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Mission (Almost) Impossible - 25K 4Rm Bto Renovation

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Three and a half years later... (From the husband's point of view)

We recently welcomed a second child into our family. This predictably led the wife and I to compare our lives today, to a time when children hadn't come into the equation.  Browsing through old photographs, we laughed at:


1. The years we dated 

Her:  "Weiiii... You see, you see... Got photo evidence! Last time, you used to wear nice shirt and jeans whenever going out with me, why now always dry fit tee and shorts?"

Me:  "Now hot mah, wear shirt will sweat alot leh."

Her:  "Last time also hot what!"

Me:  "Global warming leh."

Her: "..."


2. Our wedding album

Me: "Look at our wedding photographs! We used to be so thin! I had a jawline! You had a waist!"

Her: "I gave birth, what's your excuse?"

Me: "..."


3.Our honeymoon,

Her:  "Dear, remember hor, you promised me for our ten year anniversary we would go back to Alaska!"

Me:  "Our kids who take care leh..."

Us: "..."


Parenthood and weight gain jokes aside, we also came across our trove of renovation photographs. And this made me decide to play necromancer - resurrecting this very dead thread.



Taobao Review

Taobao is really a case of hit and miss. Some of the best AND worst buys came from Taobao.


The sofa that we talked about in this post ended up being a tad too hard for us, and we threw it away after 2 years of use. That basically worked out to $200 spent over two years. To be fair, it was still in great condition, and we would have donated it, if not for the fact that we don't drive and no charity was willing to come to our house to take it off our hands.

The recliner that got in the same shipment (same post) is still in use till today. I would highly recommend the recliner if its still available at the same price.

The stainless steel bathroom fittings have discolored slightly, but they are very usable, and nothing that a dab of Autosol will not fix. I'd strongly advise getting stainless steel fittings from Taobao too, if you're not too anal about aesthetics. Here's how the discoloration looks:



The dining table and chairs are fantastic! They have held up wonderfully! I recently went to IKEA (to eat) and baulked at the price of the dining furniture (SGD800). I would definitely buy dining tables from Taobao, given how cheap they were for us. Something like SGD200 for the table and four chairs.  


Carpentry Review

The house is still in great shape. I tidied up quite a fair bit to take the following shot, but you can see that the laminates, and the cubby hole still look quite clean.IMG_20171004_130117.jpg.c06ae2c356a0a0fa816dfa755f9943b4.jpg


We got a domestic helper early this year (2017), and converted the study into the maid's room. I still use it for work though, and the swivel table still works fine. It's got multiple inky streaks over it (only visible on close up), but that can't be helped.



Look how our kids' room has grown with them. That collection of plush toys! You could swim in them haha.

Overall, its a really safe environment, and the wife and I are proud of what we did for this room (basically: we didn't do too much, and let it grow with them!). We love how there are no sharp edges anywhere. The plastic shelves that you see are from Taobao, and I would recommend getting similar shelving for those who're concerned about child safety. All nice, round edges.



My wife is really thankful we got the foldable table in our masterbedroom, it has helped her immensely the past few months, when she has had to express baby's milk.



Post-Renovation Follow up

The post-renovation service has been GREAT!

For all carpentry, JE (our contractor) provided us a one year warranty, but they continued to help us fix things in the house at absolutely NO COST. Offhand, I remember them coming thrice to fix:

1. The aluminium window grilles - the latching mechanism/keyhole got stuck and had to be replaced

2. My 3 year old son grabbed a cupboard door and fell onto it, resulting in what contractor J (the boss) called "overswing" damage to the hinge.  (this was in 2016)


This is how the hinge looks now in 2017, post-repair. You can see that the inner edge is slightly cracked, but that can't be helped. I'm not going to get a new cupboard door just because of a couple of chips/cracks.


3. In our master bedroom, a glass mirror in a full length wardrobe fell off after a peg came loose.     (this was in 2017)


This is how it looks llike now, also post-repair, 2017.


4.  We also had to get JE to repaint our masterbedroom ceiling with anti-mould paint, after we discovered patches of mold and insects living in the mold! YUCKS! This cost us $200, but it was well worth it for our baby's health.


