Top Renovation Regrets That Will Cost You

Young couples and individuals getting their first home are no strangers to renovation horror stories. From runaway contractors to unevenly tiled walls and floors, there is a lot that can go wrong at every step in the renovation process. That said, interior designers and contractors are not all bad, and not all renovation regrets are inflicted by the contractor or interior designer. In fact, many renovation regrets can be avoided by keeping the following tips in mind.

Renovating your home can be a significant investment, but it’s a worthwhile expense if you get it right. With the right help and proper planning, you will be going home to a Pinterest-worthy-looking home that you will be proud of for years to come. To help you in your renovation journey, we’ve compiled a list of top renovation regrets Singaporeans have, so that you won’t fall into the same problems.

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1. Choosing an unreliable interior designer or contractor

With the plethora of interior design firms in Singapore, it is difficult to distinguish a good interior designer from an unprofessional one.

Choosing an unreliable interior designer or contractor is one of the biggest renovation regrets new homeowners can make. If you hire someone without doing proper research, you run the risk of getting poor quality workmanship, missed deadlines, and unexpected expenses.

As a quick guide, you should always shortlist your contractor or interior designer based on the following criteria:

Certificates and Accreditation
Ensure that the renovator has a CaseTrust Accreditation
Ensure that the renovator you’re working with doesn’t fall on Case’s Company Alert List – this is a non-exhaustive list of companies who’ve received customer complaints
Reviews and recommendations
Get reviews and recommendations from personal, reliable sources such as friends and families who has done renovation works with contractors

Most interior designers and contractors follow a standard payment breakdown after each project milestone. While the payment terms differ for different firms, here is a breakdown of how the payment terms should look like.

● Deposit – 10%
● Hacking and demolition – 15%
● Masonry, Electrical works and plumbing – 30%
● Carpentry – 15%
● Painting and debris clean-up – 15%
● Customer’s final approval – 15%

Avoid paying too much of the cost (more than 50%) upfront.

Design Style and Personality Fit

Renovation is a huge project, so it is important to choose an interior designer or contractor who is able to complement your design style and is able to understand and communicate efficiently with you.

It is best to look for someone who is able to improve on your ideas, point out potential flaws with the designs you have in mind, and someone who is receptive to your feedback and willing to rectify any errors

Workmanship of sub-contractors
If possible, it is good to take a look at a home or showroom that was previously renovated by your interior designer prior to committing. This will give you a better sense of the workmanship and quality of the renovation.

It’s also crucial to have a detailed contract that outlines the scope of work, payment terms, timelines, and contingencies for unforeseen circumstances. This will help to ensure that both parties are clear on what is expected, and you have recourse if something goes wrong.

Choosing a reliable interior designer or contractor will save you a lot of headaches during your renovation process, so make sure you take your time when doing this!

Read more: How To Save on Your Home Renovation?

2. Unnecessary hacking costs

One of the most common renovation regrets in Singapore is unnecessary hacking costs. With smaller BTOs, it is popular for homeowners to tear down walls, or modify the structure of their homes for a larger living space.

While this may seem like a good idea now, it is important to ensure that you think about how you would utilise your home in the future. In some cases, couples may regret hacking down a room to build a built-in wardrobe, especially if it compromises having bedrooms for their children in future.

Hacking is also a costly process, and there are hidden masonry costs that come with hacking. To avoid this mistake, it’s essential to plan your renovation carefully. Consult with a professional contractor or interior designer before making any significant changes to your home’s structure. They can advise you on the feasibility of your plans and the potential costs involved.

3. Having too much built-in carpentry

Going overboard with built-in carpentry is a common mistake made by many homeowners, especially when renovating their first home. While built-in cabinets and shelves can be a great way to maximise space, over-customizing can lead to unnecessary expenses.

For example, a platform bed costs about $4,000-$6,000 to build – almost the same price as a built wardrobe. Having many built-in items in a room may easily rack up the total carpentry cost to about $6,000 – $12,000.

What’s more, too many built-ins reduce the flexibility of the space. Before deciding on built-in carpentry, take into consideration the future use of the space. Will it still be functional for your needs in five or ten years? If not, it might be better to invest in freestanding furniture that can be moved around easily.

