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Hello everyone!

I decided to start this t-blog not so much to document our renovation process (will try to as much as I can), but mainly to share things, especially tips and other little nuggets of info, which I have learnt during this period and during another renovation I was involved in 4 years back. 

Renovation is a time-consuming and multi-faceted process, and when I started out, I was so overwhelmed by the amount of things I didn’t know. Doing research helped (thank you, Renotalkers!), but even now there are still so many things I am still learning for my second renovation. Hopefully this thread will benefit others :D

Contents for easier reference:

 

Introduction:
Husband and I got married in 2015 and we spent quite some time waiting to buy a resale flat because “the boss” has very high expectations and yet not-so-high budget, so took a while before “the one” came along…… 

… and even after marrying her, he asked for patience because he really really wanted to get a unit near his parents’ place. So bo pian, yours truly patiently waited but no good units came up and finally had to put my foot down and force the boss to look for alternative areas.

Long story short, we did manage to find a good unit not-so-near his parents (I did a little hurray, I admit), price was a little high but boss willing to pay, and we also had to patiently wait for the previous owners to move out before we could get our renovation started.

 

The unit:

large.58a9647a4ca0c_01Floorplan.jpg

Our new house has a very interesting layout which appealed to us, mainly the long combined living and dining room. The master room is also situated away from the common rooms, which means more privacy, but also posed some challenges because the space is limited and we can’t knock down some walls to combine the bedrooms. No walk-in wardrobe, for sure... 

Here are photos we took right after getting our keys...

large_01.1-Week-0.jpg

large_01.2-Week-0.jpg

large_01.3-Week-0.jpg

large_01.4-Week-0.jpg

large_01.6-Week-0.jpg

large_01.7-Week-0.jpglarge_01.8-Week-0.jpg

large_01.9-Week-0.jpg

 

If you noticed, the previous owners had combined the two common bedrooms into one, so this is actually the current layout:

large.58a9a2fde8612_02Currentlayout.jpg

 

Edited by ilkl
Updated Table of Contents
 

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ID-Contractor Conundrum:
Since I am quite finicky and had some experience with renovation, I contemplated hiring contractor … but was rather worried about the coordinating part. And my husband (aka the boss) is also super fussy, and the best part is, when I describe things to him to ask his opinion, he always gives this face :unsure: and says, “I cannot imagine” which makes me wanna throw my hands up and bang my head on the wall :bangwall:. So we thought maybe get an ID because at least we'll get 3D renderings to help the boss imagine better.

A certain app which-shall-not-be-named, I must say, is a good find! I have found so many pictures of all sorts of things to show the husband and also the ID/contractor when describing is too painful and it has definitely made my life easier. And since they had this promo where you get them to shortlist 5 IDs for you, meet the IDs and get $100 Takashimaya vouchers, I thought, why not?

I won’t go much into details regarding the ID selection process, but I prepared a brief which I sent to all 5 IDs and met up with all of them, and during the process managed to fine-tune our requirements even more. The current ID which we decided to engage was from the 5 we met, and I won’t comment on them for the time being. So please don’t ask me for contact first, let’s wait until the end of renovation before I give feedback ya?

 

THE PLAN (aka the brief which I sent out to potential IDs):

large.58a9acf928a68_03Plannedlayout.jpg

All areas

  • Change flooring and windows (including full height windows)
  • Plastering & Painting
  • Possible rewiring
  • Replace all air-conditioners – to conceal trunking after
  • Change doors

Living Room

  • Modify existing false ceiling, if possible – to create recess at sofa & TV area for ceiling fan
  • TV feature wall & console & display cabinets/shelves – preference for bricks/craftstone
  • Replace existing shoe cabinet at hallway

Kitchen

  • Hack down wall to create open kitchen with breakfast counter
  • Wet kitchen at service yard area (next to Store) with glass sliding door
  • Full height cabinet for built-in microwave, oven and drawer dishwasher

