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Bought an HDB flat? Here's your pre-renovation checklist

So you’ve spent the past year bookmarking #renotok videos, saving interior design looks to Pinterest, and combing through stores upon stores at the massive Tan Boon Liat Building. Think you’re ready to dive headfirst into renovation? Think again.

Home tours on YouTube are a joy to browse, but the same can’t be said for the text-laden PDF documents on HDB’s website. However, jumping the gun without absolute certainty of what the authorities allow can be risky and costly. Here’s a checklist of 4 things to strike out before you start reaching out to vendors.

1. Educate yourself on HDB’s restrictions

They aren’t the same across the board, so it’s important to look up specific renovation restrictions by keying in your block and street or precinct name here. The DBSS category, for instance, has its unique fine print. Built by private developers, they often sport features that you would be hard-pressed to find in BTO projects.

Still, general rules apply. When hacking walls, structural ones indicated by bold, black lines on the floor plan and the bomb shelter are absolutely out of bounds. Existing windows cannot be replaced, and false ceilings have to be at least 2.4m away from the floor. Want a platform bed? It can’t weigh more than 150kg per square metre, be used for storage, or be any less than 2.4m from the ceiling.

And then there are restrictions that lift with time. For example, until you hit the 3-year mark, floor tiles can’t be uprooted altogether—only layered. Around that time, you also have the option of extending your bathroom space outwards by up to 0.8sqm. That is, if you apply for a permit from HDB.

Can all recessed areas be purchased? And what can you do with the corridor walkways? The list goes on, and knowing what is realistic ahead of time will prevent disappointment down the line.

2. Engage a licensed contractor

Not just any Tom, Dick, or Harry can be your contractor—they should be on HDB’s list of approved contractors. Otherwise, both parties risk a fine of S$5,000 and other penalties.

But where can you find these licensed contractors? For clarity, here’s a handy infographic by HDB:

You can either engage someone from PUB, EMA, or BCA, or verify the license status of a personal contact on their portals.

3. Obtain a permit

Some renovation works require a permit; others don’t. For example, if you’re replacing the floor finishes, demolishing a non-load bearing wall, or repositioning a door opening, your renovation contractor has to apply for one. But, even before that, make sure that a utilities account has been set up with SP Services Ltd.

Once the application is successful and HDB grants you a renovation permit, you can slap your letter of authorisation on the front door while renovation is ongoing. That said, it expires. BTO flats have to wrap things up within 3 months, and resale flats have an even shorter lead time of 1 month. It sounds short to new homeowners, but we promise it’ll seem like forever when it’s your neighbour’s turn to renovate!

4. Familiarise yourself with the “house rules”

There’s no quicker way to offend your neighbours than by causing a ruckus outside of the permitted timings for renovations. These vary across weekdays, weekends, and public holidays, and depend on the type of renovation works. For example, while you can continue painting past 5pm, drilling and hammering past that time will earn you an earful for more reasons than one.

HDB also recommends limiting DIY projects between 7am to 10.30pm and shutting the main door. If you want to go the extra mile, remind your movers to refrain from jamming the lift doors and inconveniencing other residents, and point them to the appropriate sites to dispose of renovation debris.


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