HDB Kitchen Renovation Done Right

How do you handle your HDB kitchen renovation the right way? Do you know what you should pay attention to avoid unforeseen serious problems? We reveal all the seldom talked about conundrums here. 

We always hear from those who went through it say, “make sure you scrutinise everything!”

Yet, for the newbies who will be renovating their kitchen, how is it possible if one doesn’t know where to start and what to take note of?

How many can proclaim they are capable of handling their kitchen renovation confidently?

To help you through this arduous journey, we shed light on the important details you have to know.

Should You Renovate The Kitchen

Should You Renovate the Kitchen?

Kitchens are among the most important space in your home.

It serves as a focal point where we prepare good meals for our family and friends to enjoy and engage in conversations.

So it’s not surprising that many home owners put significant effort to make their kitchen look its best.

A survey with households who completed their home or kitchen renovations revealed some interesting data, and they generally fall into these 3 groups.

Group 1

Has an old kitchen with passé kitchen design dating back to what seems like “a century-old”. Subconsciously, the kitchen is screaming out loud for a much needed facelift.

Group 2

Has a bare kitchen in their brand new BTO flat. It awaits transformation with a complete gut job to turn their dream kitchen into a reality.

Group 3

New owners of a resale HDB flat undertaking partial or full renovations for the property. Due to its design or condition, they decide to spend money on a brand new kitchen.

Consider a Kitchen Renovation Package

Although everyone loves a great-looking kitchen in their HDB home, let’s also not forget the fact that it’s not cheap to renovate a kitchen in Singapore.

Depending on the scope of work, kitchen size and choice of materials, the average cost of a HDB kitchen renovation could be anywhere from $9,000 to $30,000.

This is a big ticket item for most households.

For those with a tight budget, there are also many renovation firms offering reasonably priced kitchen renovation packages.

Though some of them may be rather basic, you could still have a new decent-looking kitchen without over-stretching yourself financially.

Then comes the tough question – How and where will you find the cash?

If you have this money readily set aside, you’re good to go. But if you need to obtain a loan, make sure you do an assessment of your financial liabilities.

Apart from this, it’s also good to decide whether it is a need or a want.

To help you gain more insights, this very useful guide will let you learn more about the pros and cons of Kitchen Renovation Packages.

How to Find the Best HDB Kitchen Renovation Contractors

How to Find the Best HDB Kitchen Renovation Contractors?

Have you ever been on a blind date, and things didn’t turn out quite the way you thought it would?

You know, like expectations versus reality…in all aspects.

We reckon this is a good portrayal while searching for a good renovation professional to undertake your kitchen renovation.

So make sure you start off on the right footing and expectations when you start looking for one.

First and foremost, renovation contractors should be HDB licensed, reasonably priced and produce good workmanship.

Of course, it would be a good-to-have if the firm is well-accredited.

But where do you begin your hunt?

Though information are abundant on the web, they are mostly scattered and you have to spend a lot of time going through them.

And what about the reliability of these information? How do you know if they are really what they claim to be?

To solve your pain points, this is where you can enjoy free access to background checks of renovation contractors and interior design firms registered in Singapore.

These checks are validated with data from Singapore government agencies and industry governing entities such as –

  • The Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA)
  • The Building and Construction Authority (BCA)
  • CaseTrust
  • Housing & Development Board (HDB)
  • The Singapore Renovation Contractors and Material Suppliers Association (RCMA)
  • The Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council

With the advanced ‘Filter’ options, you won’t have to waste precious time hunting for your preferences.

For example, you can choose to only view HDB licensed and CaseTrust accredited renovation firms.

Best thing is, you can find what you want in under 30 seconds!

Work With a Kitchen Renovation Professional

Think you are capable of designing your own kitchen instead of paying for professional help?

But can you really face up to the challenge?

Unless one is professionally trained in this field, amateur attempts will fail miserably.

Fact is, most of us won’t be able to do what an interior design firm or renovation contractor is capable of. They have access to the skills, tools and resources that we don’t.

