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John Lim 89

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  1. Hi, I thought I'll share my experience with HDB renovation for my fellow forum mates. It seems that the number one question on everybody's mind is, "How can I find a reliable ID"? This question certainly isn't unfounded. I think it is a reflection of the reliability of the industry as a whole. I don't think I have ever encountered an industry so "dangerous". The price differences for different things can be ridiculous. Contractors/Painters are usually shared. You will notice that different shops all carry the same accessories. Quotations don't match up across the board. Costs are hidden. Workmanship is is a major concern. Sales people hard-sell "worthless features" (here, the tornado flush for toilet bowls falls into this category). Marketing is misleading and dishonest. (try searching for the number of shops that advertise up to 70-90% sales and walk in to ask for the product). Here, I will share some advice into ID quotes, painting quotes and other relevant accessories that you need to purchase. The first step will be to find an ID/Contractor. If you are not looking for complete designer houses. Don't engage a designer direct. (Anyway, most are cookie-cutter designs unless you have money). They probably ask for a "theme" - Scandinavian, Minimalist, Retro. Broad classifications are antithetical to personalization, and especially if it's YOUR house. Asking for a theme is an easy way out for designers who then have pre-conceived notions of designs and send the templates to you. If you get a designer, he should get to know you through various ways. Find an ID firm or contractor and ask them for a site visit. Use the web for ideas and tell them to your contractors. Most contractors now do a hybrid. They offer 3D pictures for free. This is actually important. It is safer for both parties to visually align on something before beginning work. I engaged three IDs for site visits. All quotes hide their "profits" somewhere. I tabulate all three and listed them side by side. My budget for a resale 4 Room was $35000. The first was an old-school contractor who told me what I needed to do with little room for customization. His costs were upfront and on the higher side, but his workmanship was well known. I have visited his projects before. They all look the same. He had a ridiculous debris hauling fee of $950, and some strange miscellaneous costs, whereas his demolition and fabrication costs were low. The second was a middle-aged ID as well. He hid his costs in a ridiculous toilet package of $12000 for two toilets. He was also not upfront about other costs such as electrical rewiring or just replacing covers and etc. It totalled up to $17000 without carpentry, but as more questions were asked, it looked like his package wouldn't hold water. He had no miscellaneous costs such as debris haulage fee and HDB application which the first one had. But, we know where it comes from - the toilet, and maybe the toilet bowl. Comparatively side by side with the first contractor they were actually equal. The third was a younger ID. He was upfront and honest. He didn't offer much freebies, but after my experience with the first two, the more freebies the offer, the more you should be worried about where the costs are coming. His prices were great, his quotation was detailed and he was prompt. We chose him. A short summary would be that younger IDs are easier to work with and customize. However, they are also more prone to forgetting practical aspects (like kerb to toilet bowl distance), and their quality of work has not shown yet. As a first house that you may probably change, the young guy would do. Ask me for details. Next, a cost saving way would be to coordinate even within your own quotation. Keep the majors to the IDs for less hassle such as flooring, tiling and carpentry. I found my own painters, cleaners and window grille contractor. Go to Carousell and search for painters. Avoid those where you Whatsapp them and it says "This is a business account". Usually, they are more expensive. Get ten quotes, it doesn't take long. I had my own paint. Labour costs for painting differed from $580 to $1300. You pay on completion of satisfactory job, so there is less worry. If not happy don't pay. They usually wouldn't do such a poor job, and painters are usually shared. Don't buy the nonsense about additional pipes add $45 dollars, additional door frame $15. Don't buy the nonsense that oil-based paint costs more to paint because of longer drying time. Don't agree to a site visit for quote. It's a painting job! Not a designing job. Of course, I recognize that wall condition plays a part. But if it is that bad, your ID would recommend you to consider plastering the whole house (>$3000). I bought a resale and my condition was okay. Anyway, if you are doing demolition works on the ceiling or cornices or wall, the ID should make good the affected areas. By the way, Nippon Matex is very cheap, and don't be swayed by the free ceiling painting with Matex. In fact, Matex is susceptible to Mould growth in high moisture areas. Remember to paint a sealer (primer) coat to prevent paint defects in the future, and especially if you paint dark colours. (Water-streaking) Go to Carousell and search for cleaners. They have post-renovation cleaners. Some of them offer cleaning packages cheaper than what your ID offers. They even vacuum and mop a couple of times. Again, source and get quotes. They ranged from $200 - $400 for mine. Ask to customize the package. Most of them have redundant things (for an empty and newly renovated house) such as furniture cleaning, hood and hob cleaning. My window contractor was wonderful. It was well-priced and workmanship was excellent. Interestingly, they have no reviews online. Unfortunately, the one that had reviews online was distinctly overpriced. Seems to be the same case with food. Once they have a blog post, queues start to form and it starts a spiral of increasing costs and decreasing service. Some remain resolute. Most don't. Lastly, purchasing toilet bowls, sinks, faucets, hood and hobs. I went to three stores. Again, the best one is the one without reviews. Most of the shops carry the same gear. Don't be swayed by the marketing of brands and such. They all carry the same brands. Don't be side-tracked by advertising for features that are redundant. Rimless flushing, tornado flushing etc. It doesn't matter if it is a tornado or a tsunami, you still have to maintain it. To put things into perspective, remember what a toilet bowl is used for. Don't spend a months salary on toilet bowls or for that matter vacuum cleaners - unless your dust is gold. Don't purchase that fancy ceramic sink with water damping capabilities. Ask your parents what is best for cooking and draining and buy that. My sink was less than $200. Ask for old models. For sinks, practicality and purpose trumps aesthetics. It is mounted into a hole into your counter, nobody is going to see it. You also don't need that rain shower even though it is $40 more. Remember purpose and practicality trumps aesthetics for accessories. I purchased 2 sets of toilet bowls, bidet sprays, sinks, relevant connectors, heaters, kitchen sinks for $1300. My renovation is not complete, and I hope to update you all more. To conclude, more built-in means less customization. Tastes change. Trends change. You don't have to build a complete house in one go. They like to say "Yi Ci Guo" - or do all at once. That is relevant for only SOME things, mainly the foundational things - plumbing, electrical and wetworks. Others such as grills, furnitures, built-in wardrobes, these can come and go. My renovation is under way. All the best for yours. Ask me anything.