Master Bedroom

  • Repositioning of bedroom door and bathroom door
  • Queen sized bed frame (already have)
  • Generous built-in wardrobe
  • Ceiling fan

Bedrooms

  • Erect wall to divide bedrooms and repositioning of doors
  • Bedroom 1 – built-in wardrobe
  • Bedroom 2 as Study Room – with built-in long table and full height bookcase
  • Ceiling fans for both

Toilets

  • Overhaul – prefer slight industrial or resort look
  • Hide pipes
  • No vanity cabinet, vanity counter instead
  • Glass screen for shower area


Some things I learned from meeting the 5 IDs:

  • Redoing flooring is expensive business. Firstly, you must hack away existing floor tiles, then the contractor has to screed the floor before laying down new tiles. Due to new HDB regulations requiring all cement to be prepacked waterproof cement, costs for redoing floors in HDB have gone up at least 20-30% more. Condo renovation can still use the traditional mixing of cement with own sand in the contractor’s propriety ratio, but HDB is now no-no.
  • If existing floor tiles are still not too shabby (not too many hollow or popping-out tiles), choose to overlay with vinyl flooring instead. But take note that this will increase your floor height, so existing doors will need their bottoms shaved (labour cost!).
  • Plastering is recommended if the existing walls are very uneven. This is different from making good after hacking. Older flats will likely benefit from plastering.
  • If you have existing bare concrete screed walls and wish to paint over it, plastering is needed to achieve a smoother surface before painting.
  • Can save money by screeding over existing tiles in kitchen and bathroom. Good news if planning to go industrial.
  • Changing of full-height windows in HDB is not allowed. IF really want to, need to get Professional Engineer (PE) to inspect and send letter to BCA, and even then is also subjected to approval. So need to cough up money to hire PE (range of $1-3k possibly), then wait for BCA to approve before HDB will allow you to change. Even then, supposedly need to follow the existing colour and type. Long story short, probably not worth the hassle. Source: http://www.hdb.gov.sg/cs/infoweb/residential/living-in-an-hdb-flat/renovation/window-works
  • For 4- and 5-room flats, can consider getting 2 compressors for Aircon. However, first, must check if your block supports 40 amps loading. Check here: http://services2.hdb.gov.sg/webapp/BN31AWERRCMobile/BN31SElectrical?loadAction=electrical 
  • If your block supports 40 amps loading, then you must get the electrician to install an additional 20 amps switch (40 amps = 2 x 20 amps). Take note 20A is more ex than the normal 13A socket. 15A is usually for induction stove.
  • Modifying existing false ceiling is cheaper than tearing down and rebuilding a new one. Mainly because removing false ceiling is quite hazardous due to the amount of particulate matter generated. The current living room has an extensive false ceiling present, and since our ceiling height is still relatively ok, we’re keeping it with some modifications.
  • Installing a ceiling fan at an existing false ceiling is possible – either they open up a hole in the false ceiling to anchor the fan onto the concrete, then extend the stalk/rod more downwards, and patch up the false ceiling around the stalk/rod, OR they will add a wooden support inside the false ceiling and you install the fan on it. At first I thought must open up a niche/recess in the false ceiling (so the sides remain as L-box and can install the fan directly on the ceiling) but since the false ceiling will have a skeleton inside it, this way is not possible – contractor/ID will just ask you to tear down and install new false ceiling. 
  • There are a couple of ways to do up a brick feature wall:
  1. Craftstone – most expensive because craftstone itself is not cheap. Price is about $65 per 0.8 sqm (or $7.55 psf, from Hafary) excluding labour.
  2. Stucco artist – they will build up the brick effect by using plaster-like material. Advantage is, if you want to change the colour of the bricks next time, you can paint over it. But of course, the brick effect is less 3D than craftstone up close.
  3. Brick tiles – cheaper than craftstone. Can find quite good variety even at $3.20psf. More 3D than stucco but less 3D than craftstone.
  4. Wallpaper – ugly option :wacko:. IMO Please don’t ever do this. Cheat people’s feelings only when go up close and then realise it’s all flat. The whole point of having bricks is to have the texture and 3D effect.

