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Why Knowing What to Keep or Change in a Renovation Matters

Knowing what to keep and what to change can save you more than just hard-earned money.

Recently, we crunched the numbers to find out just how much homeowners will need to renovate a 3-, 4- and 5-room HDB flat in Singapore and revealed that revamping a resale home will cost somewhere between $42,000 to $65,000.

With these figures in the ten thousands, that brings us to the question: is it possible to save some money on your renovation, or make it worthwhile in the long term?

Punggol East by Renolux Interior
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The answer is ‘yes’ and it all begins with knowing what’s worth keeping or changing when renovating a resale home, according to the two local interior designers whom we spoke to, Jermyn of Renolux Interior and Rachel of DISTINCTidENTITY. Here’s what they had to share!

Jermyn from Renolux Interior

To save some money on a renovating a resale home, what features would you recommend keeping and restoring?

Jermyn (J): One of the most common things that’s retained is flooring, specifically marble and parquet flooring. Usually, I would advise homeowners to polish (marble floors) or varnish (parquet floors) because it would cost about 10% of the cost of replacing them.

Other than flooring, maybe the door and door frames. If they are in good condition, there’s no need to replace them. That’s because if you add up the cost of replacing them all, it could cost up to a thousand for a 4-room flat.

Bedok Reservoir Road by Renolux Interior
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Built-ins, like cabinets and wardrobes, can also be kept, but it depends on their condition.

We have to take a look at whether they are mouldy, whether the hinges are working, and whether they will match the home’s new look. For example, if the cabinets are pretty old and you’re doing up the entire living room, they could look out of place. It’s also important to evaluate how much longer they will last.

What are some factors that homeowners should consider before keeping a feature or fixture?

J: I have met homeowners who wanted to keep certain features in their homes for sentimental reasons, one of them wanted to keep a TV console because it was hand-made by her father. To accommodate her request, we built around the old console, instead of creating a new one from scratch.

But more importantly, safety is a factor that homeowners should think about. If there are fixtures, like doors and windows that are loose, it’s more worth it to overhaul them than risk injury.

Also, if your estate has recently undergone HDB’s Home Improvement Program (HIP), I would advise keeping your current bathroom fixtures as they are still relatively new. Saving money in this area also means you’ll have more resources for the rest of your home.

East Palm by Renolux Interior
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What are some examples of cost-effective renovation works that also make the biggest difference for a home?

J: I would say the two most common types of works that are affordable but have the most value are painting and installing new flooring, specifically vinyl. That’s because if you do both, that would effectively refresh almost every surface in your house. These two jobs also cost much less in comparison to other works like carpentry, yet they have a big impact on the look of a home.


When it comes to refreshing a resale home, is it possible to keep some parts of it instead of going for a complete renovation to save some money? If so, what can be kept? (e.g. existing flooring, fixtures)

Rachel (R): Yes, it’s possible to keep some items and that can save you some money. But at the same time, it also depends on the condition of what you’re keeping.

For example, you can retain the current flooring of a house and overlay it with new vinyl or tiles, but you also have to ensure that it’s in good condition so that the new layers have a good base.

Fernvale Link by DISTINCTidENTITY
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What would you advise homeowners to check for before keeping an existing floor?

R: If you’re talking about tiled areas in say the kitchen or bathroom, one of the things that I would recommend checking for are hollow tiles.

Hollow tiles come about when there is a gap between the underside of a tile and the concrete surface it’s attached to. The biggest problems they can cause are tiles cracks, and if they are in a wet area, water can accumulate in these gaps and cause the tiles to come loose.
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What do you feel is worthwhile changing when renovating a resale home?

R: Piping is worth changing, I feel, especially for older resale homes. They might not be in as good a condition as those from newer resale houses that are less than 10 years old, and changing them can save you from plumbing issues in the future. That alone makes it worth the cost.

The same goes for electrical wiring because swapping out older cables will save you the hassle of getting an electrician to come down, and it’ll also make your home safer.

To sum up

Based on what was shared by Jermyn and Rachel, it can safely be said that retaining existing home features and restoring them can help lower your renovation costs. But at the same time, if you’re renovating an older home, it’s in your best interest to replace any parts or fixtures that have been around for some time.

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If you need help determining what should stay or go, ask a professional designer – and that’s something we can help you with. Simply use our free recommendation service and we’ll link you up with five interior designers based on your practical needs, style preferences and budget!

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