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Question channel letter fabrication basic license requirements

Discussion in 'Electric Signs & Channel Letters' started by Bradley D, Sep 10, 2018.

  1. Bradley D

    Bradley D Member

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    Sep 10, 2018
    Texas
    I'm new to this forum but not to sign making. I've been in over 100 sign companies and am knowledgeable about channel letter fabrication and automation especially the SDS (AdamsTech) Channel Bender series of automatic benders, but I'm not sure if I got all my ducks in a row for my new business venture. I have an SDS/AdamsTech bender and cheap CNC 4x8 router so I do have a considerable investment already for a small start up business.

    I am fabricating LED illuminated specialty channel letters (not installing them) for indoor signs and some outdoor as well. I've been told a lot of different information from a variety of people about what I need to actually do in order to legally and safely sale channel letters. Here is a list of what I have been told by a variety of people that I'm not sure about. I'm looking just to meet minimum requirements since it is a new business with currently just 2 of us running it. I'm located in Texas.

    Some things I've been told I need to do:

    1. Become an Electrical Sign Contractor
    2. Hire a Master Sign Electrician
    3. Get a master electrician to sign off on my electrical sign contractor application
    ___________________________________________

    4. Don't worry about UL it is not import it is just 12 volt LEDs anyway
    5. Just sale signs to other companies and let them put a UL sticker on it
    6. Get UL certification
    7. Become a UL certified sign shop
    8. If you sale indoor signs you don't need to worry about UL
    9. Since your not doing standard front lit and reverse channel letters you can't get UL approval

    If I could get a True or False on 1-9 from someone who really knows what their talking about I would greatly appreciate it. I've been suffering from conflicting information disorder. Thanks.

    Attached photos are some samples of what I am selling:

    20180809_122037.jpg DSC02853.JPG new.jpg
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2018
  2. Hero Signs

    Hero Signs If they let me make it, they will come

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    All depends on how much you want to grow a d have the ability to grow. We are install focused and we do fabricate in house but I do have 4 vendors with different strengths because my time is better kept keeping the trucks working. Make a solid product and customers will come, you just got to show them the Why you.
    And I am posting this late because we installed another HEB Curbside sign package and can't sleep yet.
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2018
    • OMG / Wow! OMG / Wow! x 1
  3. signbrad

    signbrad Member

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    Kansas City
    This seems to be the nature of forums like this one. Sometimes statements are made here that are based on misinformation. Some present views based on second-hand information rather than actual fact. You will notice that it is common for posters to make statements without any authoritative citations or references. I have done this myself. Obviously, some of these statements are merely opinions, or even guesses.

    Often comments made here are based on rules in a particular area. State requirements vary, as do municipal ordinances.
    Here in the Kansas City, Missouri, metro area, I am not aware of any municipalities that require sign companies to employ licensed electricians to build lighted signs. Of the dozens of shops here, I do not know of any that even employ licensed electricians, but it is possible that some of them do. I know that sometimes sign shops have working arrangements with licensed electricians to put the electrician's license number on sign permit applications before an installation takes place. Whether this is strictly legal or not, I don't know. But some of the code enforcement officials are aware that this is practiced or suspect it. Yet the practice is common and the permits are approved. But this is for installation of lighted signs rather than for manufacturing them. In the shops where I have worked in this area, electric sign manufacturing is accomplished by semi-skilled labor that is paid far less than a typical electrician. One electrician in St. Louis told me that he was to be laid off from his sign shop unless he agreed to accept lower wages. He was also required to learn to paint. I met him at the Matthews Paint School. :)

    I worked at one shop that wanted to build UL approved signs. Several of us that worked on the signs were taken to the IBEW hall to take the oath for a limited membership that allowed us to carry an electrician union card. None of us were electricians (I was a painter) and none of us were paid electrician wages. But we were able to build and install lighted signs with UL labels for one year.
    I think it is common in many areas for sign shops to be allowed to build lighted signs and do limited electrical hookup without having licensed electricians on the payroll.

    This forum may not be the best place for accurate legal information on licensing requirements. Have you tried asking code enforcement officials in your area? They would be more likely to give you accurate information.

