What It Costs To Build An Outdoor Billboard Sign

A frequent question we get at OBUniversity.com is what billboard signs cost to build. That question is a little like asking “how many shingles does it take to cover a roof?” – it completely depends on the type of billboard that you are constructing. And, as in most things in life, you get what you pay for.

The cheapest signs to construct are made of wood

Wooden billboards can be found all over the U.S. The industry began with wooden construction, and much of it has returned to those early roots. To build a wooden sign, all you need are telephone poles, some 2” x 4”s and some plywood. You put the poles in the ground, nail 2”x 4” “stringers” horizontally to connect the telephone poles, and then nail sheets of plywood on top of the stringers, to create the advertising face. Then you wrap the vinyl advertisement over that fact. Traditionally, wooden signs do not contain catwalks (ledges you walk around on), ladders or lights. They are stripped to the bone, to provide the lowest cost possible. Since they are made of 4’ x 8’ plywood, the signs are normally either 8’ or 12’ high by a number divisible by 4 wide (maybe 24’ to 32’ side).

These types of signs can cost between $2,000 and $10,000 to build, based completely on the height and size.

But sometimes metal is cheap, too

The smallest steel monopole sign can cost as little as the wooden billboard. Its name is the “8-sheet” because, in the old days, it took 8 sheets of wallpaper to cover it. It is around 5’ x 12’ in size, and is nothing more than a single steel pole and two metal frames and faces attached directly to that pole. These signs were extremely popular in the 1970s, as a way to advertise cigarettes and liquor in urban environments. They can also be wrapped in vinyl, and have no lights, catwalks or ladders.

These types of signs can cost $5,000 to $10,000, but you can often buy them used – already installed – for $1,000.

Now the prices go up substantially

Next up the pyramid are the 30-sheet billboards, which are roughly 12’ x 24’ in size. These are also known as “posters”, as they are normally covered in paper instead of vinyl. These are one of the workhorses of the outdoor industry, with thousands of such signs in most every major city in the U.S. They can be attached to wooden poles, too, but normally it’s steel I-beams or steel monopoles. They are simple, effective and come in kit form.

These types of signs can cost $20,000 to $30,000 installed, based on the type of pole and the height.

Monopoles are the Cadillac of the industry—and are priced accordingly

Once you shift into the 14’ x 48’ – or even its cousin the 10’ 6” x 36’ – steel monopole structure, the price jumps significantly. These signs are the most difficult to build, weigh the most, and require the most sophisticated engineering. So how much are they? A big portion of that depends on what the configuration of the sign is, as monopoles come in everything from center-mount to full-flag, and back-to-back to tri-face. They can be over 100’ high if needed. They are chock full of catwalks and ladders, and lights are the norm.

These types of billboards can run from $50,000 to $100,000+.

But that’s still not the most expensive

The most expensive billboards in the U.S. are the ones that contain digital advertisements – also known as LED. These type of signs often change advertisers every 8 seconds or so, and are highly complicated and require a large amount of electricity. So you are basically taking a monopole structure, and adding the most expensive advertisement delivery system on earth. These types of billboards can run, for two LED faces, up to $1 million.

Now you know the answer

Billboards can range in price from $2,000 to $1 million. That’s a pretty big gap. It’s 100% based on the type of sign you are building, from the simplistic wooden billboard to the ultra-sophisticated LED. Many billboard companies operate a range of signs, from the cheapest to the most expensive. The important point is to make sure that you select the correct sign structure for your application.

Where can you get more information?

There are sign fabricators that you can find on Google in almost every area of the U.S. There are also national sign manufacturers, such as Keeler Iron Works, that ship to all 50 states. Fabricators are like signs, though – they also range from cheap to expensive. You need to not only make sure you match the sign to the application, but that you match the sign fabricator to your budget, as well.

Conclusion

Billboard construction companies will need direction from you on the type of billboard to build. There are many types on the menu, and you need to make sure that you have a handle on what it costs to put up a billboard so that it meets your budget. Otherwise, you will spend too much, or install a sign that is ineffectual and hard to rent.

Frank Rolfe Self Storage Investment Expert
Frank Rolfe started his billboard company off of his coffee table, immediately after graduating from college. Although he had no formal training on the industry, he learned as he went, and developed his own unique systems to accomplish things, such as renting advertising space. Frank was formerly the largest private owner of billboards in Dallas/Ft. Worth, as well as a major player in the Los Angeles market.