Welcome to your all-in-one complete guide to renovating. Whether you’re looking at a new BTO, a resale flat, condominium or even a landed property, this guide will cover the broad principals of what you should look out for and what you can expect when renovating.
The entire process of renovating can seem daunting, with so many aspects to consider and so many moving parts, how do you make sure your home becomes the home you’ve dreamed of (for the price you hope for).
Well, in this guide, we’ll be breaking down the entire process from your purchase to when you’re finally moving into your home, so you know exactly what to look out for every step of the way.
After You’ve Purchased
Purchasing the property is the first step to owning your dream home (Click here to know more about choosing your home), now that you have the place, its time to start planning what to do next with the space.
If you’ve purchased a BTO from HDB, the good news (or bad news depending on how you look at it) is that you have a couple of years until your home is ready for key collection, giving you lots of time to slowly plan out how you want to execute your home. If you’ve purchased a resale property, the timeline can be a lot shorter and down to a few months before you officially take over your new home. (For guide to selecting the best renovator, click here )
Planning the Renovation
With whatever time you have between buying the property and when you start to do work on it, you first need to plan out what you’re going to do with the place. And this all starts with planning the renovation. The next few sections will cover the finer details of this, but looking at a macroscopic picture, how do you want your new home to look like? (For tips on what to consider before renovating, click here )
Well to start, you’ll need to know what you have exactly, and that means getting the plans of the home, so you known what you have to work with.
If you’ve purchased a new property, whether private or from HDB, the developer would usually release the model floor plans which you can get access to. For resale properties, fret not because you can get the full floor plan of the property from the Singapore Land Authority Website. Information from the floor plans will let you know information like which walls can be hacked and where the support beams of the home are.
If you can, we also suggest playing around with models of the home. While you’d probably still go to an interior designer or a contractor, building a model of your own can be a great tool for you to plan and view your ideal home (and layout) in a three-dimensional model. This also makes it easier for you when you are communicating your plans and ideas to your ID or contractor.
Some of the easier to use tools for this are programmes like Sweet Home 3D, Planner 5D or Home Design 3D. Sweet Home 3D is a free computer program which has thousands of pre-designed models for furniture and items, while Planner 5D and Design 3D are mobile apps which can be used on-the-go. This may take a bit more effort, but it can be all worthwhile as it can speed up the process with your interior designer (since they will have a clearer picture of what you want).
ID or Contractor?
Something that always comes up when talking about renovation. Who does what, and which one do you need?
A contractor is usually the one who is building and constructing during the renovation, they’ll take the plans and build according to them. A contractor may not be trained in certain parts of the renovation, such as electrical wiring or plumbing, and may outsource these aspects of the construction to subcontractors (or you may have to find your own subcontractors for these parts).
An interior designer is something like a concierge service for your renovation. They will start the renovation process with you by discussing and designing your new home, giving you renderings and mock-ups of the finished product. They will then liase with their own contractors and subcontractors and coordinate the work as it goes along. If you’ve found your own contractors or subcontractors for specific parts of the home, some IDs will also help coordinate the work with them too. But with all of these services, you can expect that you’ll be paying them a cut for their work too.
So, we suggest that if you’re just touching up a little, go for a contractor since its more straightforward, and this will cost less. But, if you’re looking to remodel the home, or you’re renovating a brand-new home, an interior designer will save you lots of trips down and will oversee the entire process for you.
How do you Pick One?
Reviews, pictures and advertisements are the most common ways interior designers reach out to potential customers nowadays. With increasingly aggressive social media campaigns, you could be scrolling down your feed and suddenly have one of their ads pop up. It’s important for you to do your research first before committing to any one ID or contractor. (To view ID’s reviews and portfolios, click here )
A few things to consider would namely be price, materials and reputation. You can try shopping around for commitment-free quotes, usually these will give you a ball-park estimate of how much you will be spending, and a few details on the materials they are offering. ( To get free quotations click here)
Reputation is a scary thing, some very aggressively marketed companies can have lots of reviews in a short span of time, and not all of them may be real. CaseTrusts comes in useful here, a simple search in their directory can let you know if this is a reputable and reliable business. It also makes it easier to mediate should there be any issues in the future. For HDB renovations, check HDB’s website for HDB approved contractors.
Financing – Renovation Loans
You’ve already shelled out thousands (and possibly hundreds of thousands) for your new home, and now you’ve got to pay even more before you can even move in. If you’re a little strapped on money, you could consider getting a renovation loan. Most major banks would offer loans, and if you have an existing bank loan for your home, you could secure even better interest rates on your renovation loan too.
With loan amounts up to $20,000, and monthly repayments of less than $400, taking a loan could be the ideal way to ease up cashflow. Plus with a cash injection, you won’t have to skimp on the renovation, after all, if you’re looking to stay for more than 10 years, you’d want to make sure you’re using good quality materials for a comfortable stay.
