BTO Service Yard (Part 1) – Windows & Grilles or Outdoor Blinds?
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2017 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness, and with my review of roller blinds’ installation. Refer to BTO Service Yard (Part 2) for layout and storage ideas for service yard.
Windows and Grilles
With so many homeowners installing windows and grilles at their BTO service yards, why doesn’t HDB install them instead? Is it because of cost savings for themselves? Or does it not matter to you? In fact, you wonder why there’s a need for windows and grilles at the service yard. Below are a few reasons of why homeowners like to install.
Common Reasons for Installation
I gathered these reasons from snooping around online forums and drawing from my own experience.
- Block the wind from blowing out your cooking fire,
- Block the rain from splashing in,
- Grilles provide additional space to hang your clothes or hang broom, mop and dustpan with hooks,
- Prevent burglars from climbing in or children from climbing out,
- Allow privacy and not peering eyes, and
- Prevent birds from flying in and out with your food or stuff.
- Almost everyone is installing them.
Image credit: artistroom.com.sg
Our reasons for not installing
My husband and I were very set on doing windows and grilles for the service yard, just because everyone else is doing so. However, we asked ourselves, “Do we really need the windows and grilles?” We mulled over the question, considered our needs and preferences. In the end, we installed outdoor blinds for our service yard instead.
You may ask, “Aren’t the reasons above good enough for windows and grilles?” Well, let me bring you through our thought process.
Other than windows, we can also close the service yard door to block the birds from entering or block the wind from blowing out our cooking fire.
As for the rain, HDB has built a sloping shelter at the top to shield away some drizzling rain. Our blinds will then block out more rain splashes. In case of torrential rain and wind, we got waterproof cover to protect the most expensive item in the service yard, the washing machine.
We can’t have the best of everything and so chose to live with a bit of rain splashing in. Balconies experience the same rain problem, but you don’t see as many people putting up windows and grilles to block their balcony view. And our service yard’s view is pretty good. 🙂
Blockages from Sliding Windows
If you notice, most service yards have sliding windows for some reason. And with a sliding window, part of the indoor clothes rack will always be blocked from the sun and the wind. This is not appealing to me because I love to bake my clothes under the hot sun.
True, I can still hang our clothes on the rack mounted outside on the service yard wall. But just imagine, I have to slide the windows left and right to stretch and reach out to hang on the whole spectrum of the poles. After a while, I would very likely leave the windows open, because that’s what happen at our rented place. 😛 What’s more, we couldn’t bear to have the window and grilles block out the good wind and nice view.
Image credit: www.kahhuat.com.sg/products/blinds
Burglars and Privacy
I don’t think HDB will design the service yard to be burglar friendly. From what I observed, there’s usually no ledge for the burglar to step on and climb into the yard from the corridor. Moreover with us on a relatively high floor, I doubt a burglar will risk his life for HDB stuff. Even if he were to make it to the service yard, the bi-fold door to the kitchen might be locked.
I know for certain flat units, the service yard is exposed for all to see, e.g. yard facing a corridor. In this case, one might prefer to have windows to shut out prying eyes. We have no issue with privacy because our service yard doesn’t face the corridor or neighbouring block.
Grilles and Children
There are families that chose to install only grilles and not windows. Many recommended us to install grilles since we were expecting a child during the renovation period. However, we decided to wait till the child is old enough to walk before considering. Come to think of it, I grew up in a high floor apartment with no window grilles too. 😛
We also wanted to buy some time and enjoy a clear good view. Moreover, grilles are expensive, and we wanted to lighten our renovation cost by deferring the cost. Lastly, we didn’t want the grilles to start their wear and tear process until we actually need them. So when the time comes, we will have brand new grilles instead of old ones.
Image Credit: www.sgdigitallock.com.sg/window-restrictor
Soon, we came across another way to keep children safe – window restrictor. We got ours from SG Digital Lock at a baby fair. However with no windows at our service yard, this doesn’t help too. But since we are using this restrictor for the whole house, it doesn’t make economical sense to install grilles just for the service yard. So now we have to be really diligent to close the service yard door or to “train” our baby not to go to the danger zone.
Other reasons for grilles could be to hang stuff and ward of potential intruders, if any. Then again, grilles can be a hindrance when you try to hang your clothes outside.
