Parliament: January's cold snap to blame for popping tiles in HDB flats

Tiles that popped in the flat of a Woodlands resident in January 2018. The recent spate of popped tiles in HDB flat is likely to have been caused by the cold snap, said Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee in Parliament on Feb 5, 2018. PHOTO: LEWIS SUA

SINGAPORE - January's cold snap is likely to blame for the higher-than-normal number of reported cases of "popping tiles" in HDB flats.

Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee told Parliament on Monday (Feb 5) that the high number of cases was "likely due to the unusually cold weather over a prolonged period and temperature fluctuations".

The Housing Board had previously said that the high number was "consistent with the experience of previous years" where there seemed to be more tiles dislodged during "colder months". But HDB but did not elaborate on whether last month's abnormal cold spell had exacerbated the situation, or if the number of cases had spiked compared to the same period in previous years.

Last month saw the longest cold spell in a decade, with temperatures sometimes dipping to 21 deg C over a five-day stretch, thanks to a monsoon surge.

Alongside the cool weather came 700 reported cases of dislodged tiles in HDB flats the first half of January - a third of the total reported in the whole of 2016.

Responding to Holland-Bukit Timah GRC MP Liang Eng Hwa, Mr Lee said the weather changes could have caused the tiles and their underlying surface to contract and expand at different rates, resulting in a loss of adhesion.

"This phenomenon is not unique to Singapore, and has also occurred in countries such as Taiwan and Hong Kong," he said.

Mr Lee also implied that it was not a case of quality control but simple wear-and-tear, by pointing out that close to half of the cases involved tiles installed by flat owners. The rest were installed by the HDB.

He also emphasised HDB's "more generous" policy of extending goodwill repairs for up to 15 years. This is in contrast to most private developers, who often offer only a one-year Defect Liability Period.

He stressed that flat owners are responsible for the maintenance of their flats, and that for cases beyond 15 years, flat owners will need to do their own replacement of tiles.

"Nonetheless, HDB will do its best to assist, for example by helping the owners with the removal and disposal of the affected tiles and, if necessary, laying protective sheets over the affected area," he said.

The agency has also worked with the Renovation Contractors and Materials Suppliers Association to compile a list of contractors residents can engage to repair the tiles "at reasonable rates," he said.

Mr Lee added that affected residents who are facing financial difficulties in dealing with their tiles can approach the local Community Development Councils or their grassroots advisers to see if there are financial schemes to assist them.

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