A number of homeowners purchase their condo units and decide they wouldn't stick to the default interior design, employing interior designers and contractors to transform their spaces from cookie-cutter to something more chic and special. If you're thinking about doing the same for your own condo unit, heed these expert renovation tips:
1. Know what you're getting into. Condo renovation is a different ball game altogether—it's more complicated because of the limited space and governing condo rules. Make sure you're fully prepared for the process. "It is so easy to be bitten by the property development and home improvement bug that you can, if you are not very careful, find yourself embarking on large-scale, expensive renovation projects before you have really worked out whether or not they are a good idea and will genuinely add value," says Liz Hodgkinson, author of The Complete Guide to Renovating & Improving Your Property.
2. Seek the necessary permits and review association documents. Each condominium building has its own set of reno rules and regulations. "Ask for and carefully review the pertinent association documents. These bodies often place restrictions on what you can and cannot do, and they have their own peculiar politics," says Mike Dulworth, author of Renovate to Riches.
3. Look for a trusted interior designer or contractor with years of experience in condo renovation. "Always find an interior firm accredited by CaseTrust and has good credentials so you can protect yourself," says Shawn Haw, interior designer from Rezt & Relax. Start scouting for interior design companies here.
4. Be courteous—inform the neighbours about your upcoming reno. Adds Hodgkinson, "For such reasons and just as a matter of courtesy, it is always a good idea to consult your neighbours and at least inform them of what is going on well before works start. You may not need their permission, but you may welcome their cooperation—especially if things start to go wrong."
5. "If it's a new condo, defect checking is a must. If it's resale condo, it depends on the homeowner [to check], and as an interior designer, I will guide and take it from there," says Haw.
6. Budget wisely and allot an additional 5 percent to 10 percent to the contractor's original estimate. "When it comes to a condo renovation, the budget of the project is extremely important. It’s essential to set aside a portion of your budget as a contingency, not only due to unexpected expenses, but you may switch materials midway or make costly changes to your original plan. A contingency will keep you from going over budget, and help keep the finances of your renovation from getting out of control," says Hodgkinson.
Dulworth advises an additional 5 to 10 percent budget to the original estimate as "you almost always encounter hidden problems that need to be addressed."
7. Aim for a contemporary look. Planning to sell or rent your condo years from now? It makes sense to stick to a contemporary interior design so your future buyer or tenant can easily customise it. Create clean and contemporary lines within your space for a refreshingly modern feel.
8. "Try not to put too much storage or too much carpentry," says Alan See, interior designer from Voila. "The space is small already and it will look more cluttered [if you have too many cabinets]. Also, avoid too many lighting fixtures."
9. Common condo works include changing the flooring and painting the walls. Replace existing flooring with vinyl or wood (engineered or regular hardwood) for a high return on investment. Changing the handles is also a cheap yet chic way of sprucing up your condo space.
10. Don't rush. Take your time. Think things through. Hodgkinson advises, "Never be bulldozed into quick decisions, otherwise you could end up with floor tiles you don’t like, taps that are not what you would have chosen and cupboards placed in peculiar corners. Do not make decisions on the hoof, but always ask for time to think if you are not sure."
11. Track your progress. No one cares about the project more than you—the homeowner. Make it a habit to keep a daily diary of reno events. "If you don’t, you will wish that you had as, once the project is under way, so much happens so fast that it is impossible to remember all the details. You will then have a record of events," says Hodgkinson.
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Cover photo courtesy of Rezt & Relax