8 First-Home Renovation Mistakes As Told By Millennials & How To Avoid Them

HDB renovation ideas to avoid

If you’re reading this, you’re probably a home-owner to be, and chances are you would also like to avoid any exclamations of “alamak!” after months of home renovations. Despite the tons of HDB renovation ideas you have floating around, the smallest mistake can quickly snowball into a costly affair, but you might not notice any blunders until it’s too late.

From choosing the wrong material for your kitchen counter because #aesthetic to improper planning of power points and switches, we’ve crowdsourced 8 HDB renovation ideas from millennial homeowners that turned out to be mistakes so you can renovate smarter.

Check out more HDB-related guides:

1. Not asking for multiple quotes from different interior designers

Getting started on your home renovation can be a daunting task, but don’t just jump the gun and pick any (interior designer) ID with a portfolio that matches your renovation wishes.

It’s not unheard of for IDs to charge a markup on their quotations, with some even demanding up to 25-50% extra. To avoid paying more than you have to, make sure that your ID is giving you at least three quotes from three different suppliers. You should also check that they are certified with CaseTrust and/or RCMA.

Do not immediately shoot for the cheapest option, though — there’s a reason why they might be so low. A cheap quotation usually means that lower quality materials will be used as the ID is also looking to maximise their profit margins so they’ll cut corners wherever possible.

But that’s not to say that a more expensive quote automatically means you’ll get better quality materials. The higher fees could also be attributed to many other factors including the ID charging for their years of experience or better project management capabilities.

Pro tip: Consult with multiple interior designers before deciding on the one that best suits your needs and budget. You have no obligation to commit to anyone until you have signed a contract.

2. Using marble and wood in high-moisture areas

The porous nature of marble makes it prone to stains and damage from things as inconspicuous as wine and milk
Image credit: Walter Zanger

Prioritising aesthetics is a mistake that many homeowners tend to make, especially for their kitchen and bathrooms. 

It’s easy to fall in love with the winning combo of marble and solid wood when you’re browsing through Pinterest for reno inspiration. But before you sink hundreds to get these premium materials for your home, know that they don’t make the most practical additions in areas that are high in moisture and humidity.

Image credit: Cameron Smith

Pro tip: Quartz is the way to go for both the kitchen and bathroom countertops if you do a lot of heavy cooking in the kitchen but don’t want to miss out on the aesthetics of marble. Similarly, using marine plywood for your cabinets will ensure that they’ll be around for a long time without warping out of shape while repressing the nasty effects of moisture on wood.

Both are a lot more durable and require less maintenance than the real deal. And while man-made, these materials still have the same aesthetic as the OGs so you can’t even tell much difference.

3. Not planning for enough storage space in the kitchen

Imagine all that time spent cleaning the shelves regularly
Image credit: Beazy

It’s natural to ooh and aah over the beauty of minimalistic kitchens with open shelves – who wouldn’t want to have a cooking space worthy of being an IKEA showroom? But stylish, open shelving is a common design mistake that’s more trouble than it’s worth.

Not only are you limiting your storage options, the combination of oil and dust that’ll accumulate there over time will send you up the wall. 

Built-in cabinets, while not as fancy, will give your Starbucks mugs and fancy dinnerware a safe, dust-free place for immediate use. You’ll even appreciate being able to reach that pesky tupperware hidden in the back without having to crouch over.

Efficient kitchen storage maximises the space while allowing for ease of use
Image credit: @arovasingapore

Pro tip: You can maximise the space near your stove and prep area by installing a sliding pantry cabinet. This lets you store all your spices and condiments as deep as you want while still being able to access it easily whenever you’re whipping up a storm.

4. Buying all your kitchen appliances at the end

A common mistake during renovation is tunnel-visioning on the design and forgetting to take your appliances into consideration. You have some room to manoeuvre for your television and entertainment system, whereas the kitchen’s requirements are a little more strict.

The big-ticket items like your refrigerator, washer/dryer, cooker hoods, hobs, ovens, and dishwashers all need specific measurements, especially if you are redesigning the entire kitchen. You should pick out the items you want before finalising the layout. This ensures that there will be enough room for these bigger appliances.

