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Chicago Building Permit Guide

Sam Lam

Sam Lam

Last updated:

May 30, 2024

Published:

May 16, 2024

Reading time:

6

minutes

Chicago-based developers, owners, and contractors alike all need to understand the city’s permitting process. Getting a building permit in Chicago requires completing and submitting an application so the city can ensure your project is safe and up to code.

This guide answers all your questions about the Chicago building permit application and submission process. Read on to learn how to get a permit in the Windy City.

What requires a building permit in Chicago?

Any construction or major renovation project that involves building, renovating, or demolishing a structure requires a building permit in Chicago.

A building permit gives developers and contractors permission to build, alter, or demolish a structure. Chicago building permits certify that the work you intend to do adheres to the city’s laws and codes.

You’ll need a building permit in Chicago if your project involves:

  • Constructing a new building construction of any type of building.
  • Adding to or altering an existing building.
  • Adding a garage to an existing property.
  • Roof work.
  • Building a swimming pool.
  • Adding solar panels.

Who issues building permits in Chicago?

The Chicago Department of Buildings issues building and construction permits in the city. 

The Department of Buildings reviews every permit application to ensure that construction work meets safety standards and adheres to laws implemented by the Chicago Construction Codes.

How do I contact Chicago about building permits?

To talk to someone or get assistance with your Chicago building permit, contact the Department of Buildings at dob-info@cityofchicago.org or by calling 312-744-3449.

How long does it take to get a construction permit in Chicago?

After submitting your application, it can take up to 12 weeks to get a construction permit in Chicago. 

Permit wait times depend on:

  • The type of permit you need.
  • The complexity of your project.
  • The completeness of your application.
  • Whether the city requests changes, further documentation, or resubmission.

How long does a Chicago building permit last?

A building permit in Chicago generally lasts for 6 months. 

The city requires that work must begin within 6 months from the time you pay for the permit.

Chicago building permit fees

The minimum fee for a Chicago building permit is $302, which applies to all permits that require drawings. However, most permits will cost between $500 and $5,000 on average. 

The cost of a permit in Chicago depends on factors like:

  • Square footage of the proposed building.
  • The type of property (commercial, residential, etc.).
  • Extent of the work to be done.

You can reference the city’s building permit fee calculator to estimate the cost of a permit for your project. 

Chicago building permit application process

The Chicago building permit application process involves preparing and submitting an application for review by the Department of Buildings. Applications must be created and submitted online using the city’s E-Plan platform.

After the DOB has reviewed the application, it may request certain changes, additions, or corrections. 

Once a final review is complete, the DOB will ensure that all required fees have been paid and issue your certificate. The final step is to schedule a field inspection, if applicable. 

Permit Application Process

There are a few avenues you can take to apply for a permit in Chicago:

  • Standard Plan Review (SPR) Program: The typical process for projects that require architectural plans.
  • Developer Services Program: For larger and more complex projects.
  • Express Permit Program: A simplified process for certain repair and renovation projects.
  • Self-Certification Permit Program: Designed to speed up the permitting process by allowing certified architects and engineers to take responsibility for adhering to building codes.
  • Electrical-only permits: For projects that only involve electrical work. 
  • Specialty permits: For projects outside the scope of standard ones.

Standard Plan Review Program

The Standard Plan Review Permit Program is the main permitting process for applications that require architectural plans.

The program is intended for projects such as:

  • New construction of buildings shorter than 80 feet.
  • Non-residential buildings up to 150,000 square feet.
  • Residential buildings with fewer than 50 units.
  • School projects up to 60,000 square feet.
  • Foundations and excavation less than 12 feet deep
  • Removing non-load-bearing interior walls or structures.

Larger and more complex projects must seek permits via Chicago’s Developer Services Program.

To obtain a permit using the Standard Plan process, you'll submit your application through E-Plan, Chicago’s online building permit system. You’ll be assigned a Project Manager from the Department of Buildings to facilitate plan reviews.

Refer to the city’s Standard Plan Review flow chart for step-by-step instructions on submitting your application. 

Reminder: All projects require zoning approval before applying for a permit.

Developer Services Program

The Developer Services (DS) Program is designed for complex and larger-scale construction projects.

If you submit an application with the DS program, you’ll be assigned a Department of Buildings Project Administrator. Your plan will be reviewed by a third-party review firm selected by the city. 

To get started with the Developer Services process, you must schedule an intake appointment with the Department of Buildings.

Express Permit Program

Launched in November 2023, the Express Permit Program is a fast and easy way to apply for certain building permits online. It replaced Chicago’s old Easy Permit Program.

The Express Permit Program is designed to help homeowners and business owners obtain permits needed to repair or replace existing building features or complete minor renovation projects.

Through the Express Program’s web interface, applicants can easily check their application status, pay fees, and view inspection results 24/7.

