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How Expensive Is a Business Sign? [Cost + Budget]

William (Bill) Hayes

One of the most common questions we get asked by new business owners is how much should I budget for my sign. On its face, this question may seem simple, but the answer is relatively complicated. 

A big part of our business involves walking our clients through the process to help them determine an accurate budget based on their needs. The initial numbers might give you a little sticker shock if you’re unaware of what goes into the cost of business signage. However, once you learn about the administrative, production, and installation costs; you’ll quickly understand how to weigh the price of your signage against its ultimate value to your business.

This article will take you through many of the factors impacting your sign budge, including:

  • Project Administration Costs
  • Signage Cost Factors Based on Location
  • Installation Costs

Remember, signage is an entirely custom solution, so we will give you a broad range of pricing possibilities as we progress through the article. These ranges will change with the particular products you are buying.

Project Administration Costs

Project administration is a critical element in the deployment of a successful sign project and one that, unfortunately, often goes overlooked. Depending on your project's scope, project administrative fees will impact the overall cost of your project. But do keep in mind, that skipping over some of these elements of administration can result in even higher costs down the road (i.e. fines for failure to comply with local sign code, signage repairs due to engineering failures, etc.). As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Project Management Costs

Project management is billed by the hour, based on the project's perceived scope. Single sign projects will require coordination between the landlord, general contractor, electrician, architect, and painter. 

The cost of managing these scopes of work will vary by company, but for a sign project with one scope of work like a single wall sign, you should expect to spend $250 to $500 per project. 

For a project with multiple wall signs and ground-based signs, the cost to manage the project can run from $1000 to $3000, which equates to 10 to 30 hours of project management time.

Permit Procurement Costs

When a sign is placed on the outside of a building, visible from any adjacent zone lot, then you are going to be required to pull permits. Depending upon the county, state, or municipality you reside in, the costs of acquiring your permits may vary. 

Some cities only require a sign company to submit one permit, while others may require a sign permit, building permit, and separate electrical permit for each sign on your project. 

This administrative function's cost is usually provided as an initial fee, with a contingency for additional hours past the standard price. 

The average cost nationwide for a base permit procurement fee is between $200 to $500. Hourly charges for additional administrative hours ran

ge from $75 to $100 per hour. 

Permit Fees

Each building and planning department will require you to pay several fees depending upon your project's complexity and the organization's fee structure. Permit fees can vary wildly from one part of the country to the other. 

There are two categories of permit fees for signs. It is not unusual to see $1000 or more for these fees. 

Zoning Review Costs

The planning department will charge a fee for verifying the project's zoning, combined with a sign code review to make sure the submitted plans are within code. This fee can typically be between $100 and $300 and higher.

Signage design describing scale

Building Code Review Cost

Sign schematics are reviewed by a building inspector to ensure they comply with building code. These fees are generally charged with a minimum fee or assessed from the project's valuation. Fees can range from as little as $50 to as much as $10,00, depending on the project's complexity. 

We see a typical building code review fee for an average sign project is $500. Check with your local building department before you start your project to be confident about the cost.

Engineering Costs

Every sign project will not require engineering, but all projecting/blade signs, awnings, and ground signs will require engineering. 

Engineering is the process where a licensed engineer will perform the necessary calculations for wind load and snow loads for signs and awnings. Each type of ground sign or projecting signs will require its own engineering charge. 

If you have two monument signs, and one is higher or larger than the other, each one will need its own set of engineering calculations and stamped drawings. 

Engineering drawings and calculations are submitted to the building department to illustrate our compliance with building code. 

Engineering costs can range from $700 for a single wall sign to $1500 to $2000 for larger, more complex ground signs. The average price of a set of engineering drawings is $700.

Design Costs

The average cost of a sign design done by a local sign company is between $150 to $300. If you do not see a line item on a quote for design, you can assume it is being rolled into the total price somehow. The typical sign design can take between 1 to 5 hours, depending on the total number of signs needing individual designs.