Styles and Tips
Now onto the fun part of the entire process, planning the home from door to balcony. We’ll take a look at some commonly overlooked areas, and places you’d want to zoom in onto when you’re planning how you want your home to come out looking.
All-included Renovation Packages – Are they worth it?
Probably the most common among home renovation companies, All-inclusive home renovation packages. Whether it’s for a BTO or a resale flat, most ID companies would tout their own fully inclusive packages with phrases like ‘move in condition’ or ‘One stop purchase’, making the renovation process seem cheap and easy.
Sometimes the deals seem too good to be true, and often times it’s because they are too good to be true. Before hopping onto one of these packages, have a look at exactly what they offer, some may offer the bare minimum for a home with lower quality materials and products. While it may seem like a really good offer at the time, saving you time and money, don’t forget that your home is somewhere you’d want to feel comfortable in, so don’t just go for the cheapest option all the time.
We suggest that you have a close look at the details of these packages (and the fine print), or if possible, even some of the items and furniture they’re offering in the package. Some packages may even include things that you don’t even need, like additional storage and shelving, or use cheaper sofas and beds. Alternatively, you could use these plans as a base to discuss other options like swapping out some furniture for upgrades or other items.
A new BTO from HDB without the optional component scheme (OCS) will have flooring done for just the bathrooms. The choice of the OCS will be made available to you before key collection (during flat selection or signing of lease agreement), the scheme will mean your flat will also have the flooring for the kitchen, living rooms and bedrooms completed as well, usually tiles for the first two and vinyl for the last.
If you aren’t too picky about flooring, opting in for the OCS saves you one less thing to worry about since HDB will take care of it for you. Opting out however doesn’t mean you will definitely save money (since you’ll still need to pay for the flooring to be done eventually). But if you’re sure you want another, or a specific, type of flooring for your home, such as parquet or marble, then opting out of the scheme will make sense.
Vinyl flooring is cheap and relatively durable, the waterproof top makes it stain resistant and relatively hard to damage.
Tiles can be used to make a pattern or design which can make the floor unique and stand out.
Marble, quartz and granite flooring are great options for a more luxurious look and feel. They can get slippery when cold so may not be the best for older people or small children. Marble will also need to be treated and sealed regularly.
Parquet is beautiful, the wood stays warm and comfortable on the feet and given proper care, can last for years. It is more easily damaged given its soft nature, and improper care can lead to water damage and cracking.
Given the design and blueprints of the floor plan, you would know exactly where you can hack, and where you can’t touch. Creating half-walls for shared spaces like the kitchen or study room can make them look and feel even bigger.
Another option is to construct false walls, relatively important in 5-room flats where you can turn the extra space into another room altogether.
What colour you paint your walls will ultimately determine the theme and feel of the home. Because they cover so much space in the house, their sheer volume makes it such that the walls have the biggest impact on your home. Usual colours that go with most homes include pastels, neutrals and earthy tones.
If you’ve got a more exciting and energetic personality, you can consider brighter and more vibrant colours like deep reds, blues, or even lush green for that oasis in the city vibe.
Feature walls are a popular choice these days. These walls can have anything on them from a 37” clock face, to a collection of photographs, to even a simple geometric design. The idea of these walls was to create a focal point in the room which will attract attention and be a conversation starter. So, the best thing you could do is to put something that you’d want to talk about on that feature wall, that way you’ll never get sick of it and it’ll always be something you’re excited about seeing.
Built-in or off the rack?
The question of built in or off the rack furniture is a very typical one. With built-in furniture, you get a lot more customization and flexibility in style and design. From specifications like colour to material and even size, you control every bit of the furniture. But these usually cost more, with contractors usually charging per foot, an entire custom-built shelf can easily cost you a few hundred or even a thousand dollars.
Off the rack furniture from places like Ikea, Hipvan or Courts can be a cheaper and easier option. These won’t need to be built from scratch, and they could cost a lot less. If you’re able to find a size and design that suits you and the room, it could very well be as good as a custom built in piece of furniture.
Aside from price, another aspect to consider is how long that piece of furniture is going to be there for. For young couples or families looking to grow, the question on the horizon is always “when is the next one coming”, so you wouldn’t want to throw a few thousand dollars into building your study only to have it torn down and built as a nursery in 1-2 years.
The permanence of the room and its purpose should dictate whether you want items built to stay, or pieces that can easily be moved around and relocated when necessary. Some places you can look to doing built-in furniture from day 1 include the kitchen, bathrooms, master bedroom and possibly the living room. Else, save the money and go for modular and prefabricated furniture, all in all, the savings could add up to a substantial amount.
Hottest Interior Design Styles
Now the style of home you have will speak volumes about who you are and what you like. For example, a quiet and introverted person would portray their personality best through a minimalist style design, but an extroverted and talkative person may opt for an eclectic style of home. There is no right or wrong answer in this case, whatever way you want to style your home is completely up to your preference, but here are a few popular styles now.
Minimalist styles are meant for smaller homes, or houses which want a more serene and quieter environment. The focus is on having lots of free space void of physical and visual clutter.
Hollywood styled homes are the chic and glam decorative styles which are meant to ooze with luxury. With dazzling metal accents like brass and chrome against dark backgrounds, the overall look is sophisticated and classy.
Scandinavian styled homes have been up and coming since the turn of the century. Following the inspiration of minimalist living, the Nords looked towards improving this with the incorporation or natural and wooden elements. This touch adds warmth with its earthy and natural vibe.
Once you have the keys to your home in your hands, you are officially the homeowner. This means all your renovation work can begin and you’re less than a year (hopefully), away from moving into your brand-new home!
Before you run off and start hacking away at the floors, you’ll need to do a through home inspection for the property. This is to check for any manufacturer’s defects or faulty sockets. If you’ve engaged a contractor or ID, you should try to get them down for this inspection. However, if you’re all on your own, here are a few of the more important things to look out for.
Windows and Doors – can they open and close smoothly? Are the locks working and are the seals tight?
Walls and Tiles – Are there any cracks, chips or stains? Are there any hollow points (use a coin to gently tap on them to check)? Are they straight (use a spirit level or marbles)?
Bathroom – Does the water run (both hot and cold)? Do the toilets flush? Are there any cracks in the sinks, toilet bowl or shower casings? Is there any sign of leaks or water damage?
Electrical – Check that all the sockets work. Check the TV and fibre socket if there’s sign of damage, rust or mould.
The entire checking can take a couple of hours, so if you have a few stools and a standing fan (plus phone chargers), those will be really useful to have while you check. Remember to take photos of any damage you may spot and report them to HDB within 7 days of key collection.
While (or after) your initial inspection, you and your contractor or ID can start discussing and finalizing the plans for your home. The actual home may look a little different from the floor plan, and walking through the home, you can get a better idea of how you want things to be oriented. So don’t be afraid of holding back the renovation a little if you want to redo some of the designs and plans. Afterall, this is your future home, so you’d want it perfect.
As you go from room to room, it’ll be useful if you have the mock ups of the final product so you can visualise how each item will fit into the space.
Finally, you can start the work on the home. Once everything has been settled and work commences you can sit back and relax if you have an ID handling everything for you. But if you’re liasing with the contractors directly, this is where you’ll have even more work. Going to the renovation site may happen as much as once a day, especially if you need to approve some minor changes to the plans. Remember, not everything will go perfectly, so be prepared to have to make some changes here and there and don’t be too rigid.
During the renovation, your contractor or ID may even come up with new ideas for the home. Don’t feel pressured into agreeing to them because this will probably mean spending even more money on the renovation. Some essential changes may be necessary, but if you’re being offered things like more shelves, stop and think if you really need it before agreeing to anything. While did engage them for these services, don’t feel obliged to agree to any add-ons outside of your signed contract.
The most exciting day is probably the day you can finally move into your new home. All the renovation is done, and everything is up and running. You finally have a place of your own and its all brand new. So, before you get too excited, here are a last couple of tips for when you’re getting ready to move in.
If you’ve done extensive amounts of work like hacking or change of flooring, chances are you’ll need to get someone to haul all the trash away. If you’re renovating a HDB, you’ll have to contact your town council and arrange for haulage of all of this, and the fees can go for a couple of hundred depending on the amount.
But if you’re at the end of the entire operation and you’re about to move in, you’ll need to do some tidying up, from washing the floors to vacuuming to wiping of all the dust from the renovation. Again, if you engaged an ID you can probably get them to handle this. Alternative you can look for your own cleaning service, or you can do it all yourself.
If you’re doing it yourself, be prepared for a long day of scrubbing and cleaning. The renovation could have left stains like cement parks, drawing lines and possibly even some chemical stains, so arm yourself with heavy-duty gloves, scrubbers and chemical cleaners as you clean up the home. Although if you can afford it, its probably easier to leave it to the professionals.
Most importantly, enjoy your new home and celebrate!
Looking for interior designers with years of experience to complete your home renovation? Sourcing for affordable renovation packages or renovation contractors to complete your dream home? Get a quotation here!
Looking for inspirations for a particular interior style? Browse through our inspirations here!
Have you shortlisted a few interior designer firms but not sure if they are reliable? Curious to know about their renovation works? Get reviews here!