When you drive down the highway, you see all kinds of billboard structures. You see a whole bunch of steel monopoles, and quite a few wooden telephone pole units. But you also see these steel I-Beam structures – but not so many of them. Why does anyone even build these old-fashioned looking steel units?
One of the strengths of steel I-Beam units has always been their relatively low price. So the first reason – and perhaps strongest – that you would build an I-Beam structure is because it fits your budget. That being said, they’re still expensive. A 14’ x 48’ I-Beam structure may cost you $25,000, but that’s half of what a monopole structure might run you. I once built an entire 14’ x 48’ I-Beam structure out of used parts at a total cost of $10,000.
Steel is a wonderful product and its strong points show when you build a billboard out of it. Since the primary concern with any billboard structure is the ability to withstand excessive wind load, steel I-Beams are the way to go. Many of America’s largest skyscrapers are built of I-Beams because they can stand up to insane amounts of load and be fine. The largest hotel in Chicago – the 3,000 room Hilton which opened in 1927 – sits on just three giant I-Beams that span the massive auto garage.
Properly maintained, it can last virtually forever. Look at the Golden Gate Bridge, for example, that has spanned the San Francisco Bay since 1937. There’s no other product that you can build a billboard with that will last as long. And since property access is difficult, and construction expensive, you only want to build the sign one time.
One important advantage to I-Beam structures is that they have a more narrow footprint than a steel monopole in tight quarters. That’s because a monopole is roughly 3’ in diameter while steel I-Beams are only about 18”. This means an I-Beam structure can literally sit so close to the property line as to be hard to discern from which property they sit on. This can be a big deal in cases where there is little room on the ground and the sign has to stay clear of what happens at the business underneath.
Another worthy mention is that steel I-Beams have the ability to create signs at significant height, which is something that wooden telephone poles cannot do. While wooden signs are pretty much capped at around 50’, there are I-Beam signs out there that are nearly 100’ high.
I-Beam signs, while rare, serve a useful purpose in the stable of potential billboard construction materials. They are durable, inexpensive, and offer some advantages in design. While telephone poles and steel monopoles are the staple of the industry, I-Beams are still an important option.