Flouting HDB renovation guidelines is a costly affair. It can cost homeowners up to $5,000, on top of the expenses of tearing down whatever illegal works that were there. Over the past 3 years, some 190 HDB homeowners have reportedly infringed renovation guidelines.
If you’re a soon-to-be new BTO or resale flat owner and aching to embark on grand renovation plans, it is wise to check, first, on what permits are needed. We assume you wouldn’t want to be singled out as that neighbour who contravened certain guidelines and caused structural problems to your HDB block.
HDB has a comprehensive set of guidelines that are meant to ensure safety for all residents. Beyond the typical no-no’s such as hacking of structural walls, here are some not-so-common guidelines.
#1 Void Areas Should Remain Void i.e. Mezzanine Structures Are Not Allowed
Mezzanine structures are the spaces created in between floors. Such structures are more common in industrial and commercial properties, but there have been cases of residential homeowners who have added such extra floors.
Maisonette homeowners, perhaps, may have considered mezzanine structures. But this is not allowed. According to HDB, flat owners are not permitted to extend the floor area of their flat by covering over void areas.
HDB says that extensions such as mezzanines may result in an additional load within the apartment that could lead to structural issues.
#2 Purchasing The Recess Area Outside Your Flat (Under Certain Conditions)
Homeowners of certain older HDB flats are allowed to buy the area just outside the main door, along the shared corridor. This space is known as the recess area. HDB homes that qualify are those built before 1996, and are not under the Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS).
Eligible homeowners who successfully purchase the recess space will need to abide by a number of conditions. This includes keeping the space free from both combustible material and obstruction around existing pipes and ducts; the latter for maintenance purposes.
#3 Create A Jumbo Flat By Buying Or Converting The Adjoining 3-Room Flat
For homeowners who want to radically expand the size of their living space, they can consider the HDB Conversion Scheme. This scheme allows you to create what is known as a ‘jumbo flat’ by merging adjoining HDB units into one single unit. Do note that only 3-room or smaller flats are eligible for this scheme.
Jumbo flats are no longer build by HDB. Hence, to acquire a jumbo unit, you could either (i) purchase an existing unit in the resale market or (ii) create your own by buying or converting the adjoining 3-room flat. For the latter, do seek HDB’s approval first to assess if the conversion is possible to begin with.
#4 Replacing Main Entrance Door And Doors Within Your Unit
If you’re thinking of replacing an entrance door, determine first if your unit is situated along a fire escape route. These are homes where the main door is facing access routes such as staircases and lift lobbies. A permit is needed to replace the door, and the new door needs to be half-hour fire rated (i.e. certified to withhold fire for 30 minutes) and installed with a door closer.
Within your homes, you need a permit if you are changing the position of the room doors. Replacing the room doors alone is fine. However, changing the position of doors will require hacking works. HDB will need to determine if the hacking works will affect the apartment’s structural integrity. No hacking should be done to the reinforced concrete walls.
#5 Replacing Floor Finishes And Elevating The Height
A permit is needed if you are replacing existing floor finishes such as ceramic, parquet, marble, and other tiled floors. This is because floor hacking must be done precisely, to avoid damage and stressors to the floor slab and overall structure of the home.
It is the same story for the bathroom floor. Owners of new HDB homes will need to wait 3 years before removing the existing bathroom floor finishes. This is so as not to damage the waterproofing works in the bathroom.
If you like to raise the levels of the floor, hardwood platform installations throughout your home are fine. However, a permit is needed if you are topping up the flooring using cement. For example, a built-in bathtub in the bathroom should not exceed 120kg per metre square (this limit must also be observed for cement top-ups in balconies and kitchens).
#6 Removing Toilet Wall Finishes And Enlarging The Bathroom
Owners of newly-built HDB homes will generally need to wait 3 years before commencing major renovation work for the toilet, including the wall finishes. This is because wall finishes, like the floor, have a waterproofing membrane between the tiles and the cement to prevent water leakage. Even after the wait, homeowners still need to get a permit for these works.
For an enlargement to the bathroom, the extension cannot exceed a width of 600mm and an area of 0.6m square. This is around the size of a small table. Care must also be taken not to enclose the existing gas riser and branch pipe, in the extended bathroom area.
#7 Food Waste Grinders Are Not Permitted
If you’ve visited or lived in homes in the United States, you may have come across food waste grinders that are installed in kitchen sinks. These grinder installations provide the convenience of disposing food scraps, by simply feeding it through the sink. The scraps are then grounded and flushed away.
Such installations, however, are not allowed in both residential and commercial sinks in Singapore. According to the Public Utilities Board (PUB), the grinders create “excessive grit and organic load” that is not designed for public sewerage network to withstand.
How To Apply For Renovation Approvals
As a rule of thumb, check with an authorised contractor on what permits are needed before proceeding. If a permit is needed, a request should be made electronically via HDB’s website. A tip would be to get your contractor to make the necessary application. He or she would have a better idea of the type of paperwork that needs to be sent for review, such as details of the proposed works and layout plans.
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