For both 2 and 3, contractor J (who is a carpenter by trade) came down personally to fix the carpentry up. He has a really good memory, and could chat with me about things that we had spoken about a long long time ago (such as my colonscopy - literally we talked crap ha ha).

There are MANY other things in the house that aren't as clean, or as brand new as they used to be, but we like how its turned out. It feels lived-in, and it feels like we can live here for a long time! (It really helps that there is a branded primary school nearby, which I'm an alumni of... so kids, you're definitely going to XXXX school, and we're going to live here for another 10 years ha ha)


Important Disclaimer

I am a perfectionist, so I touched up all the posts) even re-linking the broken images from Photobucket. As I read through all the posts we put up, I realized that I need to clarify:

1.  Many of the prices would have changed since 2013-2014. For Taobao, many of the links may have expired and the RMB has appreciated against the SGD. I'm not certain that items from Taobao still necessarily qualify as good purchases.

2.  I haven't kept up with Renotalk, but I'm sure that the industry must have also adjusted their prices to keep up with inflationary pressures. I'm not even sure if one can still get a house fully renovated for 25K SGD



What I'm sure of though, is that:

1. Taobao is STILL my go to website for many items.

     We still regularly buy small items, especially books and toys for the children!

2. Contractors are like business partners - when you find a good contractor, you have to maintain a good relationship with them!

     To achieve the best outcome for everyone, don't quibble too much over the small details. Some people expect a perfect, zero-mistake renovation. I don't think that's possible. As long as the big mistakes are rectified to your satisfaction, its enough for me. How about the small mistakes? Well, I see it like business - there is always some give and take. After all, your house will be lived in, and things will (eventually) become worn or chipped, or dented. By being reasonable with your contractor/ID, you ensure they will continue to help you in future (if the need arises)!

   I suppose that's why JE has continued to help us repair things for free, even though the warranty has expired for more than two years!



   Lastly,  we have two kids now, so don't expect us to regularly update this. If you have specific questions about how my home is like after 3.5 years of living in it, feel free to post on this t-blog and I'll see what I can do, no promises!  


Edited by jez2014
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Renovations and Males

I've been here long enough, and read enough to know that renovations are like males. Got some will be longer :D, some will be shorter. Some harder, some not so hard. And one person's taste in interior design may be absolutely poison to another. Just like no man can please all women mah. Unless you are me lah.

My whole office is all women, I please ALL of them leh. Everyday also have to please them...  



"Please may I borrow your xxx, because I forgot yyy?"

KNN lao le **** forgetful sia.


Why we should talk about the Budget

Anyway seriously, so on Renotalk you can find ALOT of posts (My post office also maybe don't have so much posts)... and EVEN MORE sh__tposts. (My toilet also maybe don't have so much sh__t).

But nobody talks about budgeting. I mean, Renotalk is probably read by young couples getting their houses for the first time. And all of us young couples are probably on tight budgets right?? I mean, the wife and I definitely were, 3 years ago! But just like the government budget... nobody seems to care man!

Well, I suppose, of course there are rich AF people buying resale, paying $1million for 70-80 year lease (cough... Pinnacle cough...) but aiya, those people obviously different league lah.  Those people are royalty, they swim in money daily leh... I am a peasant, I swim in misery everyday.

But why Singaporeans so money minded, WHOOOOOOLE DAY can talk about money... but here nobody talk leh? I suppose its because ultimately, money is a very sensitive topic in online sphere. If I say I earn $XXX, got people will envy me, say I show off, will also have people laugh at me, say I eat soft rice, earn no enough. Online anonymous lah, easy flame. Can never make everyone song la.

Why share today?

Since our own renovation experience in 2015, I (the hubbs) have been wanting to post about budgeting, but le wife always strongly discourage me. She say surely tio flamed.

But today... I decided to go ahead and post ANYWAY (wifey you can diam diam)... because my younger brother is going to get his resale soon... so I just spent the afternoon with him, over a cup of coffee, giving him financial advice. It stirred something so deep within me, so urgent... I had to do something... 

GO TOILET LAH. Coffee always gives me diarrhea man.

