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Construction Development Services FAQs

Q. Why do I need a permit?

A. In the interest of your health, safety and welfare, permits allow the enforcement of codes which have been adopted by law by the State or City through plan review and inspections of your project. If the construction or remodeling in your home or business does not comply with code requirements, your investment and your health, safety and welfare may be reduced. City of Rockford inspectors and plans examiners are trained and certified through a nationally recognized certification program for the duties they perform. Because of training and occupation, inspectors and plans examiners maintain current and specialized knowledge of code requirements unlike any other profession.

Q. How deep must frost footings be?

A. 42" below grade

Q. What is the design ground snow load in Rockford?

A. 30 psf.

Q. How many layers of roofing can I have on roof?

A. No more than 2 layers of any kind of roofing, other than wood shake, slate, clay or cement – which permit only 1 layer.

Q. Why do I need to submit construction documents (drawings, calculations, specifications)?

A. Construction documents provide details of equipment and systems to be installed. Review of documents allows determination if code requirements will be met before construction begins. Modifications to documents requires less time and is less expensive than revisions to completed installations

Q. When am I required to hire a design professional (Architect, Professional Engineer or Structural Engineer)?

A. Detached single family dwellings and two family dwellings of wood frame construction not more than two stories plus a basement in height are not required to have construction documents prepared by a design professional. New construction (including additions) for all other types of structures are required by State law to have construction documents prepared, sealed, signed and dated by an Illinois licensed design professional. Alterations and change of use/occupancy in other than 1 & 2 family dwelling projects that result in a life safety or structural change are required by State law to have construction documents prepared, sealed, signed and dated by an Illinois licensed design professional.

Q. Where do codes come from?

A. The model codes adopted by the City of Rockford are written on the national level by not-for-profit model code agencies, some of which were established prior to 1900. Generally every three years new issues of model codes are published after thousands of code changes are proposed by any concerned person (even you), and then discussed at public hearings, voted upon and incorporated into new code text. Generally within 1 to 2 years of new model code publication, the City of Rockford reviews these codes with up to 7 volunteer committees composed of local members of the design, ownership and building construction industry. Based upon these reviews, the committees contribute to what are referred to as local amendments that are adopted as City Ordinance. The amendments modify, clarify, add or reduce requirements of the model codes to address local conditions or practices.

Q. What happens if I do not obtain a permit?

A. If the construction or remodeling in your home or business does not comply with code requirements, your investment and your health, safety and welfare may be reduced. Work started without a permit is also subject to a fine that is substantially larger than the cost of a permit.

Q. What type of work is exempt from a building permit?

Building permits are not required for: 1. One-story detached accessory structures used as decks, tool storage sheds, playhouses and similar uses, provided the floor area does not exceed 120 square feet (11.15 m2) and is not supported by another structure. 2. Oil derricks. 3. Retaining walls that are not over 4 feet (1219 mm) in height measured from grade at the bottom to grade at the top of the wall, unless supporting a surcharge or impounding Class I, II or III-A liquids. 4. Water tanks supported directly upon grade if the capacity does not exceed 5,000 gallons (18,925 L) and the ratio of height to diameter or width does not exceed 2:1. 5. Sidewalks and patios not more than 30 inches (762 mm) above adjacent grade and not over any basement or story below and which are not part of an accessible route. 6. Painting, papering, tiling, carpeting, cabinets, countertops and similar finish work. 7. Temporary motion picture, television and theater stage sets and scenery. 8. Prefabricated swimming pools accessory to a group R-3 occupancy that are less than 24 inches (610 mm) deep. 9. Shade cloth structures constructed for nursery or agricultural purposes and not including service systems. 10. Swings and other playground equipment. 11. Awnings supported by an exterior wall and not extending into a City of Rockford right-of-way. 12. Non-fixed Movable fixtures, cases, racks, counters and partitions not over 5 feet 9 inches (1733 mm) in height. 13. Replacement of doors or windows provided the size is not changed and a fire rating is not required. 14. Repair or replacement of interior or exterior wall and ceiling coverings provided: a. not more than 50% of coverings in a room are removed, b. coverings are not part of a fire rated assembly, c. structural elements in a hazardous condition are not exposed.

Q. Can a homeowner install plumbing work in their home?

A. Yes, if they reside in the single family dwelling, otherwise the work must be performed by a licensed plumbing contractor.

Q. Can a homeowner install mechanical work in their home?

A. Yes, if they reside in the single family dwelling, otherwise the work must be performed by a licensed mechanical contractor.

Q. Why do I need to submit construction documents (drawings, calculations, specifications)?

A. Construction documents provide details of equipment and systems to be installed. Review of documents allows determination if some code requirements will be met before construction begins. Modifications to documents requires less time and is less expensive than revisions to completed installations.

