Firehouse Blog


Banner Basics

paulnewpicFirehouse prints with a wide variety of technologies onto numerous materials. The options can be daunting at times. So, we decided to create a series of blog posts breaking down our most popular products to better explain the differences in material and application. Our first post covers one of our most popular products – banners. Banners are an affordable and eye-catching form of indoor and outdoor advertising for retail products, sales announcements and special events.



Standard Vinyl Banner (13oz.)
Our most popular banner material is also known as scrim banner. It contains a polyester mesh, or scrim, that provides an internal support structure to give the material needed strength for outdoor applications. The scrim pattern only allows for single-sided printing. Standard banners can be hemmed with grommets or pole pocketed.



Blockout Banner (13oz.)
Also known as smooth banner, this option does not contain a scrim mesh which provides a smooth surface on both sides. That results in a trade-off. Smooth banner allows 2-sided printing, but it’s not as durable as scrim banner and is not recommended for outdoor applications. It’s the ideal choice for banner stands, trade show graphics and ceiling banners. It contains a light-blocking layer so 2-sided graphics will remain opaque even under bright lights. Blockout banners can be hemmed with grommets, pole pocketed or installed in pop-up banner stands.



Outdoor Blockout Banner (18oz.)
The best of both worlds, our 18oz. banner contains a scrim mesh for outdoor strength, but it’s also smooth on both sides to accommodate 2-sided printing. Outdoor Blockout Banner also contains a light-blocking layer for opaque 2-sided printing. For long-term outdoor banners, this is your best option. Outdoor blockout banners can be hemmed with grommets or pole pocketed.



Mesh Banner (8oz.)
A solid choice for outdoor banners where strong winds may be a factor. Mesh banners are perforated to achieve an even airflow through the material while maintaining enough print surface for excellent printability. Mesh banners are single sided only. Mesh banners can be hemmed with grommets or pole pocketed.



Fabric Banner (180g)
Firehouse fabric banners are produced on our dye sublimation printer. This provides an amazing color range and durability. Dye sub color is so durable that the banners can even be machine washed. Fabric banners give a premium look and feel. They are also non-reflective, making them perfect for photo or video backdrops. Fabric banners can be hemmed with grommets, pole pocketed, installed in pop-up banner stands or aluminum stretch frames.


Paul Meek
Vice President of Operations

When is a Bargain NOT a Bargain?


You generally get what you pay for. But, when you want inexpensive, rigid graphics, are they really a bargain? The answer is, “it depends.”

Firehouse’s least expensive rigid material is foamcore. It’s very popular because it’s lightweight and works great for many applications. So, when the job calls for rigid graphics on a budget, foamcore is usually the winner. That’s fine, but there is more to consider. The characteristics that make foamcore an attractive material also make it difficult to ship. Simply put, foamcore is easily damaged in shipping. It flexes, creases and dings. To help foamcore survive the trip to its final destination, we have to really beef up the packaging. We sandwich foamcore sheets inside 6 layers of corrugated cardboard to add rigidity. And, because corners are so easy to ding if the package is dropped, the box and corrugated sheets are several inches larger overall than the foamcore they protect. We often use what we call tube boxes that have a corrugated cushion on each side. All of that leads to a larger, heavier box with more filler.

Foamcore IS an inexpensive material, but consider this example. The packaging for a foamcore sign is roughly 6 times the cost of the sign itself. Unfortunately, corrugated cardboard isn’t free. We have to pass those costs on to our clients.

That doesn’t sound like a bargain any more. The alternative?


An upgrade in your print material can allow us to downgrade the packaging. Switching to gatorboard or PVC sheets gives your graphics a much higher survival rate in shipping, and because they are more rigid and durable, all that extra cardboard isn’t needed. Another factor to consider is where the graphic is to be displayed. If it will be exposed to heat or direct sunlight, foamcore may have difficulty in that environment. Gatorboard and PVC are more stable choices there too.

So, the next time a project calls for foamcore, contact us and we can discuss material cost vs. packaging cost. Then you’ll really know you’re getting what you paid for.

Paul Meek
Vice President of Operations

How does Packsize Combat FedEx & UPS’s New Dimensional Weight Pricing?

PaulPicA Wall Street Journal article from last May [ ] proclaimed that FedEx was quietly changing their pricing model for ground packages in 2015. Instead of weight as the determining factor, ground shipments will now use the “dimensional weight model.” Simply put, size now matters on all ground shipments. This model is not new and has previously been applied to all air express packages. But now, all ground packages will be charged based on this pricing model. The article predicted that UPS would follow FedEx’s lead in this, and they have.

The dimensional weight model multiplies package length, width and height in inches. That number is then divided by 166 to determine the dimensional weight in pounds.


For example, your package is 12 x 24 x 24. That multiplies out to 6,912. Divide by 166, round up and your package’s dimensional weight is 42 pounds. If your package actually weighs 42 pounds or more, you will be charged by that true weight. But, if you’re shipping a lightweight product with lots of packing filler, you will see a huge price increase with this change.

What can you do?

Use the smallest box possible for each shipment and limit fillers. Firehouse’s shipping department is already doing this for our clients with our Packsize on-demand box maker. Our boxes are made the exact size needed for each product. We already thought Packsize was a great idea, but now it’s even more critical for offering savings to our clients. Here’s a Packsize video illustrating (literally) the new shipping rates.

While we’d love to claim that we are so tuned in to FedEx and UPS’s inner workings that we predicted this change and then installed Packsize, we can’t. Truth is, we installed Packsize in the fall of 2013 in our ongoing quest to cut waste and the number of boxes stored in our warehouse. But in 2015, Packsize is making us look smarter than ever.

Paul Meek
Vice President of Operations