Wall Hacking: Things To Know Before Knocking Down Walls In Your New HDB Flat

29 September 2021 | BY

Knocking down walls is a great way to create space but here’s what you need to know about wall hacking so you don’t get into trouble with HDB.

wall hacking in HDB

Knocking down the walls in your new HDB flat may seem like a good way to create more space and allowance for natural light to flow in, but it’s a common misconception that every and any wall can be hacked. 

It may be easy to get carried away with planning out the renovation works for your new place, but before you get to tearing down the place, here are seven points to take note of before the actual knocking down process so you don’t get into trouble with HDB.  

What kind of walls can be knocked down?

It might be a common mistake to think that there are no limits as to customising and renovating your new home to your liking. 

Hacking walls in HDB
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However, only certain walls in HDB flats can be hacked, depending on whether they are load bearing a.k.a. structural or non-load bearing walls. 

Load bearing walls basically carry the weight of the ceiling up to the foundation, and cannot be hacked. They are usually designed on top of each other and removing them damages the structure of the building. 

Non-load bearing walls on the other hand, are thinner and not as structurally important, so hack away as long as your contractor and interior designer have sought approval from HDB. 

An exception to the rules regarding hacking walls down, would be the bathroom. Whether you’re looking at creating an open-concept bathroom with full glass walls or to create your dream toilet from scratch, hacking of bathroom walls and floors in new flats are strictly prohibited for the first three years. 

​​​​open concept bathroom
An open concept bathroom featuring glass walls to create an illusion of a bigger space
Image credit: Design4Space

This is to allow for the waterproofing membrane installed by HDB to stabilise in order to prevent messy water leakages from happening and leaving you with a flooded bathroom. 

You can however, install fixtures such as a shower screen or bathtub and tile your walls as long as it doesn’t involve any hacking of the walls and floors. 

Bear in mind that you can only apply for a renovation permit for hacking works to take place in the bathroom after three years, and take a step closer to finally achieving your perfect dream home.

floor plan
Tip: Look at the floor plan of your flat to figure out which walls are load and non-loading bearing. The thick lines signify load bearing walls.
Image credit: Teoalida

How to go about hacking your walls?

Get a structural evaluation by a HDB-registered contractor

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Before you get carried away in deciding which walls are to be hacked and the placement of new walls, it’s recommended to have an extensive structural evaluation carried out by a “qualified” person as per HDB’s guidelines. 

This is regulated by HDB to ensure that contractors are aware of the requirements set to protect the structural integrity of the building, so the wrong walls won’t be demolished and the building won’t come crashing down.

Apply for a renovation permit

An open-concept home gym created as part of the living room by hacking down the walls of a bedroom
Image credit: @lookbox_living

After engaging a firm qualified by HDB, your contractor will submit the application for a renovation permit on your behalf. 

peranakan-style brick divider
A Peranakan-style brick divider that allows light and ventilation to pass through.
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You can hack walls and replace them with partial walls with glass panels or ventilation blocks to allow sunlight and fresh air to permeate your home. When in doubt, always share your ideas and consult your ID and contractor first to work out what can and cannot be done. 

Image credit: @pamxcanvas

It generally takes about three days for basic renovation permits to be approved, and about five to 10 days if you’re applying to do more intensive work like demolishing walls

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Once you’ve gotten the green light to hack those walls, note that all renovation works for new BTO flats have to be completed within three months of approval,and within one month for resale flats.  

Make sure demolition follows guidelines

As much as you look forward to a well-deserved rest sleeping in on the weekends, we’re pretty sure your neighbours do too. 

Hacking causes a huge amount of noise pollution and in order to prevent an uprising, wall demolition is only permitted to be done on weekdays between 9AM to 5PM. Such works are not allowed on weekends, eve of public holidays, and public holidays.

Here, the wall has been hacked to create extra countertop space with a sliding glass partition that seals off the kitchen for heavy-duty cooking.
Image credit: @thelocalinnterior

Consider and inform your neighbours of the works to be done beforehand, and close the main door while hacking is being carried out to minimise the amount of noise. You don’t want to step on the wrong toes even before moving in.  

Costs of hacking a wall

Hacking of a singular wall costs about $40-60 per foot run and can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 if you’re looking at hacking down multiple walls. 

How to go about erecting a new wall?

You don’t need to obtain a permit but there are certain rules to follow as per HDB’s guidelines. 

Hacking and re-erecting a wall is a great way to create a bigger living area, especially if you opt to re-erect a partial wall. That way, your living room could be partitioned into two separate spaces. One for lounging in front of the TV and another for a separate dining area. 

You can also transform the tiny kitchen many houses come with today into one with more space to work around with by hacking and re-erecting a wall that eats slightly into your living room space. 

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There should be direct escape routes from the bedrooms to the main door so it is easy to get out of the house in case of a fire or emergency. The additional wall should also allow for sufficient natural lighting going into the flat or room as per HDB’s guidelines. 

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Aesthetics are great, but be careful not to use combustible or toxic materials such as plywood, plastics, or asbestos in the construction of your partitions. You wouldn’t want to risk your health and safety just for the sake of having a pretty wall. 

Costs of erecting a new wall

Cost is arguably one of the most important factors to take into consideration while planning for a renovation and doing up your budget.

It is always wise to do up a budgeting plan based on what you can afford without burning a huge hole in your pocket, and check out local interior designers before deciding on extensiveness of the renovation. 

A partition wall, or non-load bearing wall that blocks off noise and creates privacy, can cost anywhere between $3.50 to $13/sqf depending on the thickness, size and material chosen. 

Such walls are thin in width and take up less floor space than a normal wall, making it a popular choice for creating a separate workspace in living rooms. 

Pro tip: Hacking down only half a wall can be more expensive than getting rid of the entire wall. So if you’re on a tight budget but still want to create more space in your house, opt for hacking down an entire wall instead. 

Guide to hacking walls in your HDB flat

Houses are getting smaller and smaller with the announcement of each new BTO. Hacking walls is a good option to create more space and allow for sunlight and ventilation to pass through your home. 

Although it might be easy to get carried away with the planning and restructuring of your home, always remember to check in with your ID and contractor on the types of wall hacking that is permitted by HDB. 

Cover image adapted from: @lookbox_living, @thelocalinnterior, @limliakstories

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