Should you choose ID or Contractor? How to pick a reliable one?

At some point during your renovation, you need to make a decision, that is whether to engage an ID or contractor. Or if you have lots of time to spare but want to save on money, you can go for the do-it-yourself (DIY) route. So what’s the difference between these three options? Read on.

Choosing an ID or Contractor. Or DIY?

Interior Designer (“ID”): 

The most expensive of the lot. They do everything for you, from designing, to doing a 3D mock up of your place, to buying lightnings, fixtures, furniture etc, to supervising the renovation works.

Best for people with money but no time. Or people with no idea what design they want. Although it’s still better to have a little idea of what you want.


Peel off the design service of an ID, you’ll get a contractor. Contractor will only provide you a general design idea, but definitely not as pro as an ID. Of course, contractors have the expertise to tell you how your house can be renovated — what can be done or not. The main role of the contractor is to help you arrange and supervise the renovation works of the various sub-contractors.

Best for people who wants to save and yet have time to research. Or people who have creative flair in designing and/or specific ideas of what they want for their place. You need to know what design you want for the various parts of the house, and an idea of how the renovation, furniture and everything come together.
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You are the one acting as the interior designer and contractor. You have to design the whole place yourself. Then you will find, arrange and supervise the various sub-contractors. You need to know the renovation process too, for example you need to hack the walls and do the electrical works before tiling work can proceed.

Best for people with no money, but lots of time and energy.

How to choose a reliable/credible ID or Contractor?

The cheating company can easily close their company and open another new one without being sued. Moreover, in most cases, the amount scammed is not worth further money and time for all the civil proceedings. What’s more, there’s no guarantee that you will get back the amount! Hence it’s important to choose your ID/contractor wisely. Make sure the contractor/ID is credible and reliable before you sign on the dotted line. Search for as much information as you can about them.

I came across a Renotalk thread by “Mr Contractor”, a retired contractor sharing his experience. However, he is last heard in Jul 2014. So, can’t ask him anymore questions. 🙁 Anyway I’ve summarised his points for due diligence and some some other information I gleaned from elsewhere. Read on.

1. Review the Firm’s Reputation

This might not be 100% accurate because sometimes the firms are the ones advertising those testimonials. However, there will be bad reviews for those who don’t deliver on their promises. Keep your mind open on both bad and good reviews. Contact the homeowner for more information when shortlisting.

2. Check them with HDB and ACRA Databases 

If you are renovating a HDB, be very sure that the company is a licensed HDB contractor. Most importantly, the contract bears the letterhead of the registered name instead of another. If there’s a discrepancy pointed out, they will usually say that it is due to GST etc. Some may be honest business, but just to be on the safe side.

Search the ACRA database and make sure the company address is valid. If at any point of time, you feel something is not right, get another contractor/ID. Better be safe than sorry.

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3. Ask for portfolio of work-in-progress 

Look at projects the company done before and also current ones to see if the company is really into the business.

Ask the contractor/ID if there is any REAL work-in-progress (“WIP”) instead of those in the office, showrooms, etc. Minimum 2 WIP flats to view: one that is going to be completed, and the other one recently completed. When you are at the sites, find the HDB renovation permit to confirm their license as well. If possible, ask for a timing when the owner is in to find out more.

4. Deciding on your renovation terms

Always read through the fine prints in the renovation contract before you sign.

If you require any additional renovation services or works such as engaging a Professional Engineer [PE], electrical wiring, and etc., always get a second opinion/quote from the contractor of that particular work. Your current contractor might over-quote you. In our case, we were quoted SGD$1500 by our contractor to engage a PE but we found one ourselves who quoted us only SGD$550.

5. Be alert in Payments 

Do not give much more than what you see in your house. So even if the company winds down, you do not lose everything. There is no hard and fast rule on the payment terms because different quotations works differently.

No matter how good the company is with its prizes and accreditation, it’s wise to minimize any potential problems. Mr Contractor has seen a few friends in this line whose business are good but due to some unforeseen factors, they are forced to close. They are not cheaters or scammers, it is pure business failure.

We have to know if the company is true and operating for legal profits. HDB licensed contractor will be a safer choice because to become one, they will have to submit supporting invoices of min. 50k and be in the business for a min of 1 year. HDB would also have contacted their various houseowners for feedback.


The most important is that when you sign the contract, there should be no room for doubts. All questions should be answered. But really, having said so much, there’s indeed no perfect renovation contractor out there. Yes, it is a guarantee that they will make mistakes and blunders so just be prepared mentally and emotionally.

How about us?

We engaged a contractor because we had a rough idea of what design we want, and we wanted to save the designing cost of an ID. On the other hand, DIY is just too much work. Sometimes the cost savings doesn’t quite justify the time and effort spent.

In the end we went with our friend’s recommendation: Valiancy Enterprise. Our friend engaged the company for carpentry work and had praises for their workmanship. Hence she introduced Alex of Valiancy to me. That also explains why we didn’t ask to see his work in progress projects. Moreover, the company has good reviews on facebook and a few in renotalk.

And of all the IDs and contractors we met, my hubby and I had the most ‘good feeling’ about him. Or should I say chemistry? Anyway, during the sales pitch, he knew what he was saying (not a middleman aka salesman) and not gave us template suggestions and ideas. He’s also not pushy. Valiancy is not exactly the cheapest, but we felt he was honest in his work and prices. Hope we are right!

UPDATE: Alex absconded with our money. We never thought this would happen to us. Good thing we haven’t paid the remaining quotation to be paid upon confirming carpentry works. He did some tiling, painting and some other minor works for us. So the damage is not as great. On the other hand, his other victim got her house completed but it was full of defects and poor workmanship. We did the due diligence as best as we could, the rest was unpredictable. 

Next: Find out what to look out for when reading through a renovation quotation.

Do you know of other things to look out for? Share with us in the comments section below. 🙂

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