Steel Prices


Any rules of thumb when pricing steel and overall knowing you are getting a fair price for the material and construction of the sign?

It my understanding that the majority of the sign cost is in the steel but it is also my understanding that steel prices have dropped significantly.

Thank you

Steel prices have come down slightly, but I would not expect a big reduction in structure prices any time soon. Although steel is the number one cost of a structure, there is also a lot of labor involved in fabrication, and a significant risk in building such things that requires a decent profit. Unlike many things in life, like mowing your yard, structure fabrication cannot be bid on by just anyone. A reputable fabricator will need engineered drawings, insurance, references, and a physical shop you can theoretically come out and inspect. There are fly-by-night outfits that do steel fabrication – but they should be avoided. The liability of a structure collapse is so great that you should never even entertain a bid from someone who is not qualified.

You need to get 3 to 5 written bids on any structure project. If one bid comes in incredibly low, make sure that the bidder is qualified, and that the structure is apples to apples with the other bidders. Normally, the prices are pretty competitive. Make sure that you don’t include the erection price in your decision on who to build the structure. That is a totally different bidding process. You would not use an erector from Arizona to build a structure in Atlanta – but you might use a structure from Arizona shipped to Atlanta. So get a separate bid for both fabrication and erection.

Once you have bid a bunch of structures, you will see that certain fabricators have a “specialty” in which they are always the low bidder, such as 30 sheet poster units. Eventually, you will instinctively know who to call for every structure type and, although you will still want to get competitive bids, you will guess correctly 90% of the time.

Thanks Frank:

Can you give me a ballpark number on a 12’x24’ Painted Bulletin, 25’ To the Top, Center Pole, Single Face, Trivision ready monopole sign. The sign is not going to be too big as you can tell due to ordinance. I understand I may not be giving you enough info to give an exact number but even a range. Thanks again.

You are probably looking at a range of $20,000 to $50,000 based on your exact location, soil condition, height and other factors. There is no such thing as a “trivision ready monopole”. A trivision unit fits on the face of a regular sign. It does not create any significant additional windload. So what you are looking for is a standard 12’ x 24’ unit, although probably with a “V” or single sided, since a back to back may be too tight together to have access to mount and maintain a trivision. You’ll need to ask the contractor. My range is meaningless – all that matters are the real bids you receive from calling the fabricators.