View Full Version : Sign Permits/Codes

Joe Pelonio
02-22-2008, 9:42 AM
I was reminded by an incident nearby that I wanted to discuss sign permits and laws, for people new to the business. One can get into trouble without knowledge of local municipal codes pertaining to signs.

A couple of weeks ago people a few blocks from me finished remodeling their home and started an adult family home there. They had some out-of-town sign company erect an elaborate sign, with concrete slab, brick base, and 3'x4' plywood sign on posts. Very nice, but I happen to know that home based businesses in this city are allowed one 12"x18" sign on the house, that's all. Sure enough, 2 days later the sign was removed, and now they have a van with magnetic signs parked on the corner to "get around" the law.

I once made a sign for a gas station/car wash, which the owner put up himself without a permit, and he was fined $1,100.

Most cities and counties have a sign ordinance. Some around here do not allow A-Frame signs except for a realtor open house during the open house. Their jurisdiction is any sign or lettering visible from a street. Even vinyl lettering on a window is considered a sign. In most cities here that too needs a permit and is counted in the overall square footage allowed for total signage. We can put the lettering on the inside of the glass without their approval but then with dual panes and often tint it doesn't show up as well. Another exempt situation is a strip mall, if the interior businesses are not visible from a city street, but only from the private driveway or lot, then the city will not have control over it.

Property along a state highway can have a billboard and the city can do nothing about it. The state, at least here, will not care as long as it's not reported as a distraction to drivers.

After finding out how much time it takes to deal with some cities, I will no longer handle permits. I inform the customer of the requirement for a permit and let them get it. I'll wait for an approved copy before making the sign, and provide any drawings the city requires.

If they choose not to get a permit, I will not do the installation, since I too could be fined in some cases.

Here's an example of sign code, for the city where I used to do most of my work, to give you an idea of how complex it can be:


Aaron Koehl
02-22-2008, 11:26 AM
Good thread, Joe!

Mike Null
02-22-2008, 9:59 PM

Good idea to post this thread. As I'm sure everybody has heard there are many places where McDonald's cannot use their arches signs and even big retailers like Wal-Mart are faced with restrictions.

It's good that the little guy be made aware that there can be severe penalties.

We have many of the restrictions you mentioned in my town and I don't even bother with a sign.

Scott Shepherd
03-28-2008, 12:54 PM
Had a customer ask if I could change out some vinyl lettering on their sign. During the discussion with them, they mentioned the county, so I decided to pop in and see the county officials. I asked if I could change the vinyl lettering (all ground level) without a permit. I was told essentially "No". It was just 4" tall by 24" vinyl lettering that they wanted changed.

No go without a permit.

I also was told that they required a signed affidavit by the owner as well as any civic organization that might apply in that area.

Permit fee is $40 for the first $2000 of work and then $4.00 additional per $1000 of estimated cost.

I would never have thought changing the text out when the text is already there, same color, size, etc. would have required a permit. It only reminded me of why I don't make a habit of looking for outside signage.

Joe Pelonio
03-28-2008, 1:27 PM
I would never have thought changing the text out when the text is already there, same color, size, etc. would have required a permit. It only reminded me of why I don't make a habit of looking for outside signage.
Around here the only way to go without a permit is a replacement that's worn out, identical to what was there before, same name, same colors, same font, same material. Otherwise they want their permit fees. Even then they can go back and get you if they notice and don't have record of a permit on the original sign.

Scott Shepherd
03-28-2008, 1:47 PM
They even want it for replacements here. As I was told directly, that there was a chance the existing sign was out of code and by allowing direct replacement of colors/layout, etc. did nothing but allow an existing code violation to continue to be out of code.

Dang pencil pushers.......

Bob Cole
03-28-2008, 9:23 PM
And I thought ADA signage was a pain.