Boarding up your vacant property might be a dead giveaway to possible vandals and thieves that your property is empty, but do not let that stop you from making it happen. Boarding up a vacant home can often times serve as a crucial step in keeping intruders out and everything on the inside safe.

It is, however, important to not just put up any old piece of plywood. You will want to make certain that you follow the city compliance codes. Many cities have specifics as to the type of wood you need to use as well as how the wood is painted.

For example here are the rules and regulations for the City of Chicago as listed by the City of Chicago’s Official Site:

Rules and Regulations for Securing Vacant Buildings

Locations Required

Rule 1. All openings in a structure which may be accessed from ground level and/or within 8 feet in any direction of an exterior stairway, fire escape, ramp, porch or other exterior construction reachable from ground level or a public way shall be secured to prevent entry by unauthorized persons. One building entrance shall be secured with a door of either solid core wood or steel construction, having no window in the door, and the door shall be securely locked to allow access only to authorized persons. Said door shall be secured with a through-bolted hasp and padlock if the door swings in.


Rule 2. If plywood materials are used to secure buildings, such materials shall be no less than 5/8-inch thick, exterior grade. Particle board, wafer board, masonite or other similar materials shall not be used for purposes of boarding-up a building. *Please note that plywood may only stay on a building for 6 months from the time of vacancy, after which a time a steel panel system or other coverings, approved by the Commissioner of Buildings, must be installed.

Rule 3. Mechanical fasteners used for wood board-up materials shall be round-headed, non-slotted carriage bolts no less than 3/8-inch in diameter with washers and nuts on the interior face.

Installation Methods

Rule 4. The primary method of securing plywood boards shall be by the use of through-bolt compression fastening, using plywood on the exterior face and wood bracing constructed of minimum 2-inch by 4-inch (nominal) lumber installed on the interior side of the opening to be secured, perpendicular to the long dimension of the opening. Such bracing shall extend at least 6 inches beyond the edge of the opening on each side in order to be securely braced against the building structure.

Rule 5. Wood construction used to secure a building opening shall contain at least one bolt in each corner and additional bolts no more than 4 feet on center continuously along the perimeter. Each bolt shall fully penetrate the wood bracing on the interior side of the opening.

Rule 6. In the event that the through-bolt compression fastening is impossible due to the construction or condition of the opening, the opening shall be covered with plywood secured with minimum 3-inch-long wood screws fastened on 4-inch centers around the circumference of the opening.

Continuing Obligation to Maintain Building in Secured Condition

Rule 7. In the event that a building becomes open after compliance with these minimum standards, owners or other responsible parties shall not be relieved of their obligation under law to re-secure immediately and maintain said building in a secure manner.

Rule 8. These rules are intended to provide minimum standards which are not exclusive. Other materials, such as metal, masonry or concrete, or proprietary systems such as VPS systems, which exceed the durability and reliability of the foregoing standards may be utilized.

JJ Pawloswki walks us through one of his vacant homes to talk to us about the importance of not only boarding up your property, but doing it correctly. Watch here: