laminate that can be added to your signs at the factory. POF coating adds a layer of protection to your signage, and makes it resistant to UV, graffiti and abrasions. With POF coating, even dried spraypaint is easy to remove from your signage with a little acetone and some elbow grease!
Road Signs

Q. How can I enforce speed limits on our private property?

You can enforce speed limits on private property by posting appropriate signage. The federal guidelines for sign mounting are a good place to start, because they're designed to notify motorists in a clear fashion.