Sign Permits

A sign permit from the Department of Buildings is generally required to place a sign on a parcel of land, a building, a structure or a place of business in the City of Chicago.

On this page, you can find the following information:

What Is a Sign?
When Is a Sign Permit Required?
Can a Business Apply For an On-Premise Sign Permit?
Can a Real Property Owner Apply for an Off-Premise Sign Permit?
How Do I Apply for a Sign Permit?
When Do I Need to List a Contractor on a Sign Permit Application?
Can I Put Up the Sign Before I Get the Permit?
How Much Will My Sign Permit Cost?

What Is a Sign?

A sign is any name, identification, description, display, illustration, or character which: (1) is affixed to, or represented directly or indirectly (including projected) upon, a building, structure, or piece of land; and (2) directs attention to an object, product, place, activity, person, institution, organization, or business.

There are two categories of signs, on-premise signs and off-premise signs.

An on-premise sign (also known as a business identification sign) is a sign that directs attention to a business, commodity, service, or entertainment conducted, sold, or offered on the premise where the sign is located.  For instance, a sign reading Acme Realtors on the premises occupied by the business Acme Realtors.

An off-premise sign (also known as an advertising sign) is a sign that directs attention to a business, commodity, service, or entertainment that is not conducted, sold, or offered on the premise where the sign is located.  For instance, a sign reading Acme Realtors on a building or lot that is not occupied by the business Acme Realtors.

When Is a Sign Permit Required?

A sign permit is always required for an off-premise sign (13-20-550(a)).

A sign permit is required for an on-premise sign (13-20-550(a)) with the following limited exceptions:

  • A temporary on-premise sign constructed wholly from paper, fabric, vinyl, or similar materials and attached to a window for no more than 60 days, provided that the total area of all signage in a single window does not exceed 25% of the glazing area of that window (13-20-550(d)).
  • An on-premise sign painted directly onto the window or made of plastic film or similar material and fully adhered to the window by means of adhesive or static cling for any duration, provided that the total area of all signage in a single window does not exceed 25% of the glazing area of that window (13-20-550(d)).
  • Lettering that is painted directly onto the glass of a window and less than 2 inches in height will not be counted in the calculation of the 25% if it is an on-premises sign.

A sign permit is not required for an 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).

A sign permit is not required for an official sign, public notice sign or warning sign required or authorized by a federal, state or municipal law, such as a no smoking sign, no firearm sign, a high voltage sign or a consumer rights notice sign (17-17-0501).

Businesses are strongly advised to consult the Municipal Code and obtain a permit PRIOR to ordering or purchasing a sign as not all signs are allowed under the building, zoning and public way provisions of the Municipal Code.

For your reference, the majority of requirements relating to signs can be found online at www.amlegal.com/Chicago/ in the follow chapters of the Municipal Code:

  • Chapter 10-24: Signs Extending Over and Upon the Public Way
  • Chapter 13-20, Article XIII: Signs and Related Structures
  • Chapter 13-96, Articles I and II: Outdoor Signs and Electric Signs
  • Section 14E-6-600: Electric Signs and Outline Lighting
  • Chapter 17-12: Signs

The Zoning district for an address can be found by typing in the address in at the following: https://gisapps.cityofchicago.org/zoning/

Can a Business Apply for an On-Premise Sign Permit?

Yes. A business does not need to hire a third-party to apply for the permit.

Can a Real Property Owner Apply for an Off-Premise Sign Permit?

Yes. A real property owner does not need to hire a third-party to apply for the permit.

How Do I Apply for a Sign Permit?

  1. All sign permit applications must be started online at: https://ipiweb.cityofchicago.org/DynamicPortal/Forms/Secure/Login.aspx
    If this is your first time applying for a sign permit you will need to create an online account at: https://ipiweb.cityofchicago.org/DynamicPortal/Forms/Secure/Login.aspx
    Each sign requires a separate permit application.
  2. Complete the online portion of the application and then pay the zoning review fee. No application will be processed without payment of the zoning review fee. Print out a copy of the completed online portion of the application.
  3. Complete the paper supplemental permit application available at: https://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/bldgs/general/Signs2014/SupplementalSignPermitApplication01JAN2018.pdf
    The paper supplemental application provides for greater detail to allow for a quicker review by City departments and decrease the time for a permit to be issued.
  4. Submit both the printed copy of the online application and the supplemental paper application, an image or drawing of the proposed sign, a plan or diagram of the proposed location of the sign, any architectural or engineering design documents (if applicable) and other supporting documentation to:

