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  1. We have just started our renovation recently, and decided that we should start a blog to document our Renovation Journey, so we could one day look back at our experience =) There are like so so so many tiny details that one should keep in mind during renovation. So many tricks, tips & pointers to look out for. Hopefully by sharing our humble experience, fellow renotalkers can also learn something from our renovation process as well. Nothing fanciful here, but I guess I shall start off with some pointers on ID/ Contractor Selection Process, my ideal steps as follow: 1) Get your floor plan (the above is ours). You can email HDB and they will send the hard copy to you by slow mail. Then photocopy a few copies of your floor plan, for future usage (e.g. to give to potential ids/contractors). When to start finding? It depends, we started like 3 or 2 months before we get our keys. However, if you know you are finding someone popular, then you might want to check his/her schedule earlier. 2) Brainstorm & write down in details what you would like to do for your house. Be specific. Don't just say Wardrobe in the Master Bedroom, say instead, 6ft length wardrobe in laminated finish, and whether you want casement or sliding doors. Number of drawers may matter too. Soft-closing and what brand also must say. Your ceiling height matters too (normally they do until 2.4m or 2.5m high only... extra height must top up). Whether you want the insides to be internal colour PVC finish or the standard white colour (which may turn yellow after many years..) also affects the price. Choice of external laminates matters too as some laminates can be more expensive than others. Sometimes even mirror or any fanciful design or material can affect the price, so be specific on your requirements. *EDITED ON 26 JUN 2016* 3) After having written down your specific requirements, do meet up with at least 5 Ids / Contractors to get your quotation (bring your floor plan too). Doing this will allow you to: a) compare the various quotations on the SAME job that is being done. b) observe the person to see if it's someone you can "click" with.. His/her attitude and design sense, etc. c) collect ideas. a good id/contractor may also point out impracticality of your design and explain stuffs to you why it's not good & propose better solutions. Do note that engaging ids will cost more than contractors (duh....the obvious), usually at least $2k to $5k+ more... it depends. You may consider getting an id if you have the budget + if you don't know what design you want, etc. If you already have a sense of direction what kind of design you want, then perhaps a contractor may suffice. Some contractors have designers to draw 3D drawings for them, so you can better conceptualise the design. The cheapest option, however, is to outsource EVERYTHING (e.g. find your own carpenter, tiler, electrician, etc). But that would require a lot of time & coordination on your side, and it could be quite stressful too.. *EDITED ON 26 JUN 2016* 4) Find out all the hidden costs, and also determine which items are worth outsourcing to make the overall renovation cost cheaper. Here are just some areas you can look into: a) Haulage & Debris Removal Service - Should you really pay $800-$1200 for haulage & debris removal service to your id/contractor? Or will it be cheaper if you call the HDB appointed Haulage Service contractor (his contact will be pasted near your BTO lift), and then ask your id/contractor to liaise with him instead? Haulage service is basically carrying the heavy stuffs for you, such as Tiles (if your flooring is not done yet), and debris removal is where they help you clear any debris from your renovation. I'm not sure if those who have no hacking & tiling works still need this service or not...as it may seem rather redundant unless you need to do kitchen mortar base, washing machine & fridge kerb then maybe need some labour need to carry the required materials such as prepacked cement, etc (this may probably cost you about $250?). For us, we have to hack some walls & do flooring... so we need this service. The amount of works done (hacking/flooring works) & the size of your flat (if do flooring) will determine the cost of this service. Some ids/contractors will ask you to get this service yourself and they will not include this in the quotation..., some may absorb this cost for you and provide it "free" (while jacking up the prices of other items maybe?), and some others will include this in the quotation as $800 to $1200++ and say it will be better if you engage from them as it is their own workers doing the service directly, so there will not be any miscommunication or delays. I later realised that this is kind of not true.. The HDB appointed Haulage Contractor for our BTO is "Mr Tan", and he says the service would cost $600 if got hacking + tiling works for 4 room (I'm not sure if other HDB appointed private contractors from other areas have different pricing or not..). I told my contractor (let's called him Uncle S) about it and he says he actually knows him coz they sometimes need to work together. He also remarked that he charge me cheaper than him too (Mr Tan charges Uncle S $700 for haulage/debris removal services)! So anyway, I passed Uncle S the money, he help me pay and get the receipt from Mr Tan. And from there onwards they work together no need me to call or arrange any appointments with Mr Tan at all. I never even met Mr Tan myself, only phoned & texted him to negotiate the cost of service only. Thus, it's not as troublesome as you may think if you engage Haulage service yourself, the point is whether your id/contractor is willing to help you liaise with the Haulage Contractor or not. So far everything seems okay. My walls have been hacked with debris cleared. Floor tiles are already in our house & tiling works are progressing, might be finishing by end of next week b) Window Grilles & Doors - It's usually cheaper to outsource these to those companies that do these works as their primary focus. I will update again the contacts once I am in that stage of installing these. It is better to install them at a later stage in