Tupper, Real Estate Pro in Chicago, IL

I have to renovate a 6 flat with violations and I need to do it cheaply. What should I do about heating?

Asked by Tupper, Chicago, IL Tue Jul 24, 2012

I plan to replace electric and plumbing, but this old building formerly had space heaters. I am weighing furnaces versus baseboard heating. I am afraid that if I want to install furnaces I have to submit plans and get behind walls and floors/install drains and that can lead to an expensive mess! Baseboard heating sounds more economical, does anybody know if the city allows this? Thanks!

Help the community by answering this question:


First off, since you know the building has violations already, ALL work will need permits. Granted, all work needs permits anyway but with violations in place you can't afford to scam by. Granted you could try but I wouldn't recommend it.
It doesn't matter if you do the best work on the planet to correct the violations, if the work is done without permits the City will NOT consider those violations complied.
As far as HVAC goes, individual GFA is your best bet for the most part. It sounds like this is an older building, therefore it probably has an older electrical service. It is highly unlikely the old service will load calc out to be compliant for electric baseboard heat.
I've dealt with this on projects before. Once you factor in an upgraded service, panels, circuits and homeruns to the apartments, there isn't any savings in trying to go electric baseboard. Additionally, the work that would likely be required to load calc out for electric baseboard would probably pass the 40% threshold, therefore the entire building would need to meet current electrical Code. That would bring about more costs.
About the only way, electric baseboard would work is from a winter stability viewpoint. I know landlords who have installed electric because of the demographics they rent to. You need to know who you may be renting to. In lower income areas it isn't uncommon for someone to fall behind on their heating bill with GFA. If it happens in one unit, its manageable. If it happens in 2-3 units in a 6 flat, it can be a problem. Spend the extra money on installing 90%+ AFUE units. The extra upfront cost for you can translate into more renter stability and better ROI in the long run.
It's important to remember that if there are outstanding violations, City inspectors will show up at the property at some point. This week, next month, who knows when but they will. Also you won't be able to get a permit application approved for anything, UNLESS that permit application also addresses the violations.
Oh, and yes the City does allow electric baseboard.
Hope that helps.
3 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jul 24, 2012
Markus, great answer, but let me clarify:

1. I never said I don't want to pull permits. I plan to pull electric, plumbing, and drywall permits (those are where most of the violations are). What I said is that I don't want to submit architectural plans. Plans lead to every department reviewing things over and adding to your costs with stupid unnecessary crap. I will have a GC, and a licensed plumber & electrician pull quick permits to get the job done.

Also, if I instill HVAC I will have no choice but submit plans to the city, and this I don't want. Plans = more costs. With baseboards I can just upgrade the electric service with a permit and install them.
Flag Tue Jul 24, 2012
Can you tell us how large the units are? if it had space heaters before and your on a budget why not use the wall mount space heaters again
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Sep 11, 2012
The city allows baseboard heating. You may still have to submit for a permit to verify the amount of heating you are installing meets the city code. If you install funaces, you will need plans indicating the duct layout and similar calculations. You should not need to install floor drains unless you are also installing hot water heater(s) or boiler(s). You can run the ductwork along the ceiling and enclose it in a soffit. You may still have to open up the walls to install baseboard heating depending on the type of basebaord units. Feel free to conact me with any questions. I am an architect, very experienced in rehab projects with or without violations.
3 Stop Shop P.C.
Naaman Landers III
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Sep 10, 2012
You didnt say if the baseboard you were thinking of would be electric or hot water ? the cheapest way out would be seperate gas forced air, I've been responsible for rehabbing thousands of buildings in Chicago over the last 26+ years

The last two responses are right ( MarkusAIC and Spartan) and they gave you the formal correct answers too

If you ever need any help with anything else I can be reached at http://www.urbchicago.com

0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Sep 3, 2012

I am a licensed contractor in Chicago & have been in business since 1991. Baseboard heat can be acceptable if installed properly. Typically the cost for this is a hard question to answer without seeing the property. The downside of baseboard heat is it provides no air conditioning, so adding air can be very expensive, unless you're okay with window a/c. However, Gas Forced Air will give you that option. There's of course pros & cons with Gas Forced Air which you can look into or I can explain during a visit to your property.


I would like to connect you with my wife who is a RE Broker and is in the top 50 of her company of 1500 agents. We work together as a team for this type of client. We own properties ourselves and have been doing this type of investments for 25+ years.There are several questions we will need to address before getting started, but all of our properties are in areas that have rented easily and have solf within 60 days of list including the new construction ones I have built.

Thank you,
John G Moustis
President / Owner
Phone & Fax: 630-963-6020
Email: jmoustis@spartancontractor.com
Website: http://www.spartancontractor.com
Lic.No. GC024703-I & R-I-18615-10-02820

Quality building, remodeling & consulting services in the Chicagoland area since 1991
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jul 25, 2012

Quick summary:

Gas forced - extra cost associated with plumbing work, soffits and installing mechanical area per code.

Electric baseboard - potential extra cost with respect to the electrical service coming into the building, baseboard units can be viewed as a safety hazard for young kids (the fins get extremely hot and are protected, but little fingers can get into them - although no different than a hot radiator in a boiler heated building), much less patching and no soffits or additional plumbing work.

I recently started putting baseboard heaters into the units I own. Tenants that have problems getting a People's Gas account in their name due to non-payment can many times still get a Com Ed account in their name. If you go ahead with GFA and tenant fall behind on their bill, they can go to CEDA or many times they want you to pay for the gas bill.

Let me know if you would like to talk more about my experience on this matter. My company also manages property, many of which are Section 8/subsidized renters. We can renovate, rent out and manage this property for you.

Erik Sachs
RpV Realty
Cell 773/368-5515
Email esachs@rpvinc.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jul 24, 2012
I would call up a few people who specialize in this sort of thing. Have them go to the building and look at it and give you estimates. Let an expert handle whats best for the building and your wallet.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jul 24, 2012
cresent wrench, potato peeler, crock pot.. your asking realtors..HA!..75% of them do not own a tool box and it sounds like yours has a pink hammer.. just kidding.. but the truth is you would be very well served spending $1500 with a good contractor and discussing the mess your about to create.. ask friends, find guys in the hood and ask them to consult with you for $40 an hour..is 6 hours you will have a working plan and hopefully a new beer drinking buddy.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jul 24, 2012
Why don't you just get some estimates and then you will see the differences? The city could care less what type of heating you use. The HVAC contractor will have to get permits for whatever system is installed. It's just part of the total cost. With baseboard heat you cannot have central air, if that matters.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jul 24, 2012
How long do you plan on keeping this building? Update it appropriately with modern conveniences so that your tenants will enjoy and your value will increase over time.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jul 24, 2012
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