I haven’t spent a lot of time talking about the permit process, maybe because it happens mostly via email and I can’t take pictures of it. However, it’s an important facet of our project and it’s been going on in parallel to what I’ll call the “actual work” on the house, so I’ll go into some details now.

After I developed floor plans that we liked, we went through a process of selecting an architect. We asked several to come to the house, see the plans we’d drawn up, and provide a quote. We even went to visit the home of one of the architects, since he’d done his own remodeling project similar to ours, and it was a good example of his design. In the end, we selected Jesse McGrath, of McGrath Architects due to the right combination of flexibility in working with us and our “phased” remodel, his experience with Chicago Green Homes and the green permit process, as well as being “self-certified” with the City of Chicago and quoting us a price that didn’t make our jaws drop.

Jesse met with us once a week, converting my Sketchup drawings into plans. He (like all of the architects we talked to) pushed us toward using spray foam and rigid exterior insulation in lieu of a double wall to achieve our high insulation values. While he worked on the plan details, we met with contractors to find the ones we’ll need. Even though we’re going to do most of the work ourselves, the City of Chicago requires certain things to be done by licensed professionals, including plumbing, electrical, and HVAC. We needed to get a “letter of intent” from each contractor as well as an electrical application, complete a bunch of other forms, and sent it all over to Jesse so he could in turn submit it to the City.

Unfortunately I didn’t get a concrete mason lined up, so I had to scramble to find one. We got some outrageously high quotes to lower the basement floor, but finally got a reasonable price from one. Now I just need to get the letter of intent from him, which for some reason is taking far longer than expected.

Site Plan (I don’t know why it calls for Japanese Yew Shrubs)

We’re now in the byzantine workings of the permit review process. Currently we’re held up on Zoning. Our plat of survey is from closing last year, and the City requires a survey no more than 60 days old, so I’m getting a new one done in the next few days. Because we’re putting on a new front porch, and Zoning wants houses to all be roughly the same distance from the street, the survey also needs to include the “setbacks” of the two properties in either direction to determine the average. If our plans put the porch ahead of the average, then we’ll have to go through additional hurdles to try and get approved. I went out last night with a tape measure. The houses to either side of us are about the same as ours, but the house two down and the apartment building two up are both closer to the street, depending on how it gets calculated. I guess we’ll see.

Once we’re through Zoning, the plans will be reviewed for structure, electrical, plumbing, mechanical, as well as all of the green elements. This process can take a couple of months, but assuming we don’t need to redesign the front porch, hopefully we’ll go through quickly.


2 Responses to Permit Process

  1. Matt, let me know if you come across hurdles in the permitting process. I’ll be happy to share my experience and insights.

  2. Matt says:

    Thanks, Marcus!

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