GBA Logo horizontal Facebook LinkedIn Email Pinterest Twitter Instagram YouTube Icon Navigation Search Icon Main Search Icon Video Play Icon Plus Icon Minus Icon Picture icon Hamburger Icon Close Icon Sorted

Community and Q&A

Having trouble understanding when a major remodel/renovation would need to meet current code

chicagofarbs | Posted in Building Code Questions on

Hello everyone –

My name is Scott.  I am a sustainability/PHIUS consultant in Chicago.  

My wife and I are looking at purchasing a home and I’m trying to determine when a major remodel/gut-rehab would require to meet current code.

The home in question is a 1900s masonry 2 flat that was converted into a Single Family Home in 2019.  I searched the permits on the Chicago database and found the following permit approved: INTERIOR RENOVATIONS. CONVERT TWO DWELLING UNIT TO A SINGLE FAMILY RESIDENCE, AS PER PLANS.

I’ve read through IECC 2018 Chapter 5 for Existing buildings however I’m having trouble interpreting the requirements for masonry walls.  Should the developer/remodeler have been required to insulate to the mass wall requirements?  The language for framed buildings is a bit more clear, i.e. – if the framing cavity is exposed, you must insulate to code requirements.  

Additionally when it comes to exhaust/ventilation – should the developer/remodeler have been required to exhaust the kitchen range per the requirements as well?  The Chicago Ventilation code allows for natural ventilation (4% vent opening to floor area) as a means to exhaust in kitchen, so they may have gotten around not providing direct vent exhaust by claiming the window.

Anything else I should/could be on the lookout for?



GBA Prime

Join the leading community of building science experts

Become a GBA Prime member and get instant access to the latest developments in green building, research, and reports from the field.


  1. walta100 | | #1

    The answer to your question is very local and largely at the whim of the person enforcing the rules.

    Challenging the inspector even if you happen to be correct and make them back down you will have made an enmity that is looking to get even.

    I say just ask and find a way to live with the answer. My guess is if you open more than a few wall you will need to bring the plumbing and electric and HVAC up to today code. They may let an old stair case stay as is.

    Try to remember that today’s code is really a low bar and you are to aspersing build a great place to live not the worst house allowed by law.


  2. chicagofarbs | | #2

    Walta -

    The inspector is long gone. The property completed renovations in 2019.

    I guess I was more so curious as to what I could expect and I guess “expect the least” should be engrained in my brain by now.

  3. Expert Member
    Peter Engle | | #3

    If you really want to answer your question, you need to research the Chicago building codes. Chigaco adopts their own codes and may or may not have adopted the IECC. Even if they have adopted the IECC, many jurisdictions adopt the model codes with exceptions for local conditions and politics. Once you've found your way to the codes, you also need to research the codes in effect at the time of your conversion project as they may have changed since then. Codes affecting existing buildings can be very different in different jurisdictions, and the ICC Existing Buildings Code is probably one of the least-adopted of the various I-codes.

  4. ssnellings | | #4

    If the renovation involved submitted plans, ask for a copy from the seller. Won't tell you what was done, but it will definitely tell you what wasn't done.

  5. Expert Member
    Michael Maines | | #5

    Scott, if Chicago uses the IEBC (existing building code) as a reference, the answer will depend on whether the project was a level 1, 2 or 3 renovation:

Log in or create an account to post an answer.


Recent Questions and Replies

  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |