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Renovations are notoriously stressful times, with many moving parts and unexpected delays. But as with most things, preparation is the key to success, so here’s a checklist of things to consider before embarking on yours.

1. Hire CASE-Accredited Renovation Company

For starters, check if they are CaseTrust-accredited renovation contractors. CaseTrust is the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) accreditation arm.

This mark means the contractor needs to purchase a deposit performance bond, which safeguards deposits against business closure, winding up and/or liquidation before the renovation is completed.

Read Also: Renovation Company Owner Scammed $160,000 from 40 Customers

In addition, the CaseTrust Standard Renovation Contract, which protects consumer interests and ensures pricing transparency and responsibility for project deliverables, is also a requirement for accredited contractors.

Also, check with CASE if your prospective renovation or interior design firms are on its alert list.

2. Registered with HDB’s Renovation Contractors Scheme

If renovating an HDB flat, you must engage a contractor licensed under the Registered Renovation Contractors’ Scheme (RRCS). Employing a contractor not under this scheme is illegal and can incur a fine of up to $5,000.

Additional accreditation also helps members of professional bodies such as the Renovation Contractors & Material Suppliers Association (RCMA) or the Society of Interior Designers Singapore (SIDS).

3. Check Reviews

Look up the company’s history and portfolio if they have a website, Facebook page, or Instagram. Generally, photographs are better than renders for evaluating the results.

Then examine their reviews on Google, forums, and social media. Even better if the company provides direct references and you can speak to their previous clients or look at their work in progress.

4. Obtain multiple quotes

It’s always better to get three to five quotes to get a rough idea of the cost of the work.

Then, consider hedging your bets with quotes from different types of companies, such as a big firm, a smaller set-up and even a one or two- man company.

The cost of materials is a large determinator of price, so try to get familiar with the prices of certain things, like tiles, to know if the markup you’re being charged is excessive.

Cheaper is not always better

By the same token, avoid choosing a company just because they’ve given the cheapest quote, especially if the price difference differs vastly from your other quotes. They may be using more inexpensive materials or expect top-ups in the future.

5. Do not pay in full cash up-front

Never agree if your contractor or designer requests a large sum upfront. Instead, ask for instalments to be pegged to deliverables. Deposits are par for the course but do try to negotiate for it to be as low as possible.

Ten per cent of the entire contract is typical upon confirmation, after which 80 per cent will be paid in instalments based on the completion of each stage of the refurbishment. The final 10 per cent is paid upon acceptable completion of all works and rectification of defects.

what to do before painting a wall and how to cover cracks

6. Document every conversation in black and white

Protect yourself by putting down everything agreed to in black and white, as verbal agreements do not hold up in a court of law. However, a written contract will protect your interest, and you’ll be able to find model contracts online that will suit your needs.

The contract should reflect clear itemised billing and listing of products and services; also, make sure that all changes to the project and other essential details are documented in writing to avoid misunderstandings or disputes later on.

As the project progresses, don’t wait if you notice something that looks or smells unusual – also, document outstanding renovation defects by taking photos. Not only should you ensure these defects are fully rectified before making full payment, but these photos can also be used as supporting evidence in disputes.

7. Mentally prepare, Communicate clearly

Effective communication is critical to a successful renovation project, so it’s essential to establish clear lines of communication with your contractor and other professionals involved in the project from the get-go.

Share photos of homes you like and what you expect the results to look like; this will help the contractor or designer visualise what you want clearly and help them provide a more realistic quotation.

Be realistic with the pricing and timeline, as material and labour costs have increased significantly since the pandemic.

Manage your expectations with what you can achieve with your budget and space limitations of the space. Anticipate that unexpected issues may arise during the renovation process, and budget and plan accordingly to avoid delays or budget overruns.

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Renovation Nightmare Stories

You may have tried your best but your home renovation still turned out to be a nightmare. How could anyone blame you? Few of us have to handle extensive home renovations in our lives.

For the once or twice that we have to manage a home renovation, things are bound to go wrong – or the inexperienced and gullible ones may even get scammed by renovation companies.

If you had a renovation nightmare, you’re truly not alone. Here are several other homeowners who’ve had to go through the same situation.

1. Kitchen Renovation Disaster

A family of four were looking forward to upgrading their kitchen, but what was supposed to be a straightforward six-week job became a high-priced fiasco that reduced them to surviving on takeaway meals for five months.

The owner had dealt with the contractor before under a different company and, as such, didn’t check on the contractor’s new company. He also paid the contractor a 30 per cent deposit and another 30 per cent as soon as work started.

After installing the frame for the kitchen cabinets, painting a portion of the flat and tiling some of the floors, the workers never returned, and the contractor stopped answering his calls.

Finally, after five months of hell, the contractor said he would finish the job if paid another 30 per cent, but he promptly vanished after the money was paid. The homeowner finally managed to take the contractor to Small Claims Tribunal and received $3,000 back. – As reported in The Straits Times.

2. Interior Designer Musical Chairs

A couple went through nine months of being passed from one interior designer to another and what seemed like an endless string of mistakes and mishaps. Finally, when the couple signed the contract with designer one in March, 3D renders were completed, and a 70 per cent deposit was paid. Soon designer one handed the couple to designer two, then designer three.

Musical designer chairs aside, the contractors kept making mistakes, ranging from structural (a wrong wall was hacked) to bad workmanship (huge gaps in vinyl skirting), to dishonest (ceiling paint was used instead of quoted wall paint), to just plain stupid (when rubbish was cleared, the contractors threw away the owner’s $3,600 stove and storeroom shelves). – As reported by Stacked Homes.

3. Inexperienced Interior Designer

A homeowner’s straightforward renovation for her four-room resale flat spiralled into a stressful affair, leaving her mentally and emotionally spent because of an inexperienced interior designer.

The project was off to a bad start when she was rushed into signing the contract to be eligible for a discount.

The owner was also assured that the impending festivities would not affect her renovations, as his workers would not take a long Chinese New Year break.

None of these panned out, and the owner’s rushed tile selections were left on the sidewalk throughout the Chinese New Year holidays.

Lack of expertise, inadequate project coordination and a lousy attitude, even when he was in the wrong, resulted in many scheduling issues that delayed the project. The designer constantly tried to gaslight the owner, taking shortcuts and avoiding doing things.

For instance, after building a partition wall, he suggested that that skirting was unnecessary since furniture would eventually cover it up. – As recounted in a forum posted on Renonation.