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5 HDB Renovation Ideas That Sound Like A Good Idea But Are Actually Illegal

Maelyn Lagman

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From putting up illegal partitions to create more rooms, to attempting to sidestep regulations by only partially removing a structural wall, I have seen some shocking examples of how HDB owners allow their creativity to get out of hand. So before you attempt to bend any rules, or if you are a new and oblivious homeowner, here are 5 things you absolutely cannot do for your HDB renovation.

HDB Renovation No-Nos: 5 Illegal Ideas to Avoid

1. Hacking structural walls

Hacking is a normal procedure in most major renovation projects, but that doesn’t mean it’s always feasible for your unit. Let’s take this HDB flat for example.

Because it’s located at the end of a corridor, it’s shaped a bit oddly. The living room area is tighter than normal as Bedroom 3 is eating up a large amount of space that could have been dedicated to the living room. So you may think about hacking the wall separating the Living Room and Bedroom 3 to enlarge your living area.

While normally we would say go for it, the thick black lines on your HDB floor plan clearly indicate that that particular wall is either structural or load-bearing, which means hacking them down is illegal.

2. Creating lofts or mezzanines

You may have seen those gorgeous lofts in Western homes that look rugged yet chic, or the industrial lofts with their dark tones and moody, artistic vibes. While it may seem like a good idea to extend the floor area in your home and maximise a house blessed with high ceilings — perhaps you have a maisonette unit and want your second floor to cover more area — this is unfortunately illegal. 

Lofts and mezzanine floors create additional weight to bear for the structures beneath them. This makes it hazardous for you and the neighbour immediately downstairs of your unit. 

On the same note, you are not allowed to remove the staircases within executive maisonettes either. While you can change the railings, that will require a permit from both HDB and the Building Construction Authority (BCA). 

3. Removing the bomb shelter 

Your bomb shelter is considered to be a structural component of your unit. While you are very likely to be using it as a storage room or even have some creative purpose for it, it is illegal to have it removed. In fact, you are not allowed to even tamper with the walls, floor slab, ceiling or door. 

Image Source: VICE

This means installing any permanent fixtures in the walls, floor and ceilings, removing or covering up or modifying any part of the ventilation openings is illegal too.

4. Installing fixtures outside your flat

You think you’ve seen it all with the way your neighbours showcase their personality with home decor, inside and outside of their place. From hanging decorations to cheeky welcome mats to having a personal forest, decorations can range from mild to flamboyant. 

Image Source: The Straits Times

However, some homeowners really take the cake and go all out, like this particular owner in Tampines who made headlines with his outrageous fish tank installation that replaces the front steps to his ground floor unit. As can be expected, his appeal to keep the unusual feature was rejected by HDB. After all, the fixture will pose an obstacle should they need to evacuate the flat quickly in an emergency.

5. Concealing pipes

I know, those hideous white pipes in your HBD bathroom are an eyesore.

Image Source: Meter Square

That’s how I felt when I first inspected my bare unit prior to commencing my renovations. While my contractor suggested I could cover them with a box-up unit, he highlighted that:

  • Should I choose to box up the pipes with cabinetry, there needs to be an access panel of  600 mm x 600 mm, so that they can be inspected during maintenance
  • Cabinetry is going to cost extra
  • Should the pipes require repair work, the cabinetry will be in the way and may either risk damage, or may need to be partially removed depending on what repair work needs to be done

In the end, I opted to paint the pipes a glossy black, to make them a striking feature in my stark white bathroom. I recommend you do the same for lower maintenance, lower renovation costs, and to stay within HDB regulations. 

For a better idea of what you can or cannot do in your HDB renovation, you can read more here.

Get your dream home designed (legally) by our interior designers!

You can share with us all your wildest renovation ideas and we’ll let you know what can and cannot legally be done for your type of property here in Singapore. You can read HDB’s guidelines on renovations for flats as well. And if it can be done, you can trust that we’ll be doing everything to make it happen for you.

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