I’ve seen what happens to old houses and flats. It’s like that documentary, Life After People, with the added misfortune that you’re around to see it. Take my buddy Aaron for instance: his interior decor is so old his grandpa saw it and got flashbacks to World War II. Or my newly-wed cousin, who recently bought an old terrace house; there were more things growing on the walls than in the garden. Yet they’re both hesitant to make changes, for the same reason: renovation is expensive. Well not any more. Behold, MoneySmart’s guide to affordable renovation!
1. Don’t Use Wallpaper
Wallpapering is, at minimum, 30 percent more expensive than painting. There’s an army of painters in Singapore, who will paint a four room flat for around $1200 – $1500. That includes the cost of the paint. Wallpaper, on the other hand, costs around $300 per roll (1.06m x 15.6m). You’d need about five to eight rolls for the average living room. And then you’d pay around $150 – $250 for installation.
On top of that, wallpaper raises your maintenance costs. If the sun hits the same spot too often, or the weather is too humid (and when isn’t it!), wallpaper starts to curl. Sometimes it also changes colour, and pretty soon it has all the texture and charm of Grandpa’s phlegm.
Oh, and wallpaper rips if you so much as stare at it too hard: a light bump will leave a tear the size of the Grand Canyon. When that happens, most people end up replacing all the wallpaper, not just the one spot. Why? Because the design they bought years ago is probably not available any more.
Spare yourself the agony; just paint the walls.
2. Check the Renovator’s Qualifications
You need to hire an Interior Designer. Not a general contractor. Not an interior decorator. They are not the same. Interior designers are the ones who have passed actual, architecture-related exams.
Apart from showing off doodles on an iPad, they also know about plumbing and electrical wiring. Most importantly, they have no interest in making you buy the most expensive junk possible. Because unlike many contractors or decorators, they don’t get a cut from the stuff you buy. And because they have a portfolio job, they actually have something to lose if your house looks like an industrial accident.
Ask the renovators if any of them are interior designers. If they’re all contractors, and they’re offering “free interior design”, don’t walk for the door. Run.
3. Don’t be Traditional
As a general rule, the cost of your renovation gets higher as your home gets more traditional. Contemporary styles are cheap for two main reasons.
First, they tend to be quite minimalist. Furniture will be cheap, because everything from IKEA will fit just fine. You won’t need antique older-than-grandma study desks or something. You can even get away with a few unfinished floors and walls. Decorations don’t get more elaborate than an obsession with glass and chrome (both quite cheap).
Second, contemporary homes have very straightforward colour schemes. Black, white, and red summarizes most of them. Traditional homes need varying shades of colours, wall motifs, maybe even wood panelling. Think of the difference between the inside of the parliament house, and the inside of the IKEA show house.
4. Ask for Custom Furniture
No, really, it can be cheaper.
Furniture shops aren’t too keen on selling individual chairs and tables. Unless you buy furniture sets, you won’t be getting the best deal in the shop. So rather than buy their coffee table at an insane price, just ask your interior designer to build one. Usually, they can build something quite close, for about half the price.
What’s that? Your renovator doesn’t know how? That’s strange. That sounds like something an interior decorator might say (see point 2).
5. Minimize Carpeting
One of the original purposes of a carpet was to retain warmth. Another was to stop you sitting on the soil. You live in a house in Singapore. Neither reason pertains to you.
Carpets are very expensive stain magnets. Depending on the kind of material and stain, your cleaning costs can range from $400 to $2,500 (for the average living room carpet). Carpets also tend to tear and discolour.
Carpets are one of those luxury items you can do without. Save yourself the hassle and the money. Stone or vinyl floors look plenty attractive on their own.
Are you renovating your home? Comment and tell us how much it costs!
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