Building numbers can be a pain in the address

We are new to Medford, and while we think your streets, roads and highways have very clear markings, we find it difficult to locate businesses because the numbers on the buildings are not very visible. There are small numbers on some of the doors and hidden by overhangings, but we can't see them from the street. Would you comment on this?

— June and Jack R.,Medford

June and Jack, the city shares your concern that numbers should be visible, so much so that its building department has an "address technician" responsible for ensuring the numbers are big enough and clear enough.

That address technician, Jennifer Ingram, regularly reminds folks that their addresses need to be plainly visible from the street. If the address isn't visible, the property owner may get a visit from a city inspector.

Knowing just how big is big enough can be confusing. In fact, the Medford Municipal Code and the Oregon Fire Code don't even agree.

While the municipal code says address numbers should be a minimum of 3 inches high, the fire code requires that the figures be at least 4 inches high and half an inch wide. However, the fire code supersedes the municipal code, Ingram said.

Also, according to the fire code, if a building is not visible from the street, the owner must post a "monument, pole or other sign" to identify the address.

"And whenever there is an address change, information about sizing is included in a letter to the business or home owner," Ingram said.

Regardless of the size, the numbers should be a contrasting color so they are clearly visible, said Ralph Sartain, fire inspector for Medford Fire-Rescue.

"If we get a complaint from a fire crew that goes out and can't find an address, they then forward the complaint to our division and one of our inspectors will go check it out," he said.

Making sure address numbers are conspicuous is part of the fire department's general company inspections.

"We have 5,000 commercial businesses in Medford that we're responsible for, but unfortunately, we don't see every business," he said. "As time goes by, the signs can start to wear."

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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