These guys also have the inside scoop on design trends, materials, building codes and technical quirks.

You may have read scores of how-to-do it guides, but theory alone will not make you on-par with a trained professional.

It takes more than just theory to design and build a functional kitchen.

Hey, don’t get us wrong. We encourage you to read up.

Reading makes you more knowledgeable and helps you to distinguish facts from fluff, so you won’t get “smoked” easily.

But if you have to pay and get the job properly done, do it! Let trained renovation professionals do the heavy lifting work for you.

On top of these, you are also paying them to take care of things such as legal permits, project management, sub-contractors and architectural know-hows.

Their expertise and experience will definitely save you a lot of time and frustration.

Prefer to work with well-accredited professionals? Here’s a curated list of renovation contractors and interior design firms with many positive client reviews.

HDB Renovation Permit for Your Kitchen Renovation

This is a very important document.

It is mandatory for you to obtain a renovation permit and approval from HDB before any kitchen renovation work begins.

Non-compliance is a chargeable offence. This one cannot anyhow play play okay.

To apply for the renovation permit, simply download and fill up this HDB Renovation Acknowledgement Form. It’s only a single page form, and it won’t take you more than 10 minutes to complete it.

You have to attach 2 copies of your HDB flat floor plan, and signatures from all legal owners of the HDB unit.

After signing, pass the HDB Renovation Acknowledgement Form to the renovation company you’ve hired.

They can help you to submit it to HDB for the intended kitchen renovation works.

When HDB receives the form submission, you’ll receive an SMS notification.

Upon approval, the renovation firm put up copies of ‘Notice of Renovation’ outside your HDB unit and at the lift landings.

Here’s how an actual notice looks like. 

HDB Notice of Renovation

HDB Notice of Renovation

On a side note, if you don’t have copies of the floor plan, ask your renovation contractor or interior design firm to help you purchase them from HDB.

Alternatively, you can buy the floor plan online from HDB. There is a $5 administration fee which you pay online with your credit card.

The HDB floor plan can be downloaded in PDF format or you could have it dispatch to your email or by post.

For those of you who doesn’t know what a floor plan is, below is an example of HDB property floor plan.

HDB 4-Room BTO Floor Plan

HDB 4 Room Floor Plan

HDB Renovation Permit Approval Time

If there are no hacking works or reconstruction of toilets or plumbing, it usually takes about 2-3 days for HDB to approve the renovation permit.

But if your kitchen renovation has to undergo intense work, it may take up to a week or more (in some cases).

Once HDB approves the renovation permit, take note that renovation works are to be completed within a stipulated deadline.

For a resale flat, you are given one month from the approval date to finish the renovation, while a BTO flat has 3 months to do so.

Hence, it’s important to set milestones and timelines, and to have them documented in your renovation agreement with the firm you hire.

This is to ensure they are strictly adhered to and renovation works for your kitchen complete on time.

HDB Guidelines for Kitchen Renovation

HDB Guidelines for Your Kitchen Renovation

Renovation contractors and interior design firms in Singapore are required by law to strictly follow renovation guidelines from the HDB.

Be reminded that you must only hire HDB-licensed renovation contractors and interior design firms.

Firms without a valid HDB license are not allowed to carry out renovation work on HDB properties.

Renovating the kitchen or any areas within your flat without a HDB renovation permit is unlawful.

You will be fined and also be asked to reinstate them to its original condition, at your own cost.

On your part, it’s good for you to understand what these rules are. At least you know what can and cannot be done before renovating.

In case you don’t know about this, some HDB precincts may have unique designs and architectural features.

Thus there may be additional renovation guidelines to comply with.

So make sure you check and find out if there are any renovation restrictions for your HDB property.

Below is a brief overview of these guidelines for renovation work of the kitchen and toilets in your HDB flat. 

For actual details, refer to the full HDB renovation guidelines.

Types of Building Work for Kitchen (No Permit Needed)

  • Extension of kitchen into the service balcony/ yard without the removal of walls.
  • Construction of dapoh slab/ cabinet with cement mortar base.
  • Construction of cement mortar base.
  • Construction of vanity top.
  • Installation of clothes drying hanger on ceiling in the kitchen/ service yard.

Types of Building Work for Floor Finish (Permit Required)

  • Replacement of floor with
    Ceramic
    Homogeneous
    Terrazzo
    Marble
    Parquet/ timber
    Other tiles
  • Replacement of existing bathroom/ toilet floor finishes after first 3 years from the date of completion of the block.
  • Topping up of flooring using light weight screed/ block at balcony/ kitchen/ bathroom/ toilet.

Types of Building Work for Refuse Chute (No Permit Needed)

  • Reducing refuse chute hopper size within the existing opening.
  • Replacement of refuse chute hopper.

The 5 Basic Areas of Your Kitchen

While you are planning for your kitchen renovation, it would be advantageous if you understand this concept, especially if you cook regularly.  

The kitchen can be categorised into these 5 basic areas. Each one of them defines an activity and workspace in your kitchen.

Pantry

Food storage and refrigerator.

Storage

Appliances, utensils and cookware.

Sink

Cleaning and washing.

Food Preparation

Kitchen counter workspace.

Cooking

Stove and oven.

You should have easy accessibility to these 5 work areas while preparing a meal.

Therefore, they should be designed in the most efficient way possible in a triangular work space.

This is commonly known as the ‘Kitchen Work Triangle’.

What is a Kitchen Work Triangle?

Huh? Simi ah?!

We’re sure not many of you have heard of it.

Okay, we don’t want to make things complicated so we’ll explain this in an easy to understand way.

The kitchen work triangle was developed in the 1940s and it is still a commonly used ‘guideline’ for kitchen designs up until today.

The idea is to create an efficient work area in the kitchen, so that it is ergonomically comfortable while you prepare meals.

Try to picture an invisible triangle that connects the stove, sink, and refrigerator.

This triangular work space lets you move around easily to access the cooking, cleaning and food storage areas.

This illustration of the Kitchen Work Triangle will provide you a clearer picture. 

Kitchen Work Triangle Layouts

Illustration credit: Arauco

With these helpful insights provided to the renovation contractor or interior designer, it makes their job much easier to design an efficient kitchen for you.

So do not ignore the cardinal rule of the kitchen work triangle. This is the true cornerstone of your kitchen and should be treated with respect.

Treat the triangle right and it will give you a great kitchen with plenty of joy to work in.

Maximise Your Kitchen Cabinet Storage

Maximise Your Kitchen Cabinet Storage

Other than its primary purpose for cooking, your kitchen should look clean and clutter-free.

During discussion phase with the renovation professional, you should already start making plans to maximise storage space in the kitchen.

The rule of thumb is to have deep bottom and wall-mounted kitchen cabinets. They should also have multi-tiered shelves and drawers with organizers.

It’s best to have 3 or 4 tiers of shelves in each compartment to increase stowing capacity.

Consider having multi-tiered pull out storage baskets (make sure you choose stainless steel ones).

It may cost a bit more but they are definitely worth the money for the long term.

Having them will create a lot of room to stow your cutlery, pots and pans, while keeping these cooking wares neatly organised.

It’s also easy when you have to access them.

Don’t ignore the cabinet space underneath the cooking hob and kitchen sink. They have a good amount of space that will let you stow a lot of stuffs.

A suggestion is to build moveable box-like structures with multi-tiered shelves, which could be placed underneath these areas.

They are extremely practical for storing stuffs such as bottles of cooking oil, detergents, kitchen colanders, draining baskets and so on.

Alternatively, get those cheap DIY plastic multi-tiered baskets to do the job. They aren’t expensive and are easily available at neighbourhood stores.

Avoid Inferior Materials for Your Kitchen Cabinets

Who doesn’t want to save a few dollars?

While there’s nothing wrong with trying to save a little money, reliability and quality do come at a price.

