Custom PVC posts are an easy upgrade to sell

By signcraft

Posted on Thursday, September 12th, 2019

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Custom posts and mountings are a great way to make signs more appealing and more effective. They make the sign more obvious—without adding to the square footage of the sign for permitting purposes—creating more value for the customer.

Larry Elliott, Elliott Sign Design, makes great-looking post covers easily using PVC board and shows how, step-by-step. You’ll find a material list at the end of his explanation.

“They aren’t that hard to produce with basic tools,” says Larry, “and you can turn $87 in materials into a $300 custom post in less than an hour.”

Here’s how Larry adds post skirts to PVC post covers for a typical post upgrade:

We start with either a 4-by-4-in. or 5-by-5-in. PVC post cover that’s 8-ft. long. We buy from a local fence company, but you can also get them at most large home improvement stores for around $30 each.

The better brands have a full 1/8-in.-thick wall and are quite sturdy, as they are intended for use as fence posts. On most smaller signs we use only the post cover without placing it over a treated wood post.

The skirts we build for the posts are made from ¾-in. PVC sheet. You can cut this with a circular saw using an edge guide to keep the cuts straight or on a table saw with a fence. If we are routing pieces for a sign at the same time, we sometimes cut the pieces on our CNC router.

The length depends on the size of the sign. Esthetically you’ll want the skirt to fit between the bottom of the sign panel and the ground. Determine the proper length by doing a scaled drawing of your sign project, and figuring how high the sign panel will mount on the posts.

Measure the outside dimensions of the post cover, then add 1/8-in. to that so the skirt will have clearance to slide over the post when it’s glued up. Cut four pieces at this width to your determined length, two for each post.

Next, assuming you are using net ¾-in.-thick material, add 1 5/8-in. to the width of the post cover. Cut four pieces at this width and at the same length of the other pieces. This gives you all the pieces you need to complete the boxed skirt.

Assemble the skirt using standard PVC pipe cement from the hardware store. For easier application, we pour it into a polyvinyl squeeze bottle. PVC pipe cement doesn’t stick to or deteriorate polyvinyl plastic. Those felt mops that are in the cans of PVC glue are fine for daubing pipes and fittings but are useless for applying it to the edges of sheet material.

You’ll need some clamps to hold the pieces until the glue sets—which is fairly quick. You have a couple minutes to get the pieces aligned and clamped once you apply the glue and they are placed together. We do two pieces at a time to make a half box, then glue the two halves together.

If you don’t have enough clamps, you can use screws to join the sides. We use stainless steel screws on almost all signs that will be exposed to the weather. In bulk they cost very little more than zinc plated screws. A couple coats of satin white acrylic latex paint finishes the skirt box.

The other parts you need to finish your custom posts can be purchased through your fence post supplier or sometimes found at the big box stores in the shapes and sizes you need. Several online suppliers have them as well.

Finials or post caps come in several styles from simple flat covers to balls, pineapples, spires, animal shapes, etc. For 5-by-5-in. posts, the flat caps will cost about $3 each; ball finials and spires are in the $12 range. You’ll also need two post bases to finish off your skirt. These cost about $12 each for either 4-in. or 5-in. post covers and can be found through the post suppliers.

Once the box skirt is constructed, slide it over the post and attach it with two stainless screws at the top and two at the bottom. Slide the part that is sold as a post base down over the post and sits on top of the skirt to dress it off. It is held in place with a few drops of PVC glue.

The post base fits down over the skirt about ¾-in. and hides the screw heads used to attach the skirt to the post cover. Normally we attach the finials with PVC glue or stainless screws and the posts are complete.

Need a custom colored post? Acrylic latex paint bonds well to PVC. Lightly scuff the surface with a 220-grit pad, wipe the dust off with denatured alcohol and paint them any color you desire.

There are plenty of embellishments that you can add to PVC posts to add value and create interest in your sign installations. Adding fluting or decorative moldings can let them match architectural elements of a building. The corners of the skirt can also be routed with a cove bit. Use your imagination—I’m sure you can come up with all sorts of ideas to give your customers’ signage a more custom look.
5-by-5-in.-by-8-ft. PVC post cover $30
5-by-5-in. ball finial $12
5-by-5-in. post base cover: $12
24-by-24-in. panel of ¾-in. PVC (4 sq. ft.): $30
Glue, stainless screws: $3
Total per post: $87
Labor: approximately 1 1/2 hours to complete two posts

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