Pro tip: Your biggest kitchen investment should be the refrigerator. It has to run for 24/7/365 so don’t scrimp in this area. But you should plan ahead before you get that sleek new model. A family might require a fridge with a bigger capacity, and upgrading its size is not a practical move.

5. Choosing a walk-in wardrobe

A walk-in wardrobe can make your bedroom look cramped and claustrophobic
Image credit: Rezt & Relax

This might be a bit controversial but hear us out: Walk-in wardrobes are not as practical as they seem. Hollywood has romanticised the concept of a walk-in wardrobe all to yourself, and who wouldn’t want to have a wardrobe like Carrie Bradshaw or Blair Waldorf?

For all the upsides to walk-in, there are plenty of downsides too. The main consideration would be the issue of space. A walk-in will take up more space than built-in and standalone wardrobes, and changing the layout in the future will require additional time, effort, and money. If you have a display for your bags, you would also need to invest additional time into maintaining its cleanliness.

A shared wardrobe-cum-office space is a good compromise for those who can’t afford a dedicated walk-in wardrobe
Image credit: Design NEU

Pro tip: If you die die must have a walk-in wardrobe, you can compromise by making the room a hybrid between your wardrobe and your home office. The space will then have a multitude of uses, and you can even add more elements like a vanity or a reading nook into the room as well.

6. Not allocating enough power points and switches

Image credit: ConvertKit

No one wants their house to have extension cords snaking all around the corners, but that’s what will happen if you fail to plan sufficient power points and switches for your household.

This is something a lot of people tend to overlook and think can be easily remedied after the keys are handed back to you. Yes, rewiring is an option, but it can cost you upwards of $1,000 to rewire a three-room flat. That’s not factoring in the cost of possibly having to reinstall your distribution box as well, which will be another $100 at the very least.

Pro tip: You can never go wrong with a few more power points and switches installed at key locations. Should you choose to smarten up your home as well, your devices will all require their own socket and/or switch (if you’re installing dimmers), and the last thing you’d want to do is to overload a power point.

7. Using the same type of lighting throughout the house

Cool white lights can interfere with your body’s circadian rhythm
Image credit: Sidekix Media

The lights around your house are as important as your furnishings when it comes to interior design. And like your furniture, you wouldn’t have the same lighting in every room of your house.

Plan for cool lighting in the areas where you’re going to be active and focused. Think kitchen, home office, and study room. 

Save the warm lighting for rest areas such as the living room and bedrooms. This type of lighting gives off a cosier vibe and triggers your body’s circadian rhythm by simulating the colour of an evening sunset so your body knows it’s time to wind down and relax.

Pro tip: Check with your lighting suppliers if they have lights that let you switch between warm, cool, and warm-cool lighting. Alternatively if the budget allows, you can also outfit all your house with smart lights that come in an array of colours.

8. Hacking walls without planning ahead

Image credit:
Design NEU

It can be tempting to pick up a floor plan and immediately choose the walls you’re going to hack away. But a little caution goes a long way.

Creating that jumbo master bedroom might seem like the best idea for the near future, but you need to plan five steps ahead of that when conducting your renovation. You might want to hold off on the hacking if you can relate to any of these life milestones:

  • You’re going to have children within the next few years
  • You plan on reselling the flat – hacked walls can depreciate its value
  • There is a chance of your parents moving in with you

Instead, make sure any possible future home configurations are accounted for before working with your ID to maximise the available space. Any wall you want to hack also has to be pre-approved by HDB, so ensure that you’ve gotten the all-clear as the last thing you’d want to do is compromise the structural integrity of your new home.

Pro tip: Stay clear from hacking half-walls. It can be more expensive than hacking a full wall as the contractors have to get rid of the entire wall and build half of it back up. 

Common home renovation mistakes to take note of

It’s easy to get sucked into the allure of home renovations, and that’s perfectly okay. But it is also important to be mindful to weigh the pros and cons of each decision as you’re going to be living in your beautiful home for a long time, and you’d want to make it a good time too.

Prevention is better than cure, and rather than spending more money in the future fixing up a stained countertop or rebuilding a formerly-hacked wall, it’s much better to plan ahead in order to avoid any mistakes in your home renovation.

Other essential resources when embarking on your home renovation:

Cover image adapted from (L-R): Walter Zanger, ConvertKit

Last updated by Josiah Neo on 25 November 2020.

Josiah Neo

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