Process of Permit Approval in Chicago
Updated: Dec 9, 2021
One of the most crucial components of remodeling your home is obtaining a building permit. Construction can be held up if the proper building permits are not obtained. Not only could improper permits delay your project, but you could also be fined. This article will guide you through the steps to obtaining building permits in Chicago.
What are building permits?
A building permit is a document issued by a local building inspection office to authorize a builder, remodeler, or DIYer to complete certain home repairs, improvements, or building projects in cases where local authorities deem oversight necessary.
For all construction projects that require the attention of an authorized inspector, building permits are issued. A code inspector will oversee the work, sometimes multiple times, to ensure it is safe and compliant with code specifications. There are, however, quite a few variations in requirements in each state and even within states. No permits or inspections are required for some repairs, whereas permits are required for many, if not most, significant improvements in other communities.
Any work involving safety concerns generally requires a permit. A permit is usually required for electrical, plumbing, and structural work, whereas cosmetic work, such as painting, replacing floors, or changing out fixtures, generally does not require one. The term "repair" is drawn a distinction in some communities from the term "improvement." Projects that repair or replace a home may not require a permit; however, those that add value or improve the home usually do.
When you have questions, ALWAYS contact your local office for a home inspection to determine what is required for the project you are considering. A long-term solution cannot be achieved by skipping this step. Projects concluded without required permits will often be flagged when selling a home, and getting the work approved afterward can be very labor-intensive and costly. If inspections and approvals are performed after the fact, some communities may impose fines or increase fees.
What do you need a permit for in Chicago?
A listing has just been shown to you by your broker, and you have fallen in love with it. Everything is fine, except that you'll need to replace the carpet in the master bedroom. There are a few walls within the house that have to be removed to create better flow. If you're going to tear down that old tree, you should probably do so while you're at it. Consider replacing the fence, re-doing the siding, and adding a paved area in the backyard.
At any given moment, there are several different types of houses on the market in Chicago. Aside from Victorian homes dating back hundreds of years, you might also find two flats from the 1930s in Chicago as well as brand new constructions. As a result of the unique housing stock available in the city, many people view a home as an opportunity to make their mark and turn their dream house into reality.
According to city officials, on their "Building" page:
To protect public health, safety, and welfare, building permits serve as a means of ensuring construction work adheres to the Chicago Building Code's safety requirements. Building permits are usually required before starting most construction, demolition, and repair projects."
The city also requires permits for a wide range of projects, so you should bear that in mind. Home repairs, for instance, are going to require a different set of permits than the building of a new skyscraper downtown. For example, the permits you need to restore plumbing, or electrical systems might differ from erecting a temporary structure. For many homeowners, the city's "Easy Permit Process" will be a good option for more minor projects (e.g., those that do not require architectural drawings or excavation work). As an example of a special permit, there is a waiver program to facilitate green projects or a program designed to assist senior citizens.
As a result, one must keep in mind that not every project will require a permit. Your home's structure and systems will be affected depending on the scope of the project and the scope of the work.
Let's explore some typical examples of projects that need building permits, as indicated by information provided by the City of Chicago.
What Types of Projects Typically Require Permits?
Listed below are a few common building projects in Chicago that may require multiple permits. This is not a complete or exhaustive list of the types of projects that typically require permits:
Residential, commercial, and retail construction (includes new high-rises)
Building an addition (like an additional room, upper floor, or further expansion)
Building a detached or attached garage
Adding or modifying electrical, furnace, hot water, and plumbing systems
Converting to a single-family home (for example, converting a two-flat to a single-family)
Attic renovation or completion
Demolition of a shed, garage, or entire house
Basement finishing or renovation
Adding a fence taller than 5 feet
Adding or replacing a deck or porch to your home
Installation/replacement of a boiler
Installation/replacement of chimneys
Which types of projects do not typically require permits?
