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What You Need To Know About Lighted Monument Signs

Monument signs are a staple sign for every business. You’ll see them at the road side in front of or near the business’s building. While they are a staple sign, they are not one-size fits all. Every monument sign can be unique and one way to do that is your choice of lighting.

What is a lighted monument sign?

Let’s start by defining what a monument sign is. A lighted monument sign is a sign that is a marker on the side of a road typically that shows either the name of a subdivision and which is lighted in some fashion.

notify people about events happening at your store | Coming Soon sign for Good Deeds
This brick monument sign for Good Deeds includes a digital message board.

It could show the name of a church. It could show the name of a shopping center with multiple tenants on it. Or it could show one commercial building with just that one commercial business’ name on it.

But, in general, they are on the side of the road; they are lighted, and they give an advertisement for whatever that building is that is off of the road.

Designing A Lighted Monument Sign

The monument sign design process is a pretty simple process. The first thing we do is we determine from the customer where they want the sign, what lot they want it on, what side of the street they want it on – what they’re looking for from a location standpoint.

Sign Permitting

Once we know the location, then what we can do is we can go ahead and search the codes of the individual jurisdictions to see what type of a monument sign can we have.

There are different jurisdictions and different setbacks. For an example, in Sandy Springs, you can have two monument signs if you’re an apartment complex; however, they have to be over 450 feet apart. So if you have an apartment complex that the road frontage is less than 400 feet, that really means you can only have one. You really have to be careful about the codes and find creative ways to design the sign to meet the codes.

Another example is Gwinnett County. In Gwinnett County, when you’re building a monument sign you have to build it to withstand a 180-mile per hour wind. It has got to be engineered that way. Why? So that it can withstand a EF3 – EF4 tornado.

This subdivision sign for Country Walk in Powder Spring, GA.
This subdivision sign for Country Walk in Powder Spring, GA.

Buford, located in Gwinnett County, is a little bit different as well because Buford insists that the entire sign panel itself be surrounded by stone.

So, again, all these different nuances will determine how we design the sign.

The Desired Look

Also, from a design process what the customer is trying to do, are they trying to look rustic, colonial, modern? We get that kind of information from the customer to see what’s going on.

A lot of times we try to mimic the architecture of the building the monument sign is advertising. For instance, a subdivision monument sign will be patterned off of the motif of the subdivision homes.

Sign Visibility

Your monument sign should be as visible as needed and as is possible. How far away should a sign typically be visible?

As far as is possible given the design, copy area, and jurisdiction requirements. When designing signs, we give special consideration to the copy area – the area that has the words on it – so that it is as big as possible.

KEC Realty Monument Sign Project
We built this monument sign with tenant panels for KEC Realty to increase business visibility for their tenants.

Obviously, from a business standpoint, the businesses like it seen as far away as possible. So, if you think about a grocery store shopping center – a Kroger, a Publix, a Safeway,  an Ingles, etc. – they have a very large monument sign that are 35-40 feet tall with their name at the top of it. Depending on what jurisdiction they are in, those signs are a little bit further off of the right away so they can be that tall.

So, a lot of the design process is trying to maximize how far away that monument sign can be seen from.

Different businesses will want different levels of visiblity. A shopping center wants high visibility but if you’re a subdivision you may not need to be seen that far away, because you’re not really advertising. It’s just basically a marker for people who are coming into your subdivision.

So, from a visibility standpoint, we always try to defer to the codes and to what the customer is trying to do.

Sign Lighting

Now there are many different lighting options for a monument sign. Lighting a monument sign can increase the visibility at a distance. We can break the lighting options into two categories – external lighting and internal lighting.

External Lighting

Foamcraft Monument Sign for North Atlanta Church of Christ
The new monument sign we built for North Atlanta Church of Christ is lighted by external landscape lights.

External lighting, think of it as landscape lighting. It’s external lights that are shining onto the sign. So, there’s no actual light structure on the inside of that monument sign, but it’s indirect lighting from the outside of it.

It can either come up from the bottom or we’ve also seen where people have lights that are gooseneck lights that come down over the monument sign and light it up that way.

Internal Lighting

The other option is internally-lighted signs. When you look at internally-lighted signs, you really look at two types of signs.

One is a typical light box, which has LEDs or fluorescent lights on the interior of the box with acrylic faces on the exterior of the box that have tenant name panels on it.

Illuminated Acrylic Letters At Night For St. Lawrence Church
Saint Lawrence Catholic Church has an internally lighted monument sign to increase their visibility.

Or you have push-through acrylic, which are really more for permanent type buildings like churches.

What materials can be used to make monument signs?

Now from designing and making a monument sign, there’s many different materials. So, the traditional monument sign is made with brick and mortar, whether it be red brick or some type of stone or things like that. That’s the typical material they use for a monument sign.

However, there are a lot of monument signs that are just made from metal. So, they’re fabricated aluminum or steel and they’re just made of metal and they have no stone component to it. Also, from a lighting standpoint you typically have an aluminum light box with LED or fluorescent lighting in it.

