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What You Can (and Cannot) Do with Your HDB Household Shelter

January 26, 2021
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Can you modify your shelter’s door? How about knock it down? And just what’s that metallic disc at the top?

If there’s something that most, if not all, of us do while living in an HDB flat, it’s to use the household shelter as a storeroom. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, given that maximising every square inch of your home is the wise thing to do. But honestly? What most of us probably wish to do would be to tear down the entire structure for a larger living area/entryway/kitchen.

Bukit Batok West by Free Space Intent

Interior Firm: Free Space Intent

Needless to say, that’s an ill-advised step to take, not because of the penalties involved, but due to the fact that a household shelter could be the last thing keeping you alive during a wartime emergency. So, with the importance of these spaces in mind, what else can you (or rather cannot) do with your home’s household shelter? We let HDB MyNiceHome tell you more!

About modern-day HDB flat household shelters

Before delving into renovation do-and-don’ts involving household shelters, here are some facts about these structures:

Renovate HDB Household Shelter Bomb Shelter Dos and Don'ts
  1. Household shelters only first started appearing in HDB flats in 1996 due to building code regulations that took effect in the same year – that’s why you don’t see them in HDB resale flats, which are more than 25 years old (in 2021).

  2. There are many reasons why you shouldn’t use your household shelter as an entertainment room but do know that it comes with a range of utility points (power sockets, telephone points and TV/radio signal outlets) that’ll keep you in contact with the outside world.

Where are household shelters located in HDB flats?

If you’ve just balloted for an HDB flat, the best way to know where a household shelter will be located in your future home would be to simply take a look at the floor plan. Typically, household shelters are located in one of these three places: near the main entrance, beside the kitchen, or along the hallway leading into the bedrooms.

a. Example of a ‘main entrance’ household shelter

Punggol Bayview by Couple Abode

Interior Firm: Couple Abode

Renovate HDB Household Shelter Bomb Shelter Dos and Don'ts

Image Source: HDB

b. Example of a ‘kitchen’ household shelter

Keat Hong Link by DM+

Interior Firm: DM+

Renovate HDB Household Shelter Bomb Shelter Dos and Don'ts

Image Source: HDB

c. Example of a ‘hallway’ household shelter

Bukit Batok West Avenue 6 by Project Guru

Interior Firm: Project Guru

Renovate HDB Household Shelter Bomb Shelter Dos and Don'ts

Image Source: HDB

For position-specific ideas for your flat’s household shelter, check out this article for some useful inspiration!

Are there any renovation works that cannot be carried out on a household shelter?

The short answer: Yes. The long answer: Basically, you aren’t allowed to knock down, hack or drill the internal and external walls of a household shelter indiscriminately as doing so will could compromise your protection against shrapnel and other flying debris from an explosion.

Sengkang West Road by Carpenters 匠

Interior Firm: Carpenters 匠

The even longer answer (from SCDF):

  1. Modifying, removing or tampering with the shelter’s door isn’t allowed. The same goes for the ventilation sleeve (the aforementioned round stainless steel disc above the shelter), its rubber gaskets and the steel bolts that hold the sleeve in place.

  2. If you plan to install fixtures (e.g. shelves) inside of your bomb shelter, non-removable screws cannot be used. Only removable screws on non-metallic inserts are allowed and they should not be inserted deeper than 50mm. If you aren’t certain about this, just stick to loose storage fixtures!

  3. Although the laying of floor tiles (using cement mortar) inside a household shelter is allowed, homeowners are prohibited from laying a second layer of tiles upon the existing layer. Take note that the total thickness of floor finishes and screed shouldn’t exceed 50mm as well.

What am I allowed to do with my flat’s household shelter?

Per official guidelines, one thing that homeowners are allowed to do is install fixtures and features on the exterior of their household shelters. So, some of your options include:

1. Creating a facade for your household shelter

This renovation idea ensures that your household shelter will blend seamlessly with the rest of the surroundings. You may also wish to turn the entire stretch of wall into a feature that’ll draw your eye to the furthest point of a room/area, which creates the effect of a longer, more spacious space.

Sumang Lane by Project Guru
Sumang Lane by Project Guru

Interior Firm: Project Guru

2. Covering up a household shelter’s door with wallpaper

There are hardly any downsides to decorating your household shelter with wallpaper – it’s an idea that works especially well with household shelters that are located within a small kitchen/tight hallway as it doesn’t take up extra space. Plus, it’s guaranteed to bring a pop of colour to your home!

Bukit Batok West by Free Space Intent

Interior Firm: Free Space Intent

3. Installing a thin ‘second’ door to cover up your household shelter

This idea offers the best of both worlds. On one hand you get to hide your flat’s household shelter completely and on the other, it won’t chew up too much space. For easier opening/closing, consider opting for a plywood door as a lightweight fixture!

Renovate HDB Household Shelter Bomb Shelter Dos and Don'ts

Interior Firm: Ovon Design


This article was adapted from MyNiceHome, HDB’s official website for all things related to home buying and renovation in Singapore. Check out the original article here.

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