Just so you know, you’ll need to get an installation permit from HDB to install grilles. I heard that for certain BTO projects, HDB will only allow you to install grilles and not windows. There are also limited grille types and patterns allowed. Here’s a useful reference: www.hdb.gov.sg/cs/infoweb/residential/living-in-an-hdb-flat/renovation/window-works
Image credit: littlewinniesworld.blogspot.sg/2013/02/path-to-hdb-tai-tai-curtains-blinds
There are various kinds of blinds available, but the blinds for service yard should be able to withstand weather elements. There are not many online reviews or chatter about roller blinds for service yard. From the little I gathered for balconies, people usually choose bamboo blinds or outdoor roller blinds.
We are more inclined to install outdoor roller blinds over the bamboo ones for our service yard. It’s easier to roll up and down, easier to maintain and clean than bamboo blinds, and apparently more long lasting.
UPDATE: After 7 months
We have installed outdoor roller blinds for our service yard and lived with it for 7 months! So how is it?
Let’s talk a bit about our search for a vendor first. In order to negotiate a better price, one will naturally get the same vendor to do the whole house, including the service yard. However, our curtain vendor is from Malaysia and their outdoor blinds system seemed unsafe. That’s because their roller blinds doesn’t have the wind guide (see photo above) that most Singapore vendors would recommend for balconies and service yards. Perhaps the Malaysia counterpart underestimated the wind strength in Singapore.
Hence we found a separate vendor, H.M. Deco Pte Ltd**, to install for us. Other than the stainless steel wind guide, they helped us to supply and install Korea heavy duty spring chain system. With 5-year warranty and material of the blinds in the average range, the total cost works out to be S$388 (2017).
Needless to say, this price is more expensive than our curtain vendor’s quote. The addition of the wind guide bumped up the cost by quite a bit and we still got to account for the trips made by HM Deco for measurement and installation for only the service yard. Moreover, we reckoned that the blinds material and spring chain system could also be cheaper from China instead of HM Deco’s Korea.
**Updated Aug 2020: HM Deco’s website has now defunct. I’m not sure if they are still operating. You can contact them at 6547 1375 to check. Address: 845 Geylang Road #01-25/51 Tanjong Katong Complex.
So far, we are loving our outdoor blinds! As compared to my previous experience with windows and grilles, this is less of a hindrance when hanging clothes. Moreover with a baby, there’s laundry hanging to dry most of the time. This translates to having to open the windows all day, and even night, for natural instead of indoor drying. I always think that clothes will have this musky, wet clothes smell from indoor drying.
At least for roller blinds, I can pull it down during the night to block out potential rain drizzle and still have air flowing in to dry my clothes on the indoor retractable rack. And once in a while when I don’t have laundry on the the rack, the blinds can act as a sunscreen against the morning sun. Or we could roll it up to enjoy the great scenery!
In any case, we would prefer to open the windows all the time for the wind to enter our unit. This is because whenever we close our service yard door, the wind will die down a bit. Speaking of wind, good that we got the wind guide. We get super strong winds! So if we didn’t get the wind guide, the blinds would be violently flapping in. And my guess, be spoilt easily too.
So with windows open all the day, they might slowly become a white elephant.
Of course there are downsides with our roller blinds. You can’t roll down the blinds completely to touch the ledge because of the wind guide. There will be always be a tiny gap at the bottom.
Moreover, with torrential wind and rain, the blinds will be blown into a C-shape as it travels up the wind guide. So there will be quite a huge gap from the ledge to the bottom of the blinds. As a result, much rain water gets into our service yard. But this occurs only once in a while, and we could live with it – having our floor, laundry bags, cleaning stuff, and dirty clothes become a little wet while our washing machine is protected by a waterproof cover.
One more thing, on a very windy day, we can’t shut out the strong wind with a window, and so our stuff in the service yard would be blown in a mess.
We don’t regret installing blinds, at least for now. It all boils down to your needs and preferences. If you want to keep service yard really dry, then this is not an option for you. But if you love to take in the wind and scenery, you could consider. And for those interested to get the same colour as our outdoor blinds, it is code 1006 (light grey).
What’s your decision? Or do you have other concerns? Share with me in the comments section below. 🙂