Obtaining the proper building permits might seem like a hassle, but they really are peace of mind for you, your insurer, neighbors and the city of Chicago. Having a permit to perform major renovating projects means your construction adheres to all building and safety codes. The Chicago Buildings Department is clear as to what requires a permit and what does not. If you’re thinking of doing some work to your home, such as an addition, finishing a basement or attic, you’ll need a permit. But what about renovating your kitchen?

Get the Facts First

To track permits for past and future projects, download your free Porch Home Report. This will be a great way for you to see what permits have already been filed for your home.

The City of Chicago makes it difficult for homeowners to see whether they need a permit for kitchen renovations. But, they do have a clear rule that if you are gutting a room, or the entire house for a rehab project, you’ll need a permit. So, will your kitchen be gutted or will you just be removing the countertops and replacing them? If everything will come out of the kitchen, including drywall, insulation, wiring, plumbing, etc., you will need a permit. In fact, Chicago requires a building permit to replace or install a hot water heater or furnace, which may very well be part of kitchen project.

What Renovations Don’t Need a Permit?

Some renovations won’t require a permit. These include replacing faucets, installing new counters, adding carpeting or changing out the floors (such as moving from hardwood to tile in your kitchen), painting or adding wallpaper, replacing cabinets.

How Do I Get a Permit?

If you need a permit, you’ll need to apply through the City of Chicago. You must obtain a permit before any work starts. While some permits may be issued the day you apply, others may require a longer approval time, a complete rehab of your home, for example, will require some time to approve.

The City of Chicago may require stamped plans (official drawings with a professional’s stamp) and may meet with your licensed and certified contractor and architect before approving your permit.

You can apply for a building permit online, but you will still have to meet with a representative in person to finalize the application. At this time they will contact you about any necessary documents you must bring, such as plans, property line studies, etc.

Can’t My Contractor Just Do It For Me?

Yes, your contractor can obtain the permit for you, but the city may still want to speak to you about your project. Also, if you do opt to have your contractor get the permit, follow up with them and make sure they actually got it before starting the construction process. Very often homeowners find it easier to have their kitchen remodeling contractor file for and obtain all permits relating to a kitchen remodel. A professional will understand the city’s timeline for approval, what the city needs to approve the permit, and which projects actually need a permit in the first place. When interviewing your contractor, be sure to discuss permits right from the beginning so everyone is clear about the responsibilities.

What happens if I don’t get a permit?

If your kitchen renovation requires a permit, and you don’t have one, the city has the right to issue a stop work order on your project. This means that all work must stop immediately until the permit is approved. If you’ve taken out a loan to finance this renovation project, the lender may decide to end the contract if the appropriate permits weren’t filed. Additionally, when it’s time for you to sell your home the prospective buyer has the right to ask if the correct permits were filed. Not having them may make your home feel unattractive to buyers.


Living in Chicago offers a vibrant and dynamic environment for homeowners, but it also comes with certain regulations and requirements for home renovations. As highlighted in this article, understanding whether you need a permit to renovate your Chicago home is crucial to ensure compliance with local laws and regulations. Obtaining the necessary permits not only ensures that your project meets safety standards but also helps protect the integrity of your investment. By navigating the permit process effectively and working with the appropriate authorities, Chicago residents can embark on successful home renovations, enhancing both the value and livability of their homes in this remarkable city


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Top image credit: Forest Glen Construction