A Singaporean woman and her mother were in for a surprise on Sunday (Mar. 21), when the kitchen floor tiles in their Housing and Development Board (HDB) flat began making popping sounds.
Within a few minutes, the tiles had cracked, leaving them with a mess in the kitchen.
Sounded like popcorn
Mothership reader Jessica Thian was at the flat that she co-owns with her mother, located at Block 146 Lorong 2 Toa Payoh, when the incident occurred on Sunday (Mar. 21).
They have owned the flat, which is on the 22nd floor, since the block was constructed about 16 years ago, Thian told Mothership. They had never had problems with the flooring before, which is the original flooring that was installed by HDB.
Sometime between noon and 2pm on Sunday, Thian's mother, who was watching television in the living room, heard some sounds coming from the kitchen.
"It sounded like someone was making popcorn at home," Thian said.
Thian said that after her mother alerted her to the noise, she grabbed her phone and began recording the incident.
Tiles cracked and shattered
In videos shared with Mothership, cracking sounds could be heard coming from the flooring. The tiles also appeared to be pushing against one another, become slightly elevated in the middle.
All of a sudden, two tiles near the edge of the floor cracked and shattered, the pieces flying a few centimetres into the air.
The video of the incident can be viewed here:
Happened several more times
In the several hours after the initial crack, Thian said, the cracking happened several other times, leaving the kitchen floor uneven and with broken pieces of tiling all over.
HDB unable to cover the replacement
After the incident, Thian contacted HDB via their online feedback form and commenting on their Facebook page, she said.
In an email reply seen by Mothership, Thian was informed by an HDB staff that the 15-year warranty coverage for the floor tiles had expired on Feb. 3, 2020, and thus HDB would not be able to help them cover their repairs.
She was told that flat owners are responsible for the internal maintenance of their flats, including repairing dislodged tiles, and that she would need to engage a contractor to replace the tiles.
Thian told Mothership that she plans to continue to ask HDB for support on the matter, and that she and her mother will escalate the issue to their Member of Parliament if necessary.
"Of course, I'm hoping that HDB [will] do something about it, otherwise we'll definitely have to seek help.
Because we just feel that it's so unfortunate and so unfair that the flat is relatively new, and we're experiencing this already."
Average of 247 cases of dislodged floor tiles per month in 2019
The issue of HDB floor tiles cracking and becoming dislodged is not a new one, nor is it uncommon.
In 2018, multiple HDB flats across Singapore — in Punggol, Sengkang, Bukit Panjang, Woodlands, Hougang and Jurong West — had floor tiles that popped and cracked spontaneously over the course of a few days.
In January 2020, then-Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said in a written Parliamentary reply that there were an average of 247 monthly cases of dislodged floor tiles in HDB flats in 2019.
Comparatively, there were 580 reported cases in December 2019, likely due to the colder weather and temperature fluctuations that month.
This could have caused floor tiles and the substrate to contract and expand at different rates, which could result in the loss of adhesion between the tiles and the substrate, said Wong.
Flat owners responsible for maintenance of flats: Desmond Lee
More recently, Minister for National Development Desmond Lee addressed the issue of cracking HDB floor tiles in another written Parliamentary reply on Feb. 1, 2021.
Lee reiterated HDB's policy that flat owners are responsible for the maintenance of their flats, but that HDB helps flat owners repair dislodged tiles originally provided by HDB for up to 15 years.
For flats that are more than 15 years old, flat owners need to engage their own contractors on a private basis to replace the tiles, he said.
Lee said that residents who need financial assistance to help with the cost of repairing dislodged tiles can seek assistance from grassroots organisations and the Community Development Councils (CDCs), and that HDB can help refer them to these community organisations.
"Over the past three years, CDCs have provided funding support to 146 households for repairs to dislodged tiles," he stated.
The HDB website also offers tips for the maintenance and replacement of floor tiles here.
Mothership has reached out to HDB for their statement, and will update this article accordingly.
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Top photos courtesy of Jessica Thian.