 

Sharing some things I learned from my previous renovation (my sister's flat):

  • Doing a magnetic paint wall seems like a great idea. But the magnetic effect is quite weak, so only those really strong magnets can hold up paper/photos. And if you are not painting another layer of paint over it (probably will weaken the hold even more), then be careful not to splash water on it. The paint contains iron element, it will rust (or at least turn rusty-red).
  • In-built liquid soap dispenser which comes with the sink – you will not bother using it after a while as it is a hassle to top-up the liquid soap. And the one we bought from Hoe Kee (Ros brand) rusted barely a year later. It’s an eye-sore now. 
  • Regret not asking for thicker plywood for bookcase – the wood has sagged under the heavy burden of my books. Always ask for thicker wood!! Also good to have fixed shelves for the bookcase to avoid this problem.
  • Getting a water-efficient toilet bowl means sometimes the poo-poo doesn’t get completely flushed away. Then you end up flushing more which means more water wastage. Get less ticks and ask your plumber to crank up the water pressure to max when installing the WC. 
  • Changing the position of the toilet or washroom in HDB flat is unlikely to ever get approval. Even with waterproofing, HDB will not want the risk of water leakage into your friendly downstairs neighbour’s dry areas. The neighbour will not be so friendly anymore…
  • White solid surface is a big no-no. Stains easily, scratches easily. Sigh… If you want white countertop, go for quartz or KompacPlus.
Edited by ilkl
 
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16 hours ago, KFC1189 said:

Hi, the layout of your new flat is really unique. I have never seen it before. What is the floor area? Where is it located?

Floor area is 110sqm, so that's 1184sqft. It's at Pine Close, all the 5-room flats there have the exact same layout. We saw probably 5-6 units there before buying this one.

 

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4 hours ago, ilkl said:

Floor area is 110sqm, so that's 1184sqft. It's at Pine Close, all the 5-room flats there have the exact same layout. We saw probably 5-6 units there before buying this one.

Wah nice area! Looking forward to more tips from you!

 

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Hi ilkl,

Do you plan to create a wet and dry kitchens? If so, you will need to consider your laundry requirements since there is no service yard in your apartment. 

 

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Theme
Deciding on how our future home should look like was no easy task at first, mainly because myself and the boss have rather differing tastes in interior design. I like lots of white, and light-coloured woods ala-Scandinavian (“Too white,” he says). He likes darker wood tones like walnut, with solemn colours, a typical man-cave look (“Too dark! And you’re not getting a bachelor pad!” I say). I’ve always wanted cement screed effect, even for the previous renovation of my sister’s place a few years ago, but at that time did not know what it was called. (The ID I hired last time told me there was no such thing in Singapore. What cow dung!) Fortunately, the boss also likes cement screed and brick effect, but we both agreed that those truly raw industrial look is too hard-core for us. When we described what we would like to our current ID, he said “Light Industrial”. His words; dunno if such theme exists but ok that sounds about right!

Here are our favourite photos curated from a certain app and RT which we sent to our ID:large_03.1-Moodboard.jpglarge_03.2-Moodboard.jpg

 

And this is what they came up with:

Living Room
large_05.0-3D.jpeg


Entrance area, with Craftstone wall:
large_05.1-3D.jpeg


Open Kitchen with hanging metal rack
large_05.2-3D.jpeglarge_05.3-3D.jpeg

 

Service yard as Wet Kitchen & Laundry Area
large_05.4-3D.jpeg

 

Master Bedroom
large_05.5-3D.jpeg

 

Master Bathroom
large_05.6-3D.jpeg

 

Common Bathroom
large_05.7-3D.jpeg

 

Study Room
large_05.8-3D.jpeg

 

large.04-Proposed-layout.jpg


To save some money, we chose not to hack the floor tiles of the bedrooms and living room, as well as the wall tiles on the kitchen, service yard and common bathroom. We will do a vinyl overlay for the floors, and cement screed over the wall tiles. We also decided not to have a built-in wardrobe in the common room since it will be the future kids’ room and buying loose pieces of furniture to grow with the kids is a more practical and economical option.

