HDB flats have a lot of rules regarding permits and what you can and cannot renovate. Between floors that can only be removed after three years and false ceilings with height restrictions, it can get confusing. If you’re not sure where to start, here’s a beginner’s guide to HDB renovation.
The replacement of floor finishes requires a permit from the HDB. If you don’t want the hassle of getting a permit, you can layer your floor with materials such as linoleum, as long as the original flooring remains underneath. Raised hardwood platforms are allowed and don’t require a permit, but they come with height restrictions and don’t allow a ‘storage void’.
If you want to add or get rid of some walls around the house, you will need a permit from the HDB. Structural walls that are crucial to the support of the building cannot be removed, even with a permit. Most wall finishes can be changed without approval, such as wallpapers and paint layers. However, replacement of internal wall finishes, such as plaster, does require a permit.
If your flat is less than three years old, you will have to wait to remove walls and floors from your bathroom, as this can cause water leaks to neighbouring flats. However, if you’re impatient to wait for three years, you can follow the general flooring loophole of adding a second layer of your choice on top of the existing floor. Once the three years have passed, you can change up your original walls and floors, but will still require a permit to do so.
- False ceilings
False ceiling don’t require permits, but they do come with some regulations. They have to maintain at least 2.4 metres between their lower edge and the ground, and need to be made out of non-combustible materials. Unfortunately, false ceilings are not allowed in bathrooms.
Windows come with a lot of restrictions. Full-length windows, including 3/4 and bay windows, are not allowed to be replaced unless the frames are damaged. In that case, replacement works require a permit nonetheless. The new windows have to be of the same colour scheme and size as the originals, in order to maintain the overall aesthetic of the building. While regulations still apply to the replacement of other kinds of windows, they are generally more flexible. The HDB website has a page dedicated to the detailed ins and outs of window works.
Most electrical works fortunately don’t require an HDB permit. Additional lighting points, ceiling fans, instantaneous/storage water heaters, and electrical ovens or cooker units can all be installed without seeking approval. Just ensure your contractors are EMA or BCA certified for a safe and properly wired home.
For more information, check out the HDB’s renovation guidelines.