So, since I took so many craps for the day liao, what is one more crap eh? ;)


Financial Advice - Planning for your Renovation

So if you're a young couple, or not so young in age, but young at heart... and looking for some financial advice when it comes to renovations, here's my PENny's worth.

P:  Prioritize 

E:  Emergency

N: Negotiate...

I very clever hor... :yeah:I purposely choose the abbreviation PEN because it sounds like my favourite part of the body. (PEN sound like the hand lor... DUH)



When I just got the keys to my BTO, I remember worrying most about the renovation costs. All my friends had told me it would be a bomb. Most of my classmates are lawyers, doctors, working for Shell lah, oil firm, traders etc etc. So they were dropping numbers like $60k, $80k... I think one even hit the six digit mark ($100k). These were eye popping sums for the wife and I. Scared the poop out of us. Speaking of which, now is Halloween... ghosts I not scared, but $100k still looks real frightening to me.

Fast forward 3.5 years later... I realize that renovation costs are only part of the equation.

Unless you're lucky and you have some fairy godmother, or some second hand goods lying around, you will also need a truckful of furniture, appliances, house insurance, house installments, even electricity bills, toiletries and groceries... everything adds up! Once you start living APART from your parents even CHYE PNG becomes expensive sia. Last time my mummy always cook for me... mummy I miss your free meals T____T

In our case we realized that we had to put aside about $30k for the furniture and appliances, AND expect to spend an additional $1k per month due to having to feed and clothe ourselves. Ha nah, last time at my mother's house we were leeches that ran about naked and got free food, happy?


So what do I mean by "Prioritize"?

Firstly, there are daily things you CANNOT avoid. Total these up first. Transport costs, utilities, food, installments/insurance, all these HAVE to be settled. When you dilligently do these sums, you may realize (like we did!) that your "monthly savings" are going to become much less than what you are currently save. Bearing this in mind... you can now... 

Secondly, take look at the renovation, furniture and appliances you will need. There is no point in speculating "washing machine ah... should be about $500... Sofa ah... maybe $800 lah".... just open newspapers or go online to google the ACTUAL price at major department stores lah! That way, you get the accurate idea of how much all these appliances are going to cost. You HAVE to buy them soon anyway right? So no harm, you can also do some window shopping, go to those IT fairs to start to eye the models you want! At these IT fairs, usually the husband and wife both eyeball the models, but different type of "models" :rolleyes:... MEN THINK WITH THE CORRECT BRAIN PLS!!!). In our case, le wife actually created an EXCEL FILE to write everything down. And this allowed us to be dead sure that everything was going to be about $30k for the appliances/furniture we wanted.

Thirdly, cut away things you do NOT need. There are two simple criteria you should ask yourself: Do I need it? Can I buy it LATER? 


For instance, when we first moved in, we decided that we DID NOT NEED the following: 

1. False ceiling,

2. Hacking away walls


And we decided that the following were NOT urgent

3. Sound system for the TV 

4. Cable TV box or equivalent (you know those illegal ones, cannot mention lah)


Now its three years later, and I can safely say, we have NEVER needed the false ceiling and extra lights in the living room (too bright means opposite block peeping tom can see me leh)

I have NEVER wanted to hack any wall... (I mean, sometimes I kick a wall by mistake, and I curse it lah, but who looks at a wall and thinks... "I should have hacked you away dammit")

The above two alone are probably $10,000 or more saved. That's TWO nice, big end of year vacations!


We eventually DID feel bored at home, so we got the cable box but we are SO glad we didn't get the sound system nor cable TV. As a parent of two kids,  the elder son is super sensitive to noise when he sleeps, so TOTALLY cannot watch TV with volume. I consider that a couple of hundreds to maybe a thousand saved! 




When the wife and I finally settled our renovation budget, we kept in mind the need to have an emergency fund. So we always kept $20k untouched.

Experts in newspapers will always say simi 6 months or what lah... but personally, I say keep at least $20k bah. That's because $20k is like, the typical hospital bill for mega problems. 

