4 things to consider when buying a business sign

December 17, 2014

Signs are a very important part of publicizing and branding your business, but have you looked into all the regulations that could affect your business before purchasing a sign? Here are some important things to consider.

4 things to consider when buying a business sign

Location and property

One thing that is often overlooked is whether the placement of a sign will interfere with the property of your neighbours or property that belongs to the town or city. Make sure you don’t obstruct passageways, vents, or windows in any way. Sometimes this isn’t obvious until the last minute. A good way to avoid future altercations with neighbours is simply to have a chat with them explaining your plans. If anything seems to be a cause for concern, the conversation will be open for them to take it up with you. You can also outright ask them if your proposed sign might interfere with their property.

Also, if your sign overhangs on a sidewalk, make sure this is alright with the city or you may be fined. Another important point for consideration is whether the placement of your sign will be an eyesore for your neighbours. Your neighbourhood may not have specific regulations related to this, but unhappy neighbours can cause trouble if a sign reduces the view from their window, even if they have no lawful claim.


Depending on the type of sign you are putting up, you may to need to consider getting a construction permit. Small signs may not require this as they can be set up rather quickly effecting the structure of a building and without any hazardous safety issues. Other signs, like self-supporting signs that require a structure, may require a permit.

If you’re setting up a temporary sign, on the sidewalk for example, you’ll need to check with your municipality to see if this is allowed or if any special permits are needed. In some places, temporary signs on your property may be permitted, but in others it is not allowed except under specific circumstances. Placing a temporary sign on a public sidewalk in front of your business is often unacceptable if you don’t have a permit and can get you a hefty fine.


If your business is in a historic neighbourhood, aesthetics may be a concern. In cities, towns, and village where historic preservation is valued, there may be laws limiting the types of materials, colours, and style of a sign. Make sure to comply with these before buying your sign. After all, signs are usually custom orders, so you’re unlikely to able to return one.


In some areas, there are language laws regulating which languages can be used on certain types of signs, from business signs to advertisements. These regulations can be as specific to detail the relative size of the typeface used for one language compared to another.

Regulations vary greatly from city to city and from borough to borough. It’s a good idea to check in with someone at your town or city hall to find out what these are for your business location.

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