Construction Noise

At 6:30 yesterday morning I was awakened by loud crashing, the sounds of metal and wood being tossed around. It seems that neighbors were having a new roof put on their bungalow, and the construction company decided to get an early start. Sleeping neighbors were not a concern. At 7 a.m. the construction began.


The crew arrived in an unmarked white van. One crew member climbed onto the roof and began tossing ladders and boards onto the street and sidewalk. The van was initially parked so that it blocked other traffic. When I asked the name of the company, the crew chief opened the van’s door and pulled out a magnetic sign which he slapped on the back of the truck.

No safety precautions for pedestrians were in place, like yellow tape indicating that it would be better to walk on the other side of the street. Plastic sheeting covered the sidewalk, a potential hazard  for those walking.

It is illegal in the City of Chicago for any construction noise to take place before 8 a.m. except for City work (sewers, etc.) and emergency repairs. Construction crews are required by law not to set up for the day’s work before 7 a.m. Construction is permitted over a 12-hour day, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Construction company owners, managers, and supervisors are expected to understand and obey the law. Unfortunately, many try to get away with starting earlier and working later, figuring that there’s nothing the neighbors can do.

I talked  to the crew chief, who informed me that his boss told him that they could operate from 7 to 7 and, anyway, it was going to be a hot day. I called the police around 7:25 a.m. but they did not come.

This morning the crew was back early and began running very noisy equipment at 7 a.m. I called the police again and then a second time. Construction suddenly stopped at 7:40, after 40 minutes of shrieking noise. It resumed about 8:15 a.m.

I know the owners of the property and they are wonderful neighbors. I did not see either of them yesterday or today so I’m not sure if they’ve been home during the construction. Having lived through a roof redo in my building, I sincerely hope they found another place to stay for a couple of days. Responsibility for complying with the law belongs to the contractor and his crew.

I may not like construction noise over a 12-hour day, but because it’s legal I don’t complain. But I treasure the quiet early morning hours, before the unrelenting din of Devon’s heavy traffic and the booming “music” from its cars overwhelm the songs of birds and the chirping of squirrels. I like to hear the breeze ruffling the leaves on the trees. In a busy City rife with unnecessary noise, these are rare hours. Nobody should be blasted awake at 6:30 a m.

Maybe instead of holding hearings on national issues so our aldermen can grandstand for the electorate, our City Council might busy itself ensuring that local contractors, property wners, and businesses understand the law and observe it.




Construction Noise & Permits

My next-door neighbors tore up their back patio yesterday. This morning, at 7:20 a.m., the construction crew returned to resume work, throwing tools around the yard and cleaning, scraping, and preparing the elevated platform from which the concrete would be poured. I went outside and politely told them that they would have to wait until 8 a.m. because the City’s ordinance doesn’t permit construction noise before then. The worker who was already at work on the platform told me I hadn’t heard noise yet. I called the police.

These neighbors have a history of not getting permits. A year or two ago they installed a garden apartment without getting the necessary paperwork, and the City took them to court. I checked the City’s online permit site this morning, and there’s no record of a permit for this patio work, either. It’s now 8:30 a.m., and the machines are blasting away, drills and other noisy equipment producing deafening noise about 20 feet from my bedroom. Even my dogs are looking for a quiet place to settle. If you have good neighbors they may alert you to major work they’re planning to do..

FYI: The City’s construction ordinance prohibits construction noise before 8 a.m. Workers can set up, but they cannot run equipment or do any actual construction work. They must stop work no later than 9 p.m.

If you suspect there’s no permit, or don’t see one and can’t ask the property owner or construction workers for it, you can check Building Permits Online.  All you need is the first letter of the street and the address. The City’s noise ordinances apply to construction work; check City of Chicago Noise Ordinance.