Photo: ST File

Some Housing Board flat owners here have turned to new ways to increase the living space in their homes, such as by adding mezzanine floors or staircases.

But little do they know that their industrial loft-inspired space has, in fact, flouted HDB rules.

Such unauthorised extensions may place additional load on the structure, and compromise the structural integrity of the building, the HDB had said.

Home owners with unauthorised installations could be fined up to $5,000.

Wondering if the tweaks you are about to make to your home are allowed?

Here is a guide on the dos and don'ts when renovating your HDB flat.

1) Hacking or erecting walls

Any demolition or alteration of walls in flats can be carried out only after the HDB's approval.

Only non-load bearing walls can be hacked. Existing reinforced concrete structures should not be tampered with during renovation works.

A professional engineer for civil or structural works is required to supervise the renovation.

When erecting walls, adequate natural lighting and ventilation should be provided if the room will be used for habitation.

There should also be a direct fire escape route.

2) False Ceilings

Home owners should ensure that there is a minimum clearance height of 2.4m between the false ceiling and the finished floor level. Only non-combustible materials should be used.

In kitchens, they should not cover the gas pipes.

False ceilings are not allowed in bathrooms.

3) Bomb Shelters

Household shelters, more commonly known as bomb shelters, are fitted with steel doors and strengthened floors, walls and ceilings to protect the home in the event of an emergency.

They are considered a structural component of the flat and its main features – walls, floor slab, ceiling and steel door – should not be tampered with during renovation. Hacking is not allowed.

Finishes and fixtures that cannot be removed easily in an emergency are also not permitted in the shelters.

Painting over the door notice, locking bolts or door seal is not allowed. The door notice contains information about the proper use of the shelter.

When painting the door, home owners should remove the old coat of paint before repainting to ensure that the layer of paint on the door is not too thick. Doing otherwise could result in difficulties closing or opening the door.

If the steel ventilation plate cover in the shelter is removed, it should be secured inside the shelter on one of the walls with removable screws of a maximum of 50mm that have non-metallic inserts.

The bolts and nuts must be installed back to the original position in its fully closed positions after removal.

The HDB allows up to 75 per cent of the ventilation opening to be covered by a removable fixture.

4) Bathroom renovations

New Build-to-Order flat owners, take note: There is a three-year restriction period in place for removing walls and floor finishes in bathrooms and toilets.

This is because these features have a waterproof membrane in them to ensure that water does not leak to the neighbouring units.

However, home owners can still get their desired flooring by laying tiles over the HDB's existing ones.

After the period lapses, home owners will require a permit when enlarging the space of their bathroom.

However, the extended area must not be more than 600mm in width. It cannot exceed 0.6 sq m.

The extended area can be used only as a dry area, such as for wash basins or shelves.

The existing gas riser and its branch pipe should not become enclosed.

5) Windows

The HDB does not allow the replacement of full height windows, ¾ height windows and bay windows.

If the window frame is damaged, home owners are to seek the HDB's permission before carrying out replacement works.

A Qualified Person should first submit structural calculations and drawings to the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) for approval.

A BCA-approved window contractor should then submit a permit to begin the works together with the approved drawings.

The replacement window will have to comply with the HDB's original windows in terms of colour scheme, dimension and window type.

A BCA-approved contractor is also needed when replacing or installing aluminium windows in flats.

The list of approved contractors can be found in the HDB's directory.

Additional renovations restrictions may apply when it comes to selected BTO or Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) estates.

It is crucial to check these restrictions online before starting your renovations.


This story was first published in The Straits Times. Click here to read the original story.