Q. When am I required to hire a design professional (Architect or Professional Engineer)?

A. Detached single family dwellings and two family dwellings of wood frame construction not more than two stories plus a basement in height are not required to have construction documents prepared by a design professional. New construction (including additions) for all other types of structures are required by State law to have construction documents prepared, sealed, signed and dated by an Illinois licensed design professional. Alternation and change of use/occupancy in other than 1 & 2 family dwelling projects that result in a life safety or structural change are required by State law to have construction documents prepared, sealed, signed and dated by an Illinois licensed design professional.

Q. Where do codes come from?

A. The model codes adopted by the City of Rockford are written on the national level by not-for-profit model code agencies, some of which were established prior to 1900. Generally every three years new issues of model codes are published after thousands of code changes are proposed by any concerned person (even you), and then discussed at public hearings, voted upon and incorporated into new code text. Generally within 1 to 2 years of new model code publication, the City of Rockford reviews these codes with up to 7 volunteer committees composed of local members of the design, ownership and building construction industry. Based upon these reviews, the committees contribute to what are referred to as local amendments that are adopted as City Ordinance. The amendments modify, clarify, add or reduce requirements of the model codes to address local conditions or practices.The Building Department also is legally required to enforce two codes written by the State of Illinois (namely the Illinois Plumbing Code and the Illinois Accessibility Code). The City of Rockford is not legally allowed to consider amendments that reduce their requirements.

Q. What happens if I do not obtain a permit?

A. If the construction or remodeling in your home or business does not comply with code requirements, your investment and your health, safety and welfare may be reduced. Work stated without a permit is also subject to a fine that is substantially larger than the cost of a permit.

Q. What type of work is exempt from a plumbing permit?

A. Permits are not required for: 1. The stopping of leaks in drains, water, soil, waste or vent pipe; provided, however that it does not require the resizing or rearrangement of any defective trap or pipe. 2. The clearing of stoppages, removal of fixtures or the repairing of leaks in pipes, valves or fixtures, provided such repairs do not involve or require the resizing or rearrangement of valves, pipes or fixtures. 3. The repair or replacement of fixtures, water softeners or water purifiers in the same location, provided that it does not require the resizing or rearrangement of any trap or piping. 4. Repair or replacement of interior or exterior wall and ceiling coverings, provided: a. plumbing systems in a hazardous condition are not exposed, or b. plumbing systems are not being resized, rearranged or extended.

Q. What type of work is exempt from a mechanical permit?

A. Permits are not required for: 1. Portable heating appliances. 2. Portable ventilation appliances. 3. Portable cooling units. 4. Steam, hot- or chilled-water piping within any heating or cooling equipment regulated by this code. 5. Replacement of any minor part that does not alter approval of equipment or make such equipment unsafe. 6. Portable evaporative cooler. 7. Self contained refrigeration systems package-type equipment containing 10 pounds (4.54 kg) or less of refrigerant or that are actuated by motors of 1 horsepower (764W) or less in which all components of the refrigeration system are located within a single enclosure without the requirement for on-site assembly or piping of any kind whatsoever. 8. Portable fuel cell appliances that are connected to a fixed piping system and are not interconnected to a power grid. 9. Self contained portable refrigeration appliances. 10. Repair or replacement of interior or exterior wall and ceiling coverings, provided: a. Mechanical systems in a hazardous condition are not exposed, or b. Mechanical systems are not being resized, rearranged or extended.

Q. Why do I need a permit?

A. In the interest of your health, safety and welfare, permits allow the enforcement of codes which have been adopted by law by the State or City through plan review and inspections for your project. If the construction or remodeling in your home or business does not comply with code requirements, your investment and your health, safety and welfare may be reduced. City of Rockford inspectors and plans examiners are trained and certified through a nationally recognized certification program for the duties they perform. Because of training and occupation, inspectors and plans examiners maintain current and specialized knowledge of code requirements unlike any other profession.

Q. How do I become a registered electrician?

A. Pay $25.00 or show proof of a license or registration with another Illinois municipality and complete an application at the Building Department.

Q. Can a homeowner install electrical work in their home?

A. Yes, if they reside in the single family dwelling, otherwise, work must be performed by a registered electrician.

Q. Why do I need to submit construction documents (drawings, calculations, specifications)?

A. Construction documents provide details of equipment and systems to be installed. Review of documents allows determination if some code requirements will be met before construction begins. Modifications to documents requires less time and is less expensive than revisions to completed installations.

