You've heard renovation horror stories from your family and friends; contractors not completing the agreed tasks, quality of work not on par, renovation works that take forever to complete. Coupled with the fact that there are so many renovation contractors to choose from, it's not a surprise that you're overwhelmed.
For some, renovating a new home is a chance to build the home of their dreams. For the rest, the process could just be drudgery - whether it’s the tedium of selecting a renovation contractor to making sure you have all the necessary permits to actually start renovating.
Whichever category you fall under and whether you’re looking at private or public property, this guide aims to help you start a smooth-sailing renovation process.
Hiring a Renovation Contractor in Singapore: An overview
In this article, we’ll look at the best practices you should follow, what should be in your renovation contract, and the potential hidden costs you should note.
Important elements to have in your contract
Details of the scope of work
List of sub-contractors involved (if any)
Clauses provisioning for cases if the contract is not honoured
Changes or addition requirements
Completion and payment schedule
Potential areas for hidden costs
Tip: Check the HDB renovation contractor directory
Looking for a renovation contractor to renovate your HDB flat? You can explore HDB’s directory of renovation contractors here.
Working with A Renovation Contractor: Best practices to follow
Before looking at areas such as what should be in your contract and hidden costs, here are some general practices that will put you in good stead from start to finish:
1. Do your research and plan out a budget
Start by planning a budget, so you know how much you can spare on renovation works. Get a sense of what it would cost to do up your house in the specific style you’re looking for.
Doing so will shed light on what scale of home renovation is feasible for you. This will also help you avoid any disappointment from unfulfilled expectations, and unnecessary negotiations further down the line.
2. Know what you need, and what you don’t
Separating your ‘needs’ from your ‘wants’ or ‘nice-to-haves’ will prevent the really important stuff, like ensuring your bathrooms are watertight, from being compromised due to budgetary constraints.
You can always get your ‘wants’ and ‘nice-to-haves’ later on.
3. Seek recommendations from family and friends
Almost every homeowner has a renovation story. Hear out the experiences, and see the quality of the workmanship for yourself at your family or friend’s homes. Google can also be your friend, just be a bit more wary of those who do not have good reviews or portfolios that can back them up.
4. Ask questions and clarify everything with your renovation contractor
Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask your contractor questions regarding any doubts you may have.
It’s best to clear up any confusion early on to avoid subsequent misunderstandings, which could result in frustration or even abortive work further down the line.
5. Confirm everything in writing with your renovation contractor
The final contract usually includes things such as technical drawings, specifications, plans, timelines, and the quotation.
The quotation is supposed to contain a detailed cost breakdown. If you spot any ambiguity or are uncomfortable with anything in the document, let your renovation contractor know.
6. Pay the renovation contractor in stages
Never pay the full sum upfront. Paying in stages helps ensure your renovation contractor does not scoot off halfway and leave everything hanging.
Renovation Contract: What must it contain?
The renovation contract is an agreement between you and the renovation contractor, which has an exhaustive scope of all renovation work that will be carried out in your home. It will also include any costs involved, as well as the duration of the renovation project.
A well-written contract should prevent and clarify any ambiguity that may occur during the process of renovating your home.
Make payments to your renovation contractor progressively, not all at once
Renovation Contract Checklist: Important elements you should have
1. The comprehensive, exhaustive scope of work and accompanying details
The contract should cover everything you have discussed and agreed with the contractor. All details should be included, even if this takes effort for both you and the renovation contractor. For example, if you are building a kitchen cabinet, the contract should list the material to be used, the type of finish, and even the type of, or brand of hinges.
Some aspects of renovation work might be sub-contracted out by your renovation contractor. Managing these sub-contractors should not be your job, and should be your renovation contractor’s responsibility. Make sure to clarify the scope of liability and have it in writing.
This will cover when, and how you’ll get updates from your contractor. Do you want to receive verbal updates through meetings or phone calls, or do you want written texts through a chat app or email? The general practice is to request that updates be given every fortnight, along with photos of progress.
4. The warranty
The contract should also state whether there will be a warranty that covers workmanship. If the quote seems much lower than a competitor’s, it’s likely that no warranty is provided.
5. Clauses provisioning for cases where the customer or contractor does not honour the contract
There should be clauses outlining penalties for either customer or contractor. For example, one important clause you should have will be mentioning how much the contractor should pay you for each day of delayed work. There might also be a clause stating that the renovation contractor can cease work if payment is late, with work to resume only when it has been made.
6. Changes or addition requirements
A section on the rate of manhours, any additional materials, and so on should be included. This is sometimes known as a variation clause and it will cover any changes that may crop up during the renovation process.
7. Completion and payment schedules
The full sum should not be paid upfront. Progressive payments should be made with the completion of certain milestones. For example:
Renovation payment milestones
Percentage of cost
Hacking and demolition
Masonry and concrete
Electrical works and plumbing
Painting and debris clean-up
Customer’s final approval
Potential Hidden Costs to look out for
So you’ve finally reached the point where you need to confirm everything on the contract. Keep in mind that there’s a chance that your contractor may have left out the cost of certain items.
It may not be done out of malice - some do this because they assume you’re aware such costs have to be borne eventually. Some do so just to make the total price appear more attractive.
Whichever the case, here are some potential hidden costs to look out for!
1. Painting and cement screeding
Unless you enjoy the aesthetic of plain, bare walls, painting works are usually required for a new flat. If your new flat does not come with tiles or flooring, you will need to get cement screeding done.
As there are variations in the flatness and levelness for the original bare floor, a cement screed provides a smooth and level finish so you can lay down your chosen flooring.
2. Electrical works
Electrical wiring and the like are usually outsourced by your contractor to a third party.
Always check to make sure that the given quotation appears reasonable, and makes sense based on the work that needs to be done. If you want to be sure that the quote is accurate, you can seek out quotations from other electricians to obtain a rough sensing or potentially get a cheaper option.
3. Bathroom accessories
These include shower screens, storage heaters, mirrors, towel shelves, and so on.
While these items may seem pretty affordably when viewed individually, the combined cost per toilet could go up to $1,000. Furthermore, some contractors may charge installation fees, which they may not include inside the quotation.
Even if you have done your due diligence to ensure a smooth-sailing working relationship with your renovation contractor, there’s no guarantee for it.
If there are any disputes that fall outside the contract’s scope, it is recommended that you resolve the dispute through third-party mediation. CASE has a mediation centre, which will be a useful neutral platform for you to resolve the dispute.
More FAQ related to hiring renovation contractors in Singapore
How much does renovation cost in Singapore?
The cost to renovate an apartment can range from $5,000 to $100,000 (and higher) - depending on what you intend to do. The more extensive the work (eg. hacking/building of walls), the pricier it will be. Find out how you can reduce your renovation costs here.
How do I choose a renovation contractor?
The best way to get a trusted renovation contractor is through a recommendation from a family or friend. Take the time to listen to their experiences and speak to the contractors to see if your budget can be met.
How long does renovation take?
If you are doing up/redoing the whole house, it will take roughly six to eight weeks.
Which renovation loan is the best?
This depends on many factors, including current interest rates, terms and conditions and your personal preferences. You can read more about renovation loans here.
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