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Chicago Structural Foundation Repair: Permit Truth vs. Fiction

May 31, 2013 • By Matthew Stock.

Chicago Structural Foundation Repair: Permit Truth vs. Fiction


We’ve all heard the stories about how hard it is for contractors to work in the city of Chicago.  There’s all the rules, the building codes, the inspectors, the permits. Oh, boy, the permits!  Makes you wonder how anything gets done, doesn’t it?

I’m not going to try and tell you that working in compliance with all of the city’s rules and requirements is simple or easy.  It isn’t.  However, I do have to say that, when approached correctly and with advance preparation, it is certainly workable and need not be a burden on either the contractor or the homeowner.  If your contractor, whether he’s repairing your foundation, waterproofing your basement or building a deck, starts using the city as an excuse, maybe it’s time to look for another one who has his act together.

How to Do Structural Foundation Repairs in Compliance with the City of Chicago

OK, first (and most obvious) things first:  If a foundation repair contractor suggests to you that the work can be done without a permit or an inspection, run – don’t walk – away from this guy.  Skirting the rules is never the way to go and you, the homeowner will ultimately pay the price, whether it’s in fines, stop-work orders or shoddy results.  Don’t even consider it.

Here are a few other things to consider:

Permits are Attainable and Reasonable – Too many contractors and home service businesses tell fables about the permitting process in Chicago.  “It will take too long.”  “It will cost too much.”  “It’s impossible.” Nonsense.  The permitting process exists to ensure that homeowners get quality work done the right way.  There is a cost for a permit and there is a process to receive it but any contractor licensed by the city (another requirement, by the way) should be able to navigate the process in a reasonable amount of time and at a reasonable cost.  If he claims he can’t, maybe he can’t do the work right, either.

Planning and Organization Ease the Way – Getting a building or renovation permit is like anything else, the better you prepare, the easier it is.  If a foundation repair contractor walks into the Building or Underground Departments at City Hall with some pencil sketches on the back of an envelope and a plan based on “experience,” the process is going to be rocky right from the start.  When he brings in engineering drawings, a timeline and a repair plan derived from actual load and stress calculations he’s going to have a much better and easier time getting your permits.

Know What You’re Doing – I know, this sound like “do good and avoid evil” but it’s true.  If your contractor doesn’t know the difference between an “Easy Permit” and “Standard Plan Review,” he’s in trouble right from the start.  Also, knowledge of the different city departments involved in the process, like the Building and Underground departments and what role they play in getting a foundation repaired, is absolutely essential.  In fact, a good foundation contractor will know the staff in these offices and what role each person plays in the permit process.  I’m not talking about the old Chicago “nudge, wink and a $20 bill,” either; I mean building a relationship based on professionalism, preparedness and a history of good work.

When you, the Chicago homeowner, need critical repairs to your foundation, you want a contractor that won’t waste your time or money playing around with the permitting process.  At U.S. Waterproofing, our foundation repair experts know the ropes and approach each job in Chicago or elsewhere with professionalism, solid planning and detailed engineering studies.  We’ll be happy to offer you a free consultation on your foundation problem and explain our approach to the permitting process.  Just ask.

Tags: structural foundation repair, chicago structural foundation repair, chicago home foundation repair

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