How Does Cold Weather Affect my Sign ?

Cold Temperatures and Signage

How does cold weather affect my sign?  Good question. With temperatures dropping to 5 degrees in Central Virginia tonight, and with cold temperatures across the Commonwealth all week, I thought it would be appropriate to write a short blog about cold temperatures and signage.

Hopefully signs you already have in place were fabricated using materials designed for weather extremes, both cold and hot, but here are a few things you should consider if you are in the process of having new signs made and installed during cold weather:


Big signs that are already in place have deep foundations, so they should be fine in the cold. Make sure smaller signs with posts, columns, or masonry bases are engineered for the height and overall size of your sign structure and have adequate foundations below the frost line, which deepens as you head from the oceanfront to the mountains: 12” in Tidewater, 24” in Northern Virginia and 30” in Harrisonburg, and at least 36″ farther west.

Even small, single or double-post signs like those used for traffic signs and  wayfinding systems should have concrete footers extending below the frost line to prevent unwanted movement that can make them go crooked or crack during freeze-thaw cycles.

If you are pouring a new foundation for a sign, temperatures need to be above freezing during cure time.

Paint and Vinyl Application-

45 degrees Fahrenheit seems to be the magic number for paint and vinyl application. For an enamel paint or vinyl adhesive to properly bind with the surface, surface temperatures are recommended to be above 45 degrees.

Flexible Faces-

On large signs with flex faces (signs larger than 10′ tall or 24′ wide for instance) re-tensioning may become necessary for faces installed during cold weather. To prolong the need for re-tensioning, avoid installations in temperatures under 45 degrees F.

Neon Sign Operation-

Neon gas is bright red when heated inside the neon tube. Red colored neon signs perform fine in the cold. It’s the signs using argon gas that have problems in cold temperatures.  Yellows, blues, greens, and whites will dim or discolor in the cold. This problem can be prevented by retrofitting your neon signs to LED. Not only will you avoid hurting your image, you’ll also save lots of money in power consumption!

Snow, Ice and Road Salt Residue-

Cold weather brings snow and ice.

Salt and road chemicals can deteriorate sign finishes just like they do vehicles. Plus chemical residues on signs look awful. Pay close attention to your monument signage and any other low-profile type signs on your property. After a winter storm, when the temps climb above freezing, consider cleaning off all the road salt. A teaspoon of dish detergent in warm water and a sponge can do miracles. It’s not a bad idea to wax painted metal signage with a high quality auto wax. I recommend a product called Nu-Finish that comes in a bright orange plastic container that’s available at most auto supply stores.

Have a cold day!