Like any other new homeowners, Cheng Wee Hong and his new neighbours eagerly began renovation works when they first moved into their new build-to-order (BTO) flats at Treelodge@Punggol late last year.
The initial excitement, however, turned out to be short-lived. Works on their new walls are leaving bigger holes than originally intended, chunks of wall were breaking off and requiring extensive touch-ups with plaster.
“What’s the deal with it? I can’t even do a clean drill-through like our former HDB flat,” Wee Hong’s neighbour, Punggol.org forum user ‘Deacon’ laments.
FerroLite: An Eco-friendly Wall Alternative
The difference lies in the implementation of a new, patented wall structure in all BTO projects, called FerroLite, which is made from ferrocement, a material which uses 20 percent less sand than traditional cement.
According to an HDB spokesperson, the “FerroLite Partition Wall is a hard and robust wall system that provides internal wall partitioning in residential units”.
It is also described as an “eco-friendly partition wall system which functions as a typical partition wall for the bedrooms”, and is essentially made with two concrete panels which are separated by a sound insulation core, secured to ceilings or beams with steel angle plates.
Prior to implementing it in all BTO projects, the HDB has put FerroLite through “rigorous” testing in an “accredited test lab in Singapore”. The new walls reportedly met the performance requirements of the “series of stringent performance tests, including heavy impact loadings and wall fixtures loading (such as mounting frames and cabinet loading)”.
Punggol.org forum user, ‘Deacon’, who was with his contractor when the workers were drilling holes during air-conditioning and gas piping installations, witnessed “a whole chunk” of FerroLite coming off during simple drill-through work.
Other forum users too had such unpleasant encounters, even during elementary works like curtain and television mounting bracket installation. Some even tell of deep dents made in the wake of accidental bumps with photo frames.
According to the HDB, such issues “may not be related to the durability of the walls”. Instead, it advises flat owners to follow its renovation guidelines before beginning works on the “unique design of the FerroLite walls”, and to “engage a HDB Registered Renovation Contractor” that’s familiar with these guidelines.
It isn’t known if these forum members engaged HDB-approved contractors for their renovation works.
‘Deacon’ read the guidelines and wasn’t quite impressed with what he saw, especially the advice “not to use excessive force when carrying out drilling works on the partition wall”.
“What would you have expected me to do? Tickle the wall?” he responds sarcastically.
The design of FerroLite Walls is meant to enhance sound insulation; something previously only possible by thickening the conventional brick wall, hence maximising floor area whilst minimising the amount of raw material required to construct walls.
This is done by bolting two individual steel-reinforced ferroconcrete panels together to “form a partition wall with a sound insulation core”, to “enhance the sound insulation properties of the wall”. Services, like cabling and wiring, can also be concealed within this sound insulation core for a cleaner, neater look.
“The walls sound hollow when knocked and they seem to transmit sound vertically, very efficiently,” he notes.
Fellow Punggol.org forum user, ‘wbucket’, understands the purported cosmetic benefits of the new FerroLite walls.
“This wall is supposed to feel solid even though there’s a big hole in between to hide the wires and water pipes so that the final home doesn’t have ugly trunking and piping running around,” he acknowledges.
“But big chunks breaking off during minor works does make it look sub-standard. Perhaps there are some quality issues with the pre-fabricated wall?” ‘wbucket’ questions.
The HDB has yet to receive any formal complaints about the quality of the FerroLite walls and promises to investigate any complaints regarding the FerroLite walls. All homeowners encountering such problems are encouraged to contact the HDB directly with the relevant details.
Are you a new BTO homeowner who’s been facing issues with the FerroLite walls? Join our forum discussion on FerroLite!