There is no such thing as a perfect renovation—the most we can hope for is one that is free of major and irreversible problems. That's why planning is of utmost importance. "Successful renovating is all about planning—about fully preparing yourself for the financial and logistical burdens of improving a property. It’s about feeling in control because you are in control. It’s about spending to your budget because you understand every task and job that you will be paying for," says Alex May, author of Planning Your Perfect Home Renovation.
Whether you are about to renovate your HDB flat, your condo unit, or your landed apartment, you need to understand the following:
1. Determine what kind of renovation you need for your home.
There are three Rs of renovation: repair and maintain, refurbish and enhance, and rebuild.
Repair is the cheapest and easiest way to renovate, encompassing simple makeovers at home like repairing a cracked tile in the bathroom.
Refurbish is the most common type of renovating—"it involves stripping out old fittings and fixtures like kitchen cabinets or light fittings and replacing them with something newer. There are no structural alterations and the renovation usually does not require any council approvals or major building works. It is the most visually effective form of renovation, but it does not ‘cure’ the property of any structural faults," says May.
Rebuild, the most difficult renovation among the three, involves hacking walls and adding new structures like doorways.
To find out which renovation you need to carry out for your property, isolate the work you want to do—would you like to replace the flooring in the living room or would you be perfectly fine covering it with vinyl wood tiles? Would you want to redo your bathroom or just update the look with a new sink and countertop?
The homeowner decided to refurbish her HDB flat in Yishun by DIY-ing a cement faux wall in the dining area.
2. Set your desired outcome according to your time and money. "Decide what you want—a totally slick pad or just a nice kitchen to work in? If you want a slick pad but only have $5,000 to spend, then you’ll need to prioritise how you will accomplish it all," says May.
First, create a guesstimate figure and be prepared to add 10 to 20 percent more to your original budget (Learn more about budgeting for renovation here: Dos and Don'ts of Budgeting for Your Renovation.). Then, schedule your renovation, too, because in the renovation world, time is money. "You can always do jobs more cheaply if you have lots of time. Being realistic about how much time you have to chase cheaper quotes, do projects yourself or organise contractors will help you plan how you can tackle the renovation," adds May.
3. It's best to start with a floor plan. Each renovation—whether it requires tearing down walls and installing new structures or it simply involves changing your kitchen cabinetry—is best approached with a floor plan a.k.a. your most basic planning tool.
"A floor plan helps you to identify the tasks you need to complete, as well as helping to gather your thoughts and desires for your property and marry them with the practical realities of renovating," says May.
To create a floor plan, you will need the following: an A4 pad of graph paper, tape measure, a pencil, and about an hour.
Armed with your pen and paper, survey your space and measure room sizes, noting down the square metreage of each room (then multiply the room length by the room width). You will then get a clearer idea on how much space you need to makeover, how to plan an attack, and ultimately, how to carry out your renovation. "It’s the old tradesman’s rule of measure twice, cut once. Plan hard, renovate sanely," says May.
Basic floor plan. Image from Planning Your Perfect Home Renovation.
4. Choose the easiest method of renovation to your desired result. It's easy to go overboard and get carried away with the renovation, but for practicality's sake, restrain yourself and select the most time-saving and cost-efficient option.
5. Be on top of things. Even if you have a contractor or interior designer taking care of the renovations, be thoroughly involved with the process. Look after your property and the renovation work. And mind the maintenance—"don’t undo all your good work by forgetting the little things that devalue a property and take hours to fix," says May.