The Express Permit Program is ideal for projects like:

  • Adding fences or trash enclosures
  • Masonry work
  • Mechanical, plumbing, or HVAC work
  • Exterior window or door replacement
  • Nonstructural interior alterations
  • Reroofing
  • Erecting scaffolding

Self-Certification Permit Program

Chicago’s Self-Certification Permit Program is designed to speed up the permitting process for residential, commercial, and assembly projects where a certified architect or structural engineer takes responsibility for complying with building codes. To be eligible, the architect or engineer must have completed self-certification training via the Department of Buildings.

By taking responsibility for code compliance, the registered professional can bypass DOB plan reviews and certify that the plans do comply. 

Requirements: 

  • The registered professional must submit permit drawings online using the city’s E-Plan platform.
  • Permit expediters can’t assist with the application process.

Electrical-only permits

Licensed electrical contractors and expediters can apply for electrical-only permits online. 

Keep in mind that you must be associated with a licensed electrical contractor or expediter to apply for online electrical-only permits. Electrical-only permits apply to standalone electrical work, but not to electrical work associated with work occurring under a separate building permit.

Note: Electrical-only permits will be consolidated with the Express Permit Program in 2024.

Specialty permits

Not every project involves constructing a new building. For these other types of projects, you may need a specialty permit.

Chicago requires specialty permits for:

  • Elevators, escalators, and other conveyance devices
  • Demolition
  • Fire alarm installation
  • Sewer connections
  • Signs
  • Sprinklers
  • Water service

Working with a Chicago permit expediter

Even though Chicago’s Department of Buildings has made efforts to simplify permitting by digitizing many processes, it’s still a time-consuming task. To save time and streamline the process, you can hire a Chicago permit expediter.

A permit expediter is someone who takes the lead on the permit application and revision process to help you get your permit faster. Your permit expediter should have local knowledge about Chicago’s unique building codes and policies, so they can help you build and submit your application. 

How to simplify the permitting process with PermitFlow

Even better than hiring a permit expediter, work with PermitFlow

PermitFlow is quick and easy permitting software that automates the application and submission process so you can get your permit faster with minimal effort. 

The benefits of PermitFlow include:

  • Access to a team of experts: PermitFlow consists of architects, structural engineers, former city planners, and permit specialists who understand Chicago permitting processes.
  • Ease of use: PermitFlow offers a simple digital platform where you can submit, track, and pull permits — without having to navigate Chicago’s DOP website and digital paperwork. 
  • Faster results. The experts at PermitFlow will handle all the work for you and make sure you receive your permit as quickly as possible.

Chicago-based developers, owners, and contractors alike all need to understand the city’s permitting process. Getting a building permit in Chicago requires completing and submitting an application so the city can ensure your project is safe and up to code.

This guide answers all your questions about the Chicago building permit application and submission process. Read on to learn how to get a permit in the Windy City.

What requires a building permit in Chicago?

Any construction or major renovation project that involves building, renovating, or demolishing a structure requires a building permit in Chicago.

A building permit gives developers and contractors permission to build, alter, or demolish a structure. Chicago building permits certify that the work you intend to do adheres to the city’s laws and codes.

You’ll need a building permit in Chicago if your project involves:

  • Constructing a new building construction of any type of building.
  • Adding to or altering an existing building.
  • Adding a garage to an existing property.
  • Roof work.
  • Building a swimming pool.
  • Adding solar panels.

Who issues building permits in Chicago?

The Chicago Department of Buildings issues building and construction permits in the city. 

The Department of Buildings reviews every permit application to ensure that construction work meets safety standards and adheres to laws implemented by the Chicago Construction Codes.

How do I contact Chicago about building permits?

To talk to someone or get assistance with your Chicago building permit, contact the Department of Buildings at dob-info@cityofchicago.org or by calling 312-744-3449.

How long does it take to get a construction permit in Chicago?

After submitting your application, it can take up to 12 weeks to get a construction permit in Chicago. 

Permit wait times depend on:

  • The type of permit you need.
  • The complexity of your project.
  • The completeness of your application.
  • Whether the city requests changes, further documentation, or resubmission.

How long does a Chicago building permit last?

A building permit in Chicago generally lasts for 6 months. 

The city requires that work must begin within 6 months from the time you pay for the permit.

Chicago building permit fees

The minimum fee for a Chicago building permit is $302, which applies to all permits that require drawings. However, most permits will cost between $500 and $5,000 on average. 

The cost of a permit in Chicago depends on factors like:

  • Square footage of the proposed building.
  • The type of property (commercial, residential, etc.).
  • Extent of the work to be done.

You can reference the city’s building permit fee calculator to estimate the cost of a permit for your project. 

Chicago building permit application process

The Chicago building permit application process involves preparing and submitting an application for review by the Department of Buildings. Applications must be created and submitted online using the city’s E-Plan platform.

After the DOB has reviewed the application, it may request certain changes, additions, or corrections. 

