Designing the Perfect Exterior Business Sign: Guidelines and Permitting

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While most business owners spend time designing the perfect logo and looking at fonts, they never consider the practical elements of sign design, like getting the right permits and understanding rules about exterior signs. What signs need permits? What are some of the guidelines that the city imposes – size, language, brightness, placement, etc? How do you avoid getting in trouble with the law? These are all questions that need to be answered before you even think about hiring a designer to build your sign and deciding on what type of material you want it made out of.

What Signs Need Permits

Your business sign should be in compliance with local ordinances.

If you’re placing a sign outside your establishment, you need to be in compliance with local ordinances that regulate size, placement, language, and brightness. You’ll also need permits for exterior business signs from the building inspector, city planning department, and state environmental protection agency (if applicable). For instance, you may be required to have one or more permits if your exterior sign exceeds six square feet in area. You will also need a permit if you want to install an illuminated or neon sign that is over six square feet in area on any one side or faces onto a public street. For this type of signage, electrical wiring must comply with National Electrical Code requirements for underground installations.

Where Should I Put My Sign?

One of the most important considerations when designing a sign is placement. The rules vary depending on whether you’re building or purchasing an existing business. Your neighborhood may have some specific rules about size, language, brightness, or placement of signs that they enforce. For exterior signs, there are some general guidelines to help with your decision-making process. Signs should be located as close to the building as possible so passersby can easily read them at night time.

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