We will tell you upfront here to avoid choosing low-quality materials for your kitchen renovation, especially for your kitchen cabinets.

Carpentry is never cheap. Good quality materials combined with good workmanship will ensure durability for a long time.

You can consider bargains but please don’t skimp. Shop around and do some price comparisons in your search for renovation companies.

Okay, we’ll briefly introduce the different type of materials, plus their pros and cons.

Types of Wood for the Kitchen Cabinet

You might have come across many types of wood options for the construction of kitchen cabinets in temperate countries. Some examples are oak, maple, cherry, birch, pine, etc.

These timbers are not suited to grow in our tropical region and it’s impractical to import them because of high costs.

In Singapore, most kitchen cabinetry are constructed using plywood laminates or melamine particleboards.

Between both materials, plywood laminates are stronger and much more durable than melamine particleboard. This is due to the layers of plywood that are sandwiched between the two layers of laminate resin.

For melamine particleboards, they are manufactured using compressed wood chips soaked in liquid resin, and mechanically packed tightly using melamine plastic.

Although melamine particleboards could last a few years, it will not be as durable compared with plywood laminates.

Without question, be prepared to pay more for kitchen cabinetry built with plywood laminates, but honestly it is well worth paying for.

Materials for Kitchen Countertop and Backsplash

The countertop and backsplash in our kitchens are mostly made from quartz, solid surface and granite.

While each of them have their pros and cons, we recommend you to assess your long term needs and decide wisely.

Quartz

Quartz is a man-made stone that possess the plus points inherited from granite and solid surface.

They are made from compressed hard, crystalline mineral composed of silica and polymer resin.

Quartz countertops is practically maintenance-free and resists well against heat, stains, scratches and acids.

Its non-porous surface also has an advantage of preventing the growth of bacteria.

It is a popular choice for kitchens because of its durability and affordable pricing.

Solid Surface

If you are looking at a cheaper option, consider solid surface instead.

Manufactured using aluminium trihydrate powder and plastic resin, they have good water-proofing capability and are resistant to spills.

While the downside is that solid surface countertops are more susceptible to damage from high heat and chemicals.

Granite

This is the most expensive option compared with the other two.

Granite are mined from quarries. Every piece of these rocks undergo a rigorous sanding and polishing process before they are sold to the market.

Because it is a natural solid rock, the colour and pattern for each slab of granite is uniquely different.

Granite itself also has an extremely hard and scratch resistant surface. 

When properly sealed with sealants, it will hold up very well against high temperature and  stains.

However, granite countertops do have their weaknesses.

You see, unsealed granite itself is porous. Once the sealant is worn out, the surface would be susceptible to spills, stains and eventually result in bacteria growth.

Hence, they have to be treated with fresh coat of sealants on a yearly basis.

In addition, it is very costly and difficult to repair if the granite is chipped or scratched.

Kitchen Counter Top Space

Kitchen Countertop Space

A kitchen countertop with minimal clutter not only make your kitchen appears bigger than it’s supposed to, it’s also much safer for everyone in the household.

While designing your kitchen, have as little things as possible on the kitchen counter.

Plan for ample of countertop space for cutting, placing ingredients and utensils without hindering body movements.

Nothing is more dangerous than working with knives and handling hot utensils with a congested kitchen countertop.

A pot of boiling soup toppling on you will cause serious injury, so do not take this lightly.

Rather than taking up countertop space with a bulky knife block, consider hanging knives from a wall-mounted magnetic strip instead.

Make use of wall-mounted racks to neatly stow bottles of spice or condiments for cooking.

They will still be easily accessible, but won’t take up valuable space on the kitchen countertop.

To create countertop space, we also recommend built-in compartments to ‘hide’ bulky appliances such as convection ovens or microwave ovens.

Don’t forget the sides of your kitchen cabinets as well.

Install a hook-and-rail system by the side to hang small kitchen utensils such as spatulas, ladles, wok shovel, etc.

It not only clear away utensils from the countertop but also frees up the space in your drawers.

