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How to Renovate Your Resale HDB Flat: Timeline and Procedure

Maelyn Lagman

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Home renovations are a major undertaking, whether it’s just upgrading one room or completely reviving your entire resale HDB flat. But it’s well worth the trouble if done right given that a well-renovated home can not only make you feel more comfortable in your own space, but may also positively impact your return of investment when you decide to sell in the future. 

That’s why a home renovation requires time and careful planning — not just by your interior designer (ID) or contractor, but also yourself as the homeowner. It’s always better to know what exactly you’re going into before taking the plunge, so we break down the typical renovation process for a resale HDB flat renovation in Singapore for you. 

To start, home renovations are usually divided into three phases: initial planning, site works and hand-over. 

Step-by-Step Renovation Roadmap

Phase / TimelineWork/Step
Phase 1: Planning
1-2 weeksCreate Mood Board
1-2 weeksOutline Priority List and Functional Requirements
2-3 weeksEngage an Interior Designer/Contractor
1-2 weeksGet HDB Permit
Phase 2: Site Works
1 weekPreliminary & Demolition Works
2 weeksDelivery of Tiles and Construction Materials & Plumbing Works
3 weeksElectrical, Tiling and Ceiling Works
2 weeksCarpentry Measurement & Painting
4 weeksCarpentry Installation, General Clean-up & Handover (Phase 3)

Phase 1: Initial Planning

The initial planning phase is when you make your own preparations before meeting with an ID and involves visualising the overall look that you’re hoping to achieve with your home renovation.

Step 1: Create mood board

What’s the theme or design you have in mind? Are there any features you want to add? 

Get your creative juices flowing by creating a mood board: collate images of home designs, concepts, colour palettes and even furniture and appliances, materials (tiles, laminates, wood or glass) and placement of electrical points. 

Pinterest and Instagram are two great sources for inspiration and saving pictures in one place. 

The latter is extremely important because phones and laptops are fixtures in today’s lifestyle, so making charging areas easily accessible adds a great deal of comfort and functionality to a home. 

Pinterest and Instagram are two great sources for inspiration and saving pictures in one place. 

Step 2: Outline priority list and functional requirements

Start outlining your priority list and functional requirements as well. Would you like a spacious kitchen, dedicated home office or large storage space? Think about how you want to use each room of your house so the space is fully tailored to your needs and style.

Step 3: Engage an interior designer/contractor

Before engaging an ID or contractor, do your research first. Study their portfolios and customer reviews, ask your friends for references or search online. Does his or her design style match your ideal concept? Are his or her previous clients satisfied with his or her service and workmanship? 

Dive Deeper: 5 Critical Questions a Good Interior Designer Will Ask You in 2021

Short-list and meet up with the IDs and share your plans and expectations with them. A good ID should be responsive to your questions, receptive to feedback, work with you on your ideas and suggest viable alternatives when needed. 

Before engaging an ID or contractor, do your research first.

Make sure to also compare the quotations and concept proposals of each ID. Bear in mind the extent of work and materials used in their design as they make quite a difference in cost. 

Once you’ve chosen your ID, he or she will create a 3D rendering of the design and then work with you on revising it until it meets your requirements. 

Step 4: Get HDB permit

Your ID should apply for approval for the work from the Housing Development Board before proceeding with any hacking or demolition works, whether partially or fully. This also entails submitting all the necessary documents to get the permit*, which costs around $300 to $400, depending on the extent of the work. 

If there’s not much hacking to be done, the permit can be approved in three days. Otherwise, it may take about a week. 

Should you need to start your renovation while the flat is still under the seller’s name, have your ID submit an Indemnity Form signed by yourself and the previous owner to HDB. This may take about one to two weeks to get approved. 

Once all these documents have been submitted and approved, the site works can officially begin. 

*The permit is valid for one month and can be extended when needed.

Phase 2: Site works 

Your ID will need to put up the Notice of Renovation outside your flat at least three days in advance before the renovation begins and keep it there throughout the entire period. 

HDB’s permitted timings for general and noisy renovations are as follows: 

  • General renovations (plastering, laying of floor screed, painting and other works that do not generate loud noises): Monday-Saturday (9am-6pm)
  • Noisy renovations (demolishing of walls, removal of walls/floor finishes, cutting of tiles and any work that involves excessive drilling and hammering): Monday-Friday (9am-5pm) 

Week 1: Preliminary & demolition works

The first week onsite begins with the preliminary works, which include the laying of protection sheets — to protect any surfaces you don’t want to be scratched or damaged — to cover the whole place. It should only take a day for this to be completed.

On weeks 2-3, the plumbing works will begin as the tiles and construction materials are delivered to the site.

After that, the demolition works can start, which may include the following:

  • Hacking of floors and walls, which usually takes about 3-5 days to be completed;
  • Dismantling of built-in carpentry (such as cabinets and wardrobes), windows and even sanitary wares;
  • Disposal of all construction debris, which can include loose items such as furniture you may not want to keep anymore; and
  • Dismantling and upgrading of existing eletrical wires and mechanical systems, for more mature resale units

Week 2-3: Delivery of tiles and construction materials & plumbing works

In the second and third weeks, the plumbing works (running pipes through floors or walls or concealing them) can begin as the tiles and construction materials are delivered to the site.

Week 3-5: Electrical, tiling and ceiling works

Once all the tiles have been delivered, workers will position them on the floors or walls to show the owner how they will look before laying and cementing them. 

They will also level and screed the floors, which may take about a week to dry. But if the tiles are oddly shaped, like a hexagon shape, they may take longer (around two weeks) for the workers to finish laying them. 

On weeks 6-7, the workers will also apply the first coat of sealer and paint on the walls and ceilings, which can be completed in just a few days.

Electrical and ceiling works can also start, which include the running of wires for electrical and lighting points.

Week 6-7: Carpentry measurement & painting

If you are adding new, built-in cabinets or other furniture, carpenters will visit the site to take measurements. Fabrication should only take about two weeks before they bring over the completed pieces.

During this time, the workers will also apply the first coat of sealer and paint on the walls and ceilings, which can be completed in just a few days. 

Week 8-12: Carpentry installation, general clean-up & handover (Phase 3)

Once they have loaded up the cabinets and assembled them onsite, your home renovation should be about 80-90% done. All that’s left to do is adding the final coat of paint, installing the lights and cleaning the whole house. 

On the week of handover, your ID will walk you through the whole place. This is the time to point out areas that need simple touch-ups which most IDs will do for free.

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Frequently asked questions about renovating your resale HDB flat

How much does it cost to renovate a resale HDB flat?

Renovation costs for a 4-room resale HDB flat (approx. 90 sq m) can cost from $100,000 and above. This depends on the age and condition of the flat, the extent of the work, the materials to be used and the interior design firm or contractor you engage. 

How long can a HDB renovation last?

According to HDB, renovation works for resale flats must be completed within 1 month from the granting of the renovation permit. This can be easily extended when needed. Upon completion, your ID will need to immediately inform the HDB branch managing your flat. 

Do I need approval for renovation?

Yes, you need to get HDB’s prior approval, in the form of an HDB permit, before proceeding with any demolition/hacking works. 

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