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How to determine the budget for your sign project.


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. You are most likely reading this article to determine what your budget should be for your upcoming sign project or you might be searching to add a sign to your existing business.

Signdealz has helped hundreds of small and medium-sized business owners purchase affordable quality signage for over a decade. We understand the challenges you will face every day out there in the retail world. Our goal is to arm you with the information you need to make an informed decision before you shell out a ton of cash for a sign you will be stuck with for years. We want you to be 100% sure you're making the right decision.

Custom 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.


  1. Project Administrative Costs
    1. Project Management Costs
    2. Permit Procurement Costs
    3. Permit Fees
    4. Zoning Review Fees
    5. Building Code Review Costs
  2. Design Costs
  3. Signage Engineering Costs
  4. Cost Factors Factors for Signage Driven By Location
    1. Stand Alone Buildings
    2. Community-Based Shopping Centers
    3. Interior Mall Signage
  5. Signage Installation Costs


Project Administration Costs:

Project administration is a critical element in the deployment of a successful sign project. Depending on your project's scope, project administrative fees will impact the overall cost of your project. Below you will find some important information regarding the administrative fees for a sign project:

Project Management Costs: ($250 to $5000)

Project management is billed by the hour, based on the project's scope. Single sign projects will require coordination between the landlord, general contractor, electrician, architect, and any other subcontractor involved in your sign project. 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. Many sign companies will roll this amount into the overall price of your signage and it may not be itemized on your quote, so make sure you ask your salesperson what you are being charged. 


Permit Procurement Costs: ($250 to $500)

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 $250 to $500. Hourly charges for additional administrative hours range from $75 to $100 per hour.


Permit Fees: (Average $650 to as much as 12% of job Cost)

Each building and planning department will require you to pay several fees depending on 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: ($100 to $500)

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 $500 and higher.

Building Code Review Cost:

Sign schematics are reviewed by a building inspector to ensure they comply with the building code. These fees are generally charged with a minimum fee or assessed from the project's valuation. These fees can range from as little as $50 to as much as $10,000, 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.

Sign Engineering Costs: ($850 to $1000)

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 sign 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 the building code. Engineering costs can range from $850 for a single wall sign to $1500 to $2000 for larger, more complex ground signs. The average price of a set of engineering is between $700 to $1000.

Design Costs: ($150 to $350) average project

The average cost of a sign design for a single sign 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. Your design will have a direct impact on your project and you MUST pay attention to the details in the drawing.

Large Project Design Costs: A large project would be any project with more than 5 signs that need to be designed independently. Monument, pylon, and pole signs tend to take the most time to design, since the designer needs to incorporate the face, frame, electrical, and footing specifications into each design. Adding a stone or masonry base can add numerous hours


Cost Factors for Signage Driven by Location:

The 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. The 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 of $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 of Signage Costs:

Installation 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: $120 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. High-Rise sign installations for signage will range between $25,000 to $100,000 depending up permits and the equipment needed for the installation.


Electrical Costs for Signage:

Electrical costs for a project should be coordinated with a licensed electrician in the state your project is in. Your sign company should provide the input voltage and amps for your sign project to you or your electrician to ensure everyone knows how much power your signs will need. We wanted to provide some budgetary numbers for you for smaller projects. 

The average channel letter sign with LED illumination will draw approximately 2 amps or less at 120 volts. The average cost for running a 20 Amp circuit from a panel in a small shopping center unit should cost around $800 to $1500. 

Electrical costs will start to vary wildly the larger the project gets as well as the amount of power you need increases. For ground signage, you are going to need to factor in any trenching or directional boring that will be required. It's not uncommon to see electrical costs for ground signs when you include trenching from $2000 to $5000.


Pricing Summary:

Pricing on your sign project will 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.

Signdealz is your one stop resource for your signage project. Trust our teams decades of experience. 


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