Porch and deck safety measures

The City of Chicago warns residents of the danger of overloading porches or decks with people, grills, or heavy lawn furniture.  The warning emphasizes that porches are designed to provide ingress and egress to dwelling units and not to serve as storage areas or venues for large parties.  Property owners, landlords, and tenants share the responsibility of maintaining a safe environment.

This warning is especially important for those of you who plan summer parties, especially during the upcoming Sheffield Music Festival and Garden Walk.

The warning enumerates signs of a structurally unsound porch or deck system:

  • Decks pulling away from the exterior wall
  • Weak footing at ground level
  • Extensive exterior peeling paint
  • Loose handrails
  • Cracked or rotted members (e.g., steps, handrails, decking)
  • Leaking roof structures, gutters, and downspouts above the system
  • Loose and rotting decking and floor joists
  • Improper connection of structural members (e.g., upright and lookouts)
  • Balusters improperly installed and maintained

The Chicago Building Code establishes the standards for porch and deck construction.  The city recommends hiring a licensed contractor with extensive experience building or repairing porches and decks.  The building owner bears the ultimate responsibility for obtaining a building permit to install or repair a porch or deck, however.  Architectural drawings may be required:  porch and deck prototype construction guidelines and standards are available.

For additional information about porch and deck safety, including a guide to maintenance and evaluation, guides to design, and Porch FAQs, visit www.cityofchicago.org, or contact the Department of Buildings at 312-744-3600 or buildings@cityofchicago.org.  Most important, report signs of structural problems to 311; a building inspector then will investigate.