Q. When am I required to hire a design professional (Architect or Professional Engineer)?

A. Detached single family dwellings and two family dwellings of wood frame construction not more than two stories plus a basement in height are not required to have construction documents prepared by a design professional. New construction (including additions) for all other types of structures are required by State law to have construction documents prepared, sealed, signed and dated by an Illinois licensed design professional. Alteration and change of use/occupancy in other than 1 & 2 family dwelling projects that result in a life safety or structural change are required by State law to have construction documents prepared, sealed, signed and dated by an Illinois licensed design professional.

Q. Where do codes come from?

A. The model codes adopted by the City of Rockford are written on the national level by not-for-profit model code agencies, some of which were established prior to 1900. Generally every three years new issues of model codes are published after thousands of code changes are proposed by any concerned person (even you), and then discussed at public hearings, voted upon and incorporated into new code text. Generally within 1 to 2 years of new model code publication, the City of Rockford reviews these codes with up to 7 volunteer committees composed of local members of the design, ownership and building construction industry. Based upon these reviews, the committees contribute to what are referred to as local amendments that are adopted as City Ordinance. The amendments modify, clarify, add or reduce requirements of the model codes to address local conditions or practices. The Building Department also is legally required to enforce two codes written by the State of Illinois (namely the Illinois Plumbing Code and the Illinois Accessibility Code). The City of Rockford is not legally allowed to consider amendments that reduce their requirements.

Q. What type of work is exempt from an electrical permit?

Electrical permits are not required for: Minor repair work, including: 1. Temporary cord and plug lighting, provided they are not within a tent requiring a permit.. 2. Replacement of plug and switch receptacles, light fixtures or ceiling fans weighing less than 35 lbs. provided wiring and junction box are not altered. 3. Repair or replacement of branch circuit overcurrent devices. 4. Temporary wiring for experimental purposes in suitable experimental testing laboratories. 5. Wiring, devices, appliances, apparatus or equipment operating at less than 25v and 50w. 6. Low voltage wiring and systems not associated with fire alarm or other life safety systems. 7. Repair or replacement of interior or exterior wall and ceiling coverings provided: 1. not more than 50% of coverings in a room are removed, 2. framing is not exposed to the extent where smoke alarms are required to be wired to the building’s electrical system and be interconnected by section 907.2.10, 3. electrical wiring in a hazardous condition are not exposed and the minimum standards for receptacles, light switches and light fixtures established in sections 604 and 605 of the International Property Maintenance Code as amended have been met, 4. electrical systems are not being resized, rearranged or extended.

Q. Why do I need a permit?

A. In the interest of your health, safety and welfare, permits allow the enforcement of codes which have been adopted by law by the State or City through plan review and inspections of your project. If the construction or remodeling in your home or business does not comply with code requirements, your investment and your health, safety and welfare may be reduced. City of Rockford inspectors and plans examiners are trained and certified through a nationally recognized certification program for the duties they perform. Because of training and occupation, inspectors and plans examiners maintain current and specialized knowledge of code requirements unlike any other profession.

Q. Can I file a complaint about repairs that my landlord will not respond to?

A. Yes, we do ask that you allow the landlord a reasonable amount of time to respond before we step in to investigate the needed repair.

Q. Can a complaint be filed about deteriorated houses and/or buildings?

A. Yes. Call (815) 987-5651.

Q. Is my complaint confidential?

A. Yes. All complaints are confidential. We never give any information as to who the complainant was. We may ask for your contact information in case we need further information, but that information is only used by the staff of Property Standards and the complaint will still be handled if you choose not to disclose that information.

Q. What happens after I file a complaint?

A. An inspector examines the complaint and reviews the property in question. Once this has happened only the owner of record for the property can be given any further information regarding any violations.

Q. What can be done about abandoned/vacant houses with broken windows or doors?

A. A complaint can be filed by calling 987-5651 to the Code Enforcement Division of the Community Development Department. If someone is inside of an abandoned/vacant house, call the Police Department at 815-966-2600 (non-emergency).

Q. What is my property zoned as?

A. You can find the zoning of your property by looking at the City of Rockford Zoning Map or contacting the Zoning Office 815-987-5585.

Q. Can I establish a business in a single-family home located in a residential area?

A. The Home Occupation section of the Zoning Ordinance allows some types of businesses in residential areas. It is advisable to contact be made with the Zoning Office at 815-987-5585 prior to beginning any such endeavor.

Q. If I am replacing an existing fence, do I need a fence permit?

A. A fence permit is required for new fences and the replacement or major repair of existing fence. Fence permits are required so that the property owner is protected from the costs and inconvenience of having to comply with the Ordinance after the fence has been constructed or repaired.


Page last updated: 5/6/2013 11:08:27 AM

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Special thanks to Jason Rotello and Tamika Jones for contributing images for the City of Rockford website.