One of the newer technologies that has been used a lot, specifically in subdivisions and with churches is what we call foam craft. It is a hardened foam that is faux brick, faux stone. It can look like brick. It can look like stone. It’s about a third of the weight and about a third of the cost. So, a lot of people are deferring to these faux monument signs as opposed to the real deal stone and brick that you have to have a mason or someone with that kind of experience to build.

How much does a monument sign typically cost?

There are several factors that determine what that is.

The first one is the size of the sign. Obviously, the larger the sign, the more material that is needed for it. So, if you go from a smaller sign to a larger sign. The signs I talked about earlier, like the Kroger shopping center signs, 35-feet tall, those run upwards of six figures. A monument sign of for a subdivision made out of foam that we talked about earlier could be as low as $3500 to $5000.

Again, size, materials, lighting. Those are the three things that really determine what the cost of the monument sign is going to be.

What kind of maintenance and repair work would be necessary for a monument sign?

From a maintenance and repair standpoint, there’s not a lot. A permanent sign, like a monument sign typically does not need a whole lot of maintenance or repairs, especially for the first couple of years that it is being used.

If you have a lighted sign, you may have to replace bulbs. You may have to change out ballast. You may have to pressure wash the sign to keep it cleaner. You may need repairs if something damages the sign, like a weather event or someone crashing into it.

Businesses do have the need to periodically update their signs.

Now, there’s a lot of different monument signs that we’ve talked about, but the typical one that is easy for a business to change out the name is a light box with multiple tenant panels.

Those tenant panels are made of acrylic, and they slide in and out of the sign. So, you can slide out the sign that says Great Clips, and you can slide in the sign that says Sports Clips. It’s an easy change on the monument sign. It’s pretty cost effective. You’re not building a new monument sign or anything else like that.

I talked about earlier the push for acrylic signs. Those really are almost impossible to change, because you have to change the entire structure of the sign. We see those types of signs that are used typically with businesses or churches that are not going to change their name.

550 Abernath Apartment Homes Monument SignSt. Lawrence Catholic Church is a great example. 550 Abernathy Apartment Complex is a good example of what we use. But the monument signs that need to have their business names updated, they typically use the acrylic panel system.

How can we conserve energy with our signs?

As far as energy conservation, we like to recommend LED lights. LED lights are extremely cost effective, and they are a lot brighter and draw a whole lot less energy than the typical fluorescent bulbs that have been light box monument signs forever.

So, when we see an older sign we either try to convince the owner to convert it to an LED sign, which the cost of the conversion is paid back over 12 months, because of the lower cost of operation of the LED.

Solar lights are also used, but the technology on solar lights is not such at this point in time, and it makes good economic sense for an interior lighted sign. It does work, however, for the exterior indirect lighted signs.

So, using LEDs and solar lights is a cost effective way. Fluorescent bulbs are really going the way of the dinosaur because of the fact that they do draw so much energy, and when they fail they have not only the bulbs, they have wiring and bellus, which are fairly expensive to be able to replace.

How is working with a business, a church, and a HOA different?

Now, there’s a lot of differences between working with a developer who has a shopping center or a business versus a church or a homeowner’s association. So, we’ll take each one here separately.

Signage for HOAs

When you’re dealing with a homeowner’s association, you’re typically working with a homeowner’s association management company. Those management companies are gathering bids for different signs for the subdivision.

Subdivision Monument Signage for Summer GroveSo, they’ll typically give you an idea of what they’re looking for. What you’re trying to do with homeowner’s association is to create a vision of how that looks from a subdivision.

So, it’s very important for us to go out and to look at the subdivision so we get an idea of what kind of houses are in that subdivision.

For example, I personally just moved into a new subdivision that all the houses are brick and stone. So, obviously the monument sign at the entrance of our subdivision is brick and stone.

So, again, working through the management company, it’s one of those things where they do it annual, because they have annual budgets. So, you may put a bid out for a project that you may not see come to fruition for 12 months. So, that’s from an HOA standpoint what you’re looking at.

Signage for Churches

From a church standpoint, you know it’s working with the church org. You work with a church organization with volunteers and religious and things like that gets to be pretty difficult navigating the decision by committee process, but at the end of the day, they just want to make sure they go ahead and get their name visible.

We’ve done several churches in the area, and they’re really looking more towards brand recognition.

There’s a lot of churches out there that are also going with changeable electronic message boards to announce their services and their programs and stuff like that. We don’t see a whole lot of that, but we have seen that in the past.

Signage for Businesses

Now, with a business, again we try to match what the building that we’re building the sign for looks like and try to match either the brick color or the motif, the roof. Is it aluminum? Things like that, trying to make it blend in to the overall look of the building and the property itself.

We are your one-stop shop for all your signage needs.

Pinnacle Custom Signs is your one-stop shop, and the question some people have is what sets us apart when it comes to monument signs is that we take it from initial contact of the customer saying I need a monument sign through the site surveys, the permitting, the design, the fabrication and the install. It is a true turn-key operation with Pinnacle, and we pride ourselves in being able to get the customer to walk all the way through from the initial contact until the finished product.