Essential Guide to Home Renovation

Family Moving to New Home

After years of curating home inspiration images for your moodboard and immersing yourself in countless home makeover shows, the moment has arrived to transform your dream home into reality. However, home renovation often involves shelling out a significant financial investment. Therefore, it is essential to first do your due diligence such as researching various interior design companies, factoring in your budget, and complying with regulatory frameworks. In this guide, we aim to empower homeowners with the knowledge required when it comes to home renovation in Singapore, to ensure the process is smooth and stress-free. Keep reading to find out more!

6 Tips to keep in mind for your home renovation project

Interior Decoration Construction Furniture

Starting on your home renovation journey is an exciting experience that allows you to transform your living space into a personalised sanctuary. However, ensuring a successful outcome involves careful planning. Here are some invaluable tips to consider before starting on your home renovation project.

Contractor vs interior designer

When planning for your home renovation, the initial decision often revolves around choosing between a contractor and an interior designer. Contractors are skilled at executing plans, managing structural work, and overseeing the physical aspects of renovations. While they’re great at bringing designs to life, they might not have the same grasp of aesthetics and functional elements as interior designers.


On the other hand, interior designers are able to offer a comprehensive approach that considers both design and functionality. Those from established firms are equipped with the expertise in navigating complex rules and regulations, which is especially important for complying with HDB guidelines in Singapore. This knowledge ensures the renovation matches your vision and meets legal standards, preventing potential issues. Furthermore, their knack for combining creativity with practicality results in designs that not only look good but also suit your lifestyle perfectly.


Learn more: 3 Reasons to Hire an Interior Designer

Determine your budget

Couple doing home finances at home

One of the fundamental pillars of a successful renovation project is setting a clear and realistic budget. It enables your interior designer to effectively manage costs and align your expectations with the project scope. 


When deciding on your budget, consider not only the design and materials but also factor in contingencies for unforeseen expenses. Keep in mind to maintain open communication with your designer about your financial constraints. This dialogue facilitates a smoother renovation process without compromising the quality of work, and allows for practical decision-making, ensuring that you’re meeting your desired outcomes without overspending.

Get inspiration

Japandi Style Living Room

Before you begin the renovation journey, take the time to gather inspiration that solidifies your vision for the space. Do you find yourself leaning towards the calming, serene ambiance of Japandi interior design, or prefer the sleek look of modern luxury home interior designs? Create a collection of images sourced from platforms like Pinterest or Instagram, featuring rooms and design concepts that aligns with the home interior design style you have in mind. This mood board serves as a reference point, giving your interior designer a clear idea of your aesthetic preferences and functional requirements. 

Understand the renovation timeline

When outlining the renovation timeline, it’s essential to engage in thorough discussions with your chosen interior designer to craft a realistic and practical schedule. This includes not just the actual construction work but also factors like material procurement, approvals, and any specialised installations. These milestones serve as checkpoints to track progress and adjust plans if necessary. Additionally, being aware of potential delays is crucial for proactive planning. Factors like weather conditions, unforeseen structural issues, or material availability can affect timelines. By acknowledging these possibilities upfront, you can be prepared for buffers or contingency plans to mitigate their impact.

Obtain necessary permits and approvals

Ensuring you have the necessary permits for your renovation is critical, especially when it comes to structural changes or following HDB regulations. Modifications that affect the building’s structure, like altering walls or columns, require approvals. The same applies to works such as adjustments to plumbing, electrical systems, or installing fixtures such as water heaters and air conditioning units.


Make sure all essential paperwork and permissions are secured before commencing the renovation to prevent complications or delays. Remember, HDB regulations are stringent, and any modifications or alterations without the required permits can lead to significant consequences. Failure to comply not only requires reinstating the flat to its original condition but may also result in substantial fines, typically around $5,000, imposed on the homeowner. 

Regular communication and site visits

Regularly visiting the renovation site allows you to witness the progress firsthand, enabling a direct assessment of the ongoing work and to discuss potential alterations or adjustments. Additionally, maintaining open communication with your renovation team facilitates the swift addressing of any concerns that may arise. Whether it’s about design intricacies, material choices, or unexpected hurdles, this collaborative relationship fosters teamwork for improved problem solving. 

How to choose the right interior design company

Architect Designing a House

Finding the right interior design services to bring your home renovation vision to life can feel daunting with the myriad of choices available. To help you out, this section shares the factors that you should take into account when engaging an interior design company.

Designer’s experience and style

A crucial aspect of choosing the right interior design company is examining their experience and style. Delve into their portfolio and look through past projects to get a feel of their aesthetic abilities. Do they possess expertise in modern luxury interiors, rustic Scandinavian, or designs with an industrial edge? This information is key to ensuring it resonates with your own design preferences.

One practical way to gauge this is by engaging with at least three prospective designers. This comparative analysis allows you to discern and identify the interior designer whose approach aligns most closely with what you have in mind.

