The Ultimate Guide to Home Renovation in Singapore 2021

guide to renovations Carousell blog
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After years of saving and waiting, your dream of owning a house of your own is finally materialising! The next step after getting the keys to your new house is to give it a makeover and turn it into the dream home you’ve imagined. 

But with interior designers, contractors, sub-contractors… who should we go to? What exactly do each of them do? How do they differ? Well, read on to find out!

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Interior designer or renovation contractor?

What do interior designers and contractors do?

An interior designer coordinates and manages your entire renovation project from start to finish – he or she is basically a one-stop shop who will handle all of your renovation plan! The interior designer will not only be responsible for the ideation of your home design, providing floor plans and 3D renders of how your home could look, but the execution of the renovation project as well, liaising with contractors and subcontractors to bring your dream home to life. Your interior designer will be the one overseeing the project and ensuring that everything is in order.

On the other hand, a contractor usually carries out only the renovation work assigned or requested by you. In other words, you will be responsible for the ideation and design of your home and the overall project management, and the contractor will execute the job as per your wishes! Depending on your requirements, they may work with external subcontractors, to help them carry out some of the work they are responsible for. Subcontractors usually specialise in specific tasks – for instance, a contractor may engage an electrician to undertake the wiring work on his behalf.

To put it simply, an interior designer will manage the heavy load and oversee your entire renovation project, whereas a contractor will take care of the lighter load you assign to them, with you as the project manager! 

Should I engage an interior designer or a contractor?

Some of the most important things to consider when deciding whether to engage an interior designer are budget, time, the scale of the project, and your personal experience in space planning.

1. Budget

For most of us, our renovation decisions are centred around our budget. Setting aside a renovation budget is the first and most crucial step in our renovation journey.

Hiring an interior designer comes with a significantly higher price tag – but it also means a lot less time and trouble required of you, and much lower chances of renovation regrets! Interior designers can provide you with detailed, well-thought-out design plans based on your requirements and the specifications of your new home. 

Contractors, on the other hand, are much less expensive to hire. However, most contractors will only act upon the instructions you have provided to them – you are in charge of the planning, the supervision, and overall management of your project. This also means that you are responsible for, and must be ready to deal with, any problems and issues which arise during the renovation process!

2. Time

How much time can you invest in your home renovation project? Many underestimate the strain and time needed to oversee an entire renovation project. For those who do not have the luxury of time to spend on planning the layout, liaising with contractors, supervising subcontractors at work, and being ready around the clock to answer the many questions which subcontractors may have, an interior designer (or, at least, a very good general contractor) would be a huge help. 

If you have a clear idea of what you want your new home to be like, or are working on a tight budget, hiring a contractor will be much more affordable. Moreover, a good contractor can help you shoulder some of the project management responsibilities!

3. Scale of project

Are you planning a complete facelift of your home, or focusing the renovations only in one part of the house? If you are renovating only a small part of your house, or don’t plan to significantly change your overall layout, it would be better to seek a contractor – the project would be a much easier one for you to personally undertake, and engaging a contractor would be more cost-effective.

However, if you are planning very significant changes  – such as hacking down walls – do seek the advice of an interior designer, who will have valuable insight on whether it is wise to do so, and can shoulder the load of the time and planning needed for the project.

4. Experience in space planning

First-time homeowners who do not have much knowledge or experience in layout planning and design should try to seek professional advice from interior designers. That is because the interior designers have more knowledge on, for instance, design specifications (e.g. the height of cupboards and doors), the appropriate material for installations in each part of the house (e.g. the flooring to use for bathrooms), or insights on what needs replacing in your new place. Interior designers can help you maximise every inch of the space in your home, while ensuring that it remains aesthetically pleasing to the eye and spacious-looking!

The bottom line? If budget is an issue, or if you would like to direct the design of your home, opt for a contractor. A capable contractor can even help you in project management, saving you the time, money and trouble. However, if you are planning a complete overhaul of your home, or do not have the time to dedicate on project management, hiring an interior designer would be greatly beneficial in ensuring that your renovation project goes smoothly. 

Hire renovation services today!


What is the cost of renovating a house in Singapore?

The basic renovation packages offered by contractors on Carousell start from as low as S$8,000 for the renovation of a 3-room BTO flat. A basic package typically includes the electrical wiring works, plumbing, carpentry, painting, masonry works, and for resale flats, hacking and demolition as well.

Type of HDB flat Basic renovation cost for a BTO flat Basic renovation cost for a resale flat
3-room From S$8,000 From S$22,000
4-room From S$10,000 From S$24,000
5-room From S$11,000 From S$26,000

For condominiums, renovation prices are usually higher due to the strict restrictions and guidelines which renovation contractors have to adhere to. For instance, most condominiums require contractors to provide lift paddings, and restrict renovation work to certain time periods in the day. Moreover, the floor space and ceiling heights may differ greatly between different estates. However, you may be able to save money as well if your condominium already comes with essential fittings!

