The Lifespan of Different Sign Materials

One question we always get is, “How long will this last?” It’s a great question.

We will usually respond with some questions of our own:

  1. Is it for indoor or outdoor use?

2. If outdoors, will it face North, South, East, or West?

3. Will it be in a particularly hot area (low elevation, by the ocean)?

4. Is the area particularly wet/humid (high elevation, rain belt)?

5. Will it be in a particularly windy area? 

We’ll look at paper, banner material, coroplast (corrugated plastic), printed vinyl, printed and laminated vinyl, direct-to-metal printing, and CNC-cut metal.

We’ll start with the easiest: any indoor sign will last many years, much more than outdoor signs.

CNC cut metal – Metal signs

These are what we call forever signs. They will last for generations if adequately painted or coated, regardless of location. They may need repainting now and then, but that’s about it.

Direct to metal printing – Aluminum sign

We have a UV flatbed printer for printing directly to metal. We make a lot of parking lot and exterior building signs with this. We estimate these will last about seven to ten years in regular use: North, East, or West-facing.  South-facing signs get direct sun all day long and will have less life.

Printed and Laminated Vinyl (mounted to metal or PVC)

The manufacturers give this a 7-year rating, though, in use, the sign’s orientation to the sun–South being the worst–will extend or reduce this. The advantages of PVC substrates are cost (much less than metal), no rot or termite damage, and ease to work with.

Printed Vinyl – No lamination

We use regular printed vinyl for short-term labels or stickers. By short-term, we mean less than a few years.

Coroplast – Corrugated Plastic

This material is mostly for campaign yard signs, and, on occasion, some real estate signs. We consider this short-term signage a year or two at most. The plastic will become brittle in a reasonably short time in Hawaii.

Banner Material

We print thousands of feet of banner material a year. It’s relatively inexpensive and easy to mount on a building or fence. That said, we always warn that banners are short-term signage. They are affected by wind and the sun’s UV rays. Protected in the shade, they can last years.


Paper is only suitable for indoor or extremely short-term outdoor uses. Indoors, it’ll last for many years, but outdoors, it can be many minutes if it is windy and raining!

You’ll notice that we don’t have wood in our comparison. The reason is simple: wood is a porous fibrous material that is highly susceptible to rot, termite damage, and delamination. It’s just not a good sign material in Hawaii for these reasons.

termites eat wood signs
Wood signs are rarely a good idea in Hawaii.

In the end, the choice of materials is best made with the help of sign professionals like the team at Kona Impact. We are, if nothing else, candid when we make recommendations. Give us a call at 808-329-6077.