Renovation planning, on the go
Save your favourite home ideas, enquire with firms and explore home deals.
Switch to the app
📢 [27-28 Jul] Skip showroom-hopping! Meet multiple interior designers on one weekend. Find out more ›

The Only Renovation Cheat Sheet You Need, with 60 Terms From A-Z

A guaranteed way to impress your ID.

Renovations may be fun, but they’re also pretty technical. Whether it’s from your own research or during meetings with prospective IDs, you’ve probably seen or heard your fair share of terms that simply go over your head.

Renovation cheat sheet
Save to Qanvast Board

Source (right): Jubilee Interior

So, to help you navigate the complex world of interior design, here’s a handy glossary, with a whopping 60 renovation-related terms that you may encounter!

Renovation cheat sheet
Save to Qanvast Board

See that thin white line near the edge? That’s ABS trimming.

  1. ABS trimming: stands for Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene trimming. It’s a method of hiding the joint lines between the edges of two surfaces. It is commonly found on carpentry pieces involving laminates.

  2. Architect: an interior professional who designs and oversees the interior and construction (including additional or alteration) of buildings. Architects in Singapore must be professionally certified and registered by a local architectural authority.

Renovation cheat sheet
Save to Qanvast Board

A home with a combination of awning (top section) and casement (middle section) windows | Ace's Design

  1. Awning windows: horizontally-mounted windows that open outwards.

  2. Backsplash: a protective panel that is typically installed behind the sink or stove. It’s typically found between the countertop and cabinet.

  3. Beadboard: a type of wall panelling made with wooden planks aligned vertically on the wall.

  4. Casement windows: vertically-mounted hinged windows that swing outwards, to the left or right.

  5. Casetrust Accreditation: a scheme that recognises trustworthy businesses that maintain good business practices, which include transparent business policies, honest advertising, and a proper dispute resolution system.

  6. Casetrust-RCMA Joint Accreditation: a scheme that allows members of the Singapore Renovation Contractors and Material Suppliers Association (RCMA) who fulfil the Casetrust assessment criteria to get accredited.

  7. Ceiling light: a surface mounted ceiling light. It’s typically used in homes that do not/are unable to install a false ceiling.

Renovation cheat sheet
Save to Qanvast Board

Chevron (left) vs herringbone (right) tile patterns. Notice how the chevron tiles have sharp, pointed corners, whereas the herringbone tiles do not.

  1. Chevron: a pattern featuring boards with ends that are cut at 45º angles, which allow them to be laid out to create an exact point.

  2. Contractor: an interior professional who receives the design instruction from homeowners and coordinates with sub-contractors. There could be little or no design input.

  3. Cornices: intricate, ornamental mouldings that are found just below the ceiling.

  4. Cove lighting: lights that are fitted into ledges along the ceiling. While it can function as a primary source of light, it can also be used to draw attention towards decorative ceilings.

  5. Defects Liability Period (DLP): the period of time where the developer is responsible for any defects found in your flat, which will last for 1 year after a) you collect your keys, or b) the development is given the Temporary Occupation Permit (TOP).

  6. Directory of Renovation Contractors (DRC): It is a list of contractors that understands HDB requirements and structure, and are approved to carry out renovation works in HDB flats. If you’re renovating an HDB, you must engage with one who is on this list, or risk prosecution.

  7. Double-leaf door: a bigger, two-panel door, where one is a regularly-sized door and the other being a smaller hinged panel.

Changi Rise by Flo Design
Save to Qanvast Board

Pictured: a false ceiling fitted with downlights | View this project by Flo Design

  1. Downlight: a type of recessed lighting, typically embedded within a false ceiling. Its recessed nature allows you to include more light fixtures without cluttering the ceiling.

  2. Drywalls: lightweight types of walls that are filled with sound insulation material. Most, if not all, internal walls in newer HDB flats are made with drywall. It’s also referred to as partition walls.

  3. Fire-rated door: a door that is specially built with fire-resistant materials to slow down the spread of fire and smoke.

