Legality of Roof Deck - I am looking at a unit with roof access but no deck constructed at this point.

Asked by David, Chicago, IL Wed Mar 26, 2008

I tried looking up Chicago code regarding roof decks but didn't have a ton of luck. I was under the impression you need a separate ingress and egress on the roof, but I am aware of so many buildings that have only one. I understand to do it legally you need a permit which requires an licensed architect and certain load requirements must be met, etc... Can anyone shed any light on what make a roof deck legal or illegal in the City of Chicago. Thanks

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James, Home Owner, Chicago, IL
Fri Mar 30, 2012
Call 360 Design Group. They are a small architectural firm in the city that know all the in and outs for decks and roof decks. 312-842-2225 ask for Bob Link or Frank Levato. or
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Reliable Ame…, , Glenview, IL
Mon Jul 26, 2010
Typically two entrances/exits are required on a legally approved roof deck and there is a weight load limit of I think 100 pounds per square foot. The weight issue actually isn't so much of a concern with older buildings which were built originally with tar and gravel roofs and built to carry very similiar load. There are also railing issues so nobody walks off the edge of your roof. But like most improvement work done in the City of Chicago, it's usually done with out permit and not to code. Roof decks are no different.

This article may help you in your roof deck situation...
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Bill O'hara, , Chicago, IL
Mon May 3, 2010
In general, building a roof deck to code does mean having two means of egress from the roof. I have done several and it than main concern. Yes you do need a permit and the deck should also be framed in a manner that supplies 100 Lbs./psf per city of Chicago deck/porch requirements. Also, new frame construction needs to be a min. of 6'0" from the adjacent property line, to meet fire code. And you should remember that while doing things like this without a permit is done all the time, people are dragged into compliance court on Superior street all the time as well and at that point, the Chicago department of revenue is the only winner.
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Sheldon Saln…, , Chicago, IL
Sun Mar 30, 2008

You have all the facts from Jeff if you are thinking of doing a roof deck in a single family, however, if you live in a 3 flat, 6 flat or 8 flat, I strongly suggest you do additional research and find out the rules/regulations from your condo board as well as the original property report. Please read this information carefully to discover what liability you could encounter should you decide to build a deck. I strongly advise you to also check with an attorney.
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Jeffrey Kropp, Agent, Chicago, IL
Thu Mar 27, 2008
David, you are correct, you need two ways in and out among other things. In a nutshell, roof access does not add much value to a property since it may not be possible or practical to build a deck, at least within the code. When I am with my clients reviewing a roof deck, my first question is whether it meets the Code requirements (usually the issue is having two ways off the roof). From time to time, the builder will come in after a closing and build the deck (after all the building permits have been issues) to skirt the city requirements. You just have to understand there is a risk that the City could find out (all it takes is one neighbor calling the City, unlikely but possible). I am sure there are others that say don't worry about it and it is done all the time in our great city.
Web Reference:
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Mwass, , Chicago, IL
Thu Mar 27, 2008
David, i'd start with the city of chicago's guide for porches and decks:…

i'd probably also take a peak at muncipal code, sections sections 13-124-310, 13-124-320 and 13-124-330 (google chicago municipal ordinance to get the complete verbage).

best of luck, and don't forget your trulia friends at that first bar-b-que!
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