Most people talk about the procedures of getting to buy your own Build-to-Order (BTO) flats, but not many actually know what it encompasses after acquiring your own set of keys! Here we have a complete visual guide for that transition between the time you collect your keys to the moment you start your renovation.
One would argue that the road leading up to owning your own flat is toughest, but the troubling mental marathon comes after said acquisition. When it comes to defects, it's worth noting that the Housing and Development Board (HDB) has a very thorough check in place, from the interiors of the flats to the common area, it follows close to the impeccable standards set by the Construction Quality Assessment System (CONQUAS) homeowners guide. With that said, humans do make mistakes and the process of defect checks are aimed for such potential miniscule mistakes made by human error.
Once homeowners collect their keys, they would be given the defect feedback form to fill up, and subsequently submitted back to the on-site Building Service Centre (BSC). The BSC is only on-site temporarily and is usually a walking distance from the work site of the new BTO estate. This block of time after key collection is when your Defects Liability Period activates, and although the expiration is only a year ahead, it is advised to submit the defects a week in to ensure there's ample time for your renovation as well as the feedback loop of the defect rectification.
The process of it all usually starts and ends with the contractors from BSC assisting with the homeowners for a joint inspection, to ensure that the defects spotted are reliably present, as well as solved subsequently. Many homeowners have mentioned that the process usually doesn't take up much time, but it is still advisable to keep a chunk of 2-3 weeks to ensure there aren't any delays since you do not want the rectification to invade into the renovation period.
This is where the black and white legality of renovation and defects checking draw a clear cut boundary. HDB has absolute rules of not rectifying any defects caused by the renovation, but only the ones caused by the BTO construction process. Hence, it is imperative that homeowners have a thorough and stringent documentation process of what was done during renovation to mark out clear evidence of the source of defects. It is thus only logical for renovation to take place after defects have been rectified, or you can consider requesting for your interior designers to assist in the defect check and rectification.
Under the terms of DLP, HDB will cover all the defects found within the year, but definitely not including the damages caused during renovation. The rectifications are mostly cosmetic based but can cover other areas as well. It usually offshoots into the Assure 3 Warranty that covers ceiling leaks in kitchen and toilet, as well as water seepage from your external walls for up to 5 years.
However, this insurance cancels out once you conduct renovation on your floor tiles, or even have had your waterproofing system renovated on. Spalling concrete is also covered up to a whole decade. It is definitely tricky when it comes to defect checking because we are required by legality that the defects are caused by the building process and not by the renovation, creating a constant back and forth unless there is clear evidence.
Defects can happen naturally because construction work is a craft that relies heavily on human consistency, and natural material quality can also be circumstantial from batches to batches. It is definitely confusing for new homeowners to know what defects are since we are mostly glad to just finally own a home.
However, don’t risk letting a tiny defect grow into a big problem just because you weren’t informed at the start! However, do note that less noticeable defects can grow into a big problem, for which if it was an obvious problem it would probably have been solved by now.
The characteristics to look out for are mostly human errors or bad quality in existing infrastructure. Once you walk into your new home, you would realise that there isn’t anything much but walls, floor, ceiling, pipes and fixtures, and yes! -These are exactly what you should be looking out for.
When it comes to walls and floor, look out for cracks or dislodged tiles, which are basically surface inconsistencies like spots or blobs of solidified paint that was left out for too long. Peeling paint or visible brushstrokes can also be a problem once you start with renovation as it's extra effort to get rid of them with extra layers of coating and cleaning.
On another spectrum, stains on walls are much more devastating as they are usually signs of leaks, be it internally or externally. Leaks can usually lead to moulding and they can be life threatening in the long run. Many homeowners get mad with fury after intense defect checks because they will find warps in walls. This is only because they check with so much scrutiny, but it's usually not a big problem unless it's visible to the naked eye. It is difficult to achieve absolute flatness with manual work so it is normal to find tiny warps in some parts of the walls. Definitely do not forget about the skirting and switches on the walls as well!
While you are looking at the walls and floor, do inspect the doors and windows as well. People usually don’t take notice since they assume the contractors wouldn’t install a faulty fixture. Do check out the hinges of doors and windows to ensure that there isn’t any squeaking or looseness, these might mean that you would have to swap out new ones when you find it problematic in the near future.
Do try out every keyhole as well because nothing is more infuriating than trying to get into a room for a whole minute just because the key wouldn’t take into the keyhole! If the key gets stuck inside the keyhole, it usually means that they are misaligned inward. Doors are usually problematic as they are traffic heavy sites, so do look out if they are warped or have any vinyl surface loose as they can allow moisture to build up too.
Now we go to the functionality of the flat, including all the fixtures and applicative side. We proceed to the kitchen and bathroom where pipes and drains are, and ensure that these areas are working properly. The pipes are one to note as they should be clean and not leaky, since during construction there isn’t a water source, it shouldn’t be obvious if it leaks water or not.
One thing to note is that homeowners should bring their own cups to pour liquid into drains, sinks and grouts to check the functionality of them. An easy way to check for leaky walls or pipes is definitely checking your flat on a rainy day as well to ensure that your flat can survive the wet seasons of Singapore.
There are definitely many items that we require for our defect hunting and every items serve a uniquely different function:
We will start with the most important one, and that is two different coloured masking tape. These two tapes are used to mark out major and minor defects; remember to choose something vibrant like blue and green so that contractors or yourself can identify easily once you return for the joint inspection. It is also advisable to use a pencil, or take a photo to mark out since we probably can’t identify the spots as easily since the walls are probably all blinding white.
This brings us to our handphone, which is used to document all the defects, serving as pictorial evidence of its existence pre-renovation. Don’t delete the photos but maybe save it in a folder for future usage, until DLP ends of course. Complementing our phones, bring along a charger because apart from charging your phone, the charger helps to test out the sockets and whether they are functioning.
Most phones have a flashlight attached to it but if it's convenient, do consider bringing an extra torchlight as the externally powered light can help to identify warping in walls that we cannot identify in normal daylight conditions. The extra light can also help to spot dark corners of the house since at this point the lights in the flat are probably not sufficiently installed. Another item to help with that is to bring along a stool that you can stand on, to climb to higher areas to check, such as fixtures or corners of the ceiling. The stool can also provide you with a place to rest since there wouldn’t be any furniture in yet.
As mentioned before, we have to double check that our floor traps and grouts are functioning properly, thus we should bring along a cup or maybe just a water bottle (Apart from quenching your thirst of course). Another alternative is to bring along a spirit level to check the floor and ensure that it is flat.
Other feature structures like the tiles can be checked with a single coin- using the coin to knock on the tiles to check whether it is properly installed and not loose. Apart from that, a good old visual check would be fine, ensuring that the grouts are properly aligned and not discoloured.
Other items include brooms and wet wipes to clean up after yourself as a new BTO flat can be really dirty with concrete dust and paint. A dusty wall can also be difficult to photograph and subsequently be used as visual evidence. Something that most interior designers would use is a numbered lock. This is because a numbered lock can allow access for your contractors and BSC personnel to enter the premises and fix whatever they require, without having the homeowners to be present.
With this summary graphic, we have a quick guide to the whole process of defects checking for new homeowners. As each individual flats are different, it is impossible to clearly pin point out the specific parts that are required to rectify. As a whole, this summary is more than sufficient, but a good point to note is that you can always trust your interior designers for help in advising you on what to do.
You can also consider joining the online groups set up for new BTO flat owners as there would definitely be advice thrown in every now and then. If all else fails, head over to the official site of HDB and BSC!
P.s. our new project at Bidadari just entered its defect check stage, do look out for its transformation on our facebook page!