HDB sees rise in reports of popped tiles in flats

Residents in a Woodlands estate have shared photos of popped tiles in their flats in a WhatsApp chat group. Mr Lewis Sua, who lives at Block 688C, Woodlands Drive 75, said there were at least 14 flats affected in his block alone, and 38 if he include
Residents in a Woodlands estate have shared photos of popped tiles in their flats in a WhatsApp chat group. Mr Lewis Sua, who lives at Block 688C, Woodlands Drive 75, said there were at least 14 flats affected in his block alone, and 38 if he included flats from the surrounding blocks.PHOTO: LEWIS SUA

700 cases in 1st-half Jan; past years also saw rise in reports in cooler months: HDB

The Housing Board has seen an increase in reports of popped or dislodged tiles in flats, with about 700 cases reported in the first half of this month alone, which is about a third of the total reported in the whole of 2016.

But HDB said yesterday that the new figures are "consistent with the experience of previous years", where there tends to be a higher number of feedback on the dislodgement of tiles during the cooler months.

The Straits Times had reported about a spate of popped tiles in flats across the island, in areas like Sengkang, Woodlands, Bukit Panjang, Toa Payoh and Jurong West.

The cases, which occurred in the past week when temperatures dipped below 22 deg C, raised questions over whether the tile dislodgement was linked to the unusually cool weather.

"Dislodgement of tiles occurs due to natural deterioration and differential thermal expansion or contraction of the tiles, which results in a loss of adhesion between the tiles and the screed surface over time," said a spokesman for HDB .

She added that significant changes in temperature can also cause "more stress to be built up beneath the tiles and contribute to the loss of adhesion".

Flat owners had renovated their own flats using their own tiles in nearly half of the 700 cases reported in the first half of this month. The rest were installed by the HDB.

The Ministry of National Development (MND) had said, in response to parliamentary questions in April last year, that HDB received about 2,000 cases of dislodged floor tiles every year in the past two years.

Home owners have posted on Facebook about tiles in their homes, mostly over 10 years old, popping with "explosive" sounds.

Mr Lewis Sua, who lives at Block 688C, Woodlands Drive 75, told The Straits Times yesterday that about half the tiles in his living room laid by HDB popped and cracked, exposing the cement underneath.

Mr Sua, 37, a condominium estate manager, said there were at least 14 flats affected in his block alone, and 38 if he included flats from the surrounding blocks. He started a WhatsApp group with more than 10 neighbours in his block, and later added more from other blocks.

"I think it's not just the weather. I'm guessing it's a structural issue. Of course the weather plays a part but if the workmanship is good, it will be able to withstand it," he said. "On Monday, our whole group went to the MP, Vikram Nair, who said we would have a dialogue with HDB."

Mr Sua said HDB told him his flat was 15 years and two months old. This is over the 15-year warranty-cum-grace period that HDB offers.

HDB said it will "continue to offer goodwill repairs for the tiles up to 15 years" for flats with tiles laid by HDB. "This exceeds the industry standard of a one-year defect liability period," it said. "HDB will also assist all affected residents to inspect their flats, lay protective sheets over the affected tiles and provide a list of repair contractors whom they can engage."

Holland-Bukit Timah GRC MP Liang Eng Hwa told ST that he intends to make a proposal to MND to ask if HDB could offer microloans to residents who need help with the repairs that can cost up to $8,000.

These residents are those whose flats are older than 15 years, and who do not qualify for lower-income subsidies, said Mr Liang, who oversees the Senja, Jelapang and Segar areas in Bukit Panjang, where residents have reported cases of popped tiles. He said: "I hope HDB can offer microloans and the residents can pay it back over a period of time."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 17, 2018, with the headline 'HDB sees rise in reports of popped tiles in flats'. Print Edition | Subscribe