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DISCLAIMER: The information provided on this page is a work in progress and should be viewed strictly as informative.

Freestanding Signs

What is a Freestanding Sign?

A Freestanding Sign is a sign anchored directly to the ground or supported by one or more posts, columns or other vertical structures or supports, and not attached to or dependent for support from any building. Sometimes they are referred to as ground signs, monument signs, pole signs, etc.

In the City of Milwaukee's code of ordinances:

  • MONUMENT SIGN: a freestanding sign supported by a solid foundation or base that is at least as wide as the sign’s display area.
  • POLE SIGN: any freestanding sign supported by one or more poles, except a monument sign.

What are the Two Types of Freestanding Signs?


A type A freestanding sign is characterized by a continuous sign base that extends from grade to the display area and is at least 75% as wide as the display area of the sign. 

Only individual letters or symbols may be internally illuminated.  This type of sign includes, but is not limited to: letters or symbols cut from an opaque panel such as metal; pin-set letters where individual letters may be back-lit, carved entablature-type signs and other general individual-letter, non-illuminated signs. 

Signs of this type are commonly referred to as “monument signs.”


A type B freestanding sign is one with a display area that has a background that is designed as an integral part of the sign.

This type of sign is typically a plastic-panel-faced box sign.  Other types of freestanding signs which do not have the characteristics of a type A sign are included in this category. 

This type may be mounted on one or multiple poles, or may have a monument-type bases.

Note on Location:  No freestanding sign may project over a property line.


Momument sign with masonry base and illuminated individual letters 

Individual letters. Placed on masonry monument. 

Freestanding Sign.  Only copy is illuminated at night.

Routed letters. In metal panel, showing depth. Only letters are illuminated at night by internal source

Individual letters. Placed on masonry monument.

Monument style with illuminating push-through letters

Illuminated letters and symbols


Type B sign with illuminating plastic face

Type B Freestanding Sign with letters only illuminating at night

Insert Caption

While a high quality sign, space between base and sign qualifies as Type B sign.

How do I Measure a Freestanding Sign?


The height of a sign shall be determined by measuring the distance between the highest point of the actual sign face and the finished grade directly below it. Sign height shall be measured in feet.


The display area of a sign shall be measured as the area, in square feet, of the smallest rectilinear polygon, with a maximum of 8 sides that describes the portion of the sign which encloses all lettering, wording design, or symbols together with any internally-illuminated or externally-illuminated background that is designed as an integral part of the sign. The following rules shall also be used in measuring display area:

a) Where a sign has multiple display surfaces and any 2 of these display surfaces are parallel and face in opposite directions, only one of the parallel display surfaces shall be included when calculating display area.

b) For an internally-illuminated awning sign, the display area shall be calculated as the height of the awning multiplied by its width.

c) The area of temporary signs shall not be included in computation of allowable area for permanent signage. Only one of the parallel display surfaces shall be included when calculating display area.


Click the table below to expand the image.

Signs that are Type B but have Type A characteristics:

Bonus Provision for Type “B” Freestanding Signs: If a monument-type base meeting the base standard for a type “A” freestanding sign is provided and the sign does not exceed 8 feet in height, the maximum display area shall be 10 square feet more than the maximum display area specified in table 295.805-5.

Standards for Multiple Freestanding Signs: Where more than one freestanding sign is permitted on a site, no 2 freestanding signs may have display areas that are oriented to the same street unless the signs are at least 150 feet apart or separated by a building which obstructs the view of each sign from the other sign.

Combination Type A and B Signs: Signs that contain elements of both type A and B signs shall be permitted as long as the size of each element does not exceed its prorated share of total display area, in accordance with s. 295-205-5-d.

Entire box internally illuminated (multi-tenant and single-tenant)

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