Keep in mind that this is far from the total costs involved in a complete makeover of your home – the full cost would also include furniture, home appliances, movers, post-renovation cleaning services, and so on. A good way to cut costs would be to purchase your furniture and appliances from secondhand furniture shops and online marketplaces. It’s convenient to get your perfect home and the bells and whistles all in one place on the Carousell marketplace!

Why is the difference between new and resale property renovation so big?

Resale property comes with the renovation works by the previous homeowner. This means that there will likely be additional costs from:

  • Removing old fixtures to make way for your new ones
  • Replacing or reconstructing wall and flooring material
  • Overhauling old infrastructure to ensure adherence to the latest housing guidelines

It all depends on the upkeep of the house by its previous owners, and the extent of changes you would like to make—hence, it is essential to do your homework and ask the right questions when you’re house-viewing!


Important things to note for first-time homeowners

1. Check for defects ASAP before commencing any renovation work

Whether you are moving into a new BTO flat or a resale apartment, always make sure to check for defects before commencing any renovation work, to avoid disputes over which party is responsible should an issue or a defect surface midway through your renovation works. The earlier you finish the defects reporting and rectification, the earlier you can start your renovation! Check for defects both during the day and at night, and on rainy days – leakages and seep marks are more apparent during or after rainy days, and unfinished or badly done flooring are usually easier to spot at night. 

For new property developments, be it a HDB flat or a condominium, the Defects Liability Period (DLP) is 1 year effective from the date of key collection. During this time, the developer is required to rectify any problems with the new unit, at their own cost, within 14 days of the report – for defects which occur after the year, you will have to engage a contractor at your own expense. 

The DLP is different from your warranty – there are additional warranty periods for ceiling leak, external wall seepage, and spalling concrete. The warranty period for ceiling leaks in toilets and kitchens, and water seepages from external walls is 5 years; whereas the warranty period for spalling concrete is 10 years.

2. Your estate’s renovation rules may affect your design plans

Hacking down walls to turn your home into that open concept space you saw online may sound great, but hacking down the wrong wall could compromise the safety and structural integrity of your home! There are strict guidelines to follow when making significant changes to the look and layout of your home – whether it’s replacing the flooring of your home, or renovating your bathroom to look like a home spa. Always check with your estate to ensure that you are following the regulations before making any changes. For those who are renovating HDB flats, make sure that you read up on the HDB renovation rules and regulations! At any rate, your interior designer or contractor should also remind you to double-check the layouts.

3. Some renovation works may affect your property’s resale value

Not every buyer may appreciate that you’ve turned 2 bedrooms into one huge entertainment room, or your 3-bedroom flat into a bachelor pad. Buyers have been observed to bid lower on apartments with hacked walls, where the number of rooms has been reduced. If your property’s resale value is an important consideration for you, avoid hacking down walls (which can be very costly to rebuild) or installing too much built-in furnishings, such as platform beds.

4. Engage contractors from the Directory of Renovation Contractor (DRC)

Always engage only contractors from the DRC to do your renovation works, even for the little things that don’t require HDB’s approval. Your licensed contractor will submit the renovation permit to HDB on your behalf, and ensure that the renovation works adhere to your estate’s renovation guidelines, such as not carrying out noisy renovation work on weekends, public holidays, and the eve of public holidays. 


List of recommended contractors & interior designers

To start you off on your hunt for the right interior designer or contractor, here are some of the trusted contractors you can engage through Carousell! You can read reviews by past homeowners who engaged these contractors through the respective profile pages linked to each contractors’ username, or ask for quotations quickly and easily. In fact, our chat feature enables you to quickly message as many contractors as you’d like for the best comparisons. 

It is important to do your due diligence by checking out reviews from past homeowners before engaging an interior designer or renovation contractor. Don’t let a slip-up turn your dream home into a reno-nightmare!

Contractor Services No. of reviews Average rating 
@curtains_n_blinds Installation of custom curtains and blinds 248 5.00
@ngiengspatialdesign  Interior design, full home renovation 9 5.00
@beyond4 Flooring, cement screeding 219 4.99
@mrwooden Parquet, marble polishing 37 4.99
@edwardoh Kitchen renovation, carpentry works 34 4.98
@trglass Glass, mirrors and door installations 160 4.97
@steelspecialist Door and window installations 65 4.94
@ecohaussg Window and outdoor blinds 15 4.82
@lichi_tree Full home renovation, kitchen renovation 29 4.80
@servicekings Vinyl flooring, aircon servicing, plumbing, moving services 22 4.80

Browse trusted service providers on Carousell


The next step after your big renovation project

What comes next after renovation, but before moving in? The answer is: post-renovation cleaning! During the course of the renovation project, it is inevitable that dust and debris will surface and remain after the contractors have completed their job. To avoid any allergic reactions and create a comfortable living environment for yourself, always engage a professional home cleaning service for a post-renovation deep clean! 


We hope that this guide has been useful to you in your home renovation project. Happy renovating!

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