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How do I evaluate a Houston signage proposal?



Evaluating a signage proposal can be tricky, even from a leading Houston Sign company. Since your sign needs are unique, each sign is custom designed, manufactured and installed to your specifications. That makes it difficult to compare apples to apples from the 150+ sign companies registered with the City of Houston.


Here are a eight guidelines to help you navigate the Houston signage waters:


1. Design elements

Signs are artistic expressions of your brand, image and message. Your Houston sign can be different sizes, shapes and styles. Things such as color, font, typography and kerning are important elements. While design is very subjective, makes sure it matches your businesses image, logo and building. Consider your brand’s font and colors and remember a sign’s primary purpose is to communicate to passing motorists. Make it simple, readable and legible. Makes sure there is enough contrast between the background and the lettering. Understand that internally illuminated signs can be seen from a greater distance. And, yes bigger is most often better.


2. Material specifications

Most signs contain the same basic materials – aluminum, steel, acrylic, lighting (LEDs or neon) and vinyl. However, the right material is important to ensure your sign lasts a long time and looks good through the brutal Houston heat and hurricane force winds. Substituting acrylic for aluminum makes sense sometimes and sometimes not. Using pre-finished versus painted aluminum can save money, but may not provide the right look. Finally, all LEDs are NOT equal. Beware cheap LEDs and power supplies that may cause numerous outages and be a service nightmare.


3. Permit and engineering requirements

Almost every sign in Houston, Harris County and surrounding areas requires at least one sign permit (and sometimes two). Each area has different requirements and restrictions depending upon your location, type of sign and other factors. Certain signs also require a Texas stamped engineering drawing. Evaluating these requirements in the Houston area is important to ensure you have the right, structurally sound signs.


4. Warranty

Signs and their components do fail, especially in the Houston heat. But beware, not all warranties are equal. Some Houston sign companies offer a parts warranty only. Some offer parts and labor. Some offer a manufacturer’s warranty. Some warranties are for 1 year, 3 year or 5 years. Some charge extra for warranty, some are included. These create very different implications for the cost of maintaining your signs going forward. In addition, the warranty is only as good as the company standing behind it. There are over 150 sign companies in the City of Houston alone. Make sure you are dealing with one that will be ready to serve you when there is trouble.


5. Additional fees and taxes

In addition to the price of the sign there maybe additional fees and taxes added to your invoice. These can really add up, especially for smaller projects. Evaluating the fees upfront can help you better choose the right Houston sign company. Some examples are Survey Fees, Trip Charges, Permit Fees, Engineering Fees, Permit Procurement Fees and Special Equipment Fees. Know the difference between Sales Tax and New Construction Sales Tax? This may have a big impact on your total sign cost.


6. Production and installation lead times

Once you sign a contract with a Houston sign company how long will it take to get your sign? The answer varies from a several weeks to a several months, depending upon the type of sign and the circumstances involved. Most Houston sign companies won’t start manufacturing your sign until permits and engineering are received. This often a smart decision to avoid any unforeseen issues. Often the larger the sign the longer the lead time. Certain types of signs require heavy custom fabrication which could take may weeks to perform. Installation schedules can be impacted by site readiness, availability of equipment and weather. Choosing a sign company with the right combination of production and installation equipment can greatly reduce your lead time.


7. Payment terms

Payment for a job well done is an essential part of a sign project. Knowing the payment terms can impact your risk and cash flow. Many custom projects require a deposit. Other contracts specify progress payments or periodic payments (like when the manufacturing is completed). Final payment terms can range from 15 days to 45 days.


8. Contract terms

The fine print is art of all contracts. Contracts from Houston sign companies are no different than any other business agreement. They often contain legal language about each party’s responsibilities, liabilities and remedies. In addition to some of the key elements described above, pay attention to language concerning electrical connection, licensing, cancellation, damage clauses and indemnifications.