Jurong East Street 21 by Editor Interior
Save to Qanvast Board

Fluted panels around the foyer adds a sense of sophistication to the space. | View this project by Editor Interior

  1. Fluted wall panel: a type of wall panelling that consists of numerous narrow wooden panels arranged linearly. It’s typically used to create visual interest within the space.

  2. Gable-end walls: walls that are exclusive to corner units. They are designed to keep the heat at bay, and also can’t be hacked.

  3. Grout: a thick paste used to fill the gaps between wall or floor tiles.

  4. Herringbone: a pattern featuring rectangular planks that are laid out at 90° from another, which create an asymmetrical zigzag pattern.

  5. Home Improvement Programme (HIP): a scheme that is designed to alleviate maintenance problems in older flats. It consists of:

    • Essential improvements: compulsory works that are considered necessary for safety reasons (e.g. spalling concrete and structural cracks). It is fully paid for by the government.
    • Optional improvements: additional ‘top-up’ works that you can opt and pay for (e.g. replacing the front door and gate)
    • Enhancement for Active Seniors (EASE) improvements: optional works that benefit the seniors living in HDB flats. They can be implemented at any time, even after the HIP period is over.
Bishan Street 24 by Parallelogram Design
Save to Qanvast Board

An example of a sleek, sophisticated home that an interior designer can help you create | View this project by Parallelogram Design

  1. Interior designer: an interior professional who specialises in spatial planning and design, coordinates with subcontractors and oversees the renovation. The designer often focuses on the craft and function of the space.

  2. Interior stylist: an interior professional who specialises in styling a home or room. An interior stylist may suggest or procure home decorative items such as furnishings and beddings. They typically do not handle the actual renovation or structural works.

  3. Instant heater: has a tankless build that delivers heated water instantaneously, when required. In comparison, a storage heater uses an insulated water tank to store and heat water, the latter of which requires some time.

Tampines GreenFlora by Fifth Avenue Interior
Save to Qanvast Board

An example of a kitkat tile design | View this project by Fifth Avenue Interior

  1. Kitkat tile design: a pattern featuring small and slim rectangular tiles (just like Kitkat chocolate!) that typically don’t go over lengths of 15cm.

  2. L-box false ceiling: a type of false ceiling that is installed only around the perimeter of the room, leaving the centre to retain its original ceiling height.

  3. Large format tiles: tiles with edges over 60cm. They can be used to create the illusion of space as there are fewer grout lines that visually clutter the area.

Canberra Street by Urban Home Design 二本設計家
Save to Qanvast Board

An example of a level drop between the bedroom and bathroom | View this project by Urban Home Design 二本設計家

  1. Level drop: a drop of 50mm or 100mm of floor height between different spaces. They are typically found in wet areas like the kitchen and bathroom for better drainage.

  2. Load-bearing wall: walls that support the weight of the floor/ceilings. They cannot be hacked.

  3. Louvred windows: windows with horizontal planks or blades that can be opened and closed using a built-in lever.

Bidadari Park Drive by Four By Eight Design Studio Pte Ltd
Save to Qanvast Board

Mermaid wall tiles used in a bathroom | View this project by Four By Eight Design Studio Pte Ltd

  1. Mermaid tile design: a pattern featuring curved tiles that resemble a gentle rolling wave. It can also be referred to as fish scales or scallop tiles.

  2. Niche: a recessed shelf within a wall.

  3. Optional Component Scheme (OCS): a scheme that gives new homeowners the option of including essential fittings and fixtures (e.g. sanitary fittings, flooring, internal doors) to their BTO flat.

  4. P-trap toilets: contains a piping system that resemble an ‘p’ shape, with the waste pipe going through the wall – meaning that you can build a wall-hung WC without needing to create an extra cistern.

  5. Pendant light: a light that hangs from the ceiling. It can usually be found above a kitchen island, or along hallways.

Renovation cheat sheet
Save to Qanvast Board

An example of a pocket door mechanism | View this project by HOFT

  1. Pocket door: a sliding door that disappears into a compartment in the adjacent wall when fully opened. As it doesn’t require space to swing open, it’s an ideal option for smaller spaces, and for a minimalist sleek look.

