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Renovation Survival Guide – 14 Things New Homeowners Must Know

What do first-time homeowners should know? Some tips and advice for homeowners about to embark on a significant renovation.

Now that you are a few months away from collecting the keys to your new house, it's time to start planning. For most of us, purchasing a home is already taking a gigantic leap of financial faith, which calls for prudent decisions to minimise spending during the renovations.

Let's get the show on the road and get you one step closer to building your dream home – it's time to draft some renovation plans!

"Planning and renovating a house can be equal parts exciting and chaotic – but don't let the chaos get in the way of building your dream home."

There are two options for renovating your home. The first option is to find an interior designer who will manage the entire process from design to moving in. And the second option is to work with contractors and different service providers and self-manage the whole renovation project.

While the option of having an interior designer is much easier than working with multiple contractors, it's still important to know the different steps needed to complete your renovation.


Items like plumbing, electrical wiring and painting are pretty self-explanatory, demolition, masonry and carpentry are the three biggies that will constitute the bulk of the work (and the cost).

Design and planning stage

It is essential to set your budget so that you don't overspend or get into too big of a loan for your house. If you don't have a budget limitation, the sky's the limit!

To start planning, browse through Vitas Design's website, Pinterest, Instagram and blog post to expose yourself to home renovation styles and unique furnishing ideas. There are many things to prepare for include paint colour, curtains or blinds for different rooms, what kind of lighting, furniture, electronics, etc.

As you identify the style you want for your rooms, living room, kitchen, bathroom, it is also essential to know that the photos that you see online may or may not have the same ceiling height, area, length, and width as your new home. Keep a tape measure, and laser tape measure handy so that you can measure every area of your house and also measure furniture when shopping.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of interior designers and contractors in Singapore. Please spend some time to read up their reviews, schedule for a face-to-face appointment and feel the comfortability while seeking their professional advice with your planned requirements.

Tip: The rule of thumb is always to compare at least three quotes.

Demolition and hacking works

Demolition or hacking, both refers to the removal of any existing built-in furniture, flooring, wall and floor finishes (e.g. tiles) as well as actual walls.

Costs for hacking a wall could fall between $400 and $1,000 depending on the overall size. The more you mess with the original state of the home, the more work it entails and the more it will cost you – demolition and disposal are both a lot of tasks.

Resales flat or condo can rack up almost a 40% hike much more compared to "blank canvas" HDB BTOs or new condo units when it comes to renovation costs.

Wallet-friendly alternative: In some cases, it may not be necessary to hack. For example, to upgrade or change the existing marble or tile flooring (if the current tile floor is in good shape and without cracks), you may opt for vinyl or engineered wood floors which can be install over the existing tiles.

Masonry works and flooring

Masonry consists of building structures by laying individual masonry units (brick, concrete block, stone, etc.) or anything involving cement. A few areas where you may want to construct kerbs are at the main entrance door, kitchen entrance door, kitchen cabinet, refrigerator, and washing machine and the shower area.

If you intend to change the floor tiles, the cost could be from $6,000 upwards depending on the type of material and the size of your house. Eventually, the more hacking and reconfiguration you do, the more masonry work needs to be done. And the more surface area you will need to cover, the more raw material and labour it requires, so the more expensive it is.

Carpentry works

Carpentry is work involving wood, such as customising kitchen cabinets, wardrobes, TV consoles, doors, feature walls, bed frames, false ceilings, and different kinds of tables and cabinets.

Electricity points, plumbing and air conditioner trunking

Shift electrical points, pipes, and aircon trunking early as this can affect other aspects of the renovation. The air-conditioner units can install later, but trunking should be planned and done in advance if possible.

A decision to make here is your water heater, do you want a storage tank heater (takes up most space), electric heater (electricity is most costly), or gas heater?

Have your bathroom accessories ready before the plumber comes. Usually, they can fix up these items for you at a fee.

