Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain

Renovation in Singapore (Research, Plan and Search)

Doing renovation in Singapore? While waiting for the keys to your BTO flat or condominium, it’s good to start researching. Start early so that you don’t get overwhelmed by the insane number of decisions at the last minute. Don’t stress yourself out with a tight timeline.

A friend told me that it’s good to start one year before key collection, at least for interior design ideas. That’s good advice. Don’t underestimate the preparation and work behind a home renovation project. The mountain of research can take up a lot of time — from searching for design inspiration, to looking at tonnes of reviews for purchases, to finding a reliable interior designer (“ID”)/contractor.

I was a bit kiasu and did my research more than a year before the (expected) key collection date. I reckoned it’s better to pace myself out, to gain a little more knowledge and not throw everything to the IDs or contractors. In turn, I was hoping this will help me to get the best deals and decrease my chance of being fleeced by IDs/contractors/salesmen.

Even if you decided to trust your ID totally and have him/her do all the work, you also need to source for an ID at least 2 to 4 months before key collection.

Information Sources

So where to start researching for your home renovation project?

Free Space Intent (ID) - Renovation in Singapore

Credit: Free Space Intent (ID)

  • Pinterest is a great platform to discover designs from all over the world and create a mood board. Mood board is an arrangement of images and materials intended to evoke or project a particular style or concept.” You can pin and sort out the inspiration into various categories for easy reference: living room, dining room, toilets, master bedroom, etc. This is a good way to know what’s your general preferences and shortlist an overall theme.
  • Facebook Groups is a modified version of forums. For a start, join the Facebook group for your particular BTO project and you will find enthusiasts posting timely updates about the construction progress. Otherwise there are other groups such as ‘SG Renovation Lobangs!’, ‘Blacklisted ID/Reno Contractor/ Home reno-related in Singapore’, etc.
  • Design Websites such as homeanddecor.com.sgdesignsponge.comapartmenttherapy.com, and…
    • qanvast.com – Find your inspiration from the various interior design projects of Singapore homes. However the website’s main objective is to match homeowners to their database of IDs. Apparently Qanvast’s IDs are usually smaller firms with limited reputation. Nevertheless, you can still find good ones. You just need to do your homework.
    • mynicehome.sg – A design inspiration blog by HDB. Enter into the virtual showrooms of the different types of HDB flats. You can walk into the actual ones at Toa Payoh HDB office (Biz Four, Lvl 3) from Mon to Sat, 8:30am to 5:00pm.
  • More information from websites, forums and blogs: 
    • www.btohq.com – Provides information of BTOs and condominiums, including a progress bar for % of completion.
    • renotalk.com/forum – I think I wouldn’t need to say more, a well-known renovation forum. It also has a section for people to start T-Blog (Threaded blog) and chronicle their renovation journey in one thread.
    • I like to read post renovation blog posts, because it’s better to learn from other people’s mistakes than make them my own! 😛 There are many blogs out there documenting their renovation processes. p.s. I’m not talking about those popular bloggers with lots of sponsorship. For example,
      • www.chekyang.com/musings/tag/renovation – Civil and informative, the posts written one year after renovation are useful too. Because some things might be good in the beginning but cannot stand the test of time.
      • renovation-greencoal.blogspot.sg – This blog pride itself for writing unbiased reviews (aka no sponsorship) on items they have bought and install, and based on at least one year’s usage. Or sooner if a product didn’t work or performed poorly soon after purchase.

Know your budget

Before searching for an ID or contractor, know your budget. They will usually ask you for it. Remember to specify your budget lower than what you have in mind, because the ID will usually exceed it.

A typical 4-room flat can range from S$10k to S$80k and beyond, with the average somewhere around S$30k to S$50k. Those on the lower end usually has flooring and fittings done up by HDB.

Finding your ID/contractor

You need to decide if you are going on the route of ID, contractor or DIY. I will share more in another post of what it means to go on each route. But for those who don’t know, DIY means you are your own contractor, finding and coordinating the sub-contractors yourself.

To find contractors, you ask for referrals from friends and family, or from forums. And as for IDs, you can send an initial invitation for renovation proposals/quotations via Renotalk, Qanvast or other renovation portals. Typically, you will get quite a few proposals.

But the trouble is, you have to meet them up individually before they will give you a quote. We did so to get a feel of how much it would cost us for the work we have in mind. Some didn’t even want us to give us a quotation until we meet them the second time. We didn’t bother with these, because… more on it in my next post! 😛

Timeline with ID/Contractor

  • Come up with a project scope of what you want and then send invitations for quotes or proposal: 2 days.
  • Meet and discuss with approximately 12 designers (first round): 3 full weekends (6 days). About 45 to 60 minutes per designer. (We met up with only 5.)
  • First draft of quotation: From 2 days to 2 weeks
  • Second round of face-to-face  meeting with designers (review of first proposal draft and discussion of materials to be used): typically around 2 hours per designer.

Depending on how many designers you want to meet, this whole process takes at least 2 months. Anything substantially longer might lead to the expiration of the quotation’s validity period.

When to sign your renovation contract?

  • Some people, like ourselves, select and sign packages with IDs/contractors before they collect their keys. This means that the quotation is based on estimated measurements and is subjected to changes in future. However, not to worry, measurements of proposed items can be reasonably extrapolated from the floor plan (and scale) found in sales brochure.
  • On the other hand, other people only sign contract until the short-listed ID/contractor has seen the place and taken the exact measurements. He will then produce a more precise quotation of the proposed items. This process takes more time and effort, but the quoted price is less susceptible to changes.

We signed it early before we collect our keys because we need to move in ASAP. So in this way, we can shop for our stuff with our contractor and decide on our laminates, and have him do up 3D drawing before we get the keys. And once we have our keys, he can go in to do the actual work.

So it’s up to you!

Do you prefer to sign before or after collecting your keys? Leave a comment below and share with us. Love to hear from you! 🙂