Getting a building permit in Chicago


To obtain a building permit in Chicago, you need to:

One of the most important steps before diving into your renovation project in Chicago is to get a valid building permit. Though it may be tempting to forgo this legal route, you risk running into more delays and issues down the line if you decide to proceed without a permit.

In this guide, we’ll go through the different ways in which you can obtain permits, their costs, the criteria for application, and the risks you may encounter if you don’t have one.

How to obtain a building permit in Chicago

Getting a building permit for your renovation in Chicago depends on what type of project you are working on.

The major difference is that a review of technical drawings, such as architectural and engineering plans, is required as part of the standard process.

What kind of projects require a building permit?

Simple drywall (less than 1,000 sq ft) replacement, repair and painting of ceilings or walls, cabinet and countertop installation, re-tiling or new flooring, and other finishing work can all be done without a permit. However, anything beyond general finishes will require a permit in Chicago.

Cost of a building permit

The costs of a building permit depends on the type of work to be done as well as the duration and specifics involved. A full breakdown of how building permit fees work in 2022 can be found within the Excerpts of the Chicago Construction Codes related to building permit fees.

Acceptance criteria for a building permit application

Permits in Chicago using the City’s easy permit system must be submitted by the homeowner.  In order to apply for a permit successfully, your application must contain:

Additionally, the homeowner must provide proof of residence as well as details on the building being renovated.

Duration and validity of a building permit

A building permit is considered expired if construction still hasn’t begun six months after the permit is issued, or if there were 12 months of inactivity after construction has commenced.

Processing time

According to general guidelines, easy permits can be obtained the same day through the City. However, it’s best to budget around four weeks for the reception of a building permit if you’re applying through the easy permit system.

When it comes to the standard permit process, it can take up to 12 weeks before obtaining your certification, depending on how much time is needed to finalize the technical drawings for your project.

Billdr tip 💡 Considering how long the processing time could be, we recommend applying for a permit as soon as the contract is signed with your contractor.

Keeping in mind that your permit is only valid up to six months after its issuance, it’s better to start your application process earlier rather than later. For example, if you are renovating a kitchen, you may want to coordinate your permit application with the delivery times of your cabinet and appliances. However, it is always best to be safe and apply for your building permit as soon as you can.

Risks of not applying for a building permit

Though skipping the permit application process may sound like an appealing solution to save time, you’ll likely run into more issues down the road. If you do not apply for a permit, you are exposing yourself to a number of risks, which may actually delay your renovations instead.

Fines and stop-work orders

If a city official finds that your renovations are underway without a permit, a stop-work order can be issued. In such a case, construction will be shut down, and you may be required to undo any of the work that has been done at your own expense. In addition, the fine for permit violation is $1,000, on top of delaying your project.

Construction delays and bottlenecks

If your current residence has not been approved for construction and does not respect building codes, the City can halt your construction, delaying your timeline. When you’ve been flagged for building without a permit, you’ll have to go right back to the application process. However, getting approval for a permit can prove to be more challenging once you’ve infringed on regulations.

Increased liability and limited insurance

Without a building permit, you, as the homeowner, are now liable for any code violations. You will not be able to rely on your contractor’s trade license and insurance to cover for any corrective work or damages. Obtaining a permit shifts this risk onto your contractor, whose entire business is built for.

Though starting construction without a valid building permit may seem time-efficient, risky penalties can cause important delays instead. We recommend that you go through the right legal process to obtain a permit and ensure that your renovations run smoothly while avoiding potential pitfalls and fines.

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