Chicago Dept. of Buildings
Attn: Mr. Mark Izzo
121 N. LaSalle St., Rm. 900
Chicago, IL 60602

Please note that in addition to the above:

  • Any sign, sign structure or sign apparatus (such as external floodlights) that extend over the public way (sidewalk, parkway, street or alley) requires a Public Way Use Permit and a City Council Ordinance. For more information please contact the alderman’s office of the ward the sign will be located in or the Department of Business Affairs & Consumer Protection (BACP) at 312-74-GOBIZ or visit BACP’s Public Way Use page.  
  • Any sign which exceeds 100 square feet in area or which exceeds 24 feet above ground level requires a City Council Order. For more information please contact the Alderman’s Office of the ward the sign will be located.
  • Any requests for missing information, corrections or reasons for non-approval by the Department of Buildings or the Department of Planning & Development Zoning Bureau are noted real-time in the online system for the applicant to view online via their account.
  • When all City approvals are granted, the City will notify the applicant via email. The applicant can then pay the permit fee and print out the permit online.

When Do I Need to List a Contractor on a Sign Permit Application?

A business owner can install a sign themselves except when the sign or sign structure requires stamped drawings by a licensed architect or licensed structural engineer (14E-6-600.28). In those instances, you will need to list a licensed general contractor on the permit application.

14E-6-600.28 Engineered Drawings Required.

Drawings prepared by an architect or structural engineer, licensed to practice in the State of Illinois, and bearing the seal of the architect or engineer are required for and shall be presented with the applications for permits for the erection or alteration of signs which fall into the following categories:

(1) Signs requiring a roof structure which extends more than 3.66 m (12 ft) from the roof to the top of the structure
(2) Signs requiring a roof structure if any face of the sign exceeds 5.57 m2 (60 ft2) in area 
(3) Signs held by diverging guys or supports at angles less than 45 degrees with the sign 
(4) signs which exceed 91 kg (200 lb) in weight
(5) Projecting signs with any face which exceeds 9.3 m2 (100 ft2) in area
(6) Projecting signs having more than 50% of the vertical dimension of the sign above the roof line and having any face that exceeds 5.57 m2 (60 ft2) in area 
(7) Projecting signs supported by roof structures
(8) Signs erected entirely above the roof of a building
(9) Signs supported from the ground by independent structure(s) with a top which is more than 7.32 m (24 ft) above the level of the adjoining street or surrounding grade
(10) Installation of new sign boxes or channel letters 
(11) Exterior signs not made of a solid material or substance, including but not limited to paper, fabric, cloth, vinyl or similar flexible material or substance which (i) exceed 9.3 m(100 ft2) in area or which are 7.32 m (24 ft) or more above grade and (ii) are secured to a building by means of brackets, channels, cables, hooks, nails, screws, straps, cords or other means other than a painted wall sign 
(12) Where, in the opinion of the Building Department, the erection or alteration of a sign poses an unusual hazard or is not covered by this Code.

Also, if there is any electrical work required for the installation of the sign, sign structure or associated lighting, you will need to list a registered electrical contractor on the permit application, and the electrical contractor must perform the electrical work.

For your protection, please check the below links to ensure that the contractors are properly licensed or registered in the City of Chicago prior to giving any funds to a contractor. Also for your protection, do not use a contractor that is not properly licensed or registered.

Licensed General Contractors

Licensed Electrical Contractors

When a Permit is Required Can I Put Up the Sign Before I Get the Permit?

No. Any sign requiring a permit that is installed prior to the actual permit being issued is subject to citation.  

When a Permit is Required Can I Put Up the Sign Before I Get the Permit?
No. Any sign requiring a permit that is installed prior to the actual permit being issued is subject to citation.  

How Much Will My Sign Permit Cost? 

How Much Will My Sign Permit Cost? 

The zoning review fee for an on-premise sign is $200.00 (17-13-0103-A). The zoning review fee for an off-premise sign is $500.00 (17-13-0103-A).

The building department review fees are based on the square footage of the sign. The fee ranges are (13-32-310(E)):

0-49 square feet: $50.00 
50-99 square feet: $100.00
100-199 square feet: $200.00
200-499 square feet: $500.00
500 square feet or larger: $1,000.00