Edited by ilkl
 

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Hi ilkl,

Personally I think your kitchen layout with separate wet and dry areas is not very efficient. Imagine during heavy cooking, you need to go in and out of the wet area to reach the fridge. Furthermore, you can't use the drying rack outside of the wet kitchen window. I think it is better to combine your dry and wet areas into a U shape kitchen for greater efficiency. It is a good idea to use your wet area as a service yard where you can have a tall cabinet to keep ironing board, pales, mops, etc., a washer/dryer and a sink for hand washing. You need the yard to do ironing and to hang wet clothes for drying.

Just my two cents of advice.   

Edited by KFC1189
 

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Hi ilkl, 

Your new design looks great.

But I can`t figure how do you access your laundry to hang outside, as your kitchen sink and counter top seem like blocking it? Or maybe you have other plan to hang your clothes instead of using the normal bamboo hanging.

 

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Hi @KFC1189 and @CZL,

Thank you for your feedback! You two pointed out something which I did ponder about. Let me elaborate more...

At first I wanted to leave the service yard as it is because I am quite happy having an open kitchen with hob/hood in it as I am not an avid cook (I enjoy baking more). My husband who also doesn't cook, likes oily food in general and wants to be able to cook without causing oily residue at other parts of the house. So he insisted we have a wet kitchen component at the service yard.

For our laundry situation, we are getting a washer/dryer and this zhng-ed laundry rack:

large_05.93-VeriEazy318.jpg

This device is remote-controlled, has a blower and a UV lamp to sanitise. We came across it in one of the ever-present furniture/home renovation expo, by Klassico International. Link: http://www.klassicointernational.com.sg/product/verieazy-318/   Original selling price on the website is $1K, we bargained for $838 (inclusive of delivery and installation). I used to make fun of people who get such things as I am totally ok with the traditional laundry rack on the ceiling, but the boss insisted on retractable and since the price seemed reasonable to him, I was like, "OK lor". I'm definitely not objecting to something that will make our lives easier!!

We will of course keep any hanging laundry if we should ever decide to cook. This arrangement worked for my sister's place, so it was not much of a concern to me.

However, I did think that perhaps it will be too cramped in the service yard/wet kitchen area for larger pieces of laundry such as bed sheets and quilt covers, so decided to still have the option to utilise the poles facing the aircon ledge. Thus, we reduce the built-in bottom cabinets next to the washing machine to allow access to the outside poles (and we also shifted the fridge to a position where we can change the size/height without any restrictions from the built-in carpentry):

large_05.90-new-plan.jpeg

Here's the updated 3D renders:

large_05.92-new-3D.jpeglarge_05.91-new-3D.jpeg

(will talk more about that green wall in later posts!)

Edited by ilkl
 

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12 hours ago, ilkl said:

Hi @KFC1189 and @CZL,

Thank you for your feedback! You two pointed out something which I did ponder about. Let me elaborate more...

At first I wanted to leave the service yard as it is because I am quite happy having an open kitchen with hob/hood in it as I am not an avid cook (I enjoy baking more). My husband who also doesn't cook, likes oily food in general and wants to be able to cook without causing oily residue at other parts of the house. So he insisted we have a wet kitchen component at the service yard.

For our laundry situation, we are getting a washer/dryer and this zhng-ed laundry rack:

large_05.93-VeriEazy318.jpg

This device is remote-controlled, has a blower and a UV lamp to sanitise. We came across it in one of the ever-present furniture/home renovation expo, by Klassico International. Link: http://www.klassicointernational.com.sg/product/verieazy-318/   Original selling price on the website is $1K, we bargained for $838 (inclusive of delivery and installation). I used to make fun of people who get such things as I am totally ok with the traditional laundry rack on the ceiling, but the boss insisted on retractable and since the price seemed reasonable to him, I was like, "OK lor". I'm definitely not objecting to something that will make our lives easier!!