Does obtaining a permit not usually apply to repairs and replacements? As an example, here are a few common ones - this list is not exhaustive, just indicative:
The interior finish of the house can be changed or modified (carpet, hardwood, tile floors, paint, wallpaper, etc.)
Removing and replacing interior ceiling tiles
(Also, as long as electrical and/or plumbing connections are not interfered with) replacing or adding cabinetry and fixtures
Add a walkway (at grade) or patio to the exterior
Replacing identically shaped and sized windows and doors
Private property can be fenced with a fence under 5 feet tall
Other Things to Consider
Be aware that many different extenuating factors can affect your project, regardless of whether it is permitted or not. What are some examples? Frequently, historical buildings are designated as "landmarks," which limits what can be done inside and around the building. A similar circumstance may occur in "landmark districts," where a certain degree of uniformity must prevail between the properties.
The Easy Permit process will apply to many standard projects. However, you have a chance to skip this whole process by using Permit Studio.
What is the process for getting a permit in Chicago?
The department of Buildings had stated that by 2020, procedures described for permits would offer most types of accessible permit applications, which before needed to be submitted in-person and payment at City Hall for submission, processing, and payment online. In collaboration with the Department of Assets, Information, and Services (AIS), DOB is working on permanent updates to the online process. You can sign up for email alerts and get updates for this procedure by visiting the DOB website.
Validity of a Permit
After a building permit has been issued, there are different time requirements based on the area. However, it is a standard form that if work is not started or completed within six months of the permit's date, the permit must expire. Renewals and extensions of expired permits are possible, but it is usually a good idea to get your permit issued as close as possible to the start of the work.
Located within the City of Chicago, the Department of Buildings (DOB) provides several pre-approval plan review options to clients and developers. Review processes vary in scope and complexity but are all designed to facilitate the expedited implementation of different construction projects and provide effective customer service for each type of construction project.
As of 2021, the city will offer a different plan review process called the Easy Permit Process. In 2016, Direct Developer Services, a track for significant developments and complex projects, was introduced.
Easy Permit Process
DOB provides a straightforward permitting process known as the Easy Permit Process (EPP) for simple residential and commercial projects, most commonly for trades including electrical work and door replacements.
Easy Permit Process-eligible projects include:
Drywall Replacement over 1,000 square feet
Door and Window Replacement
Replacement of Gas Furnaces (Commercial Only)
Replacement of Existing Plumbing Fixtures
You can submit online submittals for electrical work (completed by a licensed electrician), tuck-pointing, fence replacement (not chain link or brick), a water heater replacement, garage construction, and window and door replacement. The scope of the project and all related forms must be filed in person at DOB.
Upon issuance, the permit can be paid for at the counter of the Department of Revenue after the DOB staff completes the Final Review.
Costs of a building permit
Depending on the jurisdiction - a state, a city, a town, or a county - different requirements apply for issuing permits. Each jurisdiction has its fees associated with each permit. When planning a budget for any project, these costs should be factored in.
Obtaining building permits and paying the required permit fees are prerequisites to starting any building project. Owners, contractors, or building permit expeditors, complete the required forms and submit them to the appropriate jurisdiction office that manages construction permits. The actual cost of building permits is determined by the location and type of work being performed on your property and the fee schedule of the city or town in question.
You will be subjected to fines and stop-work orders during inspections if you don't obtain the correct permits. Obtaining building permits may seem like an unnecessary hassle, but ensuring your project goes smoothly is crucial. The permit system ensures the safety and quality of construction, among other things. Permits must be approved and issued before construction can begin.
Building permits are required in the following areas of construction. Depending on your location, this can vary greatly:
Permits must be obtained before construction on a new building.
A permit is required for additions and enlargements, such as square footage or a garage or deck to a residential building.
Renovations of significant buildings or restoration of older single-family homes occur here. Almost every renovation requires a building permit.
Additions and deletions of walls, as well as demolitions: These are structural changes. Such constructions usually require a building permit because they may alter the load-bearing portion and potentially cause it to fail.