  2. Prefabricated Prefinished Volumetric Construction (PPVC): stands for Prefabricated Prefinished Volumetric Construction. Residential units constructed via PPVC have their internal fixtures, fittings and furnishings done up off-site, and they get transported and assembled on-site. Newer BTOs adopt this new method to speed up the construction process, and to reduce dust and noise pollution on-site.

Marsiling Road by The Alchemists Design
Save to Qanvast Board

An example of a recess area that has been incorporated into the home | View this project by The Alchemists Design

  1. Recess area: a ‘free’ common space on the outside that leads up to the house. It can be purchased and incorporated into your home, if you meet certain conditions.

  2. Recessed wall: a wall section that recedes into the wall that surrounds it.

  3. S-trap toilets: contains pipes that resemble an ‘s’ shape, with the waste pipe going through the floor. While a floor-mounted WC is more ideal with this system type, a wall-mounted WC is still possible – you’ll only need to create a concealed cistern.

  4. Shaker style: a type of wood design that consists of a recessed centre panel. It’s often used on the doors of kitchen cabinets and wardrobes to emulate the classic English look.

Punggol Drive by The Local INN.terior 新家室
Save to Qanvast Board

Shiplap walls | View this project by The Local INN.terior 新家室

  1. Shiplap: a type of wood panelling design where wooden boards with grooves cut into the top and bottom edges are put together. It’s commonly used to add a rustic element in homes with a farmhouse or vintage-style look.

  2. Single-leaf door: a basic, single panel door.

  3. Skirting: boards that run along the bottom of the wall. They protect against marks or chips that may occur when someone accidentally bumps against the wall.

  4. Small format tiles: tiles with edges that are smaller than 30cm. They can be used to draw attention to specific areas like the kitchen backsplash and shower walls.

Renovation cheat sheet
Save to Qanvast Board

Spalling concrete ceilings | Source

  1. Spalling concrete: a surface maintenance problem that is the result of corroded steel rods within the ceiling. Warning signs include the appearance of rust stains, flaking, and in more serious cases, chunks of concrete breaking off.

  2. Spotlight: a light with a directed beam of light. It can be used to illuminate feature pieces like artwork and display cabinets, or for task lighting.

  3. Structural beam: a horizontal structural effect that supports your ceilings or floors. It cannot be removed.

  4. Sub-contractor: an interior professional who handles the actual renovation work, like an electrician, tiler, or plumber.

Buangkok Crescent by Studio CS
Save to Qanvast Board

A backsplash designed with subway tiles | View this project by Studio CS

  1. Subway tile design: a pattern featuring squarish or rectangular tiles that are traditionally laid out in a linear, off-set style, where the middle of the tile aligns with the ends of the two tiles above it.

  2. Terrazzo: a concrete slab with embedded chips of marble, granite, and quartz. It comes in a variety of colours and designs, which also gives it the versatility to be used in a variety of interior design styles.

  3. Tic tac door: a door that can be opened or closed with a push, with a mechanism similar to the one used in a ballpoint pen. Unlike other door types, it does not require knobs or handles.

  4. Track light: a light that is mounted to the ceiling, arranged in a continuous track. It can be used as ambient lighting, or to illuminate accent features.

  5. U-box false ceiling: similar to an L-box false ceiling, but installed with a more rounded pattern.

  6. Variation order (VO): a term that refers to renovations works that were not included in the initial contract e.g. adding a shoe cabinet halfway during the renovation.

Fajar Road by Aart Boxx Interior
Save to Qanvast Board

An example of a wall with wainscoting details | View this project by Aart Boxx Interior

  1. Wainscoting: a type of wall panelling design where pieces of moulding made of wood are arranged in box-like shapes. While it was traditionally used for the lower section of the wall, it’s now more commonly used as a decorative trim to add an air of luxury into the space.

  2. Wall cladding: a decorative covering that is layered over the wall. It comes in a variety of designs that mimic wood, fluted panels, bricks, and more.

Explore similar content
Renovation for Dummies

Renovate with assurance, only on Qanvast. Find and meet interior designers verified by homeowners, with no hidden costs and no commissions involved. Find an ID

Recommended for you