Some Singaporeans have come under fire by HDB, for illegally adding mezzanine floors to their flats. But what are the exact rules behind these, and what should you know before you tell an Interior Designer to go ahead?
What’s a mezzanine floor?
Mezzanine is an Italian word that means “middle”. A mezzanine floor is so called because it’s in-between two floors, and is not counted as an official floor in the building. These floors are often very big, internal balconies (it’s rare for them to completely cover the space between two floors).
Mezzanine floors are commonplace in industrial and office properties – they maximise space, and act as observation decks for managers and supervisors. In residential units, they’re rare outside of the largest condo-units – you need a lot of distance between floor to ceiling to install one, so it’s surprising that HDB flat owners would try it.
Can you actually have one?
For the most part, no. HDB has specified in the (above linked) Straits Times report that:
“Flat owners are not permitted to extend the floor area of their flat by covering over void areas, as such extensions may result in additional load on the structure and compromise the structural integrity of the building“.
However, there are some exceptions to the rule. According to some contractors we spoke to, some mezzanine constructs have been approved by HDB – but these are very small; many of such approved “floors” are just big ledges, not meant for you to walk around on. They often have a specific purpose, such as being a ledge to tuck the speakers for an elaborate sound surround system.
So approval is possible; but you can probably forget about mezzanine floors that are big enough to become added living space.
That’s not fair; what’s the harm in having a mezzanine floor?
The contractors pointed out three main concerns with such floors:
The first is the amount of structural stress. Mezzanine floors permanently add weight to walls of your HDB flat. Those walls are, you may notice, also holding up all the other flats above you. One contractor explained that mezzanine floors can also be a problem in semi-detached houses, for the same weight reasons.
The second reason is fire safety. If a mezzanine floor catches fire, the weakened structure can collapse on the residents below. Even if that doesn’t kill you, SCDF will have a much harder time pulling you out when there’s several thousand kilos on top of you.
(We bet that’s great news for factory and office workers under those huge mezzanine floors…)
The third factor is just stuff falling off. Mezzanine floors require proper barriers, lest some careless person steps over the edge and pratas himself on the living room floor below. There’s also the potential danger of small objects – like coffee mugs or books – being knocked off the mezzanine floor and onto someone below.
In short, there are just too many issues for HDB to freely allow mezzanine floors. And no matter what your contractor or interior designer tells you, make sure HDB gives you permission before you attempt to install one.
Not only can you be fined up to $5,000, you’ll have to pay to take it all down again.
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