Before we engaged our Interior Designer, we were deciding between getting a contractor or ID to renovate our house. We understood that as an ID, the overall renovation cost would be higher than standard contractors to cover additional work of generating visuals, going onsite daily to check on progress, do quality checks of works, act as main coordinating arm between client and workers and most importantly, providing timely updates to house owners so we need not waste too much of our time micro-managing the whole renovation process.
While we were impressed by the speed and progress of the whole renovation, we were equally dismayed to witness our ID’s inability to manage expectations as well as his lack of initiative/pro-activity, accuracy, (effective) organization and (efficient) execution over renovation matters. It became a very troublesome process to oversee the renovation. And the amount of time wasted plus frustrations that had arisen in that 6-8 weeks could really have been avoided if there was better planning.
Are you in a similar situation? You have bought an old resale flat like us. And now you have engaged a contractor to renovate your house. So what are some crucial factors to look out for so you have a better understanding on what’s to come?
(The opinions expressed herein are my personal experience from my recent house renovation and are for general information purpose only.)
- When selecting tiles for the kitchen, you may want to consider those with smooth surface. We had selected textured floor tiles for our kitchen, thinking that they were ‘slip-safe’ since kitchen is considered a wet area, but really regretted because we couldn’t use a conventional mop on such tiles. The mop fibre would get stuck between the grooves and lines on the tiles, leaving behind white streaks of what looks like dirt and dust. Also, grime tends to get trapped easily so weekly scrubbing (high maintenance) is required to keep tiles clean.
- Check for hollow sounding floor tiles by tapping tiles surface with the back of a screwdriver. It may be inevitable to have small void spaces especially near corners or edges of tiles in many areas (normally this won’t even happen if workmanship is good) but for big hollow spaces, it is best to have your contractor replace affected tiles as these tiles will eventually break or crack.
- Ensure your kitchen floor tiles are angled down towards your floor trap so when you wash your kitchen floor, water can flow into the base hole easily. Best is to test with a pail of water when the flooring is ready. I overlooked this and only realised my contractor didn’t do a good job when I washed my kitchen for the first time after moving in and it was all too late to rectify. Now whenever I wash the floor, pools of water remain stagnant and I have to use a dustpan to scoop up water, then mop dry which is a BIG hassle.
- After chemical washing of the house, you may notice that the grout lines between tiles on walls and flooring have stains and/or require touching up. Some stubborn stains may require the use of a razor blade to scrape away the dirty surface. Your contractor can have this rectified.
- If you are laying laminated flooring for your bedrooms, be sure to check all floor planks are properly glued to one another. I have planks with missing glue that are unsightly gaps and the edge can be quite sharp and may cut you if you happen to slide your feet over the gaps.
- Some contractors may draw layout plans on your existing walls (with pen or pencil) and these markings can be noticeable even after your wall is painted (in white or any light shade). These ‘stains’ can only be thoroughly covered with white paint spray before wall paint goes on top so please highlight to your painters these ‘sensitive spots’.
- Most if not all contractors smoke during work and sometimes they may leave behind cigarette butt stains on your white ceramic floor tiles that couldn’t be removed completely by the chemical washing.
- If you are using dark-coloured textured anti-slip floor tiles for your bathrooms, you may notice patches of white stains that cannot be removed by the chemical washing, repeated scrubbing with soap or turpentine. Apparently these are stains of grout/white cement powder that are trapped between the grooves of the tiles. Alert your contractor to arrange for the supplier (ours was Hafary) to look into this. Our Hafary representative came down with a brush, a bottle of red liquid (Sunshine brand stain remover – available at all Home-Fix outlets) and a piece of melamine sponge (available at Daiso or neighbourhood shops) and demonstrated to us on how to clean away such stains. It was effective but a lot of work.
- If you are keeping old doors or replacing with new ones, please ensure your contractor uses sandpaper to even out the surface before varnishing or painting. Our contractor failed to do a good job so my husband and I sandpapered all the rough areas and repainted the door with Nippon paint. The end result was much better than expected and it looked as good as a brand new door!
- Windows should be closed to prevent wind or dust from affecting the varnishing job as the surface may become bubbly and rough. Worse thing is to have loose strands of paintbrush hair all over your door frame so please remind the door people to look out for these!
- If you have an old apartment with 1st generation sanitary fittings like ours, you may want to consider replacing all sanitary pipes and air vents to PVC ones. Instead of getting your contractor to replace them, you can contact your town council who will assign their official contractor to do it for you at a subsidised rate (town council pays half) then get your contractor to help with patching up at no additional cost.
- Cover your chrome and stainless steel fittings in bathrooms and/or kitchen the night before chemical wash is being done. (We used loads of plastic sheets and cellotape) Do not trust your contractor to do it for you. I have heard horrible stories from people who had their taps and shower heads becoming rusty after a sloppy wash job!
- If you’re getting your pipes painted with glossy paint, please remind your painters to minimise the appearance of paint droplets (due to poor paint job) which can be unsightly especially when there are a lot. These have to be scraped off and then repainted.
- I regretted not going for a concrete kitchen sink base when water started seeping into the cabinet below the sink because the back edge of the kitchen sink wasn’t sealed properly with waterproof sealant. (I only noticed it days later when I saw water droplets trickling down along the inner piece of wood surface and a plastic basin that I left inside was filled with water too) And despite using solid wood for my carpentry, moisture has caused the wood board to swell and expand upwards. Terrible condition. Apparently a concrete kitchen sink base can still look like the rest of the wooden cabinets as per your kitchen design/theme just by installing wooden doors and then pasting laminate on the whole exterior so this is certainly something worthwhile to consider.
- If you intend to install multi-split aircon, it is likely that you’d have to arrange for two separate installations (may incur additional charges). First, the aircon people should set up the cable trunking and drainage pipe i.e. any knocking and drilling of wall should be done first. Then when your contractor is done with the painting of walls, the aircon people should return to set up the compressor unit, and respective fan-coil units. Our contractor told us of these procedures very late, so we had to pay extra for last minute arrangement.
The list goes on. As you can see, I can be a difficult client with a sharp eye for details. I tend to check everything so meticulously. Sometimes turning a blind eye to minor mistakes but not tolerating serious ones that may lead to future repercussions that will incur more money.
Overall, we are satisfied with the end result of the renovation. And I’m most elated because I spent so much time customising designs for my kitchen cabinets and built-in wardrobes for the master bedroom (using some free interior design software found online). Turning them into reality is truly a surreal experience.
I welcome discussions on home renovation as this is one of my favourite subjects. Who knows, I might just give an idea or two to help resolve that headache you have!