Exit Sign Placement (2024 Building Code Requirements)

If you want to know about exit sign code requirements, you are in the right place!

In this guide, you will learn:

  • 9 essential exit sign codes
  • Exit sign height
  • Exit sign illumination
  • And more...
exit sign requirements

As a licensed home inspector, I typically work with residential properties, but I have inspected some commercial buildings as well, and exit signs are an important safety tool.

The last thing commercial property owners need is for people to get hurt or injured because the exit signs are missing or improperly installed.

Exit signs need to be clearly visible along the exit path to the outside. And the exit sign needs to be large enough so that it can be seen from a far distance.

Even though the codes in this article aren't exhaustive, I have tried to compile the most essential codes. Always verify code requirements with your local building department.

Keep reading to learn the 9 exit sign requirements!

U.S. Exit Sign Codes Are Based On NFPA, OSHA, and State Law

In the U.S., most exit sign code requirements use the NFPA life and safety code standard for egress signage as laid out in the NFPA 101 Handbook.

exit sign requirements

Most U.S. states have fully adopted the NFPA exit sign standards, so it is the most important safety standard nationwide. However, the final authority will be your state and county building codes, so always verify it locally. Here is an example of the state of Virginia code for exit signs.

In addition, U.S. employers are also subject to the standards and rules set out by OSHA. OSHA and the NFPA mostly overlap but there are some minor differences. You can read about the OSHA exit sign requirements here.

9 Building Code Exit Sign Requirements (NFPA Life And Safety Code)

  1. Exit Sign Mounting Height
  2. Floor Level Exit Signs
  3. Exit Sign Horizontal Distance
  4. Emergency Light Requirements
  5. Exit Sign Size
  6. Exit Signs For Building Operations Areas
  7. Main Entrance May Not Require Exit Sign
  8. Directional Signage
  9. Exit Sign Location Requirements

1. Exit Sign Mounting Height

The height of exit signs above doors cannot be more than 6-ft 8-in above the top of the exit door.

If the exit sign is placed too high above the egress doors, people fleeing during an emergency may overlook the sign if placed too high.

2. Floor Level Exit Signs

Floor proximity exit signs are placed near the ground and close to the egress door.

Floor exit signs need to be at least 6-inches above the floor, but not more than 18-inches.

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3. Exit Sign Horizontal Distance

If the exit signs are for exit doors to the outside, then the floor level exit sign can't be horizontally more than the "width of the exit door" as measured to the edge of the sign.

If the sign is simply an egress sign (door doesn't go outside), then the sign needs to be within 4-inches of the frame of the door horizontally.

building code exit sign requirements (1)

4. Emergency Light Requirements

If power goes out to the building, there needs to be at least 90-minutes of backup emergency lighting.

There are also power requirements for the emergency lights, and they need a starting illumination of at least 1 ft-candle and it should never drop below 0.1 ft-candle. The light level is measured along the egress path at floor level.

Emergency light height from floors is the same code as for floor signs. It must be at least 6-inches above the floor but not more than 18-inches.

Read Also >> What Is The Building Code For Crawl Spaces?

5. Exit Sign Size

The size of the exit sign letters is important in case of a fire or other emergency.

People should be able to clearly read exit signage from a distance of 100-ft.

If you are installing new exit signs in the building, the EXIT lettering needs to be at least 6-inches high. If you are inspecting existing egress signs, then the requirement is only 4-inches high for the lettering.

And the width of each letter in EXIT shall be at minimum 2-inches with the letter "i" exempted. There also needs to be spacing between the letters of at minimum 3/8-inch.

6. Exit Signs For Building Operations Areas

Exit signs are NOT required in building operations areas like maintenance or any other typically unoccupied spaces.

7. Main Entrance May Not Require Exit Sign

In most situations, an exit sign is NOT required for the main entrance door if it is obvious that it will also function as an exit.

If the main exit isn't easily apparent, then an exit sign is required.

Read Also >> What Is The Code For Smoke Detector Placement?

8. Directional Signage

Directional signs are required for horizontal areas of the path to the exit doors.

9. Exit Sign Location Requirements

The interior path to the exit of a building needs to be 'readily apparent' or must have exit signs that clearly show the way to the exterior.

Final Thoughts On Exit Sign Placement Requirements

Building codes for exit signs are essential to ensuring the safety of people during a fire or other emergency.

If the exit sign is too high up, then individuals fleeing a fire may be unable to see the sign. Or if exit sign lighting cuts out during an emergency, it can lead to injury or worse.

I hope you enjoyed this guide from Home Inspector Secrets!

Read Also >> What Are The Code Requirements For Gas Shutoff Valves?

Meet Your Home Inspector Secrets Author

2 thoughts on “Exit Sign Placement (2024 Building Code Requirements)”

  1. I have a building that has had new emergency lighting fitted above final exit doors, there is no signage in or on the lighting, the company that have carried out the work have just fitted some old exit signs above the doors and the lights are above the signs, is this sufficient or should the emergency lighting have the green signs within the lighting ?


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