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Top 14 Singapore Home Renovation Mistakes

We reveal the top 14 most common home renovation mistakes that Singapore homeowners face.

If this is your first time renovating, you need to read this!

This article points you in the right direction, so you can avoid these potential pitfalls.

Home renovation mistakes…it’s what every homeowner would want to avoid at all cost.

The moment you get the keys to your property, you’re off to a cracking start with all sorts of renovation challenges staring at you right in the face. 

When a renovation goes awry, they become both nightmarish and costly.

No, we’re not trying to scare you.

We just want to put things in the right perspective and steer you away from the needless misery. 

Singapore Home Renovation Mistakes - Hiring The Wrong Person

Home Renovation Mistake No. 1 - Hiring The Wrong Person

We’re sure you will agree that undertaking a home renovation in Singapore is a big ticket item. 

With the high costs involved in renovating a home, it also means hiring the right person for the job is critical because it will make or break your renovation project.

Prior to hiring, it’s paramount to scrutinize your pool of shortlisted renovation professionals.

In the past, it was challenging for homeowners to do this due to the lack of a centralised data source. 

To solve this pain point, you can now have free access to detailed profile checks to hundreds of renovation contractors and interior design firms, all in a matter of minutes.

With these information, it helps you to considerably size up an initial assessment of the renovation professional(s) profile.

Learn about the importance and facts of working only with HDB-licensed renovation contractors.

Ask For Recommendations

Word of mouth recommendations are reliable and powerful.

If you know of friends or relatives who have worked with a renovation professional in the past, ask them about their experiences.

They make a good starting point.

Whenever possible, visit their homes and judge the quality of work yourself. 

They could also share useful insights of their renovation journey and experience with the renovation firm. 

If verbal recommendations are elusive, another good way is to pore over online Customer Reviews of those companies you plan to engage with.

Because each review is a personal story, they have become increasingly important in helping consumers to understand the recommendations and opinions of others.

According to a study by (Trustpilot, 2020), 89 percent of consumers worldwide read through reviews before making a purchase or hiring decision.

Face-to-Face Evaluation

After initial assessments of the potential candidates, arrange an in-person meeting at their showroom.

During consultations, don’t hesitate to ask questions and do further evaluation on their professionalism, know-how, customer service, etc.

Communication between both parties should flow freely and with ease. 

If you find it hard conversing with the renovation professional about your requirements or getting ideas across, end the meeting professionally and don’t waste time.

Even if the company has raving reviews or offers you an attractive proposal, move on to meet other shortlisted candidates. Revisit after you’re done “interviewing” the others.

What’s important is to work with one that you’re comfortable dealing with, easily understands your end goals and deliver those results.

Learn more on how to be well-prepared for meet-ups.

Home Renovation Mistake No. 2 - Not Engaging An Interior Designer

Over the past months, you may have read a ton of information on the topic of renovating.

You looked through scores of photos and ideas on interior design.

You feel inspired, and you are bursting with ideas.

A thought comes into mind.

It might be a good idea to play the role of the interior designer yourself.

Woah! Stop, please.

If you think decorating and designing a home is easy, then you need to seriously gather your thoughts.   

Truth is, there are plenty more than meets the eye.

Unless you received formal training, it’s a big no-no for you to attempt such a feat.

Reasons to Work With Interior Designers

Interior designers are worth their weight in gold because they are trained professionals. 

They are artistic wizards who can magically transform spaces using elements of space planning, style, colour, lighting, etc.

They possess the analytical skills to understand how interior design communicates both aesthetically and conceptually in a residential or commercial space. 

Here’s why you should engage and work with interior designers:

 

Helps You Save Money

You must be thinking, sure boh?

You may question the need to pay more for an interior designer.

But the truth is, they not only can help you avoid costly renovation mistakes but also increase the value of your home.

If are on a tight budget, an experienced interior designer knows how to maximize the best value out of it.

Helps You Save Time

They say time is money. 

These are the two things that most of us normally see as important. 

Designers are equipped with a trained sense of the start to end processes when they take on renovation projects. 

They help you to save on time because they are capable of spotting the things that you don’t see and guaranteed to miss.

They know very well what and when things need to be done. And they can anticipate any obstacles that may potentially crop up.

