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HDB contractor prepares sand-mix screed despite new regulations for pre-packed screed

A home owner was shocked to find stacks of sands in his flat dumped by HDB contractor, which were seemingly meant for his flat despite new regulations by HDB only to allow pre-packed screed for renovation.

As his Build-to-Order flat was purchased in 2012 without flooring, Jack (not his real name) appealed for a free screed from the Housing Development Board (HDB). His appeal succeeded and was scheduled for the flooring in late July to August.

HDB announced earlier that from 1 June 2015 onwards, pre-packed screed is to be used for renovation at "dry areas" such as living/dining rooms, bedrooms, storeroom, household shelter, etc. The new regulation was supposed to have taken place since December 2014 but was extended to allow more time for contractors to prepare for the changes.

When the HDB screed contractor called him around 9 July 2015 to arrange for the screed. Jack was told that the contractor had planned to screed his floor the following week and reserved the materials for him. Jack gave him the screed level and was delighted that the arrangement was going to happen earlier than he would have expected.

Jack had the impression that HDB had arranged for a smooth screed for his flooring with the cost factored in.

On 11 July 2015,  Jack had an appointment with his Interior Designer who wanted to view the empty flat for space planning. To his surprise, he saw four stacks of sand at home, in his three bedrooms and one living room.

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Jack soon caught a worker from the contracting company, outside his unit and he explained that his boss told him to unload the sand here. He was also told that for units requiring urgent screed, they will use sand and manual mix.

Jack tried to call the HDB contractor to no avail. However, the HDB contractor was there when he went down to level one and approached Jack.

He told Jack that it was a mistake of his workers as the sand was actually meant for a unit downstairs. He had communicated with the owner who told him that they wanted the screed urgently and has agreed to use the sand mix instead of pre-packed. The contractor then confirmed with Jack would like to have pre-packed screed instead of the sand mix that the latter affirmed.

After this brief encounter, Jack went back to his unit to carry on with his interior designer.

But to Jack's surprise, another wheel-barrow of sand was unloaded despite his protest.

"I feedback this issue to HDB, but they can't be bothered with it. No investigation took place on how many units were affected. No investigation on how much the contractor pocketed from using sand mix instead of prepacked." said Jack

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The result flooring of Jack's apartment

He added that the rest of the flooring seems completed because HDB complained that the flooring was too low and requested the main contractor to screed it up to required level after the screed contractor tried to use sand-mix cement. Thus, HDB main contractor had to screed it up to required level with prepacked screed and hand over to HDB.

"If you could zoom in the photos. You could see the crater in the center where the sand was. Then around it some lumps and bumps done by HDB." said Jack

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Photo of the main con prepacked and surrounding floor

In his feedback to HDB, he wrote, "However I am concerned about the other units that were contracted by this contractor since 1st June 2015. As I had personally met this contractor whilst they were dumping sand into my unit, he admitted that there were other units being screeded with sandmix instead of premix compound. I was told that for certain urgent cases, under the agreement of the home owners, he would proceed and screed with sand mix instead of premix. As for my home, it was an unfortunate mistake by his workers, as the sand was meant for a unit in the lower floors."

Jack added, "I am aware that HDB no longer provides free screeding but instead as a gesture of goodwill. As much as I thank the gesture, HDB is not a private organisation where the funds comes from foregin investors or appropiate investment strategies, but a board set up to provide affordable housing to Singaporeans. Please duly ensure that while on one hand you increase the cost of home owners and renovation contractors due to the use of premix, you do not shoot your foot by having your own contractors use sandmix."

feedback to HDB

Local media had earlier reported contractors saying that the new rule will drive up renovation costs by about $2 to $3 per square foot, with some estimating that the increased total could be as much as $3,000.

Below is the reply that HDB sent to Jack.

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When pressed for an account, Jack was only told by the HDB officer that more checks will take place and that their instructions sufficed as a measure.

Jack said, "I feel that this reflects their attitude in handling their job, resulting in multiple defects from recent BTO which they try to play down as aesthetics. Having no proper checks and measures in place, it is not a surprise such lapses occurs. They had also failed to account to Singaporeans, as an agency to provide affordable quality housing to Singaporeans."