Building good communication 

When selecting an interior design company, prioritise those with designers who genuinely take time to comprehend your needs and aspirations. Observe closely during those initial consultations. How do they react to your ideas? Are they open to feedback and flexible when changes are suggested? A design team that doesn’t just accept your proposals but actively fosters open communication at every stage ensures that your thoughts are seamlessly weaved into the final design. This level of dedication lays the groundwork for a relationship that benefits both parties, seamlessly blending your vision with their expertise to create a harmonious outcome. 

Do your homework 

Reliability stands as a fundamental factor when choosing an interior design company for your home project. Look through reviews and testimonials to gather insights into their trustworthiness, professionalism, and ability to meet deadlines. Online platforms, social media, and review sites can offer valuable feedback from past clients. Pay attention to recurring themes such as consistent positive reviews regarding timeliness, work quality, and responsiveness. These indicate the company’s dedication to satisfying their clients. 

Friends and family can also be invaluable sources of information. For instance, when you visit a friend’s home and find their interior design particularly appealing, don’t hesitate to ask for a recommendation of the interior designer they collaborated with. Here’s a tip: instead of a straightforward “would you recommend your ID?”, queries like “What did you appreciate about your ID?” and “What were some hurdles you encountered?” often lead to richer, more informative responses, aiding in making a more informed decision.

Credentials and licensing 

Licences and accreditation often signifies a firm’s commitment to industry standards and professional ethics. Verify whether your shortlisted interior design companies hold CaseTrust or RCMA certifications. Those accredited by CaseTrust are expected to undergo regular workmanship assessments by the BCA to adhere to CONQUAS standards. They also have established redress systems, including mediation by the CASE Mediation Centre to ensure consumer protection. 

Additionally, RCMA-listed businesses offer an added layer of security by safeguarding customer deposits from potential company closure or liquidation through deposit performance bonds. Conversely, an ISO Certificate denotes a commitment to maintaining high standards of quality and consistency in their work.

Budget and transparency 

When evaluating an interior design company, look into their approach towards budgeting and transparency. A design firm should be upfront about any additional expenses that might arise during the course of the project, ensuring there are no surprises along the way. This open communication sets the stage for a transparent working relationship that fosters trust and confidence, assuring you that the project remains within the agreed-upon financial boundaries.

Payment terms 

Before finalising your choice of an interior designer, it’s crucial to fully grasp the payment terms outlined in the contract. Are you required to make the full payment upfront, or will you need to put a deposit down and follow up with instalments? Ensure that the proposed payment schedule aligns with your financial situation and cash flow. It’s essential to have a candid discussion with your shortlisted interior designers regarding payment terms to establish mutual understanding and ensure that the payment structure is feasible for both parties involved.

Warranties and insurance

Interior design firms often tout warranties on their workmanship, aiming to provide a sense of assurance to clients. However, it’s wise to dig deeper beyond the surface. While these warranties may sound comforting, they might sometimes serve more as a marketing gimmick than a substantial guarantee. Take the time to delve into the intricate terms and conditions of these warranties. Understand what precisely they cover, the duration they last, and the credibility of the auditing agency overseeing them. 

Ensure that everything promised to you is explicitly stated in the contract before signing on the dotted line. Having these commitments documented in black and white protects your interests and ensures that you can hold the interior design company accountable for any promises made.

5 Factors that will affect renovation costs 

Factors that will affect renovation costs

Renovating a home in Singapore involves a complex interplay of factors that directly influence the overall costs. Read on to understand the key aspects that play a pivotal role in determining the final expenses needed.


Type of home and condition 


Built-To-Order (BTO) flats usually demand fewer structural modifications due to their newer build, often leading to lower expenses compared to older resale flats that might need extensive refurbishing. Landed properties on the other hand, are characterised by larger spaces and intricate designs, significantly raising renovation expenses. 




Renovations that require significant structural modifications like wall demolitions, relocating plumbing or electrical systems, or altering the layout generally incur higher expenses. Intricate design elements, customised features, or specialised installations that add layers of complexity, also plays a part in influencing both the project timeline and overall costs. Professional guidance from interior design services will not only aid with streamlining the process but also identifying opportunities to minimise expenses without sacrificing quality. By leveraging their insights and experience, homeowners can make informed decisions, ensuring a more efficient use of funds throughout the renovation journey.


Materials used 


Materials play a pivotal role in determining the overall cost of a renovation. Opting for luxurious options such as marble, granite, or high-end fixtures may provide an opulent aesthetic, but come tied with a higher price tag. Conversely, selecting more budget-conscious alternatives like laminate flooring, porcelain tiles, or standard fixtures can substantially cut down costs without compromising durability or aesthetics. Alternatives such as engineered stone countertops instead of marble or quartz can also deliver a similar look at a fraction of the cost. 


Building regulations and permits


Securing permits from relevant authorities in Singapore involves administrative and compliance fees, contributing to the overall expenses. Additionally, ensuring that the renovation aligns with the stipulated regulations might require specific materials or structural adjustments, further adding to existing costs. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in fines or the need to redo the renovation work, incurring more money and delays. Hence, a thorough understanding of the regulations and diligent adherence to permit requirements is critical to ensure legal compliance, as well as effective budget management throughout the renovation process.