Work involving electrical, plumbing, or mechanical systems: In most cases, electrical, plumbing, or mechanical work needs a building permit. It's best to check with your local jurisdiction before starting work on smaller jobs or repair-and-replace installations since you may not need a permit.
Using the Easy Permit Program, home improvement projects can be permitted quickly and easily. The permit enables builders and homeowners to make minor maintenance or repairs to a building without providing plans. These types of projects can be approved using the Easy Permit Process:
Inside the Building
Installation of Drywall (100 square feet or greater)
Destructive fire damage (buildings with 24 % or minor fire damage require demolition inspection approval and an electric permit)
-Fireplaces (only in homes with four or more units, the existing gas-fired ones should be replaced)
Plumbing Fixtures Needed to Be Replaced
Work involving electrical components (electrical contractors needed)
Countertops and cabinets should be replaced (for condos only)
Outside the Building
Replacement of doors and windows (4 dwelling units or more, if same size, exact location)*
Fencing (excludes masonry walls or fences greater than 5 ft. in height)
Sheds that are bigger than 150 square feet
Garages without rooftop deck with a frame area up to 600 square feet
Enclosure for trash (wood only)
Permit for repairs only (if reporting a violation indicates this)
Masonry work required (mason contractor required)
Tuckpointing (masonry contractor is required, pollution prevention permit required for masonry cleaning and grinding)
General contractors or primary owners can perform the work on roofs* (Adding a layer can be handled by a general contractor)
Roof replacement (If total tear-off is required, a licensed roofing contractor is required)
Masonry contractor is required for lintel repair (6'-0" maximum opening)
Permits for scaffolding (for work over public ways approved by the Chicago Department of Transportation, a permit can be issued the same day)
How the process works
Permit Studio will download an application, then submit it and any other documentation (you must have a PIN) to one of our representatives before they have an appointment.
The Easy Permit application can be completed online, paid for, printed, and then mailed.
The owner must sign the Easy Permit Process application before it can be submitted. Application forms are automatically rejected if the owner does not sign them.
Make sure that the owner and contractor signed a contract detailing the scope of the project. Whenever possible, provide contractors with a signed letter of intent.
How Much Does a Permit Cost in Chicago?
Permit fees are estimated by a Permit Fee Calculator provided by the City of Chicago. You need to know factors such as construction, the occupancy type, the square footage, and the project scope to use the Permit Fee Calculator. However, if you want to skip that process, you can hire a permit expediter through Permit Studio.
Highlights of The Easy Permit (EP) process:
Building owners can obtain a permit for small projects involving non-structural repair or replacement of existing building features without the need for architectural drawings. Building permits for projects not requiring plumbing, ventilation, refrigeration, and environmental reviews were added to the Easy Permit option to streamline the process. Permit Studio will download the application from the City of Chicago's website. Filling out and submitting it to the city is required. Generally, Easy Permits cover only areas requiring repair or replacement, which could include electrical, tuck-pointing, fences, furnaces, water heaters, wood-frame garages, and windows and doors. Ensure that a City staff member may contact the applicant in case of a question; all contact information must be included on the application.
In case you missed any of these items, here is a quick overview of what should make the application process more manageable as Permit Studio will:
Confirm that all the information required by the code is indicated on drawings if applicable.
To obtain a permit number, complete the online Building Permit Application
Be sure all files are appropriately named before uploading to the city's Website
Please review all the files and upload them
In addition, the Chicago Department of Buildings has implemented a new archiving process for all permits. The DOB will archive documents for permitted projects to clear up space on their servers. Before July 1, 2014, all permits permitted more than two years ago will be archived quarterly, and in the future, all permits permitted more than two years ago will also be archived quarterly.
Expired permits have not been used after six months of issue or those whose validity is more than 12 months old after construction has begun. Previously, multiple approvals were required for reinstating a building permit. All permit reinstatements may now be approved by a supervisor in the City Hall Building Department.