Migrant worker allegedly blames “exploding tiles” on “air gaps and poor workmanship”

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More homeowners living in Housing Development Board (HDB) flats have reported losses due to “exploding” or “popping” floor tiles recently, causing concern among Singaporeans. Several cases were reported across the island, in Punggol, Sengkang, Bukit Panjang, Woodlands, Hougang and Jurong West, just over the past weekend alone.

One homeowner, Mr Bobin Thomas who lives in a flat at Block 638A Punggol Drive with his wife and two children, told reporters that his family awoke to their floor tiles “exploding”. The 35-year-old IT professional told Channel NewsAsia:

“The tiles started bending inwards one by one (like there was) an invisible force. It was like something you see in the movies. We called our children and got ourselves out of there.
‘”At the time, we thought that the building was about to collapse. It only became clear our unit was the only one affected when we saw that none of our neighbours were leaving.”

Mr Thomas later called HDB and was subsequently visited by a contractor who covered the affected house tiles with cardboard. The Thomas family are presently staying at a nearby apartment while their unit undergoes repairs.

Another homeowner who lives at Block 185, Jelebu Road at Bukit Panjang, Mr Zul Effandy, told the daily that he heard a sudden “cracking sound” from underneath the carpet in his living room while he was watching television with his wife. The alarmed couple backed away and later discovered that their floor tiles had “exploded”.

Yet another homeowner, Madam Ng Siew Hoon who lives at Jurong West experienced the same phenomenon and recounted: “Within five minutes, there was a loud explosion sound, like fireworks. Then all my floor (tiles) all cracked, from the door to the window. And the tiles in front of my toilet doors also. I was very scared and I called for help, called for my husband to come out and have a look.”

On Friday morning, a Yishun resident spotted some floor tiles at the lift landing of his block popping up. When the resident, local lecturer Mr Rahmat, returned home in the evening he found that the entire area had been barricaded.

Mr Rahmat saw migrant workers re-tiling the floor the next morning. When he enquired what the caused the tiles to pop up, the worker allegedly told him that it is due to “air gaps” and poor workmanship.

The explanation that poor workmanship may have caused this phenomenon matches what Singapore Renovation Contractors and Material Suppliers Association adviser Mr Tan Chim Hoon told reporters when he said that poor workmanship may be a possible cause of the cracks.

Mr Rahmat asked: “I’m not trying to create unnecessary alarm but what could be the actual cause of this…continuous wet weather and discovery of ancient fault lines in some areas in Singapore…Has the ground moved? Maybe I should just move out from Yishun?!”

Interestingly, this is not the first time homeowners have reported “exploding” floor tiles.

In October last year, an elderly homeowner, who has lived at his HDB flat on the 12th floor of 526 Hougang Ave 6 for the past 30 years, told the Chinese daily:

“I thought something dropped on the floor. When I went to the kitchen and turned on the light, I saw that the tiles had cracked. Some of the broken tiles had even ‘flown’ to the dining table and living room area.
“I hope that the relevant agency will pay attention to quality when it installs selects materials to be used. Lucky no one was hurt!”

Adding that all his tiles were original fittings, the 65-year-old known as Mr Tan revealed that he has covered up the cracked floor area until renovations can be completed:

“I have left the renovation to my children. When I saw news on floor tiles ‘exploding’ I never thought it would happen to me too.”

Just over a week before that, another elderly homeowner in Serangoon was shocked to see the floor tiles in his home cracking suddenly for no apparent reason.

The 67-year-old part-time taxi driver, Mr Teo, was shocked to hear explosive, firecracker-like sounds erupting from his bedroom on 7 October.

The sounds were so loud that he though that an earthquake had hit his home, before discovering that the sounds were caused by the floor tiles in his bedroom that somehow dislodged from the floor and cracked into several pieces. He claims to have seen the tiles dislodging with his own two eyes.

Adding that he hasn’t done any renovations to the place since he moved there with his family in 1989, Mr Teo said:

“I estimate that I’ll need to spend S$5000 on repairs. But I’m only a part-time taxi driver and I don’t earn much while my wife is a housewife. We’re worried that we won’t be able to afford the repairs. At this point of time, no choice we’ll have to cover the cracks with a carpet and hope no more tiles start ‘exploding.’”

Floor tiles suddenly crack with explosive sounds at yet another HDB flat, stunning elderly homeowner