That Ten Days When My Toilets Were Out Of Bounds

I had a tough three weeks last month. Not exactly the toughest in life, but tough enough to remember for a while.

My neighbourhood underwent a home improvement programme put up by the government. For readers outside of Singapore, this is a programme rolled out for residents of public housing for apartments of a specific age. What happens is the residents would have a choice to have their sanitary facilities refurbished, along with other options, such as replacing the main door and gate, the rubbish hop, and installing accessories designed for ease of accessibility for the elderly and less mobile. If you are interested to find out more, you can check the public housing agency website.

The Start Of Things To Come

So back to my story. We received a letter in 2019 informing us that our block will go through the programme sometime in late 2019 or early 2020. After casting our vote (yes, we get to vote whether we want to be in or not, and there’s a minimum percentage of votes before the programme kicks in), we get to choose our options for the bathrooms.

This programme existed for at least 10 years, as far as I can recall. The offerings under the programme have improved over the years, with the improvements to materials and technology that had taken place. We now have choices over a eco-friendly wash basin, taps, wall tiles and even options for piping (copper or stainless steel) and so on.

Embarking On The Programme

Since every apartment has different configuration and layout, the contractors would visit the apartments at least a month ahead to recce and plan for the works. On the first day of the renovation period, the on-site supervisor would also work with the residents on the different aspects of the toilets that would be altered.

The downside of the programme is that you have to face some inconveniences during the period of renovation. From having no access to your apartment toilets to having to deal with dust and noise, to using communal bathrooms and adjusting your routine to factor in additional time needed to get ready. Imagine having to adjust for yourself, and getting your family to adjust too!

I heard of some people who opted to stay in another place (whether with their relatives, short rental options or hotels) during the period of renovation, to avoid some of these inconveniences. I also heard how some dealt with the inconveniences, such as sealing up sections of the apartments and engaging in regular acts of cleaning.

I must say that these inconveniences are very temporary (up to two weeks) and the contractors actually tried ways and means to minimize the hassle and disruption the works will bring about. There are rest and study rooms designed for residents, makeshift communal toilets for access and even a lot of prep work to reduce the dust and noise generated.

Laying rubber mat on the floor before moving heavy machinery in.

Getting Into The Thick And Thin

Day 1 will be the worst. That is when all the hacking and drilling takes place, creating a whole house of dust and debris. We did not stay in the apartment at all. It was just too dusty and noisy. The entire operations for Day 1 stopped only at about 6:30 pm, including cleaning up of the place.

I found out much later that the workers spent more time hacking my toilets because the floors were much more thicker. Apparently the contractors I engaged for renovation in the past poured a lot of cement mix to do the flooring. Contrast that to toilets in their original condition. One worker told me these toilets have much thinner floors, and easier to hack.

One trolley worth of toilet floor debris. There are about four trolley loads for two toilets.

I had gone through home renovation works before, so I was familiar with what goes on in setting up a toilet after hacking. Still, I am impressed with the checklist the contractors came up with to address the various steps in renovating toilets. It makes for good accountability too, to residents and also to the main contractors.

The checklist that workers, site supervisor and RTO have to complete daily.

As the whole family is staying in for the whole duration of the programme, we attempted to make the rest of the apartment as dust-proof as possible. My wife googled for information on how to dust-proof the house, and found this blog post very informative. We didn’t go the full extent described in the post though.

So the aftermath of Day 1? Dust is everywhere indeed. That we had put up dropsheets helped to reduce the amount of dust in the whole house. The cleaning service by the contractors is also helpful. Yet we will still have quite a bit of dust everywhere because the workers are hacking and drilling in different apartments everyday. Plus there will be some loose sediments at the hacked areas, no matter how much you clear them.

What the bathroom looks like after Day 1.

Day 2 onwards saw a series of fast paced activities throughout the days. Different work teams would enter in and out of the house to perform various functions. The first few tasks are to do with working on cement mix for the ceiling, walls and floor, as well as chamfering works. Since these need time to dry, teams come in at different times throughout the next two days.

The ceiling was smoothened, while parts of the sewage pipes were replaced.
Cement mix laid out to dry. I learnt from the workers that the proportion of sand used in ceiling and flooring is different.
The frame for toilet windows went up on Day 2. The panels were put up much later.

Work on the louvres was also in progress. The frame was put up on Day 2, while the panels came on at the last phase of the renovation. The same with the piping. The main skeleton was laid in the first few days, with a series of plastering and waterproofing done. The drain holes were put in last after tiling was completed.

We got used to the changes in routine fairly quickly. While we (both adults and children) took a bit more time to get ready for school/work in the first two days, we became more efficient from Day 3. It is amazing how people can adapt and adjust quite readily when we are forced to do so. The children especially adapt very easily. Even my youngest stopped waking up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom during this period.

Fast forward to the next few days. Over time the toilets become less of prison cells (as what my children describe) but more of sanitation facilities. Eventually the two toilets start to resemble what we associate as sanitary facilities.

Wall and floor tiles were laid carefully by the workers.
Home Improvement Programme has improved over the years. There are design options for home owners to choose.

Before I knew it, the 10 working day period for the toilet upgrading project was over. The workers were really seasoned in their roles. They also came in the right sequence too. After the tiling team was done with their work, water testing was done to check for leakages. Then the plumber came in to do the installation of the toilet bowl, wash basin and the various fittings.

Toilet fittings being put in.

The electrician came in thereafter, with two other workers popping in to clean up the toilets. The last workers to come in on Day 10 were the ones responsible to touch up on the paintwork and to remove the various protection materials from the apartment.

It has been a tiring 10 days for the whole family, because we have to make adjustments to our routines. I guess the outcome is worth it. We now have new toilet facilities and no more pipe leakages.

In my next post I will write about my reflection on what I learnt from this episode. I picked up some good learning points here.

Ever had a similar experience like mine? How did you go through that experience?

5 thoughts on “That Ten Days When My Toilets Were Out Of Bounds

  1. That is very cool.
    Many years ago we renovated our kitchen and two bedrooms. It took a month or so and they plastered the walls and ceilings.
    We only had mattresses on the floor. When we left for the day we stacked them up and covered them with a tarp.
    We ate out a lot and had a small cabinet to put the kid’s breakfast cereal in.
    When they were plastering, everything was damp for two or three days.
    You kind of get used to the inconvenience. But not really.


  2. I know what you mean. First there’s inconvenience, then you get accustomed to it, but still wish to have the original. Then when you have everything done, you sort of look back at the transition times with some degree of fondness.

    Liked by 1 person

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