by Ed Wyatt, Project Manager, Howco Inc.
Few components of building a car wash are as important, time-sensitive, and potentially confounding as your exterior signage package. Car wash sign packages typically include the critical elements of identification, directional, and instructional signage, as well as implementation stages of design, approval, development, and installation.
After more than 50 years of building thousands of car washes of all types for many clients, we at Howco can attest that building signs and permitting should be an early and integral piece of your impending car wash plan.
Our advice is to engage an experienced and reputable sign company as one of the first stages of your car wash build-out. A solid sign company will be one of the most important construction partners guiding you through the entire project.
We’ve seen operators try to handle signage and permitting on their own or shuffle the duties to a general contractor inexperienced in the task, only to have a beautiful, newly finished car wash unable to open for months because the signage and required permitting have not been approved.
A seasoned sign partner will know or learn the permitting, codes, and even political intricacies of every municipality. These items are specific to individual locales, and some aspects are even dictated by property landlords or developers. The codes and requirements vary widely. There can be restrictions on size, shape, height, colors, graphics, and even company logos. While the process can potentially be a frustrating, confusing, and lengthy one, an expert partner can smooth the path by handling these aspects for you.
The best way to choose a signage partner suitable for your project is via online research, including visiting sign association websites; as well as word-of-mouth and references. If you see commercial signage that you like in the municipality where you plan to build, find out who handled it and contact that sign company, then get referrals, visit their projects, and look at photos of their work. Most municipalities require large business identification signs to include the name of the company that produced it on some inconspicuous place on the sign, usually in a lower corner.
A sign company should become engaged at the outset of the project design when they begin code research and interpretation for your specific location. This will include determining which sign types are allowed, such as marquee, wall, monument, pylon, dimensional letters, channel letters, awnings, wayfinding, post, blade, and electronic designs. Codes will dictate what type, size, how many, and sometimes what colors can be used.
The signage company will then design a proposed sign package that suits your desires and complies with the codes for that site. That proposal should include optimal sign placement and any accompanying logistics for traffic visibility. Some sign companies can even assist with developing logos as well as complete graphics packages.
Comprehensive drawings of the finished site should then be presented for adjustments or approval. Entrusting a qualified sign company to handle all these details enables the operator and general contractor to concentrate on other facets of construction.
We often suggest designing and applying for as many signs as the code allows. Even if you don’t use all the signs initially, you can easily add pre-approved signage later if so desired. Some sign companies will even represent you before zoning boards or municipal entities if it’s necessary to challenge a sign ruling or interpretation.
Using a high-quality sign supplier with a good reputation is one of the most important things we recommend to our clients. Once a relationship is established and built with a sign company, you can largely put concerns about that car wash component in the rearview mirror.