Articles > Renovation 101 > You might get into trouble with HDB if you renovate these things in your BTO
You might get into trouble with HDB if you renovate these things in your BTO
January 2, 2018

When we get our new HDB Build-To-Order (BTO) flats, we often have our own vision of how we want to renovate it. But did you know that HDB has guidelines and regulations set for your BTO renovation? Yes, that’s right. Not everything in your BTO apartment can be renovated. And if you don’t follow HDB’s renovation guidelines, you might be forced to reinstate the original conditions at your own expense.

So, to avoid the unnecessary complications with HDB, here are the common BTO renovation violations you should avoid.

1. Main Front Door

Before you think of modifying the main front door of your house, do remember to check if it is a fire-rated door. Some BTO units, especially those located near the fire escape staircase, are fitted with fire-rated front doors. These doors serve to contain smoke and fire within the unit, so that it will not spread to the exit staircases and lift lobbies.

So, for safety reasons, if your original front door fitted by HDB is fire-rated, it is required that you replace it with an equivalent fire-rated door. Now, here’s a tricky part many homeowners do not know about. Replacing a fire-rated door means you will not only need to replace the door itself, but all the hinges, lockset, door knobs, and all of them must be compatible with each other. So, if you are intending to use a digital lock for your door, be careful to check not only that it has the equivalent fire-ratings, but also that it is compatible with the door and its accessories.

How to check if your door is fire rated?

If the original door fitted by HDB is soft closing, there’s a high chance it is a fire-rated door. To double confirm, look out for a sticker pasted on the less visible parts of your main front door. The sticker should indicate its fire-rating. In the example below, the door is half-hour fire-rated, which means it can withstand fire for up to 30 mins).

Photo credit:

2. Walls

One of the most common BTO renovation homeowners like to do is hack or modify existing walls at home. But did you know that hacking, alteration or removal of Reinforced Concrete (RC) walls, columns, beams and slabs are not allowed in BTO apartments?

So, how do you identify such walls?

Take a closer look at your floor plan. Those walls that are shaded in solid black/grey are usually the RC structures that cannot be renovated / hacked. (See below for example of such walls)

But that’s not to say you can do whatever you like with the other walls. Whenever you are hacking or drilling deep into any wall, it’s best to check with HDB and get their written approval first. This is because even if the wall seems like a non-RC beam that’s safe to be torn down, there could be intricate wiring / piping that’s hidden deeper in the wall. So, for safety reasons, remember to get your renovator to apply for HDB permit before commencing any works.

3. Bathroom and Kitchen

Bathrooms and kitchens are wet areas that require more water proofing. This is also why there are more restrictions on what you cannot do in these spaces, for instance:

  • Bathroom wall and floor tiles, that are originally provided by HDB, cannot be removed or replaced for a period of 3 years, starting from the issuance of TOP (Temporary Occupation Permit).
  • Constructing water tank is not allowed in BTO bathrooms, unless they are ready-made fiberglass bathtub.
  • Kitchen sink and stove can only be constructed within the existing pre-allocated kitchen area
  • Sometimes, there are pipes that are openly visible either in the kitchen or the bathroom. Even if you find them unsightly, you cannot permanently conceal them. This is because there may be cases where the pipes from your neighbour upstairs / downstairs are clogged and HDB may need to take a look at your pipes to investigate the clogging.

4. Household Shelter

Many of us often convert the household shelter into a store room. And naturally we will like to renovate it such that it blends in well with the rest of the house, right? But do take note that these works are not allowed in BTO household shelters:

  • Covering / removing the notice pasted on the household shelter door.
  • Modifying or removing the household shelter door.
  • Laying of wall tiles, spraying of wall finishing (e.g. cement sand finish) or wall plastering on the internal walls of the household shelter.
  • Laying of 2nd layer of floor tiles or skirting tiles
  • Hacking on the external walls of the household shelter for mounting of feature wall panels or tiles.
  • Installation works that require power-driven drills / nails into the internal walls of the household shelter.

5. Windows and grilles

Every BTO project comes with a fixed window and grille design and structure. For both aesthetics and safety reasons, these window and grille works are not allowed in BTO:

  • Replacement of full height or 3/4-height or bay windows
  • Installation of casement windows for windows that are facing the common corridor. (Casement windows are those windows that open out, instead of sliding sideways.)
  • Removal or tampering of safety railings and grilles, both internal and external, that were originally installed by HDB.
  • Removal, replacement or relocation of original sliding door at the balcony where window installation is not allowed.
Interior Designer: Maryna Vaseiko

6. Renovation timing

Everyone of us would love for our renovation works to wrap up as smoothly and quickly as possible. But did you know that even if you would like to rush the reno works, you must still adhere to the HDB renovation timing guidelines? Here are the timings you should note:

  • No renovation works can be carried out before 9am and after 6pm on weekdays and Saturdays
  • No renovation works can be carried out on Sundays and Public Holidays
  • Noisy works can only be done from 9am to 5pm on weekdays. 
  • Noisy works cannot be done on Saturdays, Sundays, Public Holidays and eve of major Public Holidays.
  • All the works approved by HDB must be completed within 3 months from the date of the HDB permit. 

Of course, these guidelines listed above is not exhaustive. To find out more about the other BTO renovation guidelines set by HDB, you can refer to this list, or consult your trusted renovator.  But, before you start your reno journey, make sure you know how you can cut reno costs smartly first.

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