HDB Kitchen Floor Trap

Other Kitchen Renovation Tips

Other than kitchen stowage, don’t forget the mortar base in which the kitchen cabinets sit on.

This is one thing that most home owners tend to overlook.

The mortar base is usually raised above the floor with a height of about 50mm.

It prevents the base of your kitchen cabinets from getting soaked when you wash your kitchen floor.

Kitchens in every HDB property has a floor trap located near the sanitary piping.

So make sure the mortar base has a small inlet constructed for water to flow easily into the floor trap.

And remember to instruct the carpenter to build a small removable cover inside the kitchen cabinet.

This ensures the floor trap can be accessed by a plumber if it gets choked up with debris.

For wall-mounted kitchen cabinets, they should always be built right up to the ceiling.

Don’t leave gaps on top because dust and grease will accumulate overtime, and it is difficult to clean these areas.

Lastly, always leave a few inches of extra space for cabinets mounted above the refrigerator.

By doing so, it allows you to fit a taller or bigger sized fridge for future replacements.

Talk to your contractor or interior designer on what are the best ways to achieve this.

Electrical Works and Sockets in Kitchen

Electrical Works & Sockets in the Kitchen

Before your kitchen renovation starts, plan ahead where you would like to position your electrical sockets.

Though it may seem like a small decision, this is crucial to ensuring safety in your new kitchen.

There are a few important rules to consider when you plan the placement of power sockets in your kitchen.

Rules for Electrical Works

Rule No. 1

Electrical power points or switches should be fitted 30cm or more horizontally away from the kitchen sink or any water source.

This is to minimise any chance of water coming into contact with them.

Another reason is that you won’t be able to reach for an electrical socket while washing up and have wet hands.

Rule No. 2

The standard height of a countertop from the kitchen floor is around 910mm.

As a general rule of thumb, the bottom of your electrical sockets or switches should be at least 150mm above the countertop surface.

This distance may vary slightly depending on your kitchen cabinet height and thickness of the countertop.

Do not position electrical sockets near to the skirting of your countertop.

This leaves little room between an electric plug and its wire bending against the skirting.

If it’s too close, it will be difficult to insert the plug into the socket.

Rule No. 3

Electrical points for your refrigerator, washing machine or dryer should be fitted in a position where you can easily access them.

Usually, they are mounted just above where these appliances are placed.

Rule No. 4

For safety reasons, electrical socket(s) should be mounted away from the cooking hob, with a horizontal distance of 300mm or more.

This is to prevent oil or water splashes caused by cooking from reaching the electrical socket(s).

Another thing you should always remember.

Never install electrical sockets or switches in the cabinet space underneath your cooking hob.

It’s a safety hazard if they overheat or if there is a gas cylinder inside.

Rule No. 5

PVC cables and electrical wiring has an average lifespan of 25 years.

If your existing property is over 20 years old, we strongly recommend you to check the conditions of the wirings when you renovate your kitchen.

Speak with your appointed renovation firm. They will deploy a licensed electrical worker (LEW) to check the conditions of the wirings and advise you whether it needs to be replaced.

Before carrying out checks and perform electrical re-wiring, the licensed electrical worker (LEW) is required by SP Services Ltd (SPSL) to submit an application form CS/5H.

This is then endorsed by the HDB and SP Services Ltd, for testing of the wiring works.


Friendly Reminder:
Find out why it’s important that you should only work with HDB licensed renovation contractors and electrical workers.

Avoid Overly Trendy Kitchen Designs

It’s great to stay on top of the trends, but exercise caution when it comes to your kitchen design.

People get tired of trends overtime. What looks good to you today might not have the appeal next year.

If you want to play it safe, instead of trying to build an overly trendy kitchen, go moderate with basic and evergreen design themes.

Build personality with smaller gadgets or decorations.

That way when it is time for them to go, it’s not hard on your wallet and they are easily replaceable.

Author Cheryl

Cheryl Lee

“Loves travel, all sorts of food and does not own a TV.”