As of June 18th, 2018, the City of Chicago Department of Buildings poses the following in their FAQ.

Q: Can owners do their own electrical work?

A: No. Due to the potential for electric shock or fire hazard, only Electrical Contractors licensed by the City of Chicago can perform electrical installations.

The question Can owners do their own electrical work? seems unambiguous, but referring to an installation in the answer muddies the waters for me as that term is not defined on the site, and makes me think there may be a certain threshold of project difficulty that owners can or cannot legally take on.

If that's the case, where's the line? I can't install anything on my own? Not a replacement light fixture? Not a light switch? A thermostat? The website seems rather vague and I've found no other official documentation.

I've reached out to the Department of Buildings several times, and have received no response to my question.

I find it all the more confusing because major companies like Home Depot make it seem like these projects are very simple and gear their online materials towards average home owners, not professionals. They don't mention (in the materials I've read) even considering to consult a professional electrician. Perhaps some could argue that's implied, but I would disagree based on how they phrase things.

Hanging a ceiling fan is a project just about anyone can complete.


Easily replace your light fixture with a new one thanks to this informative video from The Home Depot.

I doubt many people would even consider an electrician when buying/installing something like a Nest thermostat, which has a detailed video explaning how to install the device on your own. Yet, it involves some electrical wiring, and it seems a DIY install could very well be restricted by local law.

In most homes, installing a Nest thermostat is an easy DIY project that takes 20-30 min. Follow the detailed steps in this article or watch the installation video to learn how to install your thermostat.

Even if I have done the research and feel confident that I could do it, I'd rather be safe than sorry. Electricity can certainly be very dangerous, so I can understand if municipalties put restrictions on that sort of work. It's just a bit confusing to figure out what, if any, electrical work I can do.

I realize it's unreasonable to expect an authoritative answer, but was hoping for locals and/or professionals in the industry who might have insight into this and can weigh in

  • 3
    I would never take any City Department FAQ as a definitive judicial controlling document. Consult your state and city ordinances and laws to discover what you may or may not do. Jun 19, 2018 at 3:26
  • Good point. I held that FAQ in high regard since a similar question has a high upvoted answer recommending to contact the local building dept - diy.stackexchange.com/questions/1592/…, and this is the only reference of any kind I've found at all so far regarding Chicago electric regulations and home owners/non-professionals. But for legality, you're right, I should try and find a more authoritativer reference. So far, no luck, but I'll keep looking
    – Will Haley
    Jun 19, 2018 at 3:32
  • 1
    It varies a lot from place to place. In Montgomery County, MD there is a Homeowner's Electrical Exam after which you can legally do your own electrical work in your own single-family detached home. Jun 19, 2018 at 4:55
  • 5
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because questions regarding “Local building codes or advice limited to your area.” are off-topic per the help center. So are opinion based questions and legal questions.
    – Tyson
    Jun 19, 2018 at 12:36
  • 2
    That's an FAQ, not a law, and agencies are free to lie in FAQs. Even if a law existed, there are reasons why such a law may not be Constitutional, and that is a question for the Law stack. Regardless, Chicago can and does have a different ( and largely better) electrical code than the rest of North America, so if you are relying on 49.9-state advice, you shouldn't do wiring in Chicago! Jun 19, 2018 at 18:23

2 Answers 2


If I recall, Chicago requires conduit wiring methods.

Thing about conduit is, about 3/4 of the actual work is planning conduit design, planning fill (in both aspects), cubic-inching the junction boxes, fitting the conduit and boxes, working out run lengths, and getting pull strings into the conduit. None of that is actually wiring, now is it?

You just need an electrician who will work with you and not have a Rumplestiltskin fit because he didn't get to do the whole job.


No, you can’t replace a light, switch, fan, etc....nothing. If a wire ends up loose and overheats, it could start a fire.

If your insurance company finds out and you have a fire, you would not be covered.

However, your thermostat is low voltage. Building Codes may have an exception for that...

When you get your Electrical Permit, ask. (You are getting an Electrical Permit, right?)

  • The op did not state what type of work, replacing a light switch or outlet needing a permit? Time to get rid of more government regulations in Il.
    – Ed Beal
    Jun 19, 2018 at 8:05
  • @EdBeal When I’m in the next condo, I want all the government oversight possible double checking the DIY er. What he probably doesn’t know is that the building is wired in conduit and I’m sure he doesn’t understand how to ground that 3-speed fan with a 2-set light.
    – Lee Sam
    Jun 19, 2018 at 12:56
  • @LeeSam who said it was a condo?
    – Tyson
    Jun 19, 2018 at 13:18
  • @Tyson In the title.
    – Lee Sam
    Jun 19, 2018 at 13:56

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