This translates into managing your time and money efficiently.

Expertise to Solve Your Problems

Interior design is also a delicate balance of art and science.

Interior designers went through years of formal education and training to acquire their expertise.

As trained professionals, they know how to put these skillsets into good use for homeowners. 

From space planning to decorating, you’ll be provided with creative concepts, visualizations, and professional advice to deliver the best results for your property.

When you engage an interior designer, you are paying for expertise to solve problems and have a peace of mind.

So don’t save on this.

Qualified Liaison For You & Stakeholders 

Trained interior designers understand the industry’s technical jargons and speak the language.

They play the crucial role of a liaison between you and every stakeholder (e.g. carpenters, painters, plumbers, etc.) who are involved in your home renovation project. 

To meet timelines and end goals of each work phase, they handle the tedious day-to-day coordination and delegation of work scopes.
 

You Get a Unique and Beautiful Home

A good interior designer delivers a uniquely designed and beautiful home to their client. 

They harness that special ability of creating a functional home that caters to your lifestyle needs and give it a wow factor.

Home Renovation Mistake No. 3 - Overspending

This is not an easy topic to pin down.

Every homeowner wants to have a great-looking home, but there are other more important considerations for your home renovation.

The first and most important question is how much can you afford to spend, and how much should you spend.

Work out how much cash you have on hand to avoid burdening yourself with a large renovation loan.

Just because you qualify for a higher loan amount, doesn’t make it a right decision to take it up.

As a matter of fact, many younger homeowners make the mistake of over-borrowing and overstretched themselves financially.

It is extremely stressful when a substantial portion of your salary goes into paying off the renovation loan.

To make sure you don’t run the risk of overspending, it’s a good idea to allocate not more than 15% of the property purchase price on your renovations.

So if your property costs $300,000 (excluding stamp duty and all other charges), consider looking at a budget of around $45,000 to renovate your house.

Learn how to plan your renovation budget wisely.

Singapore Home Renovation Mistakes - Not Planning Extra Budget

Home Renovation Mistake No. 4 - Not Planning For Extras

A good and experienced renovation professional gives you sound advice on what could be done with your intended budget.

They will usually provide you with an estimate instead of a guaranteed price for the project during initial discussions.

Only upon finalizing your requirements would you get a more accurate costing. 

It is best to assume that your home renovation costs would likely exceed your originally planned budget.

Statistically, this is almost a given because along the way, you could change your mind on things like materials (such as flooring or carpentry) or work scopes.

While other times, it’s easy to get carried away and forget about your budget limits.

Here’s another common unexpected dilemma.

Say you’re planning to remodel the kitchen cabinet, your contractor tells you that part of the flooring is in bad shape, and needs to be replaced due to age.

So do you still have enough money for that? 

Hence, remember to factor in an additional 5 to 7 percent on top of your budget to act as a buffer – better to stay prepared than be caught off guard with unforeseen situations.

Home Renovation Mistake No. 5 - Not Preparing Your Requirements

If you ask around, most homeowners renovating for the first time don’t have a good idea of what they need or want.

Things are pretty much blurry mostly. 

Don’t start asking for price quotations from renovation firms by saying you want to achieve a certain look for your home.

With this type of vague information, it’s just a waste of time. 

Renovation professionals are not clairvoyant. They need a lot more details from you in order to start working out a proposal.

The right way is to first prepare a list of requirements for your home renovation project. 

For each room or area, write down what your expected end goals are. 

Once it’s done, think through what needs to be built or torn down to to achieve those end goals.  

For example, the living room area is rather small. You want it to be bigger and spacious.

Should a wall be removed?

Or perhaps install full height mirrors to create an illusion of space?

How about wall mounted storage compartments to maximize space? 

Next, provide your property’s floor plan to the renovation professional.

You could also accompany pictures of your preferred designs for each room or area. 

With all these information, it enables a meaningful and insightful discussion to start between both parties. 

They could then give you an itemised cost breakdown for the entire renovation project.

With it, you decide what should be removed or added.

Find out what are the 10 important questions to ask during your discussions with a renovation company.

Singapore Home Renovation Mistakes - Not Scrutinizing

Home Renovation Mistake No. 6 - Not Scrutinizing

We recommend you to obtain between three to five price quotations from renovation companies you have shortlisted.

