Construction and development is subject to a variety of codes, ordinances, guidelines, permitting and inspections – all designed to establish high standards for safety, design and planning. The intent of these regulations is to enhance the safety, quality and character of the built environment.
Navigating through government websites and departments is not an easy task, neither for contractors nor for homeowners.
That’s why as local remodeling experts, 123 Remodeling compiled a comprehensive guide to building permits and requirements in the Chicagoland area: Chicago, Evanston, Bannockburn, Buffalo Grove, Deerfield, Glencoe, Glenview, Golf, Highland Park, Highwood, Kenilworth, Lake Bluff, Lake Forest, Lincolnshire, Lincolnwood, Morton Grove, Niles, Northbrook, Northfield, Park Ridge, Skokie, Wilmette, and Winnetka.
Table of Content
- Why Do I Need a Building Permit?
- Do I Need to Hire a Professional Architect or Engineer?
- Do I need to hire a general contractor?
- Permit Terms
- Common Projects That Require Permit
- When a Building Permit is Not Required
- What Should I Do Before Applying for a Permit?
- Types of Permit Review Processes
- What Should I Bring to the Permit Office?
- Resources and Links for Acquiring Permits in Chicago and Suburbs
Why do I need a building permit?
The building permit process is designed to ensure that buildings comply with the minimum safety standards established by the Building Code for the protection of building occupants. With a building permit, you or your contractors will receive advice from reviewers and inspectors to ensure that these standards are met in your renovation project.
A permit is generally required before new construction, repairs, additions, alterations or demolition projects begin. Let’s review the most common terms used by Departments of Building, general contractors and architects.
Do I need to hire a professional architect or engineer?
You do not need to hire an architect or engineer for simple home improvement projects and decorative work. If your project is for a single-family home renovation, and you are the owner-occupant, in many instances you can prepare your own drawings through the Homeowner Assistance Program.
For all other permit applications that require plans or drawings, they must be prepared by an Illinois-licensed architect or structural engineer. Some project require a licensed professional to complete the work on even to apply for a permit. In all cases, the project must comply with the Chicago Building Code or other Municipal Codes.
Do I need to hire a general contractor?
That depends on the type of work you are doing. If you are an owner-occupant of a single-family home or residential building with up to three stories and six dwelling units, in many cases you can be your own general contractor. In that case, for carpentry, or heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) work, you will need to fill out the Certification of Responsibility portion of the permit application. This certifies that you take responsibility for meeting the Chicago Building Code and other Municipal Code requirements, and for correcting any deficiencies.
All masonry, plumbing or electrical work requires a licensed contractor. An exception is granted to owner-occupants of a single-family dwelling. They may take responsibility for plumbing and masonry work by completing and notarizing the Certification of Responsibility portion of the construction permit application.
Before your permit application can be reviewed, the Department of Buildings checks if your property has any citations for building code violations or stop work orders. You must resolve any outstanding issues before you apply for a permit, or address them as part of your permit application.
- Easy Permit (EPP): For small and simple home and building improvement projects, including replace and repair projects. Generally approved the day of application.
- Standard Plan Review (SPR): For small to mid-size new construction and renovation projects using E-Plan system. Generally reviewed within one week or sooner, depending on the scope.
- Homeowners Assistance: Special permit services are available for owner-occupants of single-family homes, i.e. plan assistance for certain renovation projects. To make things easier for single-family homeowners, the City allows the owner-occupant to draw up their own plans.
- Zoning Approval: Most projects require approval from the Zoning Administrator.
- Plans Required: Construction drawings prepared by a licensed architect or structural engineer.
- Licensed Professional to do Work: For the safety and protection of homeowners and businesses, a signed contract with a licensed contractor or trade professional is required when applying for an Easy Permit.
- Licensed Professional to Apply: Some jobs are complex enough to require a contractor, architect or engineer to apply for the permit. Remember that the homeowner is still ultimately responsible for the permits.
You can find detailed description of EPP and SPR processes in the section “Types of permit review processes“.
Now that you know permit terms, we will list the most common projects to understand whether you need a permit, licensed contractor or other requirements.
