8 Steps to a Great Renovation
Get your renovation to go as planned with this guide
Tempting as it is to immediately think about space configuration and wall colours, pause and take a moment to ask yourself what you hope to gain from renovating. Is it lifestyle benefits like more space or financial return on investment? This will help determine the extent of your renovation.
Next, survey your home, especially if it is a resale, for items that need repair or replacing (old wiring, leaky pipes, broken window frames etc.). Is your timeframe and budget realistic? Do you have money for unexpected costs? What permits do you need? What are you allowed to do?
Condo owners should check with their Managing Agent (MA) on works that need approval as regulations vary from condo to condo. You may be required to place a renovation deposit ranging from $500 to $2,000.
Works on landed property that do not require Building and Construction Authority (BCA) approval are laid out at their website.
In addition, get in touch with the Urban Redevelopment Authority,
Ministry of Environment and Water Resources (for sewerage and drainage) and National Parks Board (felling of trees if your property is within the Tree Conservation Area).
This is the fun research stage (the other research part comes a bit later and covers the utilitarian and technical) where you come up with what you like/love/must-have. Be very specific about style and themes as one person’s concept of ‘contemporary’ can vary greatly from another person’s. It’s useful to have a visual representation by gathering examples (your Houzz ideabooks, magazines and fabric/material samples). Visit show flats, furniture showrooms and friends’ homes to take photos of things you like.
Go into any first meeting with any interior design firm having at least seen their online portfolio. Don’t be shy about asking about their experience or accreditation. Enquire if there are on-going projects you can visit to check on their workmanship and ask about their insurance should there be an accident on your property during construction.
An ID will have a checklist covering your needs and preferences, scope of the project, budget and timeline. If you wish to incorporate eco, child or elder-friendly features, voice them out. The more information you give the interior designer, the more likely it is that you will get the result you seek.
Armed with your house plans and brief, the interior designer will take about a week or two to produce a design plan with 3D drawings. Discuss and fine-tune the design.
How to clearly communicate your design ideas to an interior designer
Most designers will handle the project on a turnkey basis i.e. hire the contractors and supervise the renovation. Their design fee could be a fixed rate based on the type of home, based on square footage. The quotation or costings should be as detailed and specific as possible. Every item to be demolished, erected, built or fabricated should be itemised down to its material, dimension and where possible, accompanied by a drawing. Instead of a vague “lay 5m x 4m solid wood flooring”, get them to be more specific: “lay and polish 4m x 5m Asian walnut wood planks (90mm width; 300mm to 1200mm length) with 50mm skirting”.
He/she will also produce a project schedule that outlines the time frames and milestone dates for delivering your home on time. Take the time early on to sort out the details early and you won’t make hasty decisions about the ‘invisibles’ like lighting, power points, doors and skirting profiles.
When it comes to picking materials, hardware, appliances, furniture and soft furnishings, you could go the personal shopper way and entrust your designer to make the selection that brings the design to best light. If you prefer to pick your own, consider brand reputation, warranty, spare parts and service and maintenance. Some choices will be easy; others will not. Call upon your designer for advice.
A designer’s input is very useful when it comes to sanitaryware says Yvonne Tan of Vegas Interior Design: “Some water closets are designed to minimise leakage but may be a little more costly and should always be considered if the budget allows. Basin material and finishing impact the ease of maintanence.”
Three months may have elapsed since you made major decisions and now that works are underway, you may have a change of mind or seen a new material/colour/design that you simply must have. Bear in mind though that it’s not just the direct material cost that will be tallied but the additional labour, admin and any other indirect costs. No homeowner wants to be hit by a bigger bill.
Mark Chen of Artistroom incorporates clauses in the contract for two to three major changes. Some firms do not allow changes for items that have already been fabricated or installed.
“Agree on every work stage together before moving on to the next stage of the renovation process for a smooth and straightforward renovation,” he advises.
Renovations never progress as fast as you think they should as deliveries get delayed, workers fall ill, things don’t fit as planned, wet weather slows down work etc. Many years ago in my first renovation, wood plank flooring was laid over cement screed that hadn’t cured properly and the result was badly warped planks a week after installation. They had to be ripped out and the cement re-screeded which was a massive setback.
That said, HDB renos have to be completed within three months for new flats and one month for existing flats.
You’re itching to move in but be patient as your designer does his/her inspection before a joint inspection with you. Take your time to run through every item by walking around barefoot, opening and closing doors, drawers and windows, running built-in appliances and air conditioners etc. Some flaws only surface after you’ve moved in – drawers that stick, poor quality hinges, hairline cracks etc.
At this point, Tan of Vegas Interior Design hands her client two letters: “The handover letter states that the renovation works have been accepted by the homeowner in a condition deemed completed and free from defects. A warranty letter lays out the warranty period pre-determined during the contractual stage.”
Just before handover, a general cleaning, including an acid or chemical wash over tile work, will be carried out. Inform your town council that the renovation has been completed.
Pat yourself on the back for a job well done and invite your design team to the housewarming celebrations!
Agencies to know
Building and Construction Authority (BCA) Find detailed pointers on how to identify good quality materials and workmanship on walls, floors and ceilings, plus a listing of trained air-con installers and approved window contractors.
Housing Development Board (HDB) Look here for guidelines for building work, Registered Renovation Contractors and more.
Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) Info on renovating landed and conservation properties including a self-evaluation tool for what’s allowed and what’s not for Additions and Alterations.
CASE The Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) has a Standard Renovation Contract (including a payment schedule) you can download.
Energy Market Authority Search for licensed electrical and gas workers.
What have you learned from your reno that you would like to share?