We will of course keep any hanging laundry if we should ever decide to cook. This arrangement worked for my sister's place, so it was not much of a concern to me.

However, I did think that perhaps it will be too cramped in the service yard/wet kitchen area for larger pieces of laundry such as bed sheets and quilt covers, so decided to still have the option to utilise the poles facing the aircon ledge. Thus, we reduce the built-in bottom cabinets next to the washing machine to allow access to the outside poles (and we also shifted the fridge to a position where we can change the size/height without any restrictions from the built-in carpentry):

large_05.90-new-plan.jpeg

Here's the updated 3D renders:

large_05.92-new-3D.jpeglarge_05.91-new-3D.jpeg

(will talk more about that green wall in later posts!)

green grass on wall!!! nice! do share how you going to do it?

the kitchen backsplash issit kompacplus?

 

 

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Hi ilkl,

If you want to cook oily food, I'd suggest to use an Airflyer which I use to fry whole fish, prawn, vegetable, French fries, etc. without using too much oil. More importantly, there is no oily smell or oily floor in my kitchen as frying food is all done inside the Airflyer.  

 

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6 minutes ago, KFC1189 said:

Hi ilkl,

If you want to cook oily food, I'd suggest to use an Airflyer which I use to fry whole fish, prawn, vegetable, French fries, etc. without using too much oil. More importantly, there is no oily smell or oily floor in my kitchen as frying food is all done inside the Airflyer.  

I will let the boss know.

 

12 hours ago, lifeissimple said:

green grass on wall!!! nice! do share how you going to do it?

the kitchen backsplash issit kompacplus?

 

Will do a post about it once it's installed. Expecting it to be in within next 1-2 wks.

We're not doing a kitchen backsplash at the dry kitchen, leaving it as cement screed. But may consider adding on either glass or kompacplus backsplash if budget permits. See how la...

 

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Hacking & Wet Works
Hacking needs prior approval from HDB, so contractor/ID will submit the floor plan indicating the walls which will be torn down, and once approved, they will get a permit. They must then notify the neighbours (usually the unit next door and those directly downstairs and upstairs) of the hacking before they start, and must put up notices at the common area of your block (lift lobby) which state the day and timing the hacking works will be carried out, the name of the company carrying out the works, and the contact of the person-in-charge.

There is a permit fee involved, but since our ID absorbed the cost, I’m not too sure how much it is. 

If your neighbours are particularly unfriendly, should any noise be present outside the stated hours, they will call and complain and you will hear from HDB about it. Obviously I know because my tiler was doing OT on Saturday and because there was some knocking sound when he was pasting on the tiles, kena complained. (Thanks, future neighbour!)

Anyhoos, here are some photos at the end of week 1. The hacking was completed in one day, haulage was done, and they started building up the hollow block walls and making good the damaged areas.

large_06.1-Week-1.jpglarge_06.2-Week-1.jpglarge_06.3-Week-1.jpg

As you can see, there are so many beams!!

large.06Beams.jpg

The one which annoyed me the most is the one over the breakfast/island counter. The space didn’t seem as big as what I saw in the 3D renders, and I told my ID that perhaps we should forgo the hanging metal rack that I really liked. However, my ID seems as attached to the metal rack and he said we can still have it, but maybe one level only instead of 2. I even entertained the idea of getting a PE inspection in hopes of getting approval to remove the beam, but I think that is almost impossible as this beam is very likely load-bearing. No point coughing up money for that. So just take deep breaths… *breathe*… and pretend it’s not there… *breathe*… and after a while… *breathe*… won’t notice anymore *breathe*… hey, it worked! #sooverit

My friend mentioned this to me, so I’ll share it here even though it’s not related to my current renovation. If you are keen on turning a full wall into a half wall, doesn’t mean it’s cheaper by hacking half the wall. The whole wall must be torn down first and the bottom half part built up again. FYI

Edited by ilkl
 

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