Dealing with ceiling leaks and water leaks in your HDB, Lifestyle News

If you happen to look up and notice ceiling paint blistering or peeling, discoloration spots or water droplets (a dead clue), you most likely have a ceiling leak that needs to be repaired.

What are the causes of ceiling leaks and water infiltrations?

Leaks from the ceiling

The common cause of ceiling leaks is water leaking from the unit above the lower floor ceiling through the concrete floor slab.

Wear of the waterproof membrane and screed in the slab is usually the culprit.

If you live on the top floor and you are experiencing leaks from the ceiling, it is likely due to wear and tear on the roofing material at the top of your HDB block.

Heavy rain

Water runoff can also occur during and after a wet season of heavy rain, which usually occurs during the monsoon season between November and January.

Residents faced this problem in early 2021, when Singapore experienced a persistent period of heavy downpours that recorded the highest rainfall in the past 39 years.

Tampines GRC MP Baey Yam Keng said it was a common problem made worse by the incessant rain. “From time to time, this will happen in the older blocks, but the intensity of the rain this monsoon season has probably made matters worse as the outer walls of the blocks are exposed to the constant roar of rain,” he added.

Water leaks are usually found in older buildings and in wet areas such as toilets and bathrooms, where more moisture can be found.

Damaged water supply

Another reason can be attributed to bursting or leaking pipes, either due to age degradation or if contractors have not done the renovations properly.

Leaks can also occur from worn toilet wax rings. It happens when you drain and water seeps through the wax ring, flowing behind the walls and pipes, causing moisture to build up over time.

Who is responsible for ceiling leaks inside HDBs?

Each property has a Defect Liability Period (DLP), during which HDB provides warranty coverage for ceiling leaks, leaks in exterior walls and concrete chipping.

Problem Warranty period
Leak from the ceiling in the bathrooms / kitchen five years*
Water leaks from the outer wall five years
Chipped concrete 10 years
* The warranty for ceiling leaks is void if the floor tiles have been changed or if the waterproofing system has been tampered with.

If your unit does not qualify for DLP, you can contact your local city council for help by submitting a photo and video evidence report.

The external walls of the HDB blocks are jointly owned and fall under the jurisdiction of the Municipality. As such, the city council should conduct regular maintenance and repairs where necessary.

If it is a ceiling leak between the upper and lower floors, you and your neighbor will need to get together and assume the responsibility and cost of arranging the repair work.

Division Liability is only applicable if the loss is caused by wear and tear. If the problem arose from renovations by the upstairs resident, they would be responsible for 100 percent of the cost of repairing the damage.

HDB has three recommended contractors on their list that you can commit to repairing your leaking ceiling.

Company Name Contact person Areas in charge
CE Builders Pte. Srl Mr. Kevin Zuo (91268198 / [email protected]) North and West Region
Jacob General Contractors Pte. Srl Mr James Tan (90277206 /[email protected]) Eastern region
Success Forever Construction and maintenance Pte. Srl Mr Jack Oei (96898822/67522212 / [email protected]) Central and Southern Region

Damage from inside the apartment

However, it’s a different matter if you’re experiencing water leaks from your apartment, such as faulty fixtures, broken air conditioning panels, or leaking pipes from a renovation.

Apartment owners are solely responsible for maintaining the interior of their homes, so it is up to you to repair the damage yourself with the help of a contractor.

Will HDB help fix my ceiling leak?

To make it easier for apartment owners to carry out repairs quickly and affordably, HDB provides assistance under the Goodwill Repair Assistance (GRA) program.

According to HDB, the GRA “is aimed at solving losses in the slab between apartments caused by wear”.

Under the GRA, HDB co-pays 50% of the repair cost and the remaining 50% is split equally between the owners of the upper and lower floor apartments.

HDB will appoint a contractor to carry out the repair work, which involves laying a fresh waterproof membrane on the floor of the upper units and applying a skim coat, sealant and paint to the ceiling of the lower floor unit.

The GRA only covers the repair costs of the floor slabs and does not cover damage to fixtures and accessories, such as recessed carpentry, lighting, shower screens, etc.

In this example, the apartment owner discovered a leak in his kitchen ceiling. Upon inspection by HDB, it was determined that the leak was due to a faulty water supply pipe inside his apartment and therefore could not be covered by the GRA.

Therefore, his request for co-financing was rejected.

Think twice when you get out of the home improvement program

The Home Improvement Program (HIP) aims to give older apartments a kind of tune-up, with fully funded essential improvements that include the replacement of cast iron pipes. This is because the pipes are subject to erosion over time, so they are replaced with non-plasticized polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes.

If the owner of the apartment decides for any reason to refuse the redevelopment, HDB will accept the request after having carried out an inspection. Pipes must be in decent condition, with no moisture around the bottom floor unit pipe.

However, “residents will be required to sign a pledge to replace the pipe at their own expense if it leaks in the future,” according to HDB.

Due to the industry-wide outages and shortages of construction workers resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, the waiting time to carry out GRA repair work has increased from one to two months to around three to six months.

Faster and less intrusive repair methods for ceiling leaks

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State Minister for National Development Muhammad Faisal Ibrahim revealed in February 2021 that HDB had identified two new technologies to improve the current method of repairing ceiling leaks: nanotechnology waterproofing and the overlapping waterproofing membrane system.

These two methods provide quicker, less intrusive alternative options for residents who prefer to forgo bathroom tile hacking and keep existing finishes.

The nanotechnological waterproofing system works by spraying a coat of a colorless liquid solution on the substrate or on the tiles. This creates an invisible barrier with a hydrophobic effect, preventing water from seeping.

The overlapping system provides for the application of a 2 mm to 3 mm coating of waterproof epoxy-based membrane directly on the existing tiles, covering any cracks and leaving the tiles highly resistant to any liquids.

It also gives a finish similar to granite or marble thanks to the decorative flakes in the membrane.

Waterproofing with the two methods can be completed in one day, compared to the three or four days required for hacking. It also eliminates the dust and noise that hacking tends to generate.

What happens if I don’t fix the ceiling leak?

Even if you think the water damage is minor, you should still act quickly to nip it in the bud. Failure to observe this precaution could cause more damage over time, making repair more difficult and expensive.

Leaving it and hoping the water dries can cause problems such as:

1. Water stains

The first sign of your problems is stained and peeling paint on the walls. You can tell where the most severe water damage is prevalent by touching the walls – it will feel damp to the touch.

Leave it on long enough and you will notice that the plaster begins to swell due to all the water accumulating beneath the surface.

2. Odors

A home that has been affected by long-term water damage has a musty smell that won’t go away no matter how often you do laundry or use an air freshener to try to cover it up.

3. Mold and fungus

It can also lead to a mold and mildew infestation, which takes root in ceilings and spreads to your belongings. Mold spores can have serious health effects if left untreated, such as skin problems, chest tightness, throat and lung irritation, and nasal congestion, to name a few.

4. Electrical damage

What happens when you mix water and electricity? Nothing good, that’s for sure. Cables run behind walls, and if water comes into contact with the electrical circuit, it can cause power surges, electric shocks, and even fires.

READ ALSO: Ceiling Leaks: What Can I Do?

This article was first published on 99.co.