5 Hidden costs of renovation and how to avoid them

So, you’ve gone through your home renovation scope with your renovator countless times. You think you have all grounds covered. Surely, with all these preparations, there shouldn’t be any reno issues, and your budget shouldn’t overrun, right?

Or so you thought.

Even with all these preparations, there is still a chance your renovation budget may overrun. Because there are that many details to be ironed out, sometimes potential add-on costs are only brought up during the process of the renovation, rather than before the start of it.

So, how then can we anticipate or even avoid these hidden costs of renovation? Read on to find out more!

#1 Hidden costs of electrical works and lighting rearrangement

Many homeowners often forget to confirm the number of power outlets they need, how they want the electrical wirings to be concealed, and whether they need any power outlet to be rewired. These may sound so basic. But, because they involve hacking and / or building false walls, they are crucial steps that have to be planned ahead, before your renovator can start on other renovation stages, like painting of walls. Otherwise, you may risk paying more to have these electrical works done much later.

How to avoid them:

To cut these costs, plan where you want the lighting and power points to be, and the type of lighting you want to install, all before you start on your renovation.

This is because shifting any lighting or power points require hacking and then re-patching part of the wall / ceiling. Also, some types of lighting require a false ceiling. Without having all these arranged before the start of renovation, you might end up spending money painting the walls or installing the wall features, only to realise later that these expenditures have gone to waste because they have to be redone due to the electrical works. So, avoid these extra costs by planning your electrical works early.

#2 Hidden costs of changing of plans

We are all fickle-minded people. This is especially so when it involves designing our new home that we’ve put our heart, soul and savings into making it the best. So, it is really common that many of us change our minds on the renovation plans, even while the renovation is already in progress. But did you know this ficklemindedness of ours can actually cost us more for our renovation? 

Here are some of the common changes in plans we’ve seen homeowners commit and how they can cost you more money:

  • Changing designs of built-in carpentry
    Built-in carpentry, like kitchen cabinets and wardrobes, are usually made-to-order, based on the exact dimensions and designs you’ve asked for. So, any changes in design after the manufacturing has started can potentially cost you double the material and labour cost.
  • Purchasing furnishings and then changing your mind
    Most renovators leave it to the homeowners to purchase the basic furnishings like kitchen taps and sinks, bathroom accessories, lights, household appliances etc. But we, as homeowners, are often guilty of buying what we thought we like, only to change our minds much later. Sometimes, this means paying the extra order cancellation fees.

How to avoid them:

To avoid these unnecessary hidden costs, always consult your interior designer before you purchase any items for your home furnishings. Check with them if they think the design and the dimensions of the furnishings will fit into the intended spaces. You can also check with your renovator on when you have to confirm the design of the built-in carpentry. Usually the actual carpentry production starts once the carpenter has taken the exact measurements of the carpentry needed. So, do try to finalise your design before this!

#3 Hidden costs of reworks

Due to the complicated nature of renovations, mistakes are likely to be made and reworks can sometimes be inevitable. But each rework means more time, effort and sometimes even money. These are the common reworks needed during home renovation:

  • Reworks needed due to poor communication that led to renovator doing work that is not as per what the homeowner wanted
  • Repairing damages to walls and floors caused during renovation e.g. falling debris during wall hacking may lead to cracks on the floor

How to avoid them:

To avoid incurring the hidden costs of reworks, ensure that you go into as much detail as you can when discussing the renovation scope with your renovator.

Also, request for your renovator to break down the renovation into different stages (e.g. electrical works, wet area works) and give you a calendar timeline of when each stage will be done. Then, make it a point to visit the renovation site at the beginning, in the middle and at the end of each of the stages. Your visit matters because that’s when your renovator can get you to confirm face-to-face on the details that could have been missed out. Plus, with these visits, you also get to do defects inspection while the workers are still around to fix them.

And, while you are at it, check that there is proper floor and wall protection done to prevent any damages caused during the reno process.

