When is a Building Permit NOT Required?

A building permit is NOT required for the following types of minor work for any type of existing building*

* Excludes proposed and designated Chicago Landmarks and buildings in proposed or designated Chicago Landmark districts. For more information, contact the Historic Preservation Division in the Department of Planning and Development.

Interior Work
  • Painting, wallpapering, tiling, carpeting, cabinets, counter tops, and similar finish work, without plumbing or electrical connections.
  • Drywall or plaster repair or replacement up to 1,000 square feet without alteration of plumbing or electrical devices or systems.
  • In-kind replacement of ceiling tiles that are not part of a fire-rated assembly.
  • In-kind replacement of interior doors that are not required to have a fire-resistance rating.
  • Temporary motion picture, television, and theatrical stage sets and scenery.
  • Nonfixed and movable fixtures, cases, racks, counters, and partitions not over 7 feet in height.
  • Interior repairs that do not involve any of the following:
    • The cutting away or removal of any portion of an exterior wall, interior wall, or partition, floor, or roof.
    • The removal or cutting of any structural beam, column, or load-bearing support.
    • The removal or change of any required means of egress or rearrangement of parts of a structure affecting the egress requirements.
    • Mechanical, electrical, plumbing, or fuel gas equipment or systems.
Exterior Work
  • Non-combustible sidewalks, patios, walkways, parking surfaces, and driveways that are not located in or on the public way, not more than 30 inches above adjacent grade, and not over any basement or story below.
  • Fences that are not more than 5 feet above the ground on both sides and that conform to the Chicago Zoning Ordinance.
  • Retaining walls that are not over 4 feet in height measured from the bottom of the footing to the top of the wall, not supporting a surcharge, and not impounding liquids.
  • Swimming pools accessory to a 1-3 unit residential building (Group R-5 occupancy) that have a water depth of 48 inches or less and a 90% water volume not greater than 5,000 gallons.
  • Shade cloth structures constructed for nursery or agricultural purposes, not including service systems.
  • Playground equipment accessory to a building of residential (Group R) occupancy.
  • Landscape plants and vegetation.
  • Exterior repairs that do not involve any of the following: **
    • The cutting away or removal of any portion of an exterior wall, interior wall, or partition, floor, or roof.
    • The removal or cutting of any structural beam, column, or load-bearing support.
    • The removal or change of any required means of egress or rearrangement of parts of a structure affecting the egress requirements.
    • Mechanical, electrical, plumbing, or fuel gas equipment or systems.

**Masonry repair, cleaning, or grinding and other construction or repair activities that generate dust may require an air pollution control permit from the Environmental Permitting and Inspections Section of the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH).

Permanent Structures
  • One-story detached structures, not more than 15 feet above the ground, without plumbing, and used as tool and storage sheds, open gazebos, playhouses, and similar uses, or that are purely decorative (such as a sculpture), provided that the floor area is not greater than 150 square feet.
  • Water tanks supported directly on grade if the capacity is not greater than 5,000 gallons and the ratio of height to diameter or width is not greater than 2:1.
Temporary Structures
  • Temporary structures (installed for 180 days or less), other than construction trailers, provided that the floor area is not greater than 400 square feet and no portion of the structure will be more than 15 feet above adjacent grade.
  • Temporary stages and platforms (installed for 180 days or less) not more than 24 inches in height.
Electrical
  • Minor electrical repair work, including the replacement of lamps or the connection of portable electrical equipment to permanently installed receptacles.
  • Electrical equipment used for radio and television transmissions regulated by the Federal Communications Commission. (A permit is required for power supply wiring and the installations of towers, antennas, and similar supporting structures).
  • The installation of any temporary system required for the testing or servicing of electrical equipment or apparatus.
  • The installation or alteration of low voltage electrical fixtures, including telephones, computers, speakers, doorbells, and thermostats. (A permit is required for the installation of low voltage wiring.)
  • The installation or alteration of low-voltage and communication wiring in buildings of residential (Group R) occupancy with not more than 4 stories above grade plane and accessory structures, such as private garages and carports, located on the same lot as such buildings.
Mechanical
  • Portable heating appliances.
  • Portable ventilation equipment.
  • Portable cooling equipment.
  • Repair or replacement of any part within any heating, cooling, or ventilation equipment regulated by the Chicago Construction Codes that does not alter its function.
  • Self-contained refrigeration system containing 10 pounds or less of refrigerant and actuated by motors of 1 horsepower or less.
Plumbing
  • The stopping of leaks in drains or in water, soil, waste, or vent pipes within a building or within 5 feet of the building foundation. (The removal and replacement of any drain pipe, water, soil, waste, or vent pipe, or concealed trap with new material requires a permit and inspections as provided in the Chicago Construction Codes. For requirements related to work affecting the building drain (more than 5 feet beyond the building's foundation), see Chapter 11-16 of the Municipal Code.)
  • The clearing of stoppages or the repairing of leaks in pipes, valves, or fixtures and the removal and reinstallation of water closets, provided that such repairs do not involve or require the replacement or rearrangement of valves, pipes, or fixtures or work beyond 5 feet from the building foundation. (For requirements related to work affecting the building drain (more than 5 feet beyond the building's foundation), see Chapter 11-16 of the Municipal Code.)
Conveyance Devices
  • Repairs to a conveyance device involving replacement of existing parts with other parts that are identical to those that are replaced, provided a written log of such repairs must be maintained by the owner and made available to the building official upon request.

A building permit is NOT required for the following types of repairs to residential buildings up to 4 stories above grade and associated accessory buildings (such as sheds and garages) on the same lot*

* Excludes proposed and designated Chicago Landmarks and buildings in proposed or designated Chicago Landmark districts. For more information, contact the Historic Preservation Division in the Department of Planning and Development.

  • Repair or in-kind replacement of windows.
  • Repair or in-kind replacement of interior or exterior doors.
  • Reroofing on other than low-sloped (< 2:12) roofs.
  • Repair or in-kind replacement of exterior wood, vinyl, aluminum, fiber-cement, stucco, or EIFS siding.
  • Repair or in-kind replacement of a hot water heater.
  • Repair or in-kind replacement of a boiler.
  • Repair or in-kind replacement of a furnace.
  • Repair or in-kind replacement of air-conditioning equipment.
  • Removal and in-kind replacement of up to 50 square feet of masonry.**
  • Repair or in-kind replacement of an exterior porch or stairs with a landing not exceeding 50 square feet and not more than 6 feet above adjoining grade.

"In-kind replacement" means replacement of existing materials, objects, or elements using new materials, objects, or elements of the same type, size, and shape.

**Masonry repair, cleaning, or grinding and other construction or repair activities that generate dust may require an air pollution control permit from the Environmental Permitting and Inspections Section of the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH).

Code Compliance Required

Any work performed without a building permit, as allowed by Section 14A-4-402 of the Municipal Code, must still comply with all applicable requiremetns of the Chicago Construction Codes. Section 14A-4-402 does not waive any applicable requirements of the Chicago Construction Codes or of the Municipal Code other than the requirement to obtain a building permit.

If you have questions about whether proposed work is code compliant or requires a building permit, please contact the Easy Permit Program staff in City Hall Room 900.