How much it would cost to renovate your HDB flat

By Aaron De Silva
/ EdgeProp |
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Just as real estate in Singapore doesn’t come cheap, so too do renovation costs.
Popular renovation and interior design sites like Hipvan claim that remodelling can be done for less than $30,000. Now, $30,000 isn’t a small sum. But in the context of local renovations, it’s considered a modest amount.
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.
The members of interior design studio, Artistroom. Image Source: Lookbox Living
“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.
Type of work
Average cost
$ 6,000
$ 50 per foot run x 120 ft.
$ 11,625
$ 8,000 to $20,000, depending on material
$ 24,000
$ 100 to $500 per ft. run
$ 4,000
$ 50 to $150 per piece
$ 1,350
$ 1,000 to $1,700 depending on paint type and wall size
$ 7,500
Includes aircon units and washing machines
$ 875
$270 to $400 per bathroom and kitchen
$ 55,350
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.
Flooring material
Low estimate
Average estimate
High estimate
$ 10 psf
$ 12.50 psf
$ 15 psf
$ 10 psf
$ 15 psf
$ 20 psf
$ 7 psf
$ 10.50 psf
$ 14 psf
$ 6 psf
$ 6.25 psf
$ 7.5 psf
$ 3.5 psf
$ 4 psf
$ 4.5 psf
Ceramic/homogenous tiles
$ 3 psf
$ 9 psf
$ 15 psf
Installation labour
$ 3 psf
$ 6.5 psf
$ 10 psf
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
An Artistroom HDB project. Image Source: Renonation
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.

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