This article was contributed by Bernard Hibbs, of Clover Signs.
Clover Signs hand crafts beautiful house signs. www.cloversigns.co.uk 0800 534 5715
Having already been around for half a billion years, stone signs are hard to beat for durability. The most commonly used types of rock are Marble, Granite, and Slate. Marble and Granite can look quite elegant, but do not have much scope for artwork beyond simple line drawings. Any sculpture in these signs would, of course, be extremely costly. Slate has its own distinctive appearance which is also popular despite being again not suitable for sculpture. If gilding is desired, these signs should be hand carved for maximum effect. Sandblasting, though less expensive, creates a rounded groove, with inferior reflective quality.
These signs are usually made of Aluminium, Iron, or Brass. The unique cast look can be quite appealing but these signs are not long lasting. Brass tends to tarnish and corrode after a few years, as does Iron. Also, artwork on these signs is generally restricted to a motif chosen from a gallery. Although poorly suited for custom decoration since individual artwork would require a custom mould, these signs do remain popular due to their traditional appearance.
Ceramic signs give a very traditional feel, though there is little scope for carving or sculpting, hence they can look a little flat. These signs tend to last very well once mounted. Care must be taken not to crack the sign in the mounting process, or by dropping it prior to mounting.
Plates, similar to those made of Stainless Steel or Brass, can be used where a more modern look is desired. They are best suited for indoor or business applications, but can also be used for house signs. Light and inexpensive, but will not generally last more than a few years when exposed to the elements. Again restricted to simple designs with less opportunity for sculpture.
Traditionally made of Wood, these signs allow for the most creativity in terms of painting and sculpture. Western Red Cedar is most common although Cherry and Oak are also used along with a range of darker tropical woods. Wood requires regular maintenance and repeated coats of varnish or paint. More recently developed synthetic materials, notably High Density Urethane (HDU), have been extremely successful, allowing the same quality and craftsmanship coupled with a much greater weather resistance.
Consider matching your sign to the architectural style of your building. A country cottage would seem incomplete without its traditional stone or hand carved wood. A Victorian town house might be far better suited to a cast sign. Any sign maker or designer should be able to advise on what sort of sign best suits your building’s particular style.
Whether your sign is to fit in, or to stand out, it is worth taking a look at the other signs around your house. It may be that a certain type of sign has become the standard in your area, in which case a similarly styled sign might be appropriate. In other instances, you may want your sign to make a statement, breaking the local monotony, and adding a creative touch. Don’t forget that, in addition to complimenting the appearance of the locality, your sign will give your house its own character, and should be unique.
What would you like your sign to do? If aesthetically pleasing, a house sign will always be a good investment. A study by the Telegraph suggests that the right sign can even add to the market value of your house. However, perhaps the sign should have a special significance to you. A custom job, with a picture of your pet, or your favourite storybook character can be invaluable to your family. If buying a sign as a gift, consider what quirky or humorous subject might remind them and you of good times past, or draw a smile in years to come.
Choose a company that offers a free design service. Your sign will be highly visible; it needs to be done professionally, and you need to be sure it is just right. Trained designers will be able to convert your ideas into a true work of art. Ask for a full-scale colour printout that you can hold in place to get an accurate idea of how the sign will look. Do not be put off if the initial cost is higher than you expected. A sign is an investment, and you will get what you pay for. A sign that you will have for the rest of your life is worth a few quid at the start.
Before you make a final decision, find out how long your sign can be expected to last. If looking for gold lettering, ensure that your product will be gilded using genuine gold leaf rather than gold paint. Gold leaf of over 23½k has far superior finish to any paint and will last much better, keeping its shine for half a century or more. Similarly, for silver letters look for Palladium, a rare metal (more valuable than gold) with excellent weather resistant properties. Paintwork done in good quality acrylics will last for many years, whereas other paints may fade or crack.