Exploding HDB Tiles: Why you should be concerned

The recent spate of ‘exploding’ or ‘popping’ HDB tiles has been making its rounds in our local news media sources. Earlier this week, you might have seen photos such as these circulating around:

or maybe such videos:


Generally, reports are that tiles pop out over a period of 5-15min. However, ‘instantaneous’ pops have been recorded down as such. 

Just in the first half of January, over 700 cases of popped tiles have been reported. HDB recently released a statement of having on average 2000 popped tiles a year. Doing the math, the extent of popped tiles is currently over 4 times more than normal!

So why have our HDB tiles been popping? Is it due to the ridiculously cold weather last week? Shoddy workmanship from contractors? Or is it, as some social media experts claim, ancient fault lines in Singapore acting up?

what? fault lines??? on a side note, yes, Singapore does have ancient fault lines. Probably not of any significant concern in your lifetime, though. 

Well, while correlation to the recent bizarre weather may not imply causality, the sheer scale of faults suggests that the popping is likely due to the culmination of several recent factors. However, several industry experts, contractors and civil engineers, have spoken out on the issue, and the largely agreed on conjecture is that the root cause is likely the adhesive cement screed used under the tiles.

The cold weather and rainfall last week led to unprecedented low temperatures, temperature fluctuations, and high humidity for an extended time. This in turn led to excessive moisture and contracting in the adhesive beneath tiles, resulting in excess stress and popping.

Expansion and contraction from heating…throwback to primary school science

However, poor workmanship, or perhaps budget constraints in construction, have a part to play as well.

stock photo, garden, park, residential-district, residential, housing, block-of-flats, public-housing

Orh hor…never build homes properly

Air pockets in cement – as a result of poor mixing of sand, cement and water, can eventually burst. This process usually takes years to happen, but can be exacerbated by extreme contraction and expansion caused by fluctuating temperatures.

An example of another bubble waiting to burst. 

Only since June 2015, HDB deemed it compulsory for tilers to use the more expensive pre-packed industrial standard cement. So, if your home was built before then, there is a possibility of shoddy work under your feet.

Fortunately, HDB has agreed on offering goodwill repairs for tiles up till 15 years when it was laid. In the meantime, if your tiles happen to pop suddenly, it is best to be wary of the sharp broken edges of popped tiles and remove the broken tiles ASAP. You should also cover the affected area with thick cardboard and paste it down.

Well, at least in light of the recent Jakarta building collapse, perhaps Singaporeans are pretty well-off after all.

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