Hack? or Hack It?

Some homeowners may choose to hack through a wall to create more space for a bigger room, or even building a wall to create division. There are so many options that we can get creative with interior design. Before you start hacking, let’s take a look at what’s legal, what’s not, and how you can prevent burning a hole in your pocket...

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DO check before you hack, add, or demolish

Whether you buy a BTO or a resale flat, prior approval from HDB is required before you demolish or hack any wall. HDB will assess if your modifications will affect the structural integrity of the building.

Hacking or removal of reinforced concrete wall, beams, columns, or staircases within a maisonette, for example, are all not HDB-approved. A submission of approval is needed if you intend to build arches and rounded corners. It is also required in situations where the door to the bedroom is repositioned. This permit will usually be granted as long as the entrance is not created through a reinforced concrete wall.

To check if your proposed works can be allowed, your contractor will submit all proposed plans to HDB when applying for the renovation permit.

DO remember the basics.

One of the major considerations when it comes to tearing down a wall is to look into how it will affect the neighbouring walls and flooring. If your place comes complete with HDB flooring, hacking a wall may mean having to replace the floor tiles around the wall as well. This may well translate into a few hundreds more added to your renovation bill.

DO consider Ferrolite Partition Walls. 

Some new flats are installed with Ferrolite Partition Walls between the bedrooms, which is a more eco-friendly partition wall system. The walls are composed of two concrete panels with a sound insulation core and are connected to the ceiling or beam using steel angle plates.

However prior approval from HDB is required before hacking down these partition walls, and there are guidelines to pay attention to.

a. Anchor Bolts
The type of anchor bolts used for mounting shelves or cabinets determines the maximum load that it can carry. If you intend to place heavy books on the shelves, inform your contractor in advance so they can drill in the appropriate anchor bolts.

b. Drilling
There are some restrictions to drilling holes into the walls, which involves the location of the drilling. Holes are not to be drilled within 200mm vertically below the ceiling or in the middle of the wall to avoid damage to the steel plates. There is also a depth restriction of 22mm to prevent damage to the sound insulation core.

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DO secure HDB permits. 

After you have decided which walls you wish to take down, inform your ID or contractor as they is obliged to file for approval from HDB using the proposed drawings for your new place.

You’ll also have to engage a professional engineer for civil or structural works to inspect and supervise the demolition works to ensure that none of their load-bearing reinforced concrete has been compromised during the hacking.

And then, there are cases where certain demolition may require joint inspection with HDB before starting work. Once the permit is granted, your contractor will have to commence tearing the wall down from the top down.

Illegal modifications (i.e. hacking that did not have a permit) are strict no-nos. HDB has been firm about it, and it is to our understanding that they have officers armed with cameras visiting renovation sites to ensure that the renovation works comply with their rules and regulations. So don’t even think about these unless you want to risk a fine!

DON'T hack the ceiling.

New BTOs are constructed in a way that most electrical wires and pipings are concealed. There are openings in the ceiling of every room from which the electrical wires for the lighting are being provided.

HDB has made it mandatory that there should be NO hacking done to the ceiling in order to shift the lighting points. However, false ceilings are fine and so if you really love having a cove light in your living area, your ID will be able to get the contractor to extend the wiring for the lighting before installing the false ceiling. Voila! Lighting at your preferred spots!

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