Understanding HDB renovation permits and guidelines and applying for them are essential parts of any HDB flat's renovation process. If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve either just gotten a new resale flat or a BTO flat or are preparing to renovate one that you’ve owned for a while.
While we're sure you're eager to begin renovating your home, you can't just hire an interior designer or renovation contractor to start hacking away at your walls. There are HDB renovation permits and guidelines that need to be obtained and observed before works can commence.
In this article, we walk you through what type of renovation works aren't allowed in HDB flats, the renovation works which require permits, and the accompanying renovation guidelines so that you can successfully abide by all HDB renovation rules.
HDB Renovation Permit: An Overview
HDB renovation permit: What is it?
Written approval from HDB which allows you to carry out specific renovation works
Works that require HDB renovation permit
Hacking of flooring and walls, moving the placement of a door (which requires you to hack a wall), changing of staircase railings, replacement of windows, bathroom and air-conditioning works, repositioning of sinks (plumbing work), gas works
Time taken for HDB to approve the permit
Two to three days, if renovation work does not include hacking or reconfiguring of toilets or sinks.
How to apply
By filling in the renovation permit form and submitting it on MyHDBPage under renovation
HDB renovation hours
9.00am to 6.00pm on weekdays and Saturdays; no renovation work is allowed on Sundays and public holidays*
*Noisy renovation works (e.g. demolishing walls, removing floor finishes, excessive drilling in HDB, etc.) have to cease by 5.00pm on weekdays. They are not allowed on weekends, public holidays and the eve of major public holidays.
HDB Renovation Guidelines: What You Cannot Do
HDB regulates what kinds of renovation works can be done in HDB flats, and breaching these regulations can result in prosecution from the government.
While some require an HDB renovation permit before they can be done, others can’t be done entirely. This could be due to reasons pertaining to building structural integrity or fire hazards or because they infringe on lease agreements and other statutory regulations.
Some are also disallowed for public safety reasons or because they will negatively affect the external facade.
Examples of renovation works that aren’t allowed
Building and Structure
Hacking and removal of structural members (load-bearing structures or staircases)
Overloading of floor slab with more than 150kg for every metre square of floor
Plastering of ceilings
Partitioning with combustible or toxic materials
Raising of floor level exceeding the allowed thickness of 50mm with concrete, inclusive of finishes
Extending floor area by covering void areas
Repositioning or enlarging chute opening
Painting the area outside the flat
Installing awning or other fixtures outside the flat
Laying floor finishes outside the entrance without having recess area or step
Removing a pitched roof ceiling
Changing planter boxes
Sanitation or Plumbing
Constructing water tanks in bathrooms
Windows, Doors, or Grilles
Installing casement windows when the flat faces the common corridor
Replacing full height windows, 3/4 height windows, or bay windows
Removing or tampering with safety railings/grilles (internal and external)
Permanently sealing a planter box
Installing overhead grilles at an interaction balcony
Air-Conditioning Related Works
Installing external grilles on the air-conditioner ledge
Changing the use of the air-conditioner ledge
This is by no means an exhaustive list. Specific guidelines for renovating your particular unit can be accessed through HDB’s My HDBPage. If you are engaging an interior design firm, they will be able to handle the process of getting HDB renovation permits. Renovation contractors will also be aware of the relevant permits you need to apply for, but the onus is on you to do so.
Different types of HDB flats have different guidelines too. For example, if you own a DBSS unit, each DBSS development has its own guidelines. If your unit is an HDB-designed BTO, you can check on the renovation restrictions by using HDB’s portal.
You can’t simply hack flooring in your flat without getting an HDB renovation permit
HDB Renovation Permit: What is it?
There are specific works that require written approval from HDB, and these are given in the form of HDB renovation permits. You’ll need these permits before any renovation work can take place.
If you don’t get a permit before starting the renovation works, HDB will treat it as unauthorised works, and ask you to reinstate your flat to how it was originally. Certain precincts that have unique designs and special features have additional guidelines that you need to comply with.
For works that don’t require permits, you’ll still need to comply with the guidelines governing them, or HDB will ask you to remove them and restore your flat to its original condition.
HDB Renovation Permit: What Are the Works That Require One?
1. Replacement of Flooring
Any works that require tearing up the existing floor or raising it will require a permit. For example, if you intend to replace all the tiles in your kitchen, doing so would require removing the old flooring.
Apart from the need to obtain a permit, there are also guidelines to note. One of these is that the new floor finish must not exceed 5cm. If you are raising it, the height between the floor and window cannot be less than 1m.
2. Hacking of Walls
If you want an open-plan space, you can’t just hack down any old wall. Structural or load-bearing walls cannot be hacked, and you will need to read the floor plan of your flat to see which ones these are.
You may demolish any walls that are non-structural, but your space must be evaluated and receive approval first. Demolition of walls must also start from the ceiling and move downwards. For statement walls, when you’re laying down the new finish, its thickness cannot exceed 2.5cm.
3. Relocation of Doors
If you’re thinking about moving a door to a different part of your house, keep in mind that you cannot have doors through reinforced concrete walls. Since this involves a lot of hacking, you also cannot demolish any load-bearing columns or walls.