In our case, my wife discovered a lump growing and had to go for biopsy. Immediately $20k was flushed down the toilet. Thankfully it was benign, and insurance paid out... but we still needed to cough out $20k first or else maybe hospital don't want to entertain us wor.

So always keep a sizeable sum for emergencies! $20k to some of you might sound like peanuts... but to us then it was alot! And if $20k is also alot to you, we totally understand you :~ Group Hug!

It was because of the $20k rule that made us cut OUT some optional stuff for the house (like the false ceiling and hacking the study wall loh). I am really glad we didn't do it!!



Well, I'm sure everyone knows that you HAVE to negotiate with ID firms and contractors. Basically, the first quotation they give you is always marked up. Maybe its to test your "sincerity", I also don't know why. But there is always room for discussion. Keep pressing for a lower price, don't be paiseh! If the firm really cannot match your price, then they will say cannot lor. Nothing to lose here. Companies will usually recommend you take things away to save costs... this is actually a good opportunity to see what things are "chop carrot" one (slang for: cheat your money).

For instance, most firms we approached would tell us NOT to do false ceiling to save costs. This led us to (in my opinion) correctly conclude that false ceiling is a definite luxury, not as important as some IDs make it out to be... so that made the decision to cut it out much easier!

But more importantly.... a lesser known secret is...

AFTER you have chosen a comapany, you will sign a contract, this is called the initial VO. AFTER this point you MUST let your chosen ID or contractor know your ABSOLUTE final price. For instance, if the contract you sign is $30,000, you must keep reminding them that you CANNOT exceed this figure. Otherwise sometimes there is the issue of "oops, this cropped up, we have to add this this this amount..."

If you keep reminding them that your budget is very tight, they will be more respectful of it. Problems will always crop up during renovations. But if any problem crops up, since your chosen ID/contractor knows your budget is tight... they will be sure to CALL you to ask you about how to proceed or not. Better to have them call you than to anyhow proceed then subsequently bill you!

In our case, there were a few problems that cost us a little bit more than expected, but because we kept reminding our contractor about our budget, they were very willing to absorb some of the costs lor.


Last thoughts

I'm sorry if this was a useless wall of text to some people. I mean, most of the people using this forum are probably well educated and wealthy. But three years ago, I was really a penniless pauper, struggling to see significant savings in my bank account. Three years later, I am still poor - my children eat alot man. LOL, genetics proven.:rolleyes:

If you ever come into more money (say, you strike TOTO), you can always renovate again, or buy more furniture. But once you buy liao, you can't undo it. The money is gone forever man. So think about it, the next time you're considering whether to get this or that for the new BTO, or if your ID/contractor suggests "this and that". Do I need it? Do I need it NOW?:yeah:




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Hello @blade07,


Uhm... I'm not sure how you would assess qualitatively how a washing machine is holding up, but... the Beko is still working? 

It still spins, and the clothes feel clean. I'd say that between the two kids, two adults and 1 helper, we have been use the washing machine daily for the past 2-3 years (it''s just a matter of whose load).  The Beko has never broken down, nor given any problems (yet - gotta knock on wood!). Together with the drier from Citigas our laundry is pretty much taken care of.



Would I still buy it?

There's actually two ways to read your question. "Would I still buy a Beko?" and "Would I still buy the exact same model and make?"


For the former... I would certainly still buy it if it were still priced competitively.

I DO remember a random coversation with some friend/colleague/salesperson (I forgot who) where it was mentioned that when Beko first came into Singapore a few years ago, the price was depressed in order to help the brand gain traction.

I have not recently looked at washing machine prices, since the Beko has given me no reason to do so. But my guess is that Beko would have become more expensive? If the prices have gone up, I'd have to do comparisons. Kiasu Singaporean, mah.


For the latter reading of your question... I MIGHT still buy the same model and make, but I would also consider one with a larger capaciity (if such a model exists). Washing machine capacity is like the balconies/service yard of a prospective home. You don't want something that's too big (paying for square feet you can't use), nor too small (can't do nuts if its too small). Right now, the washing machine we use has a very functional capacity, but there are occasions where I wish it had more capacity. For instance, when returning from a holiday (4 loads = 4 hours), or weekends where both days were spent outdoors (so many filthy clothes!).


