Essential HDB Renovation Advice Direct From The Experts

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The HDB flat has been a source of housing for Singapore’s general populace since the ‘60s. It has evolved over the years with different form and facade, flat types and layouts – and lately, altering Singapore’s urban landscape with high rise BTO buildings that cater mainly to new homeowners.

However, renovating an apartment – whether it’s a resale or a new BTO unit – isn’t exactly a walk in the park. Hiccups happen and unforeseen circumstances arise, delaying renovations and exhausting your patience. To keep you smiling in anticipation of your dream home, we’ve roped in some experts from the interior design industry to help you navigate the detours and roadblocks for a smooth ride ahead.

Plan ahead
Doing a bit of soul searching for the right interior designer to work with is important. Think of it as building the foundation for a solid working relationship. First, you need to identify those contractors with projects that match your style. Then make it a point to set up a meeting and chat with them. Apart from taking this chance to elaborate more about your expectations, you’re also able to assess his or her working style and creativity and find out how well you can communicate with each other.

Image credit: Free Space Intent

Image credit: Free Space Intent

“Look for an interior designer that you’re comfortable with because you’ll be working very closely with that person for the next few months. What’s more, the designer needs intimate information about the homeowners’ lifestyle needs to churn out a fitting design. So, you have to feel at ease with the person to be able to share that fact,” advises Leon Luo, associate director at interior design firm Free Space Intent.

According to Wilson Deng, co-founder of Studio FortyFour, the initial design stage is an important part of the renovation because designers need to understand the lifestyle and habits of the people living within the space to create the right ambience for them. “We’d usually request our homeowners to submit some ‘homework’. It can be a write-up or compilation of images of objects that they like or dislike, or a snippet of their lifestyle needs and living habits,” he explains.

Be legally ready 
While the sky’s the limit when it comes to conjuring ideas and conceptualising design, renovating your HDB home comes with working within some guidelines. Think of them as safety measures to keep your journey smooth sailing.

Err on the right side of the law and do not risk getting penalised by the Housing Development Board (HDB) by engaging only HDB registered renovation contractors. Leon Luo, associate director with Free Space Intent says that they’re familiar with renovation regulations and practices that HDB enforces to ensure quality works and prevent future complications.

Image credit: Free Space Intent

Image credit: Free Space Intent

Moving forward, you can get started if your renovations are minor and exempted from requiring a permit. But major works that involve altering the structural integrity of the architecture necessitate prior approval from the HDB. You’re ready to rumble once the authority gives the green light.

Demolition acts
Young HDB owners particularly love playing with space – whether it’s replacing all the walls in a room with glass for a more spacious feel or preferring a half-wall in place of a large blank one. Be it a partial or complete removal of walls, these hacking works require HDB’s prior written approval. This is to ensure that the proposed demolition work will not affect the structural integrity of the building and compromise safety.

Image credit: Studio FortyFour

Image credit: Studio FortyFour

To avoid delays – the bane of every renovation experience – be sure to discuss with your contractor on your intentions to do away with any walls. Plan early, as you need the authority’s consent before commencing anything. It’s best to be safe and wait for their official authorisation, rather than rush and regret.

Get involved
With all the nonstop research, inspection and decision-making happening, you’re expected to feel exhausted – and perhaps feeling the urge to leave everything to your contractor. Spare yourself the agony of mistakes and delays by staying involved throughout the renovation period. A little effort goes a long way; so, regularly visit the site to check on the latest progress. Should there be any bloopers – like a wrong installation or measurements taken – they can be resolved immediately.

Leon from Free Space Intent advises, “First-time homeowners should be prepared for minor problems and conflicts that may arise during renovation. But this can easily be resolved by hiring a qualified and professional interior designer. Most cases of conflicts result from a lack of communication and difference in expectations. Clarify any doubts with your interior designer as soon as possible rather than leaving all uncertainties until the end.”

Image credit: Free Space Intent

Image credit: Free Space Intent

This was adapted from an article originally written by Fidz Azmin in the August 2017 issue of SquareRooms 

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