The sinage marketplace is competitive! Consequently, some companies are going to focus on price and neglect quality. To complicate the situation, companies that produce stock vinyl banner material offer a bevy of different materials based on weights/thickness, color, reflective properties, ink absorption properties, etc. Take a gander at just one description of one type of banner from a leading manufacturer's website: http://www.averygraphics.com/pls/avery/avery_ext_util.display?p_name=JUPITER_13_OZ_BANNER.PDF
It is not surprising that consumers get overwhelmed (sign makers too).
I will try to keep things simple and cut to the chase. The consumer needs to weigh price versus use. For example, if you are looking for an indoor banner, keep the weight to 10 oz. I also recommend hems (sewing the banner so it will be reinforced) and grommets (metal rings placed about every two feet on the banner ? usually only on the top and bottom) to make sure the banner is supported sufficiently when hung. But there are caveats. I know some business men and women that use their company trade show banner over and over again as needed. In this case, a 10 oz banner will not be able to handle the continuous wear and tear resulting from rolling it up, packing, etc. I strongly recommend a 13 oz banner for these situations.
Outdoor banners must contend with the elements. Not only does this include storms but also the everyday pounding from the sun and wind. Different parts of the country have different variations in the elements which must be considered. The sign industry was booming here in Florida after the 2004 hurricane season. The only common sense thing to do when a hurricane is approaching is to take your outdoor banner down! Make contingency plans to be able to take your banner down quickly and easily when any major storm is approaching (I suggest twine on the four corners or rope on the top and bottom so the sign can be untied quickly).
For most purposes, a 13 oz banner will do fine for outdoor use, but make sure it has hems (double hem) and grommets. If it is digitally printed, you may want to have the sign laminated. If cheap inks are used, their life expectancy will be diminished substantially. Make sure your sign company uses top quality UV inks. You can generally expect 2 to 3 years from digitally printed signs without lamination and an additional 2 to 3 years with lamination. The sun is the enemy here and inks will eventually fade. Lamination helps protect the fading.
If you are in a traditionally windy area (e.g., Chicago or the northwest) or you have an exceptionally large banner (greater than 10 sq. ft.) you have to consider wind vents (flaps) or mesh (tiny holes in the vinyl). I once refused to sell a 3' x 20' street banner to a customer who insisted on buying the sign without wind vents, because I knew it would not handle even brisk breezes.
Finally, it seems that many sign companies will do a double sided banner on any material. But this is not fair to the consumer. Only 16 oz banner material is thick enough (and opaque enough) to prevent the sun from shining through it. If the sun shines through a banner, the other side can be seen and the banner message is lost in the sun. I can't tell you how many banners I have seen where the sun shines through them. Most consumers don't understand and go for the lower price. I refuse to print a double sided outdoor banner on anything but 16 oz and above and your sign company should too.
Written by: Tony Nagy
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