Do-It-Yourself Home Renovation: Roy’s Adventure In Sengkang
The thought of doing a DIY home renovation can be daunting to many, but the homeowner of a HDB flat in Sengkang did it, and survived to tell the tale. Armed with only a concept of his dream home, Roy Tan Ruoyu, the co-founder of retro vintage furniture retailer born in colour set upon the bold yet arduous journey with his wife, Erin, in liaising with contractors on his own to turn his vision into reality. From bruising his thumb in a minor DIY mishap to having to fend off the exorbitant demands of a pushy contractor, there were a few hard yet hilarious knocks that he experienced in the process of DIY-ing his home. However, we are sure that the amazing end result of his home makes it all worthwhile.
Roy is now a seasoned pro when it comes to the in-and-outs of DIY renovation, so we asked him to share with us their DIY renovation journey, and offer some tips and tricks that will be useful to any homeowner looking to renovate their home on their own.
Qanvast: What made you decide to do up your place on your own instead of hiring an interior designer?
Roy (R): All these years, I had been hearing co-workers and friends talk about how hefty their renovation costs with their respective interior designers are. With all these influences, I decided to undertake the responsibility of liaising with all the different contractors myself, since I have a concept on how I am going to do up my place.
Qanvast: How did you kickstart the process of liaising with contractors?
R: As different type of contactors focused on certain areas, I had to first gather my thoughts and separate the different areas of renovation into specific tasks. For example, hacking of wall and creating my cabinet cement base can be considered masonry and done by a contractor, and cement screed flooring and laying of tiles would be another. After grouping all together, I reached out to them.
Most of the contractors were recommended by friends or through my past encounters with them. Some were even from flyers that were pasted in the lifts.
I rang up and compared quotes between a few contractors but it wasn’t an easy feat as there wasn’t a good ground of comparison, other than the monetary value and the vibes you get from talking to the contractors. It was a risky move as contractors do not have portfolios to showcase their works.
Qanvast: How did you select your contractors then?
R: I would ask them to come down to my house for them to give quotes and to test their sincerity and the feel I get from them. I avoid those who sounded corny, and those who promise they can do everything. Being confident is a must, but they should not overpromise.
Qanvast: Where did you draw your design inspirations from?
R: I have to admit that my research was very last minute! Just a week before my keys were collected, I visited friends’ home, looked into many of those “Top 10-style” guides online, and some printed materials to gather my thoughts. My design inspirations also revolved among my favourite styles of retro, vintage and Scandinavian. I love to keep things simple and it seems that the trend is to decorate the house with unique furniture pieces.
My wife, Erin also contributed some ideas on how we can do up the place. We kept the main interior simple, and added lots of colourful accessories.
I think what’s unique about our house is that, we do not have a TV at home. Instead of being glued to the black box, we want to really enjoy each other’s company and unwind, taking in the neigbourhood serenity after a hectic day at work.
Qanvast: What are some of the things people may not know about DIY renovation?
R: Many would not have realised that there are three different categories in terms of renovation – contractors, main contractors and ID. Contractors, plainly said, are purely contractors. They are experts in their field of work, be it flooring contractors, curtains contractors, electrical contractors etc. They do not have a holistic view of what you want, and neither do they care. They will charge according to what you want them to do, and those unprofessional ones may not even voice out when there are flaws in your design!
Also, you will need to be familiar with the sequence of events of the renovation works. There was once I tried to get my flooring contractor to start laying tiles when he told me that they can’t start work yet until the hacking and electrical were done up. We had some unhappiness over this. Looking back, this is really unforeseeable when I decided to engage a contractor.
If you were to engage an interior designer, I’m sure they will handle all the project management and coordination which we are not ready to face it yet.
Main contractors are those with or without an expertise, but will liaise all contractors for you. They will handle everything for you. Beware of this though, because most likely, they will sub to those contractors who give them a best price. I had a bad experience talking to one contractor who said he can do everything for me, but in the end gave a higher price for most stuff. He kept pestering me since he knew my address!
Qanvast: The experience was a rollercoaster ride! So what were the most painful and satisfying parts of the renovation process?
R: I think the most painful part is managing my expectations of the renovation itself. It took me a while to realise that handling contractors was no easy feat! There was a time when I was still contemplating whether to stop everything and look for an interior designer instead. My wife spited me saying she knew that I would give up and that made me bit my fingers and carried on!
The most satisfying part is of course, when everything has been completed and I can finally sit back and relax in the fruit of my labour, all within my budget of $20,000.
Qanvast: Is there any part of your house that you particularly favour after renovation?
R: It’s hard to pick a corner since I am deeply involved in every brick and mortar. If I really had to pick one, it would be that corner in the living room where I tried to break some of the tiles using hammer and chisel, and ended up hurting my thumb. When the contractor came back from lunch and saw what I did, he laughed at my bruised bleeding thumb!
Qanvast: If you presented with the chance to DIY again, would you do it? Would you recommend someone to do it?
R: Definitely no. It is simply not worth the time and effort as my time can really be better spent somewhere, and the cost savings doesn’t quite justify it since it wasn’t significantly cheaper than getting an interior designer. Unless you have spare time on hand, otherwise I wouldn’t recommend. From my experience, hiring a contractor does not guarantee lower prices as there are other factors involved.
Ultimately, no matter which route you choose to, you will have to feel comfortable with the person you work with, and it is definitely a lot easier to coordinate with one person rather than five or more different people.
Admire Roy’s gumption in doing up his home on his own, but unsure if you can deal with the pressure? Why not hire an interior designer who will take care of everything for you, from brainstorming creative home designs to liaising with contractors? Use Qanvast to get home design inspiration and connect with trusted interior designers now! You can request for a free quote via the Qanvast app or web.
Like Roy, do you too have a burning story to tell? Wait no more. Share your story with us, along with images of your beautiful home to be entered into our photo contest, where you stand to win attractive prizes, which includes a professional interior photo shoot session worth $1000 (of your home), CHOICE shopping vouchers worth $500 and Nescafe Dolce Gusto coffee machine! Find out how on Share Your Home Interior & Win!