Property Talk: How Much It Would Cost to Renovate Your HDB Flat

Just as real estate in Singapore doesn’t come cheap, so too do renovation costs.

Updated on February 12, 2018 10:02 am

Aaron De Silva

How Much It Would Cost to Renovate Your HDB Flat

According to interior designer Mark Chen of Artistroom, a budget of $30,000 can only go so far. He recommends trying to allow room for more comfortable budget.

"It’s possible to get by, but only if the flat is a BTO (Build-to-Order) or EC (Executive Condominium) with the flooring done, doors installed, and kitchen cabinets provided. With a budget of $30,000, you could do simple carpentry works, add false ceilings, light fixtures, aircon units, and extra storage space, like a built-in wardrobe."

Anything more, like the hacking of walls, would be a stretch, he says.

Ballpark Figures

Financial advisory site Value Penguin calculated the average cost of renovation for a 4-room flat, and arrived at a figure of around $55,000. Here’s a breakdown of their calculations:

Commenting on these figures, Chen says that the painting, tiling, appliance, and plumbing costs ought to be higher. Paintwork expenses would be around $2,200 to $2,500, for example. "For the demolition cost, they didn’t factor in raw material costs like cement etc.," he adds. "Depending on how much raw material is used, this would add another $2,000 to $4,000 to the bill."

In Chen’s experience, "Remodelling and redoing the entire space of a resale 3-room flat would cost around $60,000 to $90,000; $80,000 to $110,000 for a 4-room; and $130,000 to $160,000 for a 5-room."

The renovation costs for resale flats are quite a bit higher compared to newly built BTOs or ECs. This is due to the condition and size of the space, as well as the amount of work needed.

Building materials and finishes

Aside from those factors, the most significant variable cost is that of building materials and finishes. If you want to live in a marble palace, be prepared to fork out a king’s ransom.

The Value Penguin report also provided building material costs:

Here, Chen says that the figures are consistent with industry standards. "Overlay flooring, like laminates and vinyl, would help homeowners save cost, because they don’t need to hack the existing flooring away," he adds.

Hidden costs

One issue that homeowners should be aware of are hidden costs. Some complications only arise during the renovation process itself. These could be structural features that cannot be seen or gauged by looking at floor plans, or even after site inspections.

For example in older flats, the main pipe might be made of cast iron; in newer flats, they’re made of PVC. Chen says that some homeowners question the long-term durability of cast iron, and prefer to have PVC. Replacing the pipe would cost around $1,500 to $2,000.

Another thing to take note of is the electrical loading of the main switch. Newer flats are provided with 40-amp main switches, but those built before 1994 were fitted with 30-amp ones.

Ovens, induction hobs, and aircon units consume a lot of electricity at one go. This affects the total power consumption. If your resale flat still has the 30-amp main switch, it’s advisable to upgrade. Otherwise you’ll run the risk of overloading it.

"The 30-amp main switch cannot support two aircon compressors in the flat," explains Chen. "So the homeowner has to settle for a System 1." Some homeowners, he says, might have already bought their aircon systems during a sale, without taking into account the house’s total power consumption.

In this case, they’ll need to upgrade their main switch (provided that HDB has already upgraded the flat’s external electrical riser). This would cost anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.

Lastly, there could be situations where hacking a wall or beam might require the endorsement of a qualified person. The wall or beam could be a load-bearing one, and demolition would affect the structural stability of the flat/block.

In such cases, HDB will advise the designer or contractor to engage a PE (Professional Engineer) to certify that the wall or beam can be hacked. The cost, says Chen, ranges from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on how much analysis is needed.

Ultimately, our advice is that if you’re on a tight budget, prioritise the key structural works (electrical, mechanical, sanitary). Cosmetic upgrades can be done in the future, when your budget allows.

Article originally published in Edited and reposted with permission

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