The Department of Buildings

Deck and Porch Safety

How do I know if my porch is safe?
The City has a number of resources available for owners/tenants to inspect their own porches. See Porch and Deck Information.

Do I need a permit?  
A building permit is required to repair and/or replace porch components if the porch of an occupied single family home is less than 50 square feet and less than 6’0” off the ground no permit is required. You can obtain a permit through the Easy Permit Process.

Can I obtain a porch permit at the neighborhood centers?   
Yes; owner occupied single family residences may obtain a permit at any of the neighborhood permit centers.

Which porch components have to be repaired/replaced that require architectural plans?
Repair or replacement of structural porch components such as columns, beams, foundations, stringers, floor joists and guardrails require the applicant to obtain architectural plans.

Which porch components can be repaired with a permit only?
Non-structural components can be repaired or replaced with a permit only for example, decking, pickets, treads, risers, etc.

Where can I find a licensed Structural Engineer or Architect?
The City cannot provide recommendations, but it is good practice to contact three porch contractors to obtain a bid. Referrals for names of professionals who perform work on porches can be obtained through either the American Institute of Architects (AIA) – Chicago Chapter or the Structural Engineers Association of Illinois (SEAOI).

Do I need to hire a licensed general contractor or can I act as my own general contractor?  
If the building is owner occupied, it is recommended that you hire an experienced porch contractor.   The City cannot provide recommendations, but it is good practice to contact three porch contractors to obtain a bid.

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:  

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.