Skip to content
Off Topic

User Stats

2
Posts
1
Votes

Refinish enclosed rear porch? Do I need permits for this?

Christian Aillon
Posted Feb 14 2024, 08:45

Hey all,

First post here.  I own a 2 flat (3 units)with basement unit on the west side of Chicago.  It's a greystone in decent shape.  I live on the top floor and rent the bottom 2 units.  There is an enclosed rear porch that is unfinished and uninsulated.  The laundry is in the basement so I have to go up and down the stairs to do laundry, enter the garden, access the alley, etc.  Maybe this isn't the greatest use of money but it bothers me immensely how ****** the unfinished rear porch looks.  I'd like to finish it with insulation, electrical, dry wall, treaded stairs, etc.  Does anyone have experience with this?  Would I need to pull permits to do this?  I DO NOT INTEND TO MAKE THIS A LIVING SPACE OR EXTRA BEDROOM.  Best case, I'd put an extra fridge, some plants, storage shelves, shoe racks, etc.  I just don't want to have to look and experience the ugly rear staircase every day, especially in the summer when I am go to the yard daily to grill or play with the kids.  

Any advice or recommendations on experts on this?  Thanks!

User Stats

5,842
Posts
4,882
Votes
John Warren
  • Real Estate Broker
  • 1658 N. Milwaukee Ave Ste B PMP 18969 Chicago, IL 60647
4,882
Votes |
5,842
Posts
John Warren
  • Real Estate Broker
  • 1658 N. Milwaukee Ave Ste B PMP 18969 Chicago, IL 60647
Replied Feb 14 2024, 14:29

@Christian Aillon I would not over improve this as the city hates enclosed porches. I manage 8-12 unit buildings in Logan Square, Albany Parka and Irving Park, and we have had issues with porches even at that small sample size.  You could receive a citation at any point to remove illegal siding, etc. You might want to hear from an architect like @Samuel Pavlovcik on this. 

  • Real Estate Agent IL (#475.166619)

Forte Properties, Inc Logo

User Stats

3,515
Posts
2,139
Votes
Jonathan Klemm
Pro Member
  • Contractor
  • Chicago, IL
2,139
Votes |
3,515
Posts
Jonathan Klemm
Pro Member
  • Contractor
  • Chicago, IL
ModeratorReplied Feb 16 2024, 07:36

Hello and welcome to the Chicago BP forums @Christian Aillon!

For sure you would "technically" need to pull permits for something like that...but this is likely a case where doing that work isn't going to alarm any neighbors or city officials...Being that it's inside your unit and an enclosed porch.

Sam is great and so is @Prashanth Mahakali as far as local Chicago architects go.

BiggerPockets logo
BiggerPockets
|
Sponsored
Find an investor-friendly agent in your market TODAY Get matched with our network of trusted, local, investor friendly agents in under 2 minutes

User Stats

2
Posts
1
Votes
Christian Aillon
Replied Feb 16 2024, 07:59

@Jonathan Klemm   

My plan is to eventually turn the two units into a SFH, which I know would definitely require permits. Won't the city inspect the enclosed porch at that time and likely have me get it to code? It looks like it was built in the 60s so likely not up to code. Thanks!

User Stats

211
Posts
229
Votes
Samuel Pavlovcik
  • Architect
  • Chicago, IL
229
Votes |
211
Posts
Samuel Pavlovcik
  • Architect
  • Chicago, IL
Replied Feb 16 2024, 20:18

@John Warren and @Jonathan Klemm thanks for the Mentions.

The City rececntly terminated it's "Eazy Permit" process and replaced it with the "Express Permit" process. Based on the new information provided by the City for what can Qualify; I would say this likely could Qualify for an Express Permit. That being said, they would likely still require Architectural Plans...

The biggest thing with these rear enclosed porches is determining (as based on the City's eyes) if/when they were Legally enclosed, or if they are technically supposed to have remained as an Open porch. We Honestly see this all the time, all over the City, and the fact that you're looking to do it in a Safer way speaks highly. Unfortunately, while that Should make things go more smothly with you through the City, it doesn't always work that way.

A majority of the time, the City is willing to just "Accept the fact" that these enclosed porches exist, and as long as they are maintained in safe conditions you can continue to utilize them. The scope/work you were mentioning about just insulating, finishing, and making it nice would definitely be permitted, as long as the City doesn't decide to come back with a comment saying "Our records indicat this porch is an Open porch, please provide existing photographs"... When they decide to concern themselves with this, they will look at the old Sanborn Maps to see whether the porch was indicated as open or enclosed. The City has their own modified version of the Sanborn maps in their archives which, from what i've heard, have some additional hand-noted information on them, which they will utilize from time to time... To be honest, on over 100 building permits last year in the City of Chicago, with many of them having some form of enclosed porch, I think only 2 were ever mentioned by the Department of Zoning where they brought it up as a "Concern" which led us on a wild goose chase of finding and sharing information, overally causing unnecessary delay to the permit review process and eventually coming to a close (some positive, some negative). In one case, we even had the City tell us the 2-story home we were renovating was only noted as a 1-story home in their records. Fortunately we were able to shut down the rediculousness in that case but it still wasted time...

In the end, I would say if you were to pursue this work with a permit, it woild likely go through with no issues or concerns whatsoever; however, it's not a 100% guarantee. Additionally, the structure for these porches is commonly undersized and may need repair work including but not limited to sistering joists and providing steel angle brackets at the notched beam to column connections. One other potential concern that could arise in the field, is the basement unit in the case where it happens to not be unit which is "Legally Recognized" by the City. You should likely already know this information, but if not there are ways of confirming as well. In the end, a majority of inspectors would likely appreciate the fact that you will end up improving the condition and make it safer; especially if you are not trying to use the space as additional utility space or living space; just as long as the Zoning Reviewer doesn't pick your project to become an issue, or just as long as you are not hiding an illegal unit which an inspector notices once on site...

One final note;

In regards to deconverting your property to a single-family residence in the future; with the Zoning TSL Expansion, many Zoning designations are restricted from deconverting properties away from an existing Multi-Unit condition. If you have a RS-1, RS-2, or RS-3 Zoned lot you would be permitted to do so, but if you have a RT or RM zoned lot you will likely be restricted. You can check yoir Zoning Designation online on the Chicago Zoning Map.

User Stats

2,969
Posts
1,435
Votes
Michael Smythe
Property Manager
#1 Managing Your Property Contributor
  • Property Manager
  • Metro Detroit
1,435
Votes |
2,969
Posts
Michael Smythe
Property Manager
#1 Managing Your Property Contributor
  • Property Manager
  • Metro Detroit
Replied Feb 17 2024, 07:40

@Christian Aillon you got some great advice from @Samuel Pavlovcik for free!

I'll just re-emphasize that your planned improvements will add a lot of weight to the structure. So, you should have a structural engineer determine if & what additional support may be needed. Hopefully, the footings won't need to be addressed!

User Stats

211
Posts
229
Votes
Samuel Pavlovcik
  • Architect
  • Chicago, IL
229
Votes |
211
Posts
Samuel Pavlovcik
  • Architect
  • Chicago, IL
Replied Mar 22 2024, 07:55

One additional clarification on my post related to the possible "Restriction" from deconverting a multi-unit to a single-family residence. This Only applies to RT and RM Zoned Lots that are located within "Community Preservation Areas" and are also within specified distances to CTA Lines as designated in the TSL Ordinance requirments.