Last words:

Since getting a helper, I've realized that one more criteria to consider for appliances is user-friendliness. I mean, the helper is the one dealing with the machine(s) most of the time - and I have to get something that she can operate without destroying. My hired help is not the sharpest tool in the shed. She's already destroyed a microwave, countless plates and cups, two umbrellas, part of a vacuum, two mops... well... the list goes on. :rolleyes:




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Thank you for the very detailed answer!!

Actually Beko is still priced very competitively but the models are really limited. Was asking on that question because am searching for a front load washer at the moment and contemplating whether to go with Beko due to the price.

Would definitely put it in our list after your reply.

I can understand that about the helper. When we use something ourselves 10yrs also won't spoil, but let them use, it only takes 10weeks to spoil.


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Hi @stargazer7,

I have replied to you by PM.

I'm sorry but we cannot email you because then you would get MY email address, which I do not wish to disclose. I also suggest you remove YOUR email address from your post because people can then start to send you spam, or in extreme cases, try to hack into your inbox. Be wary of what you post online!

@Blade07, OK!
Hope you get the washing machine of your dreams! 
Sounds SOOOOO super aunty coming from me... how conversations have changed at our age haha! 


I used to talk about shoes and accessories with my friends. Now all I talk about are household appliances and baby products. And sometimes (gasp!), conversations even devolve into "which supermarket stocks the freshest fish and chye sim"... :/

Edited by jez2014

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On 10/30/2014 at 1:52 PM, jez2014 said:

Contents Page/Helpful Links

NEW!! UPDATED -- Our Home 3.5 years Later - Here

                              -- Budgeting for your BTO, how much should you spend? - Here


1. Our Chosen Contractor + Reasons why - Here


2. Color Schemes we considered - Here


3. $9000 for all appliances! Only $930 for Hood and Induction Hob! - Here


4. $99 bathtub! - Here


5. Taobao purchases - Round 1! Stainless steel bathroom stuff for cheapssss! - Here


6. Taobao purchases - Round 2! $300 Sofa! $200 recliner! - Here


7. Our 3-D drawings! ALOT of carpentry for $25k! - Here

8. Our Renovation Begins! Bath Tub and Hafary! - Here

9. Carpentry: The Study! - Here

10. Carpentry: My Custom Built Table! - Here

11. Carpentry - Workmanship!! - Here

12. Taobao - Things you: MUST buy, CAN buy, DON'T buy! - Here

13. Final Pictures of our Home - GOODbuy! (haha)

a. Study - Here

b. Living Room - Here

c. Kitchen - Here

d. Bedroom 1 - Here

e. Master Bedroom - Here

f. Toilets - Here

g. Final budget + Our moving company + Sofa pictures! - Here

14. Things that could have gone better - Lessons we learnt when dealing with contractors - Here

1+1=3 in our 4 Room BTO

I refused, refused, refused to apply for a BTO before the hubbs proposed - no way was I going to go down the way of a 'HDB-proposal'. Practical? Not very, but maybe I'm just a old romantic at heart.

So yes, he proposed, I said yes, we got engaged, married, and only THEN, did we send out our first application for a HDB flat.

That was in 2012. We lucked out and got an excellent queue number for our choice estate in Tampines upon our first application.

Fast forward 2.5 years, and here we are, proud new owners of a BTO fresh off the factory floor. Perhaps the timing was just perfect - our little couplehood has since, grown to include a pint-sized dictator, which means that we need not worry about how we would have to redesign the house when the little one comes along. Now that little Z is here, he is part of our plans. (Maybe it would be more apt to say that our plans are centred around him!)

Hence, the first steps towards building our cosy little nook, for our family of three.

Our Design Inspirations

Here are some images of designs that inspired us:


Too many people doing Scandinavian these days. We like the simplicity, but don't want to be mainstream lah. So we thought about it, and quite liked Zen.


My ideal study!

I absolutely LOVE to work from a bed, hence the L-shaped bedside table is a really awesome design feature.



We also want to keep Ah boy's room clean and neat.





Can sharing me your contractor detail?


thks ya 


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