Frequently Asked Questions of the Building Safety Division
What are your hours of operation?
- Inspectors are available Monday-Friday from 7:00 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.
- With office hours from 7:00 – 8:00 a.m., 12:00 – 12:30 p.m., and 3:00 – 3:30 p.m.
- The Community Development Services office is open from 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., Monday-Friday.
What aspects of construction is your office responsible for regulating?
- We are the division of the City of Urbana which is responsible for the enforcement of the construction codes for new and existing buildings. We accomplish this by reviewing plans for construction projects, issuing permits for work and inspecting the projects during their construction.
When are permits required?
City of Urbana Ordinances regulate the installation of fences. These regulations include the height, location, and visual density of fences. A permit is required to install a new fence or to replace an existing fence. We recommend that you apply for a fence permit at least several days before you purchase the materials or sign a contract to install it so that the compliance of your proposed installation may be verified.
The construction and location of decks is regulated. A permit is required for a deck. Decks must be built in areas other than required front or side yards. You may check with our office by phone or in person to determine if the area you are contemplating building your deck will meet the requirements of the ordinance. We can typically complete a deck permit review within several days of receiving your completed application and plans.
Replacement windows require a permit. Every sleeping room below the fourth story of Use Group R Occupancies shall have at least one operable window or exterior door approved for emergency egress. All emergency escape and rescue openings shall have a minimum net clear opening of 5.7 square feet, except grade floor. The minimum net clear opening height shall be 24 inches (610 mm) and the minimum net clear opening width shall be 20 inches (508 mm).
- Yard Sheds:
Yard sheds require a permit. All yard sheds are prohibited in required front yards. They may be located no closer than eighteen (18) inches from the side and rear lot lines, but they must not be built in easement areas. All sheds need to be secured against being blown away.
Detached garages are allowed to be constructed in residential zoning districts. Building Permits are required for garages. The permit fee for garages is currently calculated at the rate of $6.00/$1,000.00 of estimated cost with a minimum permit fee of $50.00. Floating mat foundation systems are allowed for detached garages, if they are properly installed. The typical review of garage projects can be completed within several days of the receipt of the permit application and complete plans.
Since the complexity of additions may vary widely, we recommend that if you are contemplating an addition to your home, that you consider contacting our office in the early planning stages. By doing so, we may be able to help you accomplish your project while meeting the requirements of the City’s ordinances
The complexity of remodeling projects may vary widely and the requirements for permits will also vary. If any walls are being added, removed or relocated; any structural modifications are being considered; any attic, basement or garage areas are being altered, proper permits will be required. We recommend that if you are considering a remodeling project, you contact our office regarding permit requirements.
Roofing permits are required when you are re-sheathing a roof or changing a roof’s pitch (i.e., installing a gabled roof over a formerly flat roof) shingle replacement or overlay by itself does not require a permit. Illinois law requires that anyone who engages in roofing work for hire be licensed as a roofing contractor by the State of Illinois. We recommend that you confirm that your roofing contractor has a license with the State of Illinois.
People doing plumbing and electrical work in Urbana must be licensed. The State of Illinois licenses plumbers and the City of Urbana licenses electrical contractors. It is important to verify that any contractor you hire to make such installations or repairs is properly licensed and has obtained the required permits before beginning work. You may verify this by calling our office or by asking to see a copy of their license and the permit.
You may obtain permits to do this type of work yourself if you are the owner and occupant of a single-family residence and you are able to demonstrate a knowledge of the requirements of the type of installation you are proposing to make. Permits are required whether you plan to do the work yourself or hire a contractor.
- Water heater, furnace, tub/shower or lavatory replacement:
The replace of these fixtures requires a permit. It sometimes happens that a previous fixture of this type was incorrectly installed. All new installations must be correctly installed as required by the applicable code. This is especially critical in the areas of gas piping, electrical supply, flue connections and drain connections. These are important areas to check for the safety of the occupants.
- Air Conditioning:
If you are considering installing air conditioning in your home, it is important to verify that the building’s current electrical service has the necessary capacity to properly support the new air conditioning load. Please check with your mechanical contractor before you sign an installation contract to ensure that they have checked the electrical service size and that it will be able to handle the additional load. This issue should be addressed in writing so that you do not face the task of upgrading your electrical service unexpectedly.
If you have questions about the adequacy of your electrical service, we recommend that you contact an electrician or call our office. We want to make every reasonable effort to inform residents of the applicable code requirements before they begin a project.
The proper installation of fireplaces is critical to ensure the safety of the occupants. Permits are required to install fireplaces. The fireplaces are also required to be tested and listed as an approved solid fuel burning appliance unless they are masonry fireplaces which will be constructed in the field.
We recommend that any fireplace installations be done by a person that is thoroughly familiar with the instructions for the specific fireplace to be installed and that it is installed exactly as described in its manual.
- Rewiring your home or adding additional wiring:
As we mentioned in the General Section of this, electrical work of this type requires permits and it must be performed by a licensed electrician unless the homeowner obtained the permit themselves to rewire their own residence.
It is important to properly correct any defective or deficient electrical installations as quickly as possible so that electrical problems don’t develop into serious fire and shock hazards.
Some of the types of items typically needing to be upgraded in the electrical systems of older homes include the following: grounding, service size, number of circuits, and outlet distribution.
Will you inspect a property for a prospective buyer?
- Our office is sometimes asked to inspect a building in Urbana as part of a real estate transaction (pre-purchase inspections). If our office is used, a release must be signed by the owner that acknowledges that any code violations found must be promptly corrected regardless of whether the sale of the property goes forward. For this reason, many potential buyers choose to utilize an independent, private inspection service for this purpose.
Does your office locate property lines?
- The City of Urbana does not locate your property lines. The best and most accurate way to locate your property lines is to hire an independent surveyor.
We hope you have found this information useful and encourage you to contact our office if you have questions about these types of projects or others you may have been considering.
By working together in this way, we’ll help to ensure that the quality of housing in Urbana is maintained and the life safety of its occupants is protected.