4. Buying everything first-hand

It’s easy to get carried away with the excitement of renovating and buying everything first-hand. However, buying new furniture and fixtures can quickly add up to a substantial amount. Instead, consider buying second-hand or thrifted items from marketplaces like Carousell or Facebook Marketplaces. You’ll be surprised at how much you can save without compromising quality.

Personally, I’ve purchased a fully customised, almost-new sofa for $800 (originally priced at $2,800) and a solid teak table from Ethnicraft for $450 (originally priced at $1,600).

When sourcing second-hand items for your new home, it is always important to ascertain the quality of the furniture by going down to see the actual product or requesting a video close-up of the item. Always hire a reliable mover to move the items to prevent damage. While there may be hits and misses with your thrift haul, giving good quality second-hand items a new lease of life is both environmentally friendly and good for your wallet.

Read more: 6 Tips to Save on Renovation For Your First Home

5. Choosing low-quality fixtures

When renovating, it’s tempting to go for low-quality fixtures to save money. However, these fixtures usually don’t last long and will cost you more in the long run. For example, using fiberboard instead of solid wood for your cabinets might save you money upfront, but fiberboard is more prone to water damage and will need to be replaced sooner.

To avoid this mistake, invest in high-quality fixtures that will last. While they might cost more upfront, you’ll save money in the long run by not having to replace them frequently. One of my biggest renovation regrets was buying a sink cabinet set for my toilets on Taobao. While it looks aesthetically pleasing, I am not too sure about the quality and was worried that it may not last for the next few years.

Fixtures that are a permanent part of your home may be difficult to replace in the long run as they may require drilling on tiles, mounting, and dismantling. As such, should you decide to get permanent fixtures in your home, invest in something that’s of high quality so that you don’t have to replace them in the near future.

6. Not considering maintenance cost

Home fixtures such as bathtubs may seem luxurious at first, but it may not always be practical, especially for small apartments in Singapore. Bathtubs take up a lot of space, and they’re usually expensive to install. What’s more, it takes time and effort to maintain a bathtub to prevent the build-up of grime.

When renovating a home, always consider how much effort and time is required for you to maintain certain aspects of your home. For example, open shelvings may be beautiful, but it collects a thick layer of dust and promotes clutter if there are too many of them. When buying furniture, it is important to consider how much effort is required for you to upkeep the furniture in your space.

7. Rushing through the renovation process

Renovations can be stressful, and it’s tempting to rush through the process to get it over with. However, rushing can lead to costly mistakes. If you don’t take the time to properly plan your renovation, you might end up changing your mind halfway through the process, leading to additional costs.

Rushing your contractor can result in shoddy workmanship, leading to problems down the line. Take your time and ensure that the renovation is done properly.

8. Over-customising the kitchen

Often referred to as the heart of the home, it’s no surprise that many homeowners want to create a dream kitchen that fits their needs and personal preferences. However, it is not wise to over-customise your kitchen as it may lead to inflexibility in the future.

For example, installing custom cabinets based on a specific fridge’s dimensions may limit you in replacing your fridge in the future (your next fridge will have to follow the same size). Additionally, bold and trendy backsplashes may look great at first, but may not age well over the years. When renovating the kitchen, it is important to strike a balance between functionality, aesthetics, and resale value.

9. Thinking too short-term when planning out the living space

As families grow or lifestyles change, it’s common to want more living space. However, converting rooms can be a costly renovation regret. For example, converting a spare bedroom into a home gym may seem like a good idea, but it could limit the potential resale value of the home.

While it is exciting to design a fully decked-out home cinema or gym for your space, it is important to consider the long-term impact of the home’s functionality. Similarly, when planning for a child’s room, it is better to work with loose furniture, so that furniture can be swapped out through the years to accommodate the child’s growing needs and preferences.

Read more: The Ultimate Guide to Home Insurance Coverage in Singapore

10. Taking up an unnecessary renovation loan

Although loans may seem like a good option to finance your renovation, it’s important to remember that they come with interest rates and fees that can add up over time. Current renovation loan rates in Singapore range from 4% to 7% per annum, depending on the loan amount and tenure.

Before you take on a loan, make sure you have a realistic budget and consider if you can comfortably afford to pay it back. It’s also important to compare rates from different banks to find the best deal for your needs. In some cases, it may be more financially prudent to save up and pay for your renovation in cash instead of taking up a loan due to high-interest rates.

Read more: Are Renovations Loans Worth Taking Up?

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