On our platform, it’s extremely easy for you to obtain up to 5 free price quotations at one go from well-accredited of renovation contractors and interior design firms in Singapore.

It’s fast, reliable, and it saves you from exasperating work.

With the quotations on hand, you should scrutinize the costs breakdown and work scopes. 

Since you already provided the renovation firms with a list of your requirements, the work scopes should be similar in nature.

Next, work out the average pricing by adding up the total costs of each price quotation. 

 

Calculation Example

 

Quotation 1,2,3 total cost is $30k each.

Quotation 4 total cost is $32k.

Quotation 5 total cost is $29k.

Use ($30k x 3) + $32k + $29k and divide by 5 = $30,200 (average cost).

 

The average cost would be the number you should use as a basis for comparison.

Don’t just focus on price.

Factors such as accreditation, reputation, workmanship quality and reliability should also be taken into account.

Renovation professionals with higher prices are generally well-accredited, and have an unblemished reputation for outstanding-quality workmanship.

Hence, it is also a benchmark that reflects their brand.

Before accepting any price quotation, remember to obtain an official contract/ agreement from the company that will be undertaking your renovation project.

This document should have the company’s logo, company’s name and address, contact details and company’s UEN number.

Make sure you study every clause in the contract/ agreement to ensure fairness between both parties. 

Items such as the Defect Liability Period (DLP), work phases, date of completion for each work phase, payment schedules and terms must be included. 

This is how a model renovation agreement from CaseTrust looks like. 

Home Renovation Mistake No. 7 - The Low Price Trap

This is one of the most common home renovation mistakes that Singapore homeowners make.

Low prices are hard to resist but when you think about it, good and cheap can hardly be a couple in the real world.

Common sense will tell us it’s not wise to make hiring decisions based solely on price, as there are much risks involved.

As the old saying goes – Pay peanuts and you get monkeys!

An unusually low price could be a hint for inferior quality materials, hidden charges or cutting corners for the job.

Hence, some companies are able to undercut other legitimate competitors.

We understand the subject of price is both a sensitive and personal one.

But factors such as accreditation, reputation, workmanship quality and reliability should be taken into account.

Your home is an extremely valuable investment. It’s important that the materials and workmanship are going to last for years to come.

Wouldn’t you rather take the pain one time and pay more for a job that is well done? 

If your budget is a little stretched, be honest with the renovation company right from the beginning.

There is nothing embarrassing being upfront.

At least, they can tell you how to make the best of what you can afford.

Singapore Home Renovation Mistakes - Buying Your Own Building Materials

Home Renovation Mistake No. 8 - Buying Your Own Building Materials

You might think that buying materials direct from the suppliers seem like a smart way to save money.

That’s because you feel the mark ups from renovation professionals could be excessive.

This is not necessarily true.

To begin with, renovation professionals work closely with suppliers and they enjoy wholesale prices for building materials.

Being a consumer, you won’t have such preferential pricing.

If you are not in the trade, it is extremely difficult for you to know the pros and cons of different materials versus their respective prices.

Therefore, you could end up paying more than what you bargain for.

So please think twice.

Home Renovation Mistake No. 9 - Doing It Yourself

Without overwhelming yourself, some DIY projects such as painting, fixing up furniture or even installing parquet flooring can be done with reasonably satisfactory results.

They are fantastic money-saving tasks, and be quite fun too.

However, when it comes to plumbing, serious machinery cutting and electrical work, never attempt them unless you are professionally trained or certified.

This is especially so when it involves machinery and electrical work.

Do not compromise the safety of you and your family.  

If mishandled, not only would it ruin your home but also cause severe injury or death. 

It’s best to leave them to the professionals instead.

Singapore Home Renovation Mistakes - Not Checking and Tracking

Home Renovation Mistake No. 10 - Not Checking & Tracking

Make an effort to actively follow and track the renovation work progress.

Even if there is a project manager assigned to oversee your project, don’t take things for granted.

If you don’t check and track the work progress, you may pay for it – literally.

Before renovation work starts, know who is the main contact person handling your project, how communication and progress updates will be done.

Both parties should have a mutually agreed ‘status update’ timeline.

It could be daily or every other day.   

