Chicago Porch – Rebuilding of Porches – Correcting City of Chicago Porch Violations

Chicago porches have been occupying front pages of local newspapers for a while now. Associated with several accidental deaths and injuries, they became one of the most sought after structures the Chicago Building Department inspectors evaluate. The results of those inspections vary a lot but violations that require Chicago porch architectural drawings and complete porch rebuilding are very common.

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Just like any other structural component of a building, porches must comply with the Chicago Building Code. No matter if these are only single story tall porches, wooden porches spreading over multiple floors, small, large, rear porches, or front porches, safety of anyone using them is equally important at any level.

We don’t like to be told what to do, especially if it’s going to cost us money, but that shouldn’t matter when safety of the building occupants and their lives are at stake. That’s why building inspectors are so persistent in their “code compliant Chicago porch” crusade.

If you had your porch constructed based on a porch architectural drawings, had a Chicago building permit issued and inspection performed / porch structure approved by the City of Chicago building inspector, you should be in a good shape. However, if you have an old porch that, to your knowledge, has never been examined by a professional, you should schedule an inspection by a professional as soon as possible.

The number of Chicago porch problems that can result in serious injury or even death is quite large. Even potentially small issues, sometimes difficult to spot with an inexperienced eye, can lead to life threatening situations.

For detail Chicago Porch Guidelines, click the button below.

This post covers only some of the Chicago Porch building code requirements, for all details you’d need to gain access to / purchase the Chicago Building Code available after clicking the button below.  

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Let’s take a look at just a few building code requirements for the Chicago porches that affect safety of their occupants.

Chicago porch footings by EDMAR Corporation

Chicago wooden porch rebuilding – concrete pedestal example

Chicago Porch Footings

Just like your house requires foundation, the same principal applies to a porch as well. Without proper footings under walls, columns, or piers, the entire porch load would not be properly distributed. Shifting the porch’s load onto one side, because of the faulty foundation, could have catastrophic consequences.

Porches come in different sizes, and their footings sizes must be proportional, positioned in such way that guarantees proper distribution of weight and minimizes possibility of uneven settlement of the entire structure.

Also, your patio and sidewalks cannot be used to support structure of a porch. Freezing – thawing cycle during the cold season causes ground to expand and contract.

Whatever is supported on a few inches thick concrete slab, will move up and down, sometimes by 2”-3”. Heavier porches resting on such “foundation/slab” will crack it and could tilt, slide off / separate from the building structure, and even collapse. Chicago climate forces us to dig deeper holes for footings in order to alleviate problems associated with that freezing – thawing cycle, and to ensure that they can support up to 3 story tall Chicago porch structures.

Chicago porch footings / depth requirement and materials

All Chicago porch footings must extend at least 42” (3 feet and six inches) below the surrounding ground surface. There is an exception from this requirement (  – CHAPTER 13-132 FOUNDATIONS 18(13-132-100) FOOTINGS – DEPTH REQUIREMENTS) that applies to single story buildings only.

The Chicago porch foundation footings should be constructed using:

  1. solid masonry material
  2. reinforced concrete
  3. or plain (without reinforcement) concrete (details in CHAPTER 13-132 FOUNDATIONS 18(13-132-110) FOOTINGS – CONSTRUCTION).
Single story Chicago front porch building by EDMAR Corporation

Chicago front porch construction – single story porches

Chicago Porch Material – Pressure Treated Lumber – Wolmanized

To clear the confusion, we have two definitions for the type of wood (Pressure Treated Lumber / Wolmanized) normally used when building Chicago porches.


Also known as “treated lumber” or “Wolmanized Lumber”. The wood treatment process involves injecting the wood cells with various chemical mixtures capable of destroying / killing micro-organisms and variety of insects. The injected mixture slows down decaying process and significantly prolongs lifespan of pressure treated wood to approximately 10-20 years.  

This lifespan doesn’t sound correct? Well… it is different from what the manufacturers put on labels (25-50 years) and varies considerably. For us, taking into the equation Chicago weather, it will probably be closer to 10-20 years.


Refers to the same type of wood, pressure treated, but it’s a trade name.

