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Installing Bathtubs in HDB Flats: 7 Key Questions, Answered!

Must-knows about bathtub design, maintenance, and installation for HDB flats. Plus, some inspiration!

When it comes to bathroom fixtures, there’s probably nothing that quite compares to the bathtub: It’s luxurious, looks great, and comes with the promise of a warm, muscle-relaxing soak after a long day at work.

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A before-and-after home and bathroom transformation by Happe Design Atelier featuring a brand-new bathtub in a master en suite.

That said, don’t buy into the idea just yet! We roped in a professional interior designer – specifically, Happe Design Atelier’s Daniel – to help you decide on whether you should get one. Read on for his answers to 7 popular questions on bathtub installation in HDB flats that we received during our Instagram Q&A.

1. Do you need a permit from HDB to install a bathtub?

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Answer: No, if you’re talking about having a bathtub in an HDB flat bathroom, you won’t need to apply for a permit to own one, but there are HDB renovation conditions to be followed – for instance, the total weight of your bathtub and its supporting structure cannot exceed 150kg within a metre square.

In the event that your bathtub’s installation involves hacking the bathroom flooring and/or walls as part of the process, then yes, an HDB permit is definitely needed.

Punggol Central by Butler Interior
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That said, there are some flats where no hacking needs to be done to install a bathtub. Depending on their layout, the drainage pipes in some HDB bathrooms are nicely positioned in a way where the bathtub can be installed easily. In such cases, little to no pipe extensions and/or changes have to be made to the bathroom’s floor plan.

2. Are there any specific requirements to take note of before installing a bathtub?

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Answer: There are three main factors that you might want to take note of, namely the size of your bathtub, the amount of bathroom space you have, and the location of the drainage pipe in the bathroom.

If you’re revamping an entire bathroom from scratch, you won’t be facing issues with these three criteria because it’s a fresh start and it’ll be easier to coordinate all the details. But if you’re planning to install one in an existing bathroom, the process will be more challenging, and some hacking will likely be needed to lay new or additional pipes.

Kovan Green by Luova Project Services
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For built-in bathtubs, there also needs to be sufficient clearance at the bottom for easy access to the plumbing for maintenance or repairs.

Do take note of the support structure as well; if it’s uneven, your bathtub might end up too slanted and that isn’t good for aesthetics because it will look lopsided. Most tubs already have an angled gradient on the inside, so they don't have to be tilted further for efficient drainage.

3. Is there enough space to install a bathtub in a master en suite?

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Answer: No, not necessarily. It really depends on your choice of bathtub, let’s say you get a soaking tub, which is usually smaller in size and is squarish in shape, it’s quite realistic to have one in your master bedroom en suite.

Toh Yi Drive by Design 4 Space
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However, do bear in mind that soaking tubs aren’t really that large. The dimensions vary, but the ones I’ve seen are about 80 cm wide by 80 cm long, and they usually have a depth of below 70 cm. So, you can sit or lie down in one, but the water will be at about half-body height, which isn’t the full experience.

4. Should I get a free-standing bathtub or a built-in one?

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Answer: It depends on both practicality and personal preference. In the event that a homeowner is doing a complete renovation for their HDB flat’s bathroom, I’d recommend that he/she choose built-in bathtubs because they typically take up less space and they are usually less troublesome to maintain.

Some freestanding bathtubs, especially the European-kind, are also quite heavy because they come with iron clasps on the sides or have metallic feet – and that’s something you need to consider due to the weight limit set by HDB.

Moh Guan Terrace by M3 Studio
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On the other hand, while freestanding bathtubs tend to take up more space, their placement is flexible, and they need not have to be tucked against a wall. Unfortunately, I don’t think that it’s possible to fit a large, freestanding one in most current BTO flat bathrooms, not without first having to expand the space in some way.

5. How feasible and cost-effective is it to install a bathtub in an HDB flat?

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Answer: Yes, it’s feasible to have a bathtub in an HDB flat, provided that you have enough space and budget. For cost-effectiveness, it really depends on how you use your bathtub and what you need it for – it’s quite subjective in the sense that a bathtub benefits different homeowners in different ways.

Buangkok Crescent by Ethereall
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For example, a bathtub can be a convenient fixture for parents because it can be a substitute ‘swimming pool’ for their children. But if you’re living with elderly folks, it might not be as worthwhile or even safe, as compared to a regular shower area. So, to put it simply, a bathtub’s long-term value is something that you’ll have to determine for yourself.

6. Is it tough to clean and maintain a bathtub?

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Answer: Definitely. Cleaning is in a way a con of having a bathtub because it requires more time and effort to maintain as compared to a shower.

To keep your bathtub in good condition, make sure to scrub it regularly to prevent mould and/or any residue from forming on the surface – but be careful not to be too aggressive because that could cause scratches. If you want the best results, always use a soft sponge and a suitable cleaning solution.

Punggol Waterway Terraces (Block 308A) by PROVOLK ARCHITECTS
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For built-in bathtubs that have a tile surround, you’ll have to take note of the grouts. Aside from cleaning them regularly, you’ll also want to check that these grouts aren’t cracked because they can wear off due to moisture exposure and/or mildew growth, which can then lead to water seepage.

7. How much does it cost to install a bathtub in an HDB flat?

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Answer: Not including the cost of the bathtub – which will vary in price depending on factors like material, size and where you’re getting it from – a very rough estimate for installation alone, including some simple hacking and labour, will cost about $1,500 to $1,800 and above for most HDB flats.

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But like I said, this doesn’t include the fixture itself, any bathroom materials or project-specific works, such as exposing and extending concealed water pipes in newer HDB flats – which is something that’ll certainly add to the cost. Due to different installation requirements, the cost of having a free-standing bathtub won’t be the same as a built-in one too.

So, if you really want an exact figure, it’s best to crunch the numbers on your own or consult your interior designer for a detailed breakdown.

Bathtub or not, we can help you get your home renovated!

Whether you're keen on getting a bathtub or a regular shower for your new HDB home, let us know if you're looking for an interior designer and get quick, personalised renovation quotes or a virtual meet-up from five local firms for free!

Plus, when you engage an interior firm through our recommendation service, you'll be eligible to apply for the Qanvast Guarantee – a complimentary service that safeguards up to $50,000 of your renovation deposits.

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