On its Face

— By Cindy Price —

Refresh your business with face replacements for signage.


Outdoor signs must be durable enough to withstand all kinds of weather that Mother Nature throws at them. Your sign is quite literally the “face” of your business, so it should look its best at all times. But when weather, age or other elements wreak havoc on it, what do you do? Outside of replacing the entire sign, a face replacement is a solid choice.

The Basics: What is a Sign Face?

Cindy Price, Federal Heath

Simply put, a sign face refers to the outer surface or structure of a sign. It is attached to a metal frame or “cabinet” or individual channel letters. Faces can be flat or thermoformed/pan-formed or panaflex fabric. When installed into the cabinet, they can be backlit to provide illumination and visibility at night or simply non-illuminated.

Why a Face Replacement?

Over time, weather, age and other elements simply take a toll on signs. The surface can become dull, faded, scratched, peeled or cracked. Other than the weather, you may want to replace your sign face due to a name change, or if you’ve purchased a business with an existing sign you need to re-brand. Regardless of the reason, compared with buying a brand new sign, a face replacement is an ideal and cost-effective solution.

Where to Begin

The first thing you’ll want to do is contact a professional sign manufacturer. They’ll discuss your options and do a site survey, which involves taking measurements and providing a quote. If it’s channel letters you’re replacing, they’ll need to make patterns of the letter sets so the new faces will fit properly.

Material Selection

Sign faces come in a variety of materials, shapes, thicknesses and sizes. Depending on your need, your sign company can guide you through the best option for your desired design and intended application.

The four most common types of plastics used for replacement faces are:

  1. Acrylic
  2. High Impact Acrylic (modified acrylic)
  3. Polycarbonate
  4. Panaflex fabric

Acrylic and high-impact acrylic come in a wide range of colors and maintain their vibrancy well. Polycarbonate faces are the most impact-resistant but can yellow over time.


Faces come in four styles:

  1. Flat Acrylic or Polycarbonate: These style faces are completely flat with no raised elements. These have the lowest price point of the four styles.


  1. Pan Molded Acrylic or Polycarbonate: Pan molded or thermoformed faces extend out beyond the cabinet, giving it a three-dimensional, bubbled-out appearance. Pans can be 1” to 2” deep.


  1. Pan Molded and Embossed Acrylic or Polycarbonate: This style takes pan molded a step further with raised letters or graphics in addition to the three-dimensional appearance.


  1. Panaflex Fabric: This extremely durable material is what is most commonly used in large pylon signs. Panaflex, or “flex,” faces are constructed of a tensioned, flexible substrate that extends over the sign’s face. Because the fabric is flexible, it’s more durable in strong winds. Since acrylic sheets are limited in size, flex fabric is used in most signs 10’x10’ and larger.


Overall, pan-formed faces are much stronger than flat faces and less resistant to blowing out of the sign cabinet in high winds, making this type of sign face recommended over flat ones. However, keep in mind that your existing sign cabinet structure was initially designed to hold your specific kind of face and lighting. This factor may dictate the style of face that will be required for your replacement.

Turnaround Time and Cost

The standard turnaround time for replacements is generally 4 to 6 weeks, possibly less, depending on the type and size of the sign you need.

As with the turnaround time, the cost of a face replacement will vary depending on the type, size and style you get. You’ll also need to factor in labor for removal and reinstallation.

A face replacement is an excellent solution to refresh your sign, takes very little time to manufacture, and costs less than a brand new sign. Now, are you ready to put your best “face” forward?




— Cindy Price is senior marketing specialist with Orlando, Fla.-based Federal Heath.







Tagged under