Common projects that require permit
This chart presents a summary of useful information for various residential construction, renovation and repair projects that require a permit. This chart is based on City of Chicago Department of Building requirements. The requirements are usually the same in surrounding suburbs but in some cases may differ so consult with your local department (we have compiled resources and links for most Chicagoland suburbs in this section).
|Project||Type of Work||Permit Process||Homeowners Assistance||Zoning Approval||Plans||License to Work||License to Apply|
|Addition||adding rooms, upper floors, expanding building envelope||SPR||yes||yes||yes||yes|
|Addition||first floor addition only||SPR||yes||yes||yes||yes||yes|
|Boiler||installing new boiler system||SPR||yes||yes||yes|
|Chimney||installing or replacing||SPR||yes||yes||yes||yes|
|Concrete||replacing basement concrete slab||EPP||yes|
|Conversion of Units||converting single to multiple units||SPR||yes||yes||yes||yes|
|Deck||build or replace (over 6 ft from grade)||SPR||yes||yes||yes||yes||yes|
|Deck||single-family home (under 6 ft from grade)||SPR||yes||yes||yes||yes|
|Deconversion of Units||deconverting multiple to fewer units||SPR||yes||yes||yes||yes|
|Driveway||building a new driveway||SPR||yes||yes||yes||yes|
|Drywall||over 1,000 sq. ft. (may also need an electrical permit)||EPP|
|Electrical System||alteration or expansion||SPR||yes||yes||yes||yes|
|Fence||over 6 ft. tall or brick at ground level||EPP||yes|
|Fence||non-brick or chainlink, 5-6 ft. tall at ground level||EPP|
|Furnace||install a new system||SPR||yes||yes||yes||yes|
|Furnace||replace (4+ dwelling units)||EPP||yes||yes|
|Garage||new over 600 sq. ft. or with rooftop deck||SPR||yes||yes||yes||yes|
|Garage||600 sq. ft. or less and no rooftop deck||EPP|
|Gut-rehab||complete house or condo modernization||SPR||yes||yes||yes||yes|
|Light Fixtures||installing or replacing light fixtures||EPP||yes||yes|
|Masonry||replace/install face brick||SPR||yes||yes||yes||yes|
|Plumbing Fixtures||replace (multi-unit/condo only)||EPP||yes|
|Plumbing System||construct or alter plumbing||SPR||yes||yes||yes||yes|
|Porch||build, replace or enclose (over 50 sq. ft./6 ft. over grade)||SPR||yes||yes||yes||yes|
|Roof||tear off, recoat, recover, no structural work||EPP||yes|
|Security Alarm||installation (high-voltage only)||EPP||yes||yes|
|Sewer||new system, City Hall #906||EPP||yes||yes||yes||yes|
|Shed||over 70 sq. ft.||EPP||yes|
|Solar Panels||13.44 kw and greater||SPR||yes||yes||yes||yes|
|Solar Panels||less than 13.44 kw||EPP||yes||yes||yes|
|Stairs||structural repair or replacement (6 + ft. over grade)||SPR||yes||yes||yes||yes|
|Stairs||tread and riser repair (multi-unit)||EPP|
|Trash Enclosure||any material||EPP|
|Ventilation System||new mechanical and supply||SPR||yes||yes||yes||yes|
|Walls||moving, full or partial demolition (multi-unit)||SPR||yes||yes||yes||yes|
|Walls||moving, full or partial demolition (single-family home)||SPR||yes||yes||yes|
|Water Service||new||City Hall #906||yes||yes||yes|
|Water Service||repair||City Hall #906||yes||yes|
|Windows & Doors||replacement or addition (if size or location is changed)||EPP||yes|
|Wrecking||demolition of entire home, garage or building||City Hall #906||yes||yes|
When a building permit is not required
The following common projects do not require a building permit.
- Appliances: repairing, replacing or installing without altering electrical or plumbing.
- Cabinets: replacing or installing kitchen or bathroom cabinets without altering electrical or plumbing.
- Driveway: repair or replace on a private property.
- Fence: up to 5” high on private property.
- Floors: install, replace or repair flooring (hardwood, laminate, carpet, tile).
- Garage door: repairing, replacing or installing.
- Gutters: repairing or replacing.
- Landscaping: installing or replacing on a private residential property, playground equipment
- Painting: painting and refacing.
- Porch: if the front porch is under 50 sq.ft.
- Roof: add a new layer of shingles.
- Security Alarm: if it’s low-voltage.
- Sidewalks: if it’s on a private property.
- Siding: no permit is required, but may need HOA approval.
