Don’t Mess with the City of Chicago

Can I rant?

Rhetorical question: I’m going to rant.

It’s all over the news: HGTVs Windy City Rehab has been shut down by the City of Chicago. These are a summarized list of the violations:

“According to buildings department records, Windy City Rehab projects were in violation of:
Working without permits at 11 different properties
Working beyond the scope of pulled permits at 11 properties
Failure to comply with safety codes related to issues such as electrical wiring. In early April, two different electrical code violations were issued at 1846 N. Damen Ave.
Failure to contact the city to obtain certificates of occupancy at two different properties
Hiring workers who are not licensed, certified or registered by the city at 11 properties
Lying on a permit application at 11 properties
Failure to correct a substantial “defect, error or deficiency” at 2136 W. Belmont Ave.
Performing work that poses an “immediate or imminent threat” to the safety of workers or the public at 11 properties” 

I founded Integro to stop contractors just like them from getting hired…and these contractors are ON HGTV and likely getting millions of views per episode. HGTV is promoting unethical contractors doing unsafe, unlicensed, and unsustainable construction in OUR BUILDINGS.

Yes, OUR BUILDINGS. These buildings belong to every citizen of Chicago. These buildings have history, they have sustainability, and they have purpose.

These buildings have old growth wood that we will never be able to find again – building a new house? Ha! It won’t last half a long as our brick 2-flats circa 1889 because we can’t find the lumber. You’ll have to build with steel or manmade materials to find the same quality of materials…and even then, I’m not sold. Our Chicago buildings are so awesome that even gut rehabs have us primarily replacing the stuff built in the 20th century, not the 19th – the windows, the HVAC, the electrical, the plumbing – if the rest hasn’t been touched by a bad contractor in 100 years, then the rest is probably good!

…and these people, for a quick profit, are destroying them. Then, they’re lying to the public about their final product. In the meantime, the neighbors are mad, the houses are unsafe, and the City is pissed. Why is the City pissed? Well, for good reason!

Did you know that Code is the worst house you’re allowed to build? Code is basically telling contractors the BARE MINIMUM of what is allowed.

I’m not saying the Codes are perfect and I’m not saying that sometimes Codes aren’t impossible to meet (such as in a high rise). What I am saying is that if I’m not meeting Code, there is a good reason why and the City has been involved in the decision.

Have I always had positive encounters with the City of Chicago? No. Do I think they’re my enemy and always wrong? Absolutely not.

Now, let’s talk about the City of Chicago. Even on our worst project, the City got it done for us. It was painful, it was long, it may have even included some f-bombs – eventually, it got done. Why? It gets done because the City cares. The inspectors are not out to get us, they’re out to do their job. Their job is to inspect construction projects for safety, soundness, and security. Even when we’ve had disagreements with inspectors, there has never been a lecture, there’s been a discussion…and let me say again, we eventually got it done. Maybe there was a work-around, maybe there was a zoning appeal, but we got it done. If an inspector walks in and starts ranting, it’s because the overall impression of the house is bad: it’s messy, there’s funky stuff going on, things aren’t 100% ready. When inspectors walk into Integro projects, it’s clean, it matches the drawings, and it’s 100% done. The inspectors are logical. Yes, they may veer from scope in the drawings, that scope is probably related somehow though. Are you gutting your basement bath and the inspector can see that the shiny new copper piping in the bathroom is connected to another pipe in the basement that is galvanized and corroded? Yeah, he may make you fix the corroded pipe. Is it an outrageous request? Probably not. Still don’t like it? Guess what, he’s got a boss, and his boss has a boss, and his bosses’s boss has a boss, then there’s the Deputy Commissioner, and the Commissioner, and then the Board of Appeals! We have options, people.

The “Windy City” projects were freestanding buildings, not even high rises! There is no excuse for skirting the City. There is no reason either because, on a project of that scale, they will find you and if you’re a “do-it-and-apologize-later” kind of contractor, the repercussions will be acutely painful.

Integro is built on the foundation that the remodeling industry will die if homeowners are afraid of contractors. We’re trying to change the game and provide a higher level of professonalism, accountability, and transparency to the industry. We’re doing this because, if we don’t, then people will stop renovating and if people stop renovating, we will lose our beautiful architecture. How are we supposed to take residential remodeling to the next level when TV networks that homeowners trust and gain insight from are funding the problem? How are homeowners supposed to get excited about a home renovation when they see their favorite rehabber turned out to be just another shady contractor benefitting from custom camera angles?

The residential construction industry should be 100% focused on sustainability, high efficiency, environmental impact, and improved safety. Instead, the qualified contractors of Chicago continue to wallow in the trenches – competing against the crews that promise the world and deliver a landfill.

So, here’s what HGTV should do: they should publicly apologize for Windy City Rehab’s disrespectful behavior. They should provide a link to the International Code Council guidelines on their website. They should require licensed contractors on their shows. They should post the cost of construction – the REAL cost of construction – for every project they’re promoting.

Or, they should post a mission statement on their website that says “This is for entertainment only. These are reality shows, not documentaries. The work that we show may or may not be illegal, unsafe, underfunded, and harmful to the neighborhoods surrounding our projects. This is due to the fact that we value your viewership more than our integrity.”

Rant over. Funny, informational blogs to resume next time.

Check out our Code compliant projects here!

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