the renovation (e.g. as doors may hinder movement or get scratched unless you protect them with cardboards and stuff). Uncle S says he will help me supervise the installation when the day comes (I hope ). c) Electrical, Plumbing Works & Aircon Works - These are usually not included in the quotation. You may choose to find your own electrician, plumber & aircon installer, or use the ones that your id/contractor works with. d) 3D Drawings - Do the 3D drawings come with unlimited edits? Or each re-draw/change of a 3D drawing (to see another design) will cost extra $$$? Stay away from those ids/contractors whereby 3D Drawings will cost exorbitant price like $500 each per change, as this will only limit/force you to proceed with the current design they proposed to you, which may not be what you really want. e) Internal Color PVC (example above) - As mentioned earlier, this is for the insides of the Cabinets/Drawers. The "default" is usually white color, but it may turn yellow after some years. If you want it to be internal Color PVC (non-white, there are a few colors & patterns to choose from..), then you have to top up. Do note that this is NOT the same as normal laminate, which is used for the OUTSIDE / EXTERNAL of the carpentry works. So, in terms of price, Internal White PVC < Internal Color PVC < Laminate. f) Full-height Carpentry works - If you are staying with higher ceiling height, full-height carpentry works will cost more. ** 5) Create an excel file to break-down and compare the quotations. Copy & paste the various jobs you have written in Step 2. Now, add in the quotations you have collected in Step 3. It may take awhile, but this step is very useful in helping you see the differences between the different ids/contractors quotation. It also allows you to calculate your costs easier as compared to writing these in word document. This means you will have 1 Column of Items, and X number of other Columns representing the X number of IDs/contractors you've seen. Additional Items & freebies can leave it to the last rows, do it in whatever format that you are comfortable with. Example, Requirements ID A ID B ID C Item 1: 7ft Brick Feature wall in Craftstone finish. $800 $1000 $900 Item 2: 6ft Wardrobe, sliding doors, height 2.6m, color internal PVC, with 1 mirror, 3 drawers, external laminates can choose $75 and below, etc (write whatever specific details) $1300 $1200 $1050 Item X: Window Grilles? (FREE = $0) $0 $900 $800 Basically you can use any method you want, no need to follow exactly the format here. The point is, to break up the quotations so you can weigh the pricing differences for the various works. 6) After comparing the quotes, and having a rough sense of who is more "reliable" or "comfortable" to you... you may then approach them again to further discuss & revise the quotes. Revise the quote? Well, remember the comparison you did in Step 5? You may approach the id/contractor you like and say so and so ID charged me cheaper for this item, do you think you can match his price? If you are lucky, the price can be matched, or a slight discount if the price difference is too big. 7) Ask to visit his current project sites to see the workmanship. Basically to see if the workmanship is good. Are the cabinet doors misaligned? Do they close properly? Is the floor grouting too wide? Etc. 8) Request for a site survey at your new house. The purpose is for a more accurate quotation... those with high ceiling height may have to top up more $$ on full-height carpentry works. It could also tell you how keen the person is in taking up your job (those not keen will say after sign contract then come...) 9) Ask lots & lots of questions if in doubt. Questions regarding the different materials, design solutions, costs, etc. Double check their facts. Do not take their answers for granted if possible. For example, recently TV got show some unfortunate couple got conned by a "contractor/ID" that claimed to be Case Trust & Radac. However, the CaseTrust website do not have the id/contractor company inside. The "contractor/id" has since disappeared and never to be found. You can also check Casetrust banned list here. If the company is not case trust, then do a google or search renotalk on their reviews. Sometimes you can find a lot of bad reviews about that company, and it may be safer if you avoid them. 10) Check check & check the contract before you sign. For example, on hindsight, it may be better for your contractor/id to charge you just for the labour for laying the tiles, instead of Labour + Price of tiles. Why do I say that? Think about it, say your id states that Bedroom tiles you can choose $2.50 to $4psf, before GST. If the Bedrooms are about 450 sqft in total, it would mean that a $2.50psf tile would cost 450 x $2.50 = $1,125. If you choose a $4psf tile, then it would be 450 x $4 = $1,800. That's a difference of $675 between the 2!! T_T And no... that will not be refunded if you have opted for the cheaper tiles. Thus, if we had taken out tiles prices in our quotation/contract, we will not have to worry about whether the tiles we are choosing is too cheap or too expensive. We could just choose based on the design. So this ideally should be discuss prior to signing the contract... unless your id/contractor is OKAY with refunding any extra $ if the tiles you choose are too cheap. *EDITED ON 26 JUN 2016* I suddenly remember something that Uncle S told me: If your house is still in initial building phase/not yet fully constructed, and you are absolutely sure that you want an open kitchen concept, you may request for them not to do up the wall that is partitioning the kitchen (if any). Also, if you don't like highlighting tiles, you may also request them not to include them in the toilets or kitchen. Although I'm not sure how true this is because I never personally tried it before (my unit was already constructed).... I suppose there is no harm giving it a try by asking your BTO/housing developer or something. If it works, then this could save you a few hundreds of dollars from wall hacking, wall tiles overlaying, etc. Not sure if I missed out any tips or pointers.. but feel free to comment ^_^
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