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City of Chicago
Porch and Deck
Information and Summary

The Chicago Building Code defines a porch as "an unheated roofed portion of a building, generally containing a stair used for ingress (entering) and egress (exiting) and a floor area, and separated from the principal portion of the building by a fire rated wall and unrated doors and windows."  A deck is defined as "an open, unroofed structure used in conjunction with a principal building or installed on the roof of a building. A deck other than a rooftop deck may be classified as attached or detached depending upon its relationship to the principal building."  Simply said, a porch has a roof and stairs and a deck does not have a roof but may have stairs. Regardless of whether a porch or a deck, both are designed and built in a similar manner and serve many of the same functions.

The purpose of the Guide to Porch and Deck Design and Construction is to provide the homeowner or landlord with the "tools" he or she needs to build a porch or deck that meets the requirements of the Chicago Building Code. If you own the building you live in, the building is three stories high or less and the building has no more than six units, you can likely use this Guide to get your building permit and you won't need a design professional to prepare your plans. The Guide is a step-by-step handbook to properly design, permit and build a porch or deck. Inside, you will find:

* the terms used to define the components of a porch and deck
* how to select the proper materials
* how to select the proper size components
* how the elements of a porch and deck go together
* how to obtain a building permit
* how to have your porch or deck inspected during construction
* how to maintain your porch or deck after it is built

If you don't want to follow these plans, or if you own multiple buildings or buildings greater than three stories in height or with more than six units, you must hire a State of Illinois Licensed Architect or Structural Engineer to prepare your plans so that you may obtain a building permit.

The best porch or deck designs mean nothing if they are not properly built and maintained. Your safety, and the safety of those who use your porch or deck, is entirely dependent on good construction, good maintenance and common sense. Please note the following important points:

* When contracting for work, insist on a written contract with a fixed cost that includes these plans initialed by you and your contractor.
* Only use new materials from reputable suppliers; reusing old materials jeopardizes porch and deck safety.
* Frequently check on your work and insist on quality workmanship - whether performed by you or your contractor.
* R
emove and replace all work of inferior quality.
* Insist on inspections at key points of the project to insure compliance with the Chicago Building Code.
* Check your porch or deck annually and replace deteriorated members and components.
* Properly treat and waterproof the wooden members of your porch to extend their life.
* Educate those who use your porch or deck on proper use and control the number of people who use it.

By following these simple guidelines, your porch or deck will serve you, your friends, and your guests for many years.  If you have questions concerning this Guide, call the City of Chicago's Department of Construction and Permits at (312) 744-6528 between 8:30 AM and 4:30 PM Monday through Friday, or e-mail us at DCAPhelp@cityofchicago.org.

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