Signage Cost Factors Driven by Location

City of Boulder, CO Zoning MapThe single largest factor impacting your sign budget will be your establishment location. Your site can affect your budget in many ways. One of the primary factors that will impact your sign budget will be your local sign code. Sign code will determine how many signs and how large those signs can be. We recommend reading our article on sign code to understand better how sign code affects your sign project.

Stand Alone Buildings

If you are looking at taking a stand-alone building that has the opportunity for 3 or more signs plus a ground sign, your sign budget will need to be considerable. You will need to work with your sign company to determine the number and location of the signs required to sign your facility for maximum benefit. 

A good initial budget number for a stand-alone location with 3 channel letter signs is between $18,000 to $25,000. If you are looking to add a monument sign, a reasonable starting budget should be around $20,000 to $35,000. Your specific design, materials, and local requirements can impact this number. 

It's not unusual to get a total project budget for a stand-alone location to $65,000 with larger signs and a monument/pole sign.

Shopping Centers

Your typical community-based shopping center will allow 1 to 3 sets of channel letter signs. Most modern shopping centers will have a list of sign criteria integrated into your lease. These criteria will tell you how many signs you can have and how big they can be. 

The average shopping center tenant has one channel letter sign at their entrance. If you can have only one sign, we suggest budgeting between $7000 to $8000. This number would cover the cost of sign fabrication, permitting fees, installation, and electrical connection. 

If you see yourself needing 2 channel letter signs, then $13,000 to $15,000 would be an appropriate number.

Interior Mall Spaces

If you are leasing space in an interior mall, your budget will be slightly less than an outside installation. You will not have to deal with a zoning permit, but you still might require an electrical permit. Your installation cost will be less because the equipment needed to perform an interior installation is less complicated and may only require ladders.

Installation Costs

Installation of a sign for The North FaceInstallation costs can often be as much or more as the signage you are buying. Installing signage requires specialized equipment and highly trained and certified technicians who understand how to install signs on many different building architectures. 

The price of your installation includes the use of a crane or bucket truck, welding equipment, cutting equipment, installation hardware, sealants, adhesives, and the tools required. Sign installations are priced by the hour and include mobilization costs. Mobilization costs include the price to load a vehicle, fuel, and time to prepare for the installation. 


Below is typical installation pricing:

  • Average One Trip mobilization cost: $200 to $500 depending on the number of vehicles and type of equipment
  • One technician in a service ladder truck: $125 per hour
  • One technician in a bucket truck: $150 to $165 per hour
  • Two technicians in a bucket truck: $195 to $200 per hour
  • Two technicians in a crane truck: $195 to $250 per hour

The average price for a single raceway mounted channel letter sign installation on the first or second story of a building is $1000 to $1200. 

The average cost for a flush-mounted channel letter sign installation is $1600 to $1800. 

Remember, if you have more signs, your price will go up. The higher the installation height above the second story, the more expensive the installation will cost. Sign installations requiring a crane and a bucket will cost significantly more.

How Much Should You Budget for Your Business Signage?

Ultimately, pricing on your sign project is going to depend on your specific requirements. 

We recommend looking at sign project pricing from a return on investment perspective. You are not just buying a sign, but advertising that will work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

Your goal as a new business should be spending the right amount on signage that will have the most considerable impact on your future sales. 

The best way to achieve that result is to hire a qualified sign company that has the expertise to understand how to optimize your signage based on your budget.

William (Bill) Hayes
Written by

William (Bill) Hayes

William (Bill) Hayes, with over 20 years of experience, is deeply committed to assisting small and medium-sized businesses in developing effective B2B advertising strategies. His expertise primarily focuses on integrating on-premise signage solutions with traditional advertising methods. At Signdealz, Hayes leads the charge in innovating advertising tactics aimed at SMEs, concentrating on generating efficient, lead-producing mechanisms that outperform competitors in both immediacy and cost-effectiveness. He spends much of his time working directly with small business owners, guiding them in evaluating locations, advertising strategies, and the necessary systems to attract customers to physical sites. Utilizing a tested network of partners, Hayes plays a crucial role in facilitating the nationwide distribution of signage, underscoring his dedication to enhancing the visibility and growth of businesses across various sectors.

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