Monday, 20 June 2016

Home Sweet Home

After a hiatus on my travelogue, I decided to share a post on my new house which I have dedicated most of my time during the weekends in 2015.

We have gotten our 4 room built-to-order (BTO) flat keys in July 2015 but I started my renovation research way back in February 2015. Deciding the theme for the house is important and the foremost thing to do before any research is done. It's akin to choosing the travel destination before researching on airfare, accommodation etc. I have research from the below websites before deciding which theme suits us:

- http://www.homeanddecor.com.sg
- https://qanvast.com
- http://www.renonation.sg
- http://renopedia.sg
- http://www.renotalk.com/forum

We first visited interior designer firm (ID) as ID is able to provide quotation based on the floor plan whereas contractor prefers to quote based on the physical state of the house. We meet up with at least 5 ID which we picked up ideas and knowledge from them. We also have a gauge of how much budget we would need to set aside for our renovation.

Hubby and I decided that we do not require an ID because:
- We intend to do minimal and simple renovation. We can also visualize the outcome of our renovation. Most who engage an ID is because ID provides the 3D images. I have tried few software on the Internet doing up a 3D image for our new house. It's time consuming and of cos it's not as presentable as an ID 3D image but it's sufficient for us.
- We can monitor the renovation progress ourselves. We are lucky that hubby job is flexible and our new house is near my parent's house so we went to our new house almost everyday during the renovation period.
- We want to save cost. ID will charge a premium as they provide 3D image and help to monitor and co-ordinate with the contractors. They can't be doing these for free.

After we have collected our keys, we meet up with at least 10 contractors. We compared their quotations (I did this in MS excel for easy comparison) and visited their client house to look at their workmanship. When comparing the quotations, I have to keep asking them to revise their quotation as it's inevitably that they missed out items here and there. In the end, we engaged Steven who has renovated ~50 houses in our BTO project and his price is very competitive.

Renovation work
- Hacking of kitchen wall
- Dismantle service yard door & lourve windows
- Kitchen cabinet base and cement sink base
- Labour & tiles & skirting for living room, dining area, walkway (750sqf) + 2 in 1 cement
- 5 ft top & 14 ft bottom Kitchen cabinets
- 14 ft Kitchen quartz top
6.5ft Master bedroom wardrobe
L 3.5ft x H 4ft shoe cabinet
- Sliding window at service yard
- Window grills at living room, 3 bedrooms & service yard
- Plumbing works
- Electrical works
- Disposal of debris
- General cleaning

As we did not opt in for HDB flooring, we have to factor the flooring cost in our renovation. There are few types of flooring such as tiles, parquet, laminate, vinyl. We decided with wood grain tiles as tiles are more durable and we do not have to worry about the floor getting too wet. We didn't know that there are different sizes of wood grain tiles i.e. 60cm, 90cm and 120cm until we meet up with one contractor. We went to Hafary, Lian Seng Hin & Soon Bee Huat to take a look at the tiles and we can asked for samples to bring home. The samples given are ~ 8x8cm which is not easy to visualise. We took more than 20 samples and compare it under day light and at night, repeat the process again and again before deciding the final one. As HDB no longer provides prepacked cement, this adds on to our renovation cost too.

The wall between kitchen and dining area is hacked away to create a larger space. As I seldom cook and we bought a good hood, open concept kitchen does not pose a problem to us. The window and door dividing the kitchen and service yard are also removed to create a larger space and easier maintenance.

I don't understand why the HDB did not install windows at the service yard. We have to include window installation as our service yard is prone to get drenched during raining days. We also added the installation of window grills for the whole house.

There is minimal carpentry for our house as I feel that the more cabinets you have, there is a higher tenancy to buy and keep more things. The carpentry in our house only consist of a half height shoe cabinet, kitchen cabinet and MBR wardrobe. We opt for a half height shoe cabinet as I do not have so many shoes and most of the time, the upper level of a full height cabinet is usually made redundant. We did not have a TV feature wall too as we prefer the white wall in the background. In the kitchen, we have a lower cabinet for the stove and sink and a lower and upper cabinet at the opposite. The rationale for not having both lower and upper cabinet on both sides is to prevent the kitchen from being seen as too cramped. I have requested the contractor to build a cement base at the sink area to minimise wood corrosion. We had quartz kitchen top as it is durable and has a range of colours to chose from. We have a simple 8 doors wardrobe instead of walk in wardrobe as I find that over time, clothes become very dusty. I have requested my contractor to split the upper and lower wardrobe into separate doors to minimise opening the upper wardrobe where I kept the winter clothes.

We did not engage our contractor to paint our house as the painting quotation I received from various contractors range from $1,100 to $1,400. We bought our own paints and engaged the Bangladesh painters. The Bangladesh painters are professional painters as they painted the interior and exterior of flats for HDB. We bought our paints and painting tools from Chye Seng Paints & Hardware Co (Add: Blk 452 Ang Mo Kio Ave 10 #01-1767 Singapore 560452). It's cheaper here as a tin of Vanilex 5000 cost $47 and a tin of Odouless cost ~$70. The boss from Chye Seng Paints advised us to buy Vanilex paints since we are not moving in immediately and the odour will fade away in few days time. In the end, we bought Vanilex 5000 Sail White for living and dining room and Vanilex 5000 Snow Flakes for bedrooms.

The renovation sequence is usually in this sequence: Dismantling -> Tiling -> Electrical work -> Painting -> Light installation -> Carpentry and there are a few milestones where owner presence are important: electrical wiring, aircon installation, gas piping installation, plumbing, carpentry installation. 

After selecting the contractor, we have to source for lighting, furniture and appliances. We decided to be more adventurous and bought lighting from Taobao. We spent about $450 on lighting (inclusive of shipping and GST charges) which is ~50% saving compared to buying locally. All the lighting are received in good condition except the walkway lamp casing which cracked. I have informed the seller and the seller agreed to send a replacement FOC. However I have to arrange my own shipment from China to Singapore which I have consolidated with my 2nd batch of Taobao purchase.

Lighting
Living room: 1.5米黑色导轨5W 暖白 铝黑壳5W 正白 铝黑壳
Dining area: 木纹B款(送3W暖光LED) (we changed the light bulb as the original Taobao bulb is too dim)
Kitchen: 90cm*20cm 26W LED白光,银色
Household shelter, MBR bathroom, Common bathroom: 方型 18W白光
Entrance, Service Yard, MBR entrance: 方型 12W白光
Walkway: 绿色C款(送3W暖光LED) 
Master bedroom: 中号-白-无极调色调亮 (with remote)
Bedroom 2 & 3: 小号-白-LED-白光-16W (without remote)
Lights purchased from Taobao

Another alternative is to buy from Malaysia. Below are Johor Bahru lighting shops visited by Singaporeans:

-Tampoi Lighting Centre Sdn Bhd
Add: No 2 Jalan Titiwangsa 3/1, Taman Tampoi Indah, 81200 Johor Bahru
Tel:607-2418999
- e Mart
Add: No 23 Jalan Bestari 12/2,