Once a final review is complete, the DOB will ensure that all required fees have been paid and issue your certificate. The final step is to schedule a field inspection, if applicable. 

Permit Application Process

There are a few avenues you can take to apply for a permit in Chicago:

  • Standard Plan Review (SPR) Program: The typical process for projects that require architectural plans.
  • Developer Services Program: For larger and more complex projects.
  • Express Permit Program: A simplified process for certain repair and renovation projects.
  • Self-Certification Permit Program: Designed to speed up the permitting process by allowing certified architects and engineers to take responsibility for adhering to building codes.
  • Electrical-only permits: For projects that only involve electrical work. 
  • Specialty permits: For projects outside the scope of standard ones.

Standard Plan Review Program

The Standard Plan Review Permit Program is the main permitting process for applications that require architectural plans.

The program is intended for projects such as:

  • New construction of buildings shorter than 80 feet.
  • Non-residential buildings up to 150,000 square feet.
  • Residential buildings with fewer than 50 units.
  • School projects up to 60,000 square feet.
  • Foundations and excavation less than 12 feet deep
  • Removing non-load-bearing interior walls or structures.

Larger and more complex projects must seek permits via Chicago’s Developer Services Program.

To obtain a permit using the Standard Plan process, you'll submit your application through E-Plan, Chicago’s online building permit system. You’ll be assigned a Project Manager from the Department of Buildings to facilitate plan reviews.

Refer to the city’s Standard Plan Review flow chart for step-by-step instructions on submitting your application. 

Reminder: All projects require zoning approval before applying for a permit.

Developer Services Program

The Developer Services (DS) Program is designed for complex and larger-scale construction projects.

If you submit an application with the DS program, you’ll be assigned a Department of Buildings Project Administrator. Your plan will be reviewed by a third-party review firm selected by the city. 

To get started with the Developer Services process, you must schedule an intake appointment with the Department of Buildings.

Express Permit Program

Launched in November 2023, the Express Permit Program is a fast and easy way to apply for certain building permits online. It replaced Chicago’s old Easy Permit Program.

The Express Permit Program is designed to help homeowners and business owners obtain permits needed to repair or replace existing building features or complete minor renovation projects.

Through the Express Program’s web interface, applicants can easily check their application status, pay fees, and view inspection results 24/7.

The Express Permit Program is ideal for projects like:

  • Adding fences or trash enclosures
  • Masonry work
  • Mechanical, plumbing, or HVAC work
  • Exterior window or door replacement
  • Nonstructural interior alterations
  • Reroofing
  • Erecting scaffolding

Self-Certification Permit Program

Chicago’s Self-Certification Permit Program is designed to speed up the permitting process for residential, commercial, and assembly projects where a certified architect or structural engineer takes responsibility for complying with building codes. To be eligible, the architect or engineer must have completed self-certification training via the Department of Buildings.

By taking responsibility for code compliance, the registered professional can bypass DOB plan reviews and certify that the plans do comply. 

Requirements: 

  • The registered professional must submit permit drawings online using the city’s E-Plan platform.
  • Permit expediters can’t assist with the application process.

Electrical-only permits

Licensed electrical contractors and expediters can apply for electrical-only permits online. 

Keep in mind that you must be associated with a licensed electrical contractor or expediter to apply for online electrical-only permits. Electrical-only permits apply to standalone electrical work, but not to electrical work associated with work occurring under a separate building permit.

Note: Electrical-only permits will be consolidated with the Express Permit Program in 2024.

Specialty permits

Not every project involves constructing a new building. For these other types of projects, you may need a specialty permit.

Chicago requires specialty permits for:

  • Elevators, escalators, and other conveyance devices
  • Demolition
  • Fire alarm installation
  • Sewer connections
  • Signs
  • Sprinklers
  • Water service

Working with a Chicago permit expediter

Even though Chicago’s Department of Buildings has made efforts to simplify permitting by digitizing many processes, it’s still a time-consuming task. To save time and streamline the process, you can hire a Chicago permit expediter.

A permit expediter is someone who takes the lead on the permit application and revision process to help you get your permit faster. Your permit expediter should have local knowledge about Chicago’s unique building codes and policies, so they can help you build and submit your application. 

How to simplify the permitting process with PermitFlow

Even better than hiring a permit expediter, work with PermitFlow

PermitFlow is quick and easy permitting software that automates the application and submission process so you can get your permit faster with minimal effort. 

The benefits of PermitFlow include:

  • Access to a team of experts: PermitFlow consists of architects, structural engineers, former city planners, and permit specialists who understand Chicago permitting processes.
  • Ease of use: PermitFlow offers a simple digital platform where you can submit, track, and pull permits — without having to navigate Chicago’s DOP website and digital paperwork. 
  • Faster results. The experts at PermitFlow will handle all the work for you and make sure you receive your permit as quickly as possible.

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