- Tile: replacing or installing.
- Walls: painting, staining, adding trim, wallpaper.
- Windows & Doors: if windows and doors are the same size and location.
What should I do before applying for a permit?
STEP #1. Does your project require a permit?
• Yes: Check requirements in your area. For requirements in the City of Chicago see a chart in this section. Move to the step #2.
• No: You may start the project.
STEP #2. Do you have any building code violations or stop work orders?
• Yes: You need to resolve those issues.
• No: Move to the next step #3.
STEP #3. Do you need plans or drawings?
• Yes: Hire Architect, Design Professional or Draw Plans for Homeowner Assistance. Move to the step #4.
• No: see “Easy Permit Process”.
STEP #4. Apply for permit and pay 100% of Zoning Fee and $300 Down Payment on Permit Fee.
• Permit will be routed for necessary reviews, including Zoning. Move to the step #5.
STEP #5. Permit approved?
• Yes: Pay fee balance. Gather materials and start the work.
• No: Resolve the issues.
Types of permit review processes
The City of Chicago DOB (and most nearby towns like Evanston, Glenview, Skokie, Winnetka, etc.) offers several types of permit review processes for small and large projects, residential or commercial. The local Department of Buildings staff is always available to help you identify the right permit process for your project.
If the General Contractor is performing the work, they must be licensed and bonded in the applicable contractor categories.
This section provides an overview of the different permit application and approval processes available.
Easy Permit (EPP)
WHAT IS IT?
- A streamlined process for small and simple home and building improvement projects.
- Repair and replace elements that do not require architectural plans.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
- Chicago: Available at the Chicago City Hall Office. Usually requires only one visit, and are generally approved the same day.
- Suburbs: You can find specific instructions for Chicagoland suburbs in the section “Resources for acquiring permits in Chicago and suburbs”.
- Before your visit, you may download an application form from www.chicago.gov/buildings (click on the Easy Permit Process under What We Do). Then submit the application at one of city offices, plus any additional documentation.
- Some Easy Permits may be applied online – apply for an Easy Permit, pay for it and print it out.
Standard Plan Review (SPR)
WHAT IS IT?
- Small to mid-sized new construction and renovation projects for buildings up to 80 feet high, residential properties of up to 49 units or commercial properties under 150,000 square feet. Usually being completed by general contractors.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
- Standard Plan Review applications are submitted online and reviewed through the City’s electronic plan review system. Each project is assigned a Project Manager to facilitate technical plan reviews, ensure plan compliance, and issue permits.
- The architect or expediter must complete the permit application online and upload plans electronically to E-Plan.
- Property owners should ensure their contact information is included in the application for notification purposes.
- Your Project Manager will coordinate all technical and regulatory reviews, licenses and insurance.
- If corrections are needed, the applicant of record will be notified and may resubmit corrected plans online electronically, 24/7, from the convenience of any computer.
- The applicant will be notified when the review is complete and the permit is issued via email, including building owners, if contact information has been provided.
WHAT IS IT?
- A streamlined review process allowing Illinois-licensed architects and structural engineers who have completed a special training course, and are registered within the department, to certify that the project complies with the Chicago Building Code and other Municipal Codes.
- Available for small to mid-sized residential and commercial projects meeting eligibility criteria.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
- Applications may be submitted online by qualified Illinois-licensed design professionals.
- The design professional must upload the permit application and all required plans, drawings and documentation.
- Some projects may require peer review by structural engineer.
- The design professional will be notified if your permit is approved or corrections are needed.
- The design professional can pay the permit fee online and download the approved plans and permit certificate for printing.
- Expediters are not allowed to submit plans and/or obtain permits through the self-certification program.
What should I bring to the permit office?
When you are ready to apply for an EPP or Homeowner Assistance permit at City Hall, bringing the following items with you will make the process faster and easier.
- Permit application signed by property owner
- Architectural plans or drawings, if needed
- Details of work to be done
- Estimated cost of the project
- Square footage of the area of work
- Property Survey
- Notarized Certification of Responsibility (not for condominiums, more than 6 units or commercial
- Other documentation, if applicable: copies of signed contracts between owner and contractor, zoning approval documentation, signed approval letter from condo associations, original electrical application from contractor, photos, etc.
Resources and links for acquiring permits in Chicago and suburbs
Here we gathered links, DOB addresses, contacts and resources that you may find useful to start your building project in any major Chicagoland city and village.