4. Changing of Staircases
If you own an executive maisonette and want different railings from the HDB-provided ones, you can change them. However, you will need permits from both HDB and the Building Construction Authority (BCA). You will also need to hire a professional engineer, who will create a design for BCA to approve. After the BCA approves the design, you will then need to submit it to HDB for the HDB renovation permit.
5. Replacement of Windows
Should you decide to change your windows, you will need to adhere to HDB’s guidelines once your permit is granted. Your new windows need to be similar to the original HDB ones, and there are also size limits. Casement windows can only be 50cm to 70cm wide, and 50cm to 120cm for sliding windows.
For service yards and balconies, grille designs need to be approved by HDB. They also have to follow the flat’s appointed designs, which can be found in the fact sheet provided to you when you collect your keys.
While you might be thinking, "But they're just windows!" it appears HDB has all these window rules and guidelines in place for safety reasons. The last thing you want is a window falling tens of stories and hurting someone because you neglected to fulfil the safety criteria.
6. Bathroom Works
If you have a BTO, you are not allowed to replace or hack your walls and floors of your bathroom for the first three years.
The reason for this is that the waterproofing membrane installed by HDB needs time to stabilise, so water leakage doesn’t occur. After three years have passed, you can get a renovation permit to change your tiling. Do note that the total thickness of the finishes for flooring should not exceed 5cm, and wall finishes should not exceed 2.5cm.
With that in mind, there are also conditions to installing any large bathroom fixtures such as a shower screen, long bath, shower tray and a spa pool. We suggest for you to go through a Public Utilities Board (PUB) Licensed Plumber who will be able to advise you in detail on what you can or cannot do.
7. Water and Sanitary Plumbing
While you do not need a permit if you are thinking of replacing or fixing your wash basin, you will need a permit if you are repositioning it. The same applies should you wish to reposition the sink in your kitchen.
It is important to note that as of 1st April 2018, all intensive plumbing works have to be done by a Public Utilities Board (PUB) Licensed Plumber. These intensive works include (but not limited to):
Installation or replacement of toilet pan
Replacement of water pipes
Diversion of sink waste pipes
Encasement of pipes
Concealing of pipes in walls or floors
For the full list of intensive works, you may visit HDB's website here.
8. Gas Works
It is compulsory to engage an Energy Market Authority's (EMA) licensed gas service worker for any and all gas works for your home. These works include (but not limited to):
Encasement of gas riser pipe
Relocation of gas meter
Removal of gas branch pipe
Installation of gas water heater/gas oven
9. Some Electrical Works (Installation of Air-Conditioning)
All air-conditioners need to be installed by a BCA-trained installer. You will also need to submit an installation report and a form from SP Services to HDB.
The kind of air-conditioning you install will also depend on the electrical loading of your main switch. It is recommended that you check the electrical loading of your block via HDB’s e-Service.
HDB Renovation Permit Form: How to Apply?
If you have hired an interior designer, they will likely assist you in this process. Otherwise, you will need to fill in the HDB renovation permit form and submit it to HDB yourself.
The form is quite detailed and requires you to fill in quite a bit of information, so set aside at least 10 minutes to complete it. Be sure to not miss out any information or you might need to go through the hassle of reapplying for another permit.
To fill in the HDB renovation permit form, you will need:
Two copies of scaled floor plans
Signatures of all flat owners for acknowledgement
Approval Time Required for HDB Renovation Permit
It normally takes about 2-3 days for an HDB renovation permit to be approved if renovation work does not include wall hacking or reconfiguring of toilets or sinks.
Nonetheless, it’s best to apply for an HDB renovation permit early and not leave it to the last minute!
When you’ve obtained the HDB renovation permit, HDB will give a deadline for when the works must be completed.
For BTO flats that have just been completed, you’ll have 3 months from the date of the HDB renovation permit to complete the relevant works. If your flat is an older resale one, you’ll have a month from the date of the permit to finish the renovations.
HDB Renovation Timing: When Can Renovation Works Be Done?
Renovation work should only be done from 9.00am to 6.00pm on weekdays and Saturdays. You can’t have any works done on Sundays or public holidays. Persistent, loud drilling in HDB flats is a sure-fire way of getting your neighbours to dislike you before you've even moved in. So do try to be considerate because let's be real: nobody wants to hear drilling when they’re trying to sleep in on a Sunday morning.
Heavier, noisier work such as demolishing walls, removing floor finishes and excessive drilling works have to stop by 5.00pm on weekdays; they aren't allowed on weekends, public holidays and the eve of major public holidays.
Finding an HDB-approved Contractor
HDB provides a resource of approved contractors that you can browse through their e-Service. Note that these are not HDB’s contractors; HDB is not privy to the contracts you and these contractors sign when you engage them. However, if you encounter any disagreements, you can seek mediation through CASE, Singapore Mediation Centre or the Small Claims Tribunal.
More FAQs Related to HDB Renovation Permits
How Long Can Renovation Works for My HDB Go On for?
For newly completed blocks (BTO), the approved renovations must be completed within three months from the date of the permit. For existing blocks, you will need to complete the works one month from the date of the permit.
What Time Should Renovation Stop?
No noisy renovations within the flat can be done after 5.00pm on weekdays.
Does HDB Provide Renovation Loans?
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