This is where you can stay on top of things with updates from the relevant stakeholders at a pre-determined time.

Make it a routine to visit the job site regularly and meet with the project manager or foreman.

This gives you the opportunity to

– Check on and have a good perception of work progress

– Receive work progress updates

– Find out what are the work that are scheduled for the coming days

– Ask questions or voice your concerns.

– Spot errors and take photos/ videos of any defects or unsatisfactory workmanship

– Rectify errors as soon as possible


Even if you have excellent memory, it is always a good habit to keep track of things with a simple project journal with your phone or Excel worksheets.

Recorded entries will help you to follow-up on any outstanding or unresolved issues.

Singapore Home Renovation Mistakes - Following Trends

Home Renovation Mistake No. 11 - Following Trends Blindly

Magazines often showcase the latest home designs that capture the homeowner’s imagination. 

With your first home, it is all too easy to get carried away with the latest trends.

But you also need to realize that overtime, your taste and lifestyle will change – such as having young children.

If you plan on having kids within a year or two, take practicality into consideration, and talk to your interior designer about these things.

They can then incorporate those plans into the designs of your property. 

Secondly, to avoid the need of renovating your home again in the near future, snub those trendy decors and loud colours. 

Stick with the simple decors and neutral tones for your interiors. They never go out of style and add a timeless elegance to your home.

You will probably be living in your new property for the next 5 to 10 years.

The matter of fact is that trend cycles are usually short-lived and may not last for a very long time.

Well, you get the picture.

Home Renovation Mistake No. 12 - Ignoring Regulations

This is one home renovation mistake you must not make at all.

Be warned, there are serious consequences when you don’t follow compliance.

If you are HDB flat owner who is planning for a renovation, get acquainted with renovation guidelines from the Housing & Development Board.

Upon hiring a company to handle your renovation works, the firm is responsible for preparing all relevant documents and permits required under the HDB renovation guidelines.

Only renovation professionals with a valid HDB licence has the capacity to perform renovation works in HDB flats.

For private residential property owners – these include landed houses, apartment buildings, condominium and cluster housing, you will need to abide with the regulations laid down by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA).

The renovation guidelines for private residential properties in Singapore differ from those of HDB.

You should know that for minor works that do not impact structural significance, there isn’t a need for you to get an approval of plans or a permit from the BCA.

While some minor building works and alterations may be exempted, some of these works however, may also be subjected to the control of other authorities.

To have a clear understanding of what these exempted works are, it is best for you to refer to this list from the BCA.

Singapore Home Renovation Mistakes - Not Checking Defects

Home Renovation Mistake No. 13 - Not Checking For Defects

Since we are on the subject of common home renovation mistakes, we thought it might also be useful to remind homeowners about the importance of checking for defects in your property.

Hire a certified surveyor to do proper checks when you buy a HDB flat or a private property. They are there to make sure that things are solid and sturdy.

While it is easy to spot obvious physical defects, underlying issues that aren’t immediately evident may be difficult to detect.

Structural problems, for example, get worse over time, undermining safety and seriously devalue your property.

As the local building safety standards are very strict, significant structural defects are rare.

However, there had been cases of noticeable flaws where homeowners found flooring or plumbing to be inferior.

If it happens to you, make sure you snap pictures of the defect and immediately lodge a formal complaint with the authorities.

Newly completed HDB flats adhere to stringent quality standards and they are covered by a warranty within the 1-year Defects Liability Period (DLP).

The DLP effectively starts from the date of your key collection.

You are required to report defects to HDB within 7 days of receiving your keys or before you start renovation works to your flat.

They will then follow up on items in the flat that require rectification.

Home Renovation Mistake No. 14 - Procrastination

We’re all guilty of doing this.

If you already have the financial capability, putting things off until time feels right isn’t exactly what you should be doing for your home renovation.

While the cost of labor and materials for a renovation continues to increase, put all other non-essential wants low on your priority list.

If you’re certain that you need to go ahead with renovating your home, you’re much better off doing it sooner than later.

Get it over and done with, and have that intense weight lifted from your shoulders.

After all, nothing is more important than providing a warm and comfortable home for your loved ones right?

Author Karina Wong

Karina Wong

“Girl next-door aspiring to be a playright.”