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5 Renovation Mistakes That Can Cost You Money

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Ryan Ong

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Every so often, you’ll meet a designer who’s convinced style and common sense don’t get along. That their art’s a left brain / right brain conflict, which should excuse their resulting no brain renovation. In this article, I help some Interior Design contacts give vent to a pet peeve: Contractors who pick hilariously impractical designs, and leave the customer saddled with higher maintenance fees than SMRT after an inspection:

Problem Renovations

I recently spoke to a sales designer, who only wanted to be known as Han Hui. He’s been in the industry for over four years, and works mainly with landed property.

In his time, Han Hui has categorized certain “problem renovations”. He explains that:

I don’t want to criticize the decisions of my counterparts; I am not the most experienced designer by far. But in my time in the industry, I have come across some problem renovations; things that clients repeatedly end up complaining about. 

In some jobs we are paid to correct such issues, and the client will tell us they regret making such renovations in the first place. I think it can be quite painful, cost wise.”

 

Weird cave houses
I don’t foresee any design problems beyond 3500 BC.

 

Some of those renovation choices are things like:

  • Marble in Kitchens
  • Caramelized Bamboo Flooring
  • Theme Rooms
  • Wall Washers
  • Faux Material Wallpaper

 

1. Marble  Countertops in Kitchens

Marble and kitchens get along like Richard Dawkins and a Sunday school teacher. Here’s what you need to know about marble:

Marble is limestone based. That means it’s easily stained by acid. Such as the acid that comes from citrus fruits like lemon, lime, oranges, grapefruit, pomelos…man that’s a lot of fruit. I wonder which room in the house you’re mostly likely to find all that in.

Probably the same room you’ll find the vinegar, which also does a great job of staining marble.

 

Marble counter-top
And so long as you never put a damn thing on it, it’ll be great.

 

Then there’s the issue of cracks. According to Han Hui:

Marble is very hard, but at the same time it’s brittle. You drop one heavy pot or something, that’s it. Time to replace the whole top.” 

Nevertheless, if you must have marble, Han Hui  suggests you brace for the maintenance cost:

“If you die-die want marble, then you should have it polished or re-sealed every two to three years. For all your countertops, I guess $400 to $600, and it would take around one or two days.

If you can’t be bothered, just use high pressure laminates instead.”

 

2. Caramelized Bamboo Flooring

Bamboo floors are seen as eco-friendly, as is anything related to Pandas. Bamboo is actually grass, and unlike trees, it grows back in months.

But Han Hui thinks you should stick to regular bamboo flooring, and not caramelized bamboo flooring. Why, is it a diabetic thing?

Not that kind of caramel lah. Caramelized bamboo is bamboo flooring that is dark, from light brown to chocolate coloured. They obtain the colour by heating the bamboo, until the sugar inside it changes colour.”

Then it’s more delicious. That’s what I said, diabetic.

“Err, no. It’s used to give the impression that the flooring is made of a more expensive wood. But caramelized bamboo is very soft.”

 

Dark bamboo floor
Come right in! Just don’t walk on the floor.

 

Han Hui gave me a sample of it, and I was able to dent it with my fingernail. When nail clippers become an essential part of your home maintenance, you know you’ve chosen an idiot contractor. Han Hui mentions that this flimsy crap will cost about $4000 for a four room flat.

You’re better off laying mah-jong paper.

 

3. Theme Rooms

Theme rooms are like “underwater rooms” or “Disneyland rooms”. It’s what happens when your neglected inner child breaks out. Wooh, look at me, I’m 40 years old and still crazy.

Shortly after, it’s like a tattoo you got in the middle of a mid-life crisis. Cool at the time, but just embarrassing now. Han Hui has seen many regrettable theme rooms:

One room we saw had a Caravaggio painted on the ceiling. Like some kind of European church. Another one had a car theme, and there were tyres and car shaped beds and…it was all over-the-top. 

 

Caravaggio, Judith beheading Holofernes
I like Caravaggio too, but can we talk about that ceiling motif?

 

Theme rooms are fun, but in my experience, people get tired of them after a while. You’ll be seeing it for years, how exciting can it stay? And when you want to get rid of it, you need to repaint, change all the furniture, and go through the inconvenience of not using the room for two or three days.”

Han Hui also advises against themed nurseries. Children quickly outgrow themes, and it’s not long before they’re sick of that painted Cookie Monster eyeballing them at night.

 

4. Wall Washers

These are rows of LED lights, which “wash” a wall with light. Placed in your home, it gives your living room all the class and elegance of a strip club.

Han Hui is vehemently opposed to wall washers:

“First of all it’s seriously obiang. $400 later your house looks like a 1980’s KTV lounge. But that aside, a wall washer adds a lot to maintenance.

The wall washer requires a track light; a row of LED lights under the lit area. Power consumption is very high; this is raising your electricity bill for no reason. It’s not as if you use such lights for tasks like reading. Also, the cost of replacing such lights when they are damaged is quite steep; sometimes you need to replace the whole row. It depends on the model.”

 

Wall wash neon lights
For the last time officer, I do not need an alcohol license. This is my living room.

 

Han Hui suggests using accent lighting, such as with a wall sconce, in place of wall washers.

“A wall mounted light can be as cheap as $80. It is also easier and cheaper to replace.”

 

5. Faux Material Wallpaper

Some wallpaper is meant to duplicate other surfaces. So you could get wallpaper that looks like brickwork, or wood panelling.

It’s find if a small part of the wall uses faux wallpaper. But cladding the whole room in it? A bad idea. Han Hui explains why:

 

Peeling brick
I’m not an expert designer, but I’m pretty sure this brick wall doesn’t need faux brick wallpaper.

 

“To be honest, wallpaper does not do well in climates like Singapore. The heat and humidity affects the glue, and causes it to curl. Also, wallpaper is very easy to tear.

It can cost you maybe $2000 to clad your whole living room in wallpaper. And if it gets damaged, you may have to replace everything. Because a few years after your renovation, your wallpaper design may not be in production any more. How to replace one small part?”

So if you’re going to get renovations done, be sure to re-think these features. Also shop around for the cheapest renovation loan on sites like MoneySmart.

Image Credits:
OlgerFallasPainting, Tom Ravenscroft, williamskitchenbath, Peter Davey, Cea, Beige Alert, Brett Jordan

Got any renovation mistakes that cost you money? Comment and let us know!

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Ryan Ong

I was a freelance writer for over a decade, and covered topics from music to super-contagious foot diseases. I took this job because I believe financial news should be accessible and fun to read. Also, because the assignments don't involve shouting teenagers and debilitating plagues.