We originally wrote this guide after HDB did our cement screeding for us. The policy changed. HDB contractors don’t do cement screeding anymore, so you can’t top up even if you want to. That sucks because contractors charge more than the HDB contractors. The quality wasn’t too bad.
But this guide is still relevant to everyone who wants to do vinyl flooring with their ID/contractor. We’ve edited this post accordingly.
After BSC did the rectification work, it was time we made arrangements for having HDB do cement screeding for our BTO home. Cement screeding by HDB is useful if you want to lay flooring like vinyl. HDB already approved our appeal for goodwill cement so we didn’t need to submit another one.
HDB’s cement screeding policies
No more goodwill cement screeding
While we managed to appeal successfully, HDB has since stopped the policy of providing goodwill cement screeding. The Straits Times reported that home owners who signed the lease agreement for their flats from 1 Jun 2015 would not be able to get free cement screeding. So you can’t appeal for free screeding anymore. For some reason the HDB website does not have an FAQ on this. The typical rejection letter is along the lines of:
With effect from 1 Oct 2014, HDB has ceased to provide the Smooth Floor Rendering (SFR) service that had previously been provided on a goodwill basis upon request. We have considered your appeal carefully but regret that we are indeed unable to accede to your request for cement screeding.
If flat buyers require smooth rendering to their flooring when laying floor finishes such as parquet/timber flooring, carpet, vinyl tile or linoleum, they can engage their own renovation contractors. The way the flooring is rendered depends on the type of floor finishes to be laid by the flat owners. Hence, this is best coordinated between flat owners and their renovation contractor.
Unfortunately that means you’ll need to pay for the basic screeding, excluding the top-up. It’ll be a thousand plus more minimally, depending on the size of your home. That said, IDs would still advise you that it’s generally cheaper to have HDB do cement screeding for you.
Cement screeding is more expensive than in the past
In general, cement screeding is also more expensive than in the past, because HDB banned contractors from mixing sand, cement, and waterproofing materials at the construction site. They must be pre-mixed. And because of this, they are more pricey and difficult to lay than in the past. But the pre-mixed cement screed also has its benefits. You get more consistent mixing of the cement-sand ratio, amount of waterproof materials added, less wastage, and a cleaner place for everyone. Less sandy work areas means less sand flying into your homes or damaging the lifts.
What was the cement screeding process?
We headed down to the Bukit Batok HDB branch on a Saturday morning to submit our application. It was very crowded. We submitted the form and gave the number lock for our home, and that was it. The free screeding that HDB provides out of goodwill is only up till 40mm. You need to top up with cash if you require screeding beyond that amount. Vinyl flooring generally requires about 50mm top up so it can be level with the kitchen floor, which has tiled flooring. The cost of top up is around $700, and your ID should decide the height required. The strange thing is the HDB form explicitly says that they do not allow it. I guess people usually do this top up ‘by left’ (informally).
After we submitted the form, it took some time for a reply from the office. Some say that the wait can be as long as a month, but for us it was only around a week. The cement screed contractor appointed will contact you to schedule a date with you. Our contractor was May from M.A & Ling (HSB1) Pte Ltd.
Top up for self-levelling, or not?
May also asked whether we needed to do additional top-up of around SGD 800 for self-levelling compound. It was hard to understand what it’s about, but I found a video that showed that process. It looks like a process to smoothen the floor.
May told us that if we didn’t opt in and the floor wasn’t very level and smooth, they wouldn’t be responsible. After discussing with Jun Wei and Shao Jie we decided that we wouldn’t opt in. Vinyl still requires laying ‘cushion’ below it. That compensates for the unevenness if there was any. In addition, even if you do the self-levelling and it’s still uneven, your ID or contractor will still need to do it again for you. No point paying twice.
So it’s best to ask your ID to supervise the process of screeding, and opt out for the self-levelling. If there’s a need to, get your ID to do the self-levelling before they do the flooring. Of course that’d be more expensive than if the HDB contractor does the self-levelling. But that’s the better option.
Worst Case if You Don’t Do Self-Levelling for Vinyl Floors?
There are horror stories from not doing it. We found this story on a renovation Facebook group, seemingly due to lousy ID and flooring contractor who didn’t alert the owners that there was a need to do self-levelling.
This owner’s vinyl floor became wavy within a few months of moving in. Their ID said that it could be due to uneven cement screeding but the ID didn’t know. They were given the option of removing the wavy vinyl pieces and then doing self-levelling. It would cost $983.
It’s incredible that the ID and flooring vendor didn’t t know.
After removing the vinyl pieces they realised that glue under the vinyl pieces caused the unevenness.
The flooring vendor explained that there was no self-levelling so they had to glue the vinyl pieces to prevent an uneven surface and clicking sounds. That’s stupid because their solution also caused an uneven floor. The owners didn’t do the self-levelling in the end and have to live with the clicking sounds.
Honestly, this seems more of a case where the ID and/or flooring vendor were incompetent. They should’ve advised beforehand whether the flooring required self-levelling. In this regard, Rooot Studio seemed like a more responsible ID and Floor Xpert was a much better vendor.
Pro-tip: Do hacking first
There was a hiccup though. We didn’t expect the screeding appointment to be set up so fast. They called me to say that they could arrange screeding in a week’s time, but we realised that Shao Jie had not applied for the hacking permit yet. The sequence is to do hacking first before you do cement screeding. You can do it the other way round, but that means that you might need to fill up the holes that you hacked in the cement screed. As such, we had to rush the hacking permit and do the hacking, which typically takes around a day for just the MBR wall. It didn’t help that HDB took longer than usual to reply, because there were some errors in the application.
Coordinating with the contractor was trickier than expected. We had to coordinate the scheduling, to make sure that we didn’t drop in the queue. We eventually managed to buddy buddy with the contractor, and our project manager Jun Wei liaised with May well.
End of the day the quality of the cement screeding was ok. We haven’t encountered any problems after laying the vinyl floor and living in the home for a few months. For the amount of money saved, it was worth it to ask the HDB contractor to do cement screeding. Unfortunately that isn’t available anymore, so new homeowners need to engage external contractors. The prices are typically competitive, so our advice is to just go for the ID or contractor you’re already engaging.
Too Long; Didn’t Read
If you’re doing vinyl flooring, do hacking first, then do cement screeding. If you’re doing tiles, ignore this whole post.
Have you also gotten HDB to do your cement screeding for you? Did HDB reject your free cement screeding application? Let us know your experience in the comments below!