Porch and Deck Safety

Who should I call if I'm concerned about a porch or deck in Chicago?

Please contact 3‑1‑1. Provide as much information as possible about the location of the porch or deck and your specific concern(s). The City will send a building inspector to check on the porch or deck. 

Do I need a building permit to repair my porch or deck?  

A building permit is not required for routine porch maintenance, such as power washing or painting. If you have not received a building code violation, a building permit is not required to repair or replace non-structural elements of a porch, such as deck boards, stair treads, or railing pickets. A building permit is not required to repair or replace a residential porch that is less than 6 feet off the ground and has no more than 50 square feet of landing area.

If you have received a building code violation and need to repair or replace nonstructural elements of a porch to correct the violation, you may obtain a building permit using the Express Permit Program.

A building permit is always required to repair or replace structural elements of a porch, such as columns, beams, foundations, stringers, or floor joists. For this type of building permit, you must submit plans prepared by an Illinois-licensed architect or structural engineer as part of the building permit application. 

Can you recommend a contractor, architect, or structural engineer?

The City cannot recommend specific architects, engineers, or contractors.

It is good practice to obtain bids or proposals from three contractors and check references for similar work in the City of Chicago.

For small projects, such as porch repair or replacement, the contractor you select may recommend an architect or engineer to prepare the permit application. Professional organizations such as the American Institute of Architects (AIA) – Chicago Chapter or Structural Engineers Association of Illinois (SEAOI) may also be able to refer you to an architect or engineer for your project. 

Architects and engineers must be licensed by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR). You can confirm that an architect or engineer is properly licensed on IDFPR's website.

General contractors are licensed by the City of Chicago. You can confirm that a general contractor is licensed here.

Do I need to hire a licensed general contractor or can I act as my own general contractor?  

If the building is your primary residence, is no more than three stories tall, and contains no more than six dwelling units, you may act as your own general contractor. If you choose to act as the general contractor, you will be responsible for overseeing worker safety, scheduling inspections, and ensuring work is performed in accordance with the Chicago Construction Codes.

For all other projects, you must hire a Chicago-licensed general contractor.

How do I request an inspection of my porch once a permit is attained?  

If there are no porch violations on your property, a porch permit inspection needs to be requested at: https://webapps1.cityofchicago.org/eforms/org/cityofchicago/permitInspectionAppointment/index.jsp.  

An inspector recently inspected my porch, what is he looking for?

Building inspectors perform porch and deck inspections according to this check sheet. Inspectors inspect all elements of the porch, including joists, beams, columns, stairs, hand/guard rails, ledger boards, connections, and footings. Per ordinance, all elements of porches and decks must be able to support 100 pounds per square foot live loading. Refer to the Inspections and Violations section of the website.

I received a notice of violation regarding my porch systems, what are my next steps?

If you receive a notice of violation please read the notice carefully.  

If you receive a notice for Administrative Hearings:

The notice you receive will tell you if a plan and permit is required for repairs/replacement. On your scheduled date for the Administrative Hearing, bring any proof of compliance. This can include the permit and photos showing before and after pictures of the porch.  

If you receive a notice for Circuit Court: 

The notice that you received will tell you if a plan and permit is required for repairs/replacement of the porch.  A court inspector will be assigned to your case.  That inspector will be responsible for follow-up inspections and guidance.  Please call the number on your notice to obtain the name and number of the court inspector.