Chicago City Hall – Department of Buildings
121 North LaSalle St., City Hall, Room 900
Chicago, IL 60602
Monday – Friday 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Permits issued by the Department of Buildings help to ensure construction work complies with the minimum standards of safety established by the Chicago Construction Codes in order to protect public health, safety, and welfare. A permit is required before beginning most construction, demolition, and repair work. In order to provide more responsive service, the Department of Buildings offers permitting processes tailored for a wide variety of projects, from home repairs to new skyscrapers.
You may apply for the following permits at City Hall: Easy Permit, Self-Certification, Standard Plan Review, Driveway, Sewer, Sign, Elevator.
You may also apply for a permit through the Homeowners Assistance Program. For more information, visit Permits page on Chicago.gov website.
For your ease and convenience, you can also apply for some permits online at www.chicago.gov/buildings
The Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center – 3rd floor
2100 Ridge Avenue, Evanston
Monday – Friday
8:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
The Community Development Department’s Building and Inspection Services Division issues construction permits for remodeling, repairing, and all new construction projects. This Division issues all building permits and inspects projects for compliance with approved plans that meet the standards of our adopted building codes.
Bannockburn Building Department
2275 Telegraph Road
Bannockburn, IL 60015
Communication & Permit Manager
Bannockburn Building Department is responsible for implementing and enforcing current applicable codes and ordinances within the Village of Bannockburn. Building permits are required for new construction, as well as for specific scopes of work to alter or repair existing structures or property.
Brian Sheehan, Building Commissioner
50 Raupp Blvd
Buffalo Grove, IL 60089
The Village of Buffalo Grove is responsible for reviewing, processing, and issuing all building permits and scheduling inspections to ensure the public safety, health, and welfare of the Community.
Deerfield Building Department
850 Waukegan Road
Deerfield, IL 60015
A Deerfield building permit is required for any commercial and residential construction projects that entail an addition or remodeling of the existing conditions.
Glencoe Department of Building & Zoning
675 Village Court
Glencoe, IL 60022
Glencoe Department of Building & Zoning is a division of the Public Works Department and is responsible for assuring that all construction meets minimum health and life safety standards, building code requirements, zoning and property maintenance standards as specified in the Village Zoning Code.
Glenview Building Department
2500 East Lake Avenue
Glenview, IL 60026-2600
(847) 724-1752 Fax
Any homeowner or contractor who intends to construct, enlarge, alter, repair, move, demolish or change the structure of a building, or to install, alter, repair, remove, convert or replace any electrical, gas, mechanical or plumbing system, shall first make application to the Village of Glenview and obtain the required permit.
Golf Building Department
1 Briar Rd
Golf, IL 60029
The Village of Golf requires permits for: new construction, remodel, fence, generator, patio, shed, driveway, kitchen & bath replacement, deck, roof, and lawn irrigation.
Highland Park Building Department
1150 Half Day Rd
Highland Park, IL 60035
Highland Park administration requires permits for the most of construction, altering and repair projects. See this page for more information: Highland Park Building Permits.
Highwood Building Department Office – City Hall 2nd Fl
17 Highwood Ave.
Highwood, IL 60040
Monday-Friday 8:30am – 4:30pm.
Highwood building permit applications can be submitted in person at City Hall during regular office hours.
Kenilworth Village Hall – Building/Planning Division
419 Richmond Rd
Kenilworth, IL 60043
Kenilworth Building & Planning Division is responsible for building, zoning, planning, and other activities that relate to land use in the Village. The department implements zoning regulations, building codes, planning guidelines, and other Village codes as they relate to the built environment.
Village Hall – Building Division of the Community Development Department
40 E. Center Avenue
Lake Bluff, IL 60044
Building permits give you legal permission to start construction of a building project in accordance with approved drawings and specifications. The Village of Lake Bluff requires building permits for all projects resulting in an alteration or an improvement to a property. In general, minor changes, such as painting and property maintenance, do not require a permit.
The Community Development Department
800 Field Drive
Lake Forest, IL 60045
Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m
Building permits are required to assure compliance with health and life safety building codes and protect your family and property. Most home improvement projects require a permit before work begins. Permits and inspection results are kept on file in the City of Lake Forest offices and are available for review by insurance companies in the event of a loss on the property and by potential future buyers of the property.