Windows and grills

Windows can be top hung, sliding, or casement. You can also soundproof your windows and tint the glass to prevent too much heat from entering the house. Most importantly, consider adding window grills for child safety.

There are different types of window grills, from the invisible to art design, to match different home designs.

Painting and wallpaper

You can choose to paint patterns, have different wall colours for each room or each wall – it's up to your imagination.

Wallet-friendly alternative: Wallpaper would be an inexpensive option for creative decoration and easily changeable.

Cleaning up and moving in

And yes, it's time for you to move in!

The information here serves as a guideline, and there is much more to learn along the way. Hope these tips are useful to you and what's most important is to have a comfortable home to stay.

Bear with the renovation process for a few months and live in comfort with a great sense of achievement.


As we all know, HDB has its own set of rules and regulations for public housing. Here are some rules to bear in mind when you are planning for your renovation.

Demolition and erecting new walls

Only non-load bearing walls can be hacked. Existing reinforced concrete structures (on your floor plan, these areas indicated in solid black or grey) should not be tampered with during renovation works.

To play it safe, make sure to submit all plans to seek HDB for approval before any hacking works begin.

When erecting walls, adequate natural lighting and ventilation should be provided if the room will be used for habitation. There should also be a direct fire escape route.

Exposed pipes cannot be permanently concealed

You feel the urge to cover up the exposed water pipes in your bathroom or kitchen. Unfortunately, water pipes CANNOT conceal permanently.

In the case of water clogs, HDB must be able to access the pipes to investigate.

Restrictions on the bomb shelter

Household shelters, more commonly known as bomb shelters, are fitted with steel doors and strengthened floors, walls and ceilings to protect the home in the event of an emergency.

They aren't the prettiest, and it's tempting to work on something about them. But here's what you CANNOT do to the shelter.

They are considered a structural component of the flat and its main featureswalls, floor slab, ceiling and steel door – should not be tampered with during renovation. Hacking is not allowed.

Painting over the door notice, locking bolts or door seal is not allowed. The door notice contains information about the proper use of the shelter. When painting the door, homeowners should remove the old coat of paint before repainting to ensure that the layer of paint on the door is not too thick. Doing otherwise could result in difficulties in closing or opening the door.

Modification or removal of the shelter door is not permitted. Tiling, spray wall finishing such as cement sand finishing or put wall plaster on the interior walls are prohibited. Hacking on the external walls of the shelter to mount panels or tiling, an installation that requires power tools on the interior walls is strictly not allowed.

Restrictions on changing the windows & grilles

You absolutely CANNOT remove or tamper with the safety railings or grilles installed by HDB.

The HDB does not allow the replacement of full-height windows, ¾ height windows and bay windows. If the window frame is damaged, homeowners are to seek the HDB's permission before carrying out replacement works.

A Qualified Person (QP) should first submit structural calculations and drawings to the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) for approval.

A BCA-approved window contractor should then submit a permit to begin the works together with the approved drawings. The replacement window will have to comply with the HDB's original windows in terms of colour scheme, dimension and window type.

A BCA-approved contractor is also needed when replacing or installing aluminium windows in flats.

False ceilings

Homeowners should ensure that there is a minimum clearance height of 2.4m between the false ceiling and the finished floor level. Only non-combustible materials should be used.

False ceilings are not allowed in bathrooms and should not be used to cover the gas pipes in kitchens.

Renovation timings

HDB has something to share about the renovation timing. No matter how quiet your works are, NO renovation works are allowed on the following:

  • Before 9 am and after 6 pm on weekdays and Saturdays

  • Renovation works NOT ALLOWED on Sundays and Public Holidays

  • Not more than three months from date of the HDB permit

Do take note for noisy renovation work; you can only perform it when your neighbours are at work – from 9 am to 5 pm on weekdays only (except the eve of major public holidays).

Have a burning question about planning your renovation? Hit us in the comment below!

If this post inspired you, share it with others so that they can be inspired too!

#lifestyle #homedecoration #home #designtips

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