    Brad in Kansas City
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  4. Bradley D

    Bradley D Member

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    Thanks for your thoughts Duke and Brad. I did talk with Jerry Daniel at TDLR that explained to me the license requirements. I'm allowed to fabricate an electric sign without being a sign contractor. I cannot give a turn key quote that includes installation by another sign company. I can work with another sign company that is a sign contractor and have them give a quote that includes my product. If I want to be a sign contractor I need to have a master electrician as a w2 employee not as a contract employee. Since I'm really only interested in fabricating letters this was good news to me.

    Glen Hanley from UL came by my house the day after I sent just an email inquiring about the UL process. I really would like to know how many potential clients really require or need a UL sticker on the sign. It seems like a tough process to go through and not really designed for a small company just starting out.
     
  5. signbrad

    signbrad Member

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    Kansas City
    Bradley,
    What does TDLR stand for?
     
  6. DerbyCitySignGuy

    DerbyCitySignGuy Very Active Member

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    Most local and independently owned businesses aren't going to require UL certification. This generally only becomes a concern when you're dealing with larger companies and corporations OR if you're planning on wholesaling and even then, not everyone is going to require UL certification. Safety certification of any type is a double edged sword. On the one hand, the investment can help you get your foot in the door for jobs you otherwise wouldn't have a chance at getting. On the other hand, it's a significant investment that might not pay out in the short term.

    Unless you have a major client on the hook already that requires UL, I'd skip it until you absolutely need it.
     
  7. Sign consultant

    Sign consultant Member

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    Electrical things can be done by liscened electrician so no worry.
    But get UL listed sinve it will be asked by the city.
     
  8. Bradley D

    Bradley D Member

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    https://www.tdlr.texas.gov/ Texas department for business licenses.


    I talked with Jerry again this morning. I can fabricate electric signs without being a sign contractor but I need the get certified by UL, MET, or another NRTL.
     
  9. Bradley D

    Bradley D Member

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    Thanks. I agree. Since I'm looking at doing indoor high end signs I maybe I need to. Just about ready to pay $4000.
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2018
  10. DerbyCitySignGuy

    DerbyCitySignGuy Very Active Member

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    It's a catch-22. You get it, you'll never have a need for it. You don't get it, your first customer will want it. ;)
     
    • OMG / Wow! OMG / Wow! x 1
  11. equippaint

    equippaint Very Active Member

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    It seems to me that insurance companies require UL listing more than anything else. To be blunt, they are stupid and don't know what particular part of anything requires a UL listing, the cabinet, panel, ballasts etc. There was a good post a while back on this same subject that you may want to search for and IIRC there are UL shops with similar record keeping requirements (and payments) as ISO certs. If that is the case, maybe pursing this down the road will open more doors for you?
     
  12. Bradley D

    Bradley D Member

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    I'm doing the UL certification and need to blow off a little steam to not sink deeper into depression. So far, my favorite is having to pay yearly to recertify a scale so that I can perform two different weight tests on signs. I also need to have a yearly certification for a digital calipers. I already own about 3 of each but none with valid certification. Another $500 yearly hidden fee.

    Another troubling things is that my field engineer doesn't seem to be able to interpret UL48 even though he has a supposed 10 years experience. UL48 and NEC code are great resources and I wish to operate freely within those guidelines. If he sees me doing something that looks different than what he has seen everywhere else then that must be wrong. At the same time, having the acrylic hang over the edge of the aluminum return was a "no, no" I guess I should have told him that my channel letter with the Acrylic inside the return was very unusual. I also don't seem to be able to get any of my questions answered. Hopefully, at least one of my five sign products will be able to have a little sticker put on it.

    I really don't think I will be keeping UL general coverage beyond the first year unless I see a sudden spike in sells. On the bright side, I've heard rumors that the yearly fee might be done away with as well as the variance fees. I imagine that will spike the cost of the onsite visits or I'm not sure how they will make up the difference. UL will also do a $700 to $1000 onsite sign verification which seems like the best alternative for me. This way, I can still sell signs as being UL certifiable with an added cost.
     
  13. Texas_Signmaker

    Texas_Signmaker Very Active Signmaker

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    Frisco, TX
    In Texas...

    Your are correct for #1-3... You can not even advertise or display on your website, electric signs without displaying your license #.

    I'm not sure about 4-9
     
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