Seasonal demand 


Seasonal demand typically plays a significant role in influencing renovation costs in Singapore. Certain periods, such as the Chinese New Year season, usually witness a surge in renovation activities, leading to heightened demand for contractors, materials, and services. This often translates to higher prices as suppliers and contractors may adjust their rates to accommodate the spike in inquiries and bookings. Consequently, scheduling renovations during peak seasons can also result in inflated expenses due to the competitive market and limited availability of resources. 


Planning renovations during off-peak seasons can offer cost savings for homeowners, securing not just better rates but smoother project execution. 


4 Ways to avoid a renovation nightmare 

Couple Checking House with Foreman Engineering

Projects left unfinished, timelines stretched, craftsmanship lacking, and budgets spiralling out of control – these aren’t just cautionary tales; they’re real dangers that could easily happen to you if you don’t pick the right interior designer for your project. To ensure a successful renovation, consider these vital steps that can safeguard your investment and deliver the desired results. 


Choose accredited companies 


Accreditation often includes a bond that acts as a safety net, safeguarding deposits in scenarios like business closure or liquidation before project completion. Opting for accredited companies minimises the risk of losing funds and ensures a level of accountability throughout the renovation process. Be sure to inquire about the accreditations and certifications of the interior design companies you’re considering, prioritising those that offer financial security measures.


Cheapest is not always best 


Going for the cheapest option might seem attractive initially, but it could lead to compromises in materials and work quality. Cheaper materials may lack durability or aesthetic appeal, impacting the longevity and overall satisfaction with the renovation. Therefore, it’s crucial to strike a balance between price and quality. Seek out businesses that provide reasonable prices without sacrificing the use of premium materials and expert craftsmanship. Contracts that place a high priority on cutting costs without taking the final result into account should also be avoided.


Get a written contract


Obtaining a detailed, written contract is paramount before any work begins. It should outline all project specifics, including timelines, costs, materials, and responsibilities of both parties involved. Pay close attention to any ambiguous clauses within the contract, seeking clarification on any uncertainties. This detailed agreement acts as a guide throughout the renovation, offering a reference point to address disagreements and ensuring adherence to the agreed terms. 


Contingency planning 


Unforeseen circumstances are not uncommon in home renovations. Setting aside a portion of your total budget as a safety net for sudden costs or delays can ensure readiness to manage surprises without derailing the entire project. It’s a strategic approach that instils confidence and flexibility, allowing you to enjoy a more pleasant journey through the renovation process.


Questions you may have 

Questions you may have

From timing your engagement with an interior designer to navigating the process of material selection, this section addresses some common questions you may have as a homeowner.


When is the best time to hire an interior designer


Choosing an interior designer is a crucial step in the home renovation process. However, leaving this decision until the last minute can create unnecessary stress for both homeowners and the design and construction team. Hence, engaging an interior design firm at least three months before receiving the keys to your new home is recommended. This timeline provides ample opportunity for the designer to craft a comprehensive design plan, assist in material selection, and accommodate any necessary adjustments before your move-in date.


Do I need to obtain permits for home renovation in Singapore?


Certain renovations, such as structural alterations, changes to the building’s facade, or adding new rooms, often require permits from the relevant authorities. The rules may vary for Housing Development Board (HDB) flats and private properties, with HDB flats having stricter guidelines due to structural and communal considerations. Engaging certified professionals like interior designers can help navigate the permit application process and ensure compliance, minimising potential delays in your renovation schedule.


What factors should I consider when selecting materials for my home renovation?


When in the process of choosing materials for your home renovation, there are crucial factors to keep in mind. First off, durability is key – materials such as quartz or granite that can handle everyday use without wearing down easily from stains, moisture, or regular wear-and-tear. These materials are tough, ensuring your space looks good and stays functional even with daily activities.


Maintenance is also equally vital in the material selection process. Opting for low-maintenance solutions such as vinyl or laminate flooring offers convenience, ideal for households seeking hassle-free upkeep. Conversely, materials like marble or hardwood floors not only elevate the visual allure of your space but also add an elegant touch, albeit with a potentially higher maintenance requirement, offering sophistication alongside beauty. 


Moreover, prioritising materials like ceramic tiles or engineered wood can combat moisture-related issues like warping or mould growth, which is particularly crucial in Singapore’s humid climate. By weighing these factors, you’ll be effectively setting the stage for a home that not only looks stunning but also stands resilient against the test of time.


What are some space-saving ideas for smaller homes?


For smaller living spaces, consider built-in storage solutions, multifunctional furniture pieces, utilising vertical space with shelves or wall-mounted storage, or opting for open-concept layouts to create a sense of spaciousness. Consulting an experienced interior designer can provide tailored solutions, to create cohesive, functional spaces to make your home feel more expansive while customised to your lifestyle.




Whether it’s optimising your living spaces or revamping entire homes, every choice contributes to creating spaces that reflect your unique style and serve your practical needs. With these insights in mind, you’ll be well on your way to building a personalised haven that truly feels like home.


From modern luxury interior designs for HDBs to the serenity of a Japandi home, IDfferent Design’s team of interior designers can bring your vision to life. Reach out to get started on your design journey with us! 

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