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Renovation for Public Housing in Singapore

Renovation for Public Housing

Revamping public housing in Singapore is an overly complicated task that brings about lots of stress. If you think that all you need is money and a qualified technician, you are wrong. Certain alterations in the property require a permit from the Housing Development Board (HDB). And you can’t just hire any builder for the job - they must be authorised by the government. Before you even step into your new home, you ought to familiarise yourself with the guidelines governing renovation for public housing in Singapore. This post will cover most of it, so keep reading.

What is Public Housing in Singapore?

Residential properties in Singapore are divided into two main groups: private housing and public housing. The latter type is also referred to as HDB flats because they are delivered by the Housing Development Board.

Now, when doing overhauls in this type of buildings, you must appoint someone from DRC - or Directory of Renovation Contractor. This is the only way to ensure that the work will be carried out as per the standards set by the government. Plus, these contractors know what they are doing. Please note this rule applies even to alterations that do not need to be approved by HDB.

How Do You Find a Renovation Contractor?

renovation contractor

HDB has an e-Service where it lists all of the company names approved by the government with their addresses and telephone numbers. They are available in alphabetical order. These contractors are fully acquainted with all of HDB’s requirements, some of which we have mentioned down below. Therefore, they will carry out all jobs in a manner that does not put the property or other residents at risk. They all have various rates, so you can choose from plenty of options.

How to Apply for Renovation Approval

Some types of building works call for written approval from HDB. If the construction was not authorised in advance, the government body has the right to ask you to remove, correct or discontinue the alterations. In cases where the work done so far can be retained, you will not have to restore the flat to its previous condition but you will be entitled to an administrative fee.

When you choose a contractor that will do the job for you, you should give them permission to apply for approval online on your behalf. There is an acknowledgement form to fill out and sign. They must enclose a copy of this document with the other papers to the email. Once the submission has been received, you will get SMS notification on your phone.

When HDB grants the coveted permission, you will be able to see it in your account under Purchased Flat > Renovation.  

If you need to buy floor plans that are going to be part of the renovation, use the e-Service to get ahead. If you want to tumble down walls or reposition fittings, you may need to scan layout plans, details of the work to be done, elevations and more.

Guidelines on Building Works

Here are a few of the things you should know before you put your construction plan into action. The best way to ensure that you adhere to all the rules is to hire a professional contractor who is well aware of them.


Building works that do not need a permit include the following:

  • Mounting clothes drying hanger in the service yard/kitchen. The nails should not exceed 40mm in depth and 6mm in diameter.
  • Extending the kitchen into the yard or service balcony as long as it does not involve any wall removal. No exhaust fans can be installed at the yard/service balcony
  • Installation of concrete vanity top or depth slab that is 50mm thick if it is supported by hollow block walls that are 63mm thick. Together with all the finishes, the cement mortar must be 50mm. At the same time, concrete shelf constructions are not allowed.


Works that do not require a permit:

  • Installing gypsum partition
  • Building glass a block wall that is 80mm in thickness
  • Building a hollow block wall that is 63mm thick

Works that require a permit:

  • Drilling openings in walls between two flats that are non-structural
  • Demolition of walls that are lightweight and non-structure (including Ferrolite, drywalls, brick or block walls)
  • Demolition of party walls, partition walls, hangers, lintels, stiffeners and other non-load bearing elements

Floor finishes

Floor finishes

When it comes to HDB flats, the following construction works in Singapore do not require a permit:

  • Assembly of hardwood over the floor
  • Putting floor finishes on the rough (bare) concrete surface as long as it is delivered by HDB
  • Putting floor finishes over existing ones with adhesive
  • Fitting timber flooring or parquet (bamboo or laminate)
  • Replacing timber flooring or parquet (bamboo or laminate)
  • Installing linoleum, carpet, vinyl finishes

Renovation works for public housing that requires a permit include the following:

  • Topping up the flooring in the toilet/kitchen/balcony/bathroom
  • Replacing the existing toilet or bathroom finishes if 3 years have passed since the block was completed
  • Replacing floor finishes like timber, marble, terrazzo, ceramic, etc.

This is just a part of the requirements. Jump straight to HDB’s full list of guidelines for more details. As we said before, your contractor should know about these things and refuse to do any work that is against the stipulated rules. So make sure you get one that really cares.

Guidelines on Electrical Works

Public housing that was built after 1994, January 1st generally offers greater electrical loading. Instead of 20amps or 30amps per switch, there is now 40amps per unit. You can check which category you fall into if you are not sure of the date your property construction was completed. For more information, go to the HDB’s website. If you prefer, you can also call 1800-225-5432 to ask about your case. The line is toll-free.

Alterations not requiring a permit:

  • Fan points, lighting points
  • Addition or alteration of ELCB, main switch, RCCB, MCB, socket outlet
  • Extension rewriting
  • 13amps power points
  • Mounting ceiling fans (of no more than 6 kg)
  • No wire embedding
  • There is no restriction on how many auxiliary items can be fitted
  • There is no limit on the amount of appliances you want to install

Alterations requiring a permit:

  • Flats with a main switch of 30amps are subject to submitting a separate form called SPSL Form CS/5H. No wiring is allowed to be embedded in walls, columns, beam, RC slab, etc.
  • The maximum power point that is permitted is 15amps for appliances and 20amps (isolator) for air conditioners

Guidelines on Aluminium Casement Windows

  • The thickness of the section where screws are connected should be at least 2.75mm
  • The window leaf shall not go over 700mm
  • Friction stay should be made of stainless steel, with a minimum thickness of 2.50mm
  • Corner brackets should be composed of zinc casting

Renovation Timings

Since other people are inhabiting the same building as you are, it is your contractor’s duty to notify your neighbours about the ongoing works at least three days before their onset. They have to put a Notice of Renovation out on display that will be visible to all of the residents. Aside from that, they must also inform a minimum of two flats that are situated in close proximity to yours about the overhaul.

Noisy works can be performed only on weekdays between 9:00 am and 6:00 pm and are not allowed on Public Holidays, Saturdays and Sundays. An example of such works includes excessive drilling, wall demolition and tile cutting.

Your overhaul must be over within 3 months if it is a newly completed block and 1 month for existing ones. You should, by all means, let the HDB Branch know when the renovation is finished.

Additional Information

  • Pre-packed material is mandatory for works like plastering and screeding, the reason being it comes in the right proportions and ready to use.
  • The contractors must employ handheld power tools that are approved by HDB only

What Happens if You Don’t Comply?

If you don’t follow the established guidelines, legal proceedings may be conducted against you. These could include fines or other penalties.