#4 Hidden costs of buying furnishings of the wrong size

Many homeowners love to buy big-ticket furniture, like sofas and cabinets, during the sales season, even before they get the keys to their new homes. Oft times, they usually base all these home furnishing shopping solely on their floor plan. While the floor plan might be fairly accurate, it does not preempt you about the structural irregularities in the house layout. For instance, perhaps there’s just that small section of the ceiling that’s protruding down lower than the rest of the area? It may seem insignificant. But, imagine what might happen when you buy your cabinets, only to realise it much later that they can’t fit in because of that section with a ceiling height lower than usual?

Yep, the next thing you know, you are back at the furniture shop asking for a new one that fits.

How to avoid them:

To keep clear of such hidden costs, avoid buying furniture and carpentry products until you have confirmed the renovation scope. Otherwise, you might end up with products that can no longer fit into the newly renovated space you have. You could also consult your renovator with the dimensions of the furnishings and ensure that they can fit well, before you actually buy them.

Also, if you are planning to do skirting for your flooring, ensure that all your furniture leaning against the walls (e.g. wardrobes) cater for the skirting. Otherwise, you may end up with an awkward gap behind the furniture.

#5 Hidden cost of home maintenance

Alright, so you have finally completed your renovation. And you’re thinking, there, that’s it. That’s the full reno cost. No more heavy spending on the house after this. 

But, hold on! Let’s not forget the hidden cost of maintaining your newly renovated home.

The most immediate maintenance costs are the utility bills, especially the electricity bill. How you renovate your home can greatly affect how much electricity you consume monthly. Dark homes with dim lights usually incur higher electricity bills, since more lights have to switched on longer for better lighting in the house. 

The not-so-immediate maintenance costs are those you incur when you have to replace what’s been damaged around the house. Commonly damaged areas are those that face heavy human traffic / use e.g. bed, sofa, floor, dining tables and chairs.

How to avoid them:

To save on your electricity bills, opt for lighter and more neutral tones in your home design. These paler colours help to make the space feel not only bigger, but also brighter. So, you won’t need to keep that many lights on, just to make the space look brightly lit at night. You can also opt for energy efficient home appliances that can help you shave hundreds of dollars off your electricity bills each year!

And, to save on your replacement costs, consider investing more on home furnishings that have to deal with high usage. Instead of buying a cheap $500 sofa that lasts a short while, you could buy a better quality option that may cost slightly more, but can last for much longer. Buying quality furniture can cut down on your home maintenance costs greatly in the long run

You might get into trouble with HDB if you renovate these things in your BTO

When we get our new HDB Build-To-Order (BTO) flats, we often have our own vision of how we want to renovate it. But did you know that HDB has guidelines and regulations set for your BTO renovation? Yes, that’s right. Not everything in your BTO apartment can be renovated. And if you don’t follow HDB’s renovation guidelines, you might be forced to reinstate the original conditions at your own expense.

So, to avoid the unnecessary complications with HDB, here are the common BTO renovation violations you should avoid.

1. Main Front Door

Before you think of modifying the main front door of your house, do remember to check if it is a fire-rated door. Some BTO units, especially those located near the fire escape staircase, are fitted with fire-rated front doors. These doors serve to contain smoke and fire within the unit, so that it will not spread to the exit staircases and lift lobbies.

So, for safety reasons, if your original front door fitted by HDB is fire-rated, it is required that you replace it with an equivalent fire-rated door. Now, here’s a tricky part many homeowners do not know about. Replacing a fire-rated door means you will not only need to replace the door itself, but all the hinges, lockset, door knobs, and all of them must be compatible with each other. So, if you are intending to use a digital lock for your door, be careful to check not only that it has the equivalent fire-ratings, but also that it is compatible with the door and its accessories.

How to check if your door is fire rated?

