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Do You Need a Permit to Finish a Basement in Illinois

Cities all over the world have established standards that building projects must adhere to. To ensure compliance of homeowners and contractors, a permit is usually issued prior to the commencement of a project. Such permits ensure that a project complies with the recognized safety requirements.  

Generally speaking, finishing a basement requires a permit. This article provides information on the type of basement finishes that require permits, those that do not, documents required for the application, and the average cost of permits in Illinois, specifically. 

As a general rule, basement finishes limited to wallpapering, tiling, painting, etc., don’t require a permit. But permits are needed for projects involving new construction, alteration to plumbing and electrical features, renovations, building additions, and remodeling.

Most Basement Finishes Must Be Permitted  

All major and a few minor basement finishes require a permit. Failure to get the necessary permit(s) could attract fines or penalties. It can also negatively impact your property’s resale value. 

The size and scope of the work to be done would determine whether a permit is needed and the type of permit required. 

Work That Requires a Permit

Any project that would alter the structure or use of a basement would require a permit. Naturally, an unfinished or partially finished basement would need a building permit to finish it. Here are some basement finishes that require a permit: 

  • Projects that make alterations to electrical, plumbing, gas piping, or HVAC functions.
  • Work that involves walls being built or altered.
  • Projects that make changes to the use or purpose of any section of the apartment.
  • Activities that make changes to the required means of egress. For example, if you were turning a windowless basement into a habitable area, you would have to add an egress point.
  • Depending on the project’s scope, minor works like cabinet installation might require a permit.

Work That Won’t Require a Permit

Here are the basement finishes that don’t require a permit in almost all the municipalities of Illinois: 

  • Aesthetic upgrades like painting, wallpapering, tiling, carpeting (which is a great way to warm up your basement!), or skim coating to cover up popcorn ceiling
  • Minor repairs and maintenance work.
  • Drywall or plaster replacements for small spaces that do not alter electrical or plumbing systems. 
  • Installation of non-fixed or moveable fixtures. 
  • Replacement or repair of any part within the heating, ventilation, or cooling system that doesn’t alter its function. 
  • In-kind replacement of interior doors, windows, countertops, cabinets, and similar finish work that aren’t required to have a fire rating.
  • In-kind replacement of ceiling tiles that don’t need a fire rating.

Exact Details Depend on City

Permits are issued on a local level in Illinois.

Since permits are issued on a local level, each city has its laws that determine what basement finish requires a permit and the process of getting one. Visit the building department on your city’s website for further information on the necessary steps that you’d have to take.

One thing most cities have in common is the need for a contractor’s license before the issuance of permits. So, if you intend to hire a contractor, that’s something you should have in mind. 

Supporting Permit Application Documentation

Along with your permit application, you’d need to include the permit fee and drawn schematics of the project. The architectural drawing should include the following:

Mr. Pen- House Plan, Interior Design and Furniture Templates, Drafting Tools and Ruler Shapes for Architecture - Set of 3

  • A floor plan that shows the entire scope of the project. It should indicate elements like doors, windows, walls, mechanical, plumbing, electrical structures, and fireplace when applicable. For remodeling and renovations, an existing basement plan and then a separate one that shows how the completed basement would look might be required. 
  • Cross-section that shows the specifics and materials to be used. It should include specifics on how the remodeling is to be completed.
  • Plumbing plan if applicable. 

How Much Does a Permit Cost?

Permit fees are determined by municipalities based on a variety of factors. Some cities determine cost based on the estimated value of the project. Others take the size, scope, and cost of the project into consideration. Most cities have established fees for minor basement finishes, in other words, there is a minimum fee you will pay.

Depending on the permit required and the scope of the project, permits can cost between $70-$1000. 

How Long Does Approval Take?

Response times might differ based on city and individual review requirements. However, the average response time ranges from 2 weeks to 3 months. 

If you need a retrospective permit for an already finished basement, you can find helpful information on the process in How to Get Permit for Already Finished Basement.


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