You may apply for a permit online at City of Lake Forest web portal.
Other permit applications are available at City of Lake Forest website.
The Village of Lincolnshire Building Division
1 Olde Half Day Road
Lincolnshire, IL 60069
A building permit is required for just about every project in Lincolnshire, except decorating (e.g. painting, trim work, carpet, etc.). You are strongly encouraged to contact the Building Department (see contacts above) to verify if permit is necessary.
Community Development Department
6900 Lincoln Ave
Lincolnwood, IL 60712
Monday – Friday 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m
Lincolnwood Community Development is a multi-functional department responsible for administering Village building, zoning, development, sign and property maintenance codes.
Other applications can be found on the Village of Lincolnwood official website.
Building and Inspectional Services Department
6101 Capulina Avenue
Morton Grove, IL 60053
(847) 470 – 5214
Monday – Friday 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m
Morton Grove homeowners need building permit for any new buildings or additions to buildings, new or replacement detached garages, yard sheds, fences, signs, swimming pools, furnaces, relocating plumbing fixtures, electrical work, sewer work and more. Application forms are available on-line or may be obtained at the Dept of Building & Inspectional Services. All contractor and subcontractors (other than landscapers and painters) working in the village require a village contractor’s business license.
Niles Building Department & Community Development
1000 Civic Center Drive
Niles, IL 60714
Monday – Friday 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m
Some improvements in Niles, IL require that the property owner obtain a permit prior to doing the work. To obtain a building permit you must fill out a Building Permit Application. Building permit applications are available at the front counter of the Community Development Department. In addition to obtaining a permit, the Building Division requests that all proper inspections, as indicated on the condition sheet, are performed.
Northbrook Village Hall – Development & Planning Services
1225 Cedar Lane
Northbrook, IL 60062
Monday – Friday 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
The Development and Planning Services Department is responsible for assisting homeowners and contractors in obtaining building permits, administering the Village’s municipal and zoning codes and implementing orderly development in the community.
Northbrook homeowners and contractors can now apply online for the following permit types: Fences, Driveway Remove/Replace, and Water Heater Replacements: Online Building Permit Applications
Northfield Building & Development Department
361 Happ Road
Northfield, IL 60093
Monday – Friday 7 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
For new construction, additions or remodeling projects, you will need the Building Construction Permit Submission List, Application for Building Permit, Application for Electrical Work, Application for HVAC Work, Application for Plumbing Work, Application for Roofing Work, and other applicable applications.
General contractors do not need to be registered in Northfield. Village administration do not require any local licenses from General Contractors and accept any City or Village they are licensed and registered in.
Skokie Village Hall – The Community Development Department
5127 Oakton St
Skokie, IL 60077
Monday – Friday 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
By Village Code, Skokie homeowners and contractors are required a Building Permit for the complex jobs with extensive review process such as interior remodeling, addition, deck or patio, driveway, fence, garage, sidewalk, shed, exterior remodeling or swimming pool. The Village of Skokie inspection staff enforces adopted codes to assure that the construction is safe and in compliance.
The Village Code requires many contractors to be registered and bonded with the Village on an annual basis. No permit applications can be accepted unless all project contractors have current bonding and registration.
Homeowners and contractors may apply for a permit online by registering an account.
Community Development Department
1200 Wilmette Ave
Wilmette, IL 60091
Wilmette building permits are required for the protection of the property owner, neighbors, and Village. Some projects like siding, flooring, gutters, windows and doors replacement are not requiring a permit. Call Community Development Department if you have any questions.
Winnetka Village Hall
510 Green Bay Rd
Winnetka, IL 60093
Monday – Friday 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Licenses, permits and inspections are required for most construction activity in Winnetka, including many repair or replacement projects, in order to assure that work is performed in compliance with Village code requirements. Building codes adopted by the Village of Winnetka establish minimum requirements for the safety and well-being of the property owner, occupants and the general public.
The Village of Winnetka does not maintain a contractor licensing program; rather the Village accepts licenses issued by the State of Illinois (i.e, plumbing, irrigation and roofing contractors) or licenses issued by other municipalities which test licensees (electricians).
We hope this article will help you navigate through a complex process of building permits acquisition. If you have any questions or need help of a local licensed general contractor, feel free to call us at 773-685-6095 or send us a message through a contact form.