Your Guide To HDB Renovation Permits In Singapore

It has been a long journey towards your dream home.

And it's about to get even longer. If the mountains of paperwork done for your HDB purchase and loan application were enough hassle, surprise guys - say hello to renovation permits!

An inescapable reality, HDB has permits for everything under the sun, which have to be approved before your renovations can start proper. But what are they, and which will you need to apply for your home? Save yourself the trouble of researching (because life is already tough as it is) - here's a list of permits and guidelines for various renovation works that require HDB's blessing (AKA approval).

Works That Require HDB Permits

For Floors:

1. Replacing Existing Floor Tiles

Any flooring materials that require taking out an existing floor (instead of laying on top) will need approval from HDB. In particular, floor finishes made of marble, stone, ceramic, terrazzo, parquet or other tiles. Guidelines do apply too - for example, the total thickness of these floor finishes cannot exceed 50 mm - among other lengthier rules.

2. Topping Up Flooring In Your Kitchen, Bathroom and Balcony

A permit is also required if you plan to (slightly) raise your floors in wet areas like the kitchen, bathroom and balcony. Note that by raising your floors, the height between the floor level and windows cannot be less than 1000 mm.

For Walls

3. Replacing Feature Walls

Building up a statement wall from scratch is easy - replacing one that’s been already there is not. Before you tear those gaudy wallpapers off, you'll need approval from HDB. And when you're laying on your new, snazzy wall finish, keep in mind that it's thickness cannot be more than 25 mm (2.5 cm).

4. Hacking Walls (Full and Partial)

A bright, airy open-plan space is all the rage these days, but just like a game of Jenga, taking every pillar off will affect your flat’s structure - and is not allowed.

Find out what are the structural walls, as those cannot be hacked. Of course, you are technically free to demolish any non-structural walls but that can only be carried out after your space is evaluated and approved. Note too, that the workers will have to start demolitions from the ceiling down.

5. Archways

Like a little more curves to your shapely flat? While it sounds like a relatively minor addition - HDB thinks otherwise. Like other wall treatments and works - a curved arch is subject to approval after HDB evaluates your space.

For Doors

6. Changing The Position Of Doors

Moving a door's location from one place to another is hefty work (think of the hacking and making good you'd have to do!); that's why HDB has to give the green light to make sure you won't be unnecessarily demolishing any structural pillars. Keep in mind that in particular, doors cannot be created through reinforced concrete walls.

For Staircases

7. Replace Railings and Installing Safety Barriers On Stairs

Hate the pre-built, slightly outdated HDB railings in your new space? Remember, if you want to switch out your rails with something more sleek, you would have to seek not just HDB, but BCA for a permit to carry out structural works.

You will also have to engage a Professional Engineer (PE) to draw up a design and submit for approval. Once BCA gives the green light, you must then submit the approved drawing and permit for HDB to issue another permit. Phew!

For Windows

8. Installing/Replacing Windows On Parapet (Windows Facing Out)

While you can install or change your internal windows (except for full length windows), you would need to follow these strict guidelines after successfully applying for your permit. For instance, window colour, size and type (sliding or casement) have to be similar to the original HDB windows. There are also size restrictions; casement windows are only allowed a width of 500mm to 700mm, while sliding windows 500mm to 1200mm.

9. Installing/Replacing Grilles On Service Yard/Balcony.

Grille designs must be HDB approved, and must follow the appointed designs for your flat, which you can find out in the renovation factsheet provided when collecting your keys or booking your apartment.

For Bathrooms

10. Bathroom Area Extensions

Need more walking space in your tiny bathroom? Here’s a slight reprieve; homeowners can apply a permit to expand their bathroom, albeit by a bit - 0.6 sqm, to be exact. Do be aware that this extra space can only be used as a dry area (which means only sinks or shelves). Also, any adjacent gas pipes cannot be enclosed with the extended bath area.

11. Replacement of Bathroom Floors And Walls

For new HDBs in particular, any wall or floor bathroom finishes cannot be hacked or replaced in the first three years. This is to make sure that the waterproofing membrane put in place can stabilise and prevent water leakage. (If you'd still like to change up your bathroom, you can go for stick on tiles instead).

After three years however, you will be allowed to change your floor or wall tiling, with the approval of an HDB permit. They also come with a set of guidelines; the total thickness of floor finishes/screed should not exceed 50mm (5 cm), while for walls, no tampering of existing structures can be made, and thickness of finishes cannot exceed 25mm (2.5 cm).

For Your Recess Area

For older resale flats (any flat built before 1996, and are not DBSS flats), homeowners can actually purchase a small area along the corridor outside their home! Also known as the recess area, this feature however comes with many conditions and guidelines, as building up on the space can affect your neighbours, piping and general safety.

12. Any Renovation Works Within Recess Area

That includes installing any grilles, doors, windows, awnings, additional non-load bearing walls and your floor and wall finishes. Homeowners will need to apply for a permit, which is subject to approval after evaluation.

Other Things About Permits You’ll Need To Know

1. Permits Have Time Limits

Nothing lasts forever - and neither will HDB spare you the time to slowly get it together. Once your permit is successful, you will need to finish the approved work by three months for new flats, or a month for existing properties like resales.

2. Popular Home Features That Don't Require A Permit

Turns out, you can have your cake and eat it too. Thankfully, you won’t need an official permit for these popular features, though there are guidelines you’ll need to follow.

  • Freestanding/Built-In Bathtubs: Its weight alone cannot be more than 150 kg (which may affect the structural integrity of the space). It has to be placed above a void floor, and flooring cannot be raised or reduced to fit the bathtub.

  • Living and Bed Platforms: First off, your house ceiling height has to be at least 2.4m. The space between the platform and floor cannot be filled up with cement, and there has to be at least a height of one meter from the top of the platform to the window, for safety reasons (anything less will require a fixed window grille to be installed).

*For more information and full guidelines, visit HDB's building works page here.

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