If the original door fitted by HDB is soft closing, there’s a high chance it is a fire-rated door. To double confirm, look out for a sticker pasted on the less visible parts of your main front door. The sticker should indicate its fire-rating. In the example below, the door is half-hour fire-rated, which means it can withstand fire for up to 30 mins).

2. Walls

One of the most common BTO renovation homeowners like to do is hack or modify existing walls at home. But did you know that hacking, alteration or removal of Reinforced Concrete (RC) walls, columns, beams and slabs are not allowed in BTO apartments?

So, how do you identify such walls?

Take a closer look at your floor plan. Those walls that are shaded in solid black/grey are usually the RC structures that cannot be renovated / hacked. (See below for example of such walls)

But that’s not to say you can do whatever you like with the other walls. Whenever you are hacking or drilling deep into any wall, it’s best to check with HDB and get their written approval first. This is because even if the wall seems like a non-RC beam that’s safe to be torn down, there could be intricate wiring / piping that’s hidden deeper in the wall. So, for safety reasons, remember to get your renovator to apply for HDB permit before commencing any works.

3. Bathroom and Kitchen

Bathrooms and kitchens are wet areas that require more water proofing. This is also why there are more restrictions on what you cannot do in these spaces, for instance:

  • Bathroom wall and floor tiles, that are originally provided by HDB, cannot be removed or replaced for a period of 3 years, starting from the issuance of TOP (Temporary Occupation Permit).
  • Constructing water tank is not allowed in BTO bathrooms, unless they are ready-made fiberglass bathtub.
  • Kitchen sink and stove can only be constructed within the existing pre-allocated kitchen area
  • Sometimes, there are pipes that are openly visible either in the kitchen or the bathroom. Even if you find them unsightly, you cannot permanently conceal them. This is because there may be cases where the pipes from your neighbour upstairs / downstairs are clogged and HDB may need to take a look at your pipes to investigate the clogging.

4. Household Shelter

Many of us often convert the household shelter into a store room. And naturally we will like to renovate it such that it blends in well with the rest of the house, right? But do take note that these works are not allowed in BTO household shelters:

  • Covering / removing the notice pasted on the household shelter door.
  • Modifying or removing the household shelter door.
  • Laying of wall tiles, spraying of wall finishing (e.g. cement sand finish) or wall plastering on the internal walls of the household shelter.
  • Laying of 2nd layer of floor tiles or skirting tiles
  • Hacking on the external walls of the household shelter for mounting of feature wall panels or tiles.
  • Installation works that require power-driven drills / nails into the internal walls of the household shelter.

5. Windows and grilles

Every BTO project comes with a fixed window and grille design and structure. For both aesthetics and safety reasons, these window and grille works are not allowed in BTO:

  • Replacement of full height or 3/4-height or bay windows
  • Installation of casement windows for windows that are facing the common corridor. (Casement windows are those windows that open out, instead of sliding sideways.)
  • Removal or tampering of safety railings and grilles, both internal and external, that were originally installed by HDB.
  • Removal, replacement or relocation of original sliding door at the balcony where window installation is not allowed.

6. Renovation timing

Everyone of us would love for our renovation works to wrap up as smoothly and quickly as possible. But did you know that even if you would like to rush the reno works, you must still adhere to the HDB renovation timing guidelines? Here are the timings you should note:

  • No renovation works can be carried out before 9am and after 6pm on weekdays and Saturdays
  • No renovation works can be carried out on Sundays and Public Holidays
  • Noisy works can only be done from 9am to 5pm on weekdays. 
  • Noisy works cannot be done on Saturdays, Sundays, Public Holidays and eve of major Public Holidays.
  • All the works approved by HDB must be completed within 3 months from the date of the HDB permit. 

Of course, these guidelines listed above is not exhaustive. To find out more about the other BTO renovation guidelines set by HDB, you can refer to this list, or consult your trusted renovator.  But, before you start your reno journey, make sure you know how you can cut reno costs smartly first.