Chicago Porch Guardrails / Safeguards / Handrails

Chicago porch rebuilding, guardrails, safeguards, handrails, by EDMAR Corporation

Chicago Porch Guardrails / Safeguards / Handrails

Chicago porch guardrails are required everywhere we can potentially fall of the porch, so:

  1. At all edges of every space such as floors, balconies, mezzanines, and other areas used or anticipated to be used by human occupancy more than two feet above any surface directly below. The only exception would be loading platforms installed 2’ and more above ground.
  2. At all windows or doorways that have a sill installed 24 inches or less above the floor level of a room or area.

One exception, that last requirement doesn’t apply if such window or doorway opens directly above the following surfaces:

Ground | Pavement | Guarded space

and when their level is less than two feet below the sill of such window or doorway or unless the construction of the such window or doorway serves the same purpose.

  1. At all sides of every open areaway deeper than 3’ excluding the side that opens or provides access to a stairway.

Porch Handrails  

All porch stairways must have walls, railings, or guards, and handrails installed on both sides with 3 exceptions (please check the Porch Guidelines link and the Chicago Building Code for details – CHAPTER 13-160 EXIT REQUIREMENTS 10(13-160-320) STAIRWAYS – HANDRAILS)  

Porch Guardrail Types

“Porch guardrails” come in various flavors, depending on the porch’s design; a wall, balustrade, grill or railing at least 42” tall, area grating, or other approved device, can be treated as a guardrail.

With the Chicago porch guardrails we also have one exception: For single-family and two-family dwellings, and within individual dwelling units in other Class A-2 occupancies which are primarily permanent in nature, guards whose top rail also serves as a handrail shall have a height of not less than 34 inches and not more than 38 inches, measured vertically from the leading edge of the stair tread nosing. 

Chicago porch building code requirement openings in guards, balusters or ornamental patterns, EDMAR Corporation

Chicago porch building code requirement – openings in guards, balusters or ornamental patterns.

Chicago Porch Permitted Openings in Guards

This Chicago porch building code requirement applies to openings in guards, so balusters or any type of ornamental patterns. You can easily verify if your Chicago porch complies with this requirement by using a 4”, 6”, and 8” diameter spheres / balls.

There are 3 areas where you can test compliance:

  • Four inch diameter ball cannot pass through any of the openings in guards up to 34” high from the adjacent walking surfaces
  • Eight inch diameter ball cannot pass through any opening in guards between 34” and 42” above adjacent walking surfaces
  • Six inch diameter ball cannot pass through the triangular openings that are formed by the tread, riser, and the bottom rail along the open side of a stairway.

There are a few exceptions so please check the Chicago Porch Design Guidelines for details.

Treads and Risers - Porch Building by EDMAR Corporation

Treads and Risers – Chicago Porches by EDMAR Corporation

Chicago Porch Stair Risers and Treads

RISER is a vertical stair component made up of a board closes the space between any two treads or tread and a landing. The rise is the vertical dimension between each tread and it must be consistent between all of the treads in a flight of stairs.

TREAD is a horizontal stair component that we step upon to go up or down between the levels. The rise is the vertical dimension between each tread. The consistency of width of all treads and height of all risers must not vary within any flight of stairs.

Chicago porch stair risers and treads should have specific and uniform dimensions so we don’t trip when walking up or down. The maximum height of a riser should not exceed 8”. The minimum depth of a tread (without nosing) should be 9”, and at least 10” with a nosing.

Contact us for Complete Chicago Wood Porch Building Service and Help with Correcting Chicago Porch Related Violations

Call 1-847-724-5600

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  • Preparation of Chicago Porch architectural drawings.
  • Obtaining of required work permits at the City of Chicago Department of Buildings.
  • Meetings with City of Chicago Inspectors for any interim inspections required by the city regarding the violations.
  • Assistance in any administrative or court hearings regarding the violations.
  • Assistance until the City of Chicago determines the violations have been closed.
  • Single – Two – 3 Story porch rebuilding and repairs.
  • Front porches – Rear porches – Wrap-around porches.
  • Construction of stairs and decks.