askST: How can I make sure my home renovation is carried out safely?

A false ceiling became detached from the concrete ceiling in a family's master bedroom on June 8, 2022. PHOTO: SHIN MIN DAILY NEWS

SINGAPORE - On Wednesday (June 8), a false ceiling became detached from the concrete ceiling in a family's master bedroom and came crashing down on their beds.

The structure was installed less than half a year ago, and reportedly weighed over 100kg. Even though no one was hurt, the incident left the family traumatised and their bedroom in ruins.

Renovation experts Jackie Lai, a council member of the Singapore Interior Design Accreditation Council (Sidac), and Kelly Chin, who sits on the council of the Society of Interior Designers Singapore (Sids), explain what to look out for when it comes to installing false ceilings, and home renovation in general.

Q: What factors would cause false ceilings to detach?

Ms Chin: False ceilings can fall if they are not correctly secured to the concrete ceiling and lack support structures. Inappropriate ceiling anchor bolts can also cause a false ceiling to collapse.

Mishaps can happen as a result of shoddy work or when inferior materials are used.

Q: What permits are needed for renovation work and what can be done to ensure that such incidents do not recur?

Ms Chin: HDB can require all contractors or companies which install false ceilings to be registered and licensed, or retrain or upskill their staff every two to three years to make sure everyone has the proper skill sets.

Mr Lai: Flat owners are required to engage HDB-registered renovation contractors.

Even though the installation of a false ceiling does not require a permit, contractors must still comply with HDB's renovation guidelines.

For commercial units, it is compulsory to submit shop ceiling drawings and use approved materials. In some cases, a pull-out test may be required. (The test involves attaching a suitable test rig to the bolt, screw, anchor or fixing, which is then put under the stress load level specified in the design to determine how strong and secure the fixing is.)

Q: How can home owners ensure that they have engaged accredited or reliable contractors and interior designers?

Mr Lai: They should engage interior designers who are accredited by Sidac, such as qualified interior design consultants and renovation interior designers.

Unqualified individuals and companies bring disrepute to the interior design sector with their poor workmanship and bad service.

Home owners who have already engaged a contractor can also hire an accredited interior design consultant as added insurance.

While having a consultant adds to the renovation bill, it may ultimately help home owners avoid costly mistakes and save their time. The consultant also helps the owner make better design decisions.

Beside proposing interior design schemes, a consultant can verify installation drawings, and coordinate the work of contractors and ensure that it is carried out according to the designer's drawings and specifications.

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