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Your complete guide to renovation in Singapore

If you’ve decided to renovate, you could be sitting in the dream home you’ve always wanted; all it needs is a little renovation to get that gorgeous bathroom or plush bedroom.

Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?

In reality, making that dream come true can often turn into a nightmare of shoddy workmanship, hidden costs, busted deadlines and, worst of all, vanishing contractors.

Renovating your home successfully will require good planning before you set about bring the dream to life.

It’s not for nothing that the guidelines on the Housing and Development Board (HDB) website begin with: “Planning your renovation thoroughly will guard against oversight and unauthorised work being carried out.”

Poor planning is also the chief reason why renovation budgets overrun, due to design changes midway through or having to fix unanticipated problems, according to an Australian government guide on building and renovating homes.

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A wish list seem like a good place to start, but before you get to the fountain and pool table, it helps to first draw up a to-do list outlines the limitations or defects of each room.

Think of it as the functional must-have list before you get to the want-to-have list. It’s easy to overlook the leaking bathroom pipes while looking up water features for the living room.

When you get around to the wish list, start by browsing the galleries for ideas to nail down the look and feel that you’re trying to achieve.

Bookmark or save images that appeal to you; if it helps, set up a second folder for styles you want to avoid at all cost, to better help guide your interior designer or contractor.

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On Oct 19, the Straits Times reported on how renovation firm D’Concept Design suddenly shut down leaving 15 homeowners in the lurch. Consumer watchdog CASE said it has received 14 complaints about D’Concept, whose owner has apparently disappeared.

The total contract value of those cases: S$457,294.

According to the report, D’Concept was not registered or accredited with CASE, the Renovation and Decoration Advisory Centre (RADAC) and the Housing and Development Board (HDB).

All it took was for the reporter to run a check.

Last but not least, check out the building and renovation guidelines on the HDB or RADAC websites, even if your ID or contractor is supposed to do so. You can never be too sure.

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Rushing to call a contractor or interior designer next without knowing how much your dream is going to cost is a common mistake. You’re not going to become a home improvement expert overnight, but you’re asking to be fleeced if you march into a negotiation blind.

Prioritise the essentials and tally up the cost of your grand plan to determine how much you’re willing to spend. Set two targets, with the second one the upper limit including all the “luxury” items on your wish list.

Hacking of walls will cost about S$50 per foot run, give or take S$10. Using the upper estimate, taking down a 5-foot long wall to join two bedrooms would therefore cost S$300. The cost will rise depending on the thickness of the wall.

Remember to check if the fee includes clearing and hauling off the debris, which is another hidden cost many contractors spring on unsuspecting homeowners.

Check here for more estimates.

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You’re now set to sound out potential IDs or contractors and figure who understands your needs, and who can trust to do the job well.

Remember that while the price the contractor quotes is a major consideration, it shouldn’t be the only criteria. Better, more trustworthy contractors do charge above market rate, while you’ll get monkeys if you’re only willing to pay peanuts.

Once you have a shortlist of contractors to hire, run a quick check with the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE), the Renovation and Decoration Advisory Centre (RADAC) and the Housing and Development Board (HDB) to ensure they’re legitimate.

Not doing so could prove extremely costly, as over a dozen homeowners found out this past year.

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