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Porch FAQ

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 Safety for more information.

My porch looks unsafe, what can I do?
Refer to the Porch and Deck Safety section of the website to determine what elements of your porch may be unsafe and how to remediate any problems you encounter.

If you are a building owner, simply dial 3-1-1 and tell the operator you would like an "owner-requested" porch inspection at your property. Please leave a contact name and phone number with the 311 operator.

If you are a tenant and notice any questionable conditions, make a note of the specifics and inform your landlord/property owner. If they fail to act immediately to remedy the problems,call 3-1-1 to request an inspection by a Building Inspector.

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.

Where can I find a licensed Structural Engineer or Architect?
Referrals for names of professionals who perform work on porches can be obtained through either the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Chicago Chapter at 312.670.7770 or the Structural Engineers Association of Illinois (SEAOI) at 312.372.4198. The City cannot provide recommendations.

How do I know if I’ve found a good SE or Architect?
Always shop around for the best price for the best product. Familiarize yourself with the report requirements and be sure the professional you hire is also aware of them. Find out if the professional has submitted Structural Investigation Reports for Porches to the Department of Buildings before.

Why can’t the City recommend a SE/Arch?
It is a conflict of interest for the City to recommend licensed professionals. If the City provides recommendations, it could be construed as favoritism, so for this reason the Department of Buildings will not provide recommendations. Please contact SEAOI or AIA to obtain referrals.

What needs to be included in a SE/Arch Report?
Click on the Report Requirements to view a .pdf file containing the requirements for Structural Investigation Reports for Porches and Decks. Refer also to the Structural Engineer / Architect Reports section of the website for more information.

What is the protocol for review of SE/Arch Reports?
Whenever a porch is cited to submit a Structural Investigation Report for a porch or deck, the report is reviewed by the Department of Buildings (DOB). The Department of Buildings does NOT review these reports.

I have questions about permits, where can I find the answers?
The Department of Buildings which issues permits in the City, and whose staff can answer questions related to the permits. Which sections of the Chicago Building Code pertain to porches? Refer to the Related Building Code Sections of the Porch and Deck Information website.

What is Voluntary Compliance?
The Department of Buildings Voluntary Compliance Program is designed to help ensure life safety and compliance with the Chicago Building Code by working directly with building owners to comply violations of the Building Code. Owners are encouraged to concentrate the investment of resources for the safety and durability of their buildings. Refer to the Voluntary Compliance website within the Department of Buildings website.

Does the City offer financial assistance for the repair of porches?
Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago (NHS) partners with the City to rebuild neighborhoods throughout Chicago. NHS provides financing assistance programs specifically designed for Chicago residents who own single-family homes or 2- to 4-unit buildings.

Why must porches be designed for 100psf live loading; that seems too high?
The Code has always been very specific that all exit ways must be designed for 100psf live loading. Since porches and decks are generally the second means of exit at a building, changing the load requirement to 100psf was a clarification.