A sign permit from the Department of Buildings is required to place a sign on a parcel of land, a building, a structure or a place of business in the City of Chicago. There are two types of signs, on-premise signs and off-premise signs.
An on-premise sign is a business identification sign located at the address where the product or service is conducted. These signs require a permit with the following exceptions:
- An on-premise (business) sign constructed entirely of paper, vinyl, film or sticker material and attached to a window for no more than 60 days, provided that the total signs are not collectively applied to more than twenty-five percent of any single window (13-20-550);
- An on-premise (business) sign painted directly on a window, provided that the total signs are not collectively applied to more than twenty-five percent of any single window (13-20-550);
- An on-premise (business) incidental sign such as an address sign, entrance/exit sign, open/closed sign, days/hours of operation sign or restroom sign provided that the sign contains no commercial or business name or commercial business logo (17-17-0271); and
- An on-premise (business) official sign, public notice sign or waning sign required by a federal, state or municipal law, such as a no smoking sign, a high voltage sign, a consumer rights notice sign (17-17-0501).
A sign permit is always required for an off-premise sign (advertising), which names or identifies a business, product or service that is not conducted or offered on the address where the sign is present.
Please note that certain types and sizes of signs may be prohibited by Zoning Code and other restrictions. It is always advisable to check whether a certain type or size of sign will be allowed prior to ordering or purchasing a sign. Find the zoning district for a particular address.
- Complete sign application online
- Pay two fees for each sign permit, a zoning fee and a building permit fee
- Every sign permit will be reviewed by the Department of Buildings (for electrical, structural, and/or geotechnical), and the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (for business licensing and public way use)
- A registered sign erector contractor and a registered electrical contractor must be identified on the sign permit application. The work must be performed by the registered sign erector contractor and the registered electrical contractor listed on the permit.
- Any sign which is over 100 square feet in area or placed over 24 feet above grade (ground level), will need approval by the City Council in the form of a City Council Order. You may consult your local Alderman’s office for information regarding the request for a City Council Order.
- Any sign for which a portion of the sign extends over the public way (sidewalk, street or alley) regardless of how much (even if less than one-inch) will require a separate Public Way Use Permit from the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, in addition to a City Council Ordinance.
For your convenience, please note that the majority of Code provisions relating to signs can be found in the following chapters of the Municipal Code of Chicago:
- Chapter 10-24 (Signs Extending Over and Upon the Public Way)
- Chapter 13-20 Article XIII (Signs and Related Structures)
- Chapter 13-96 (Miscellaneous Structures)
- Chapter 17-12 (Signs)
- Chapter 18-27 Article 600 (Electrical Signs and Outline Lighting)
Fines for unpermitted signs or signs contrary to a permit can be substantial – ranging from $350.00 to $15,000.00 per sign per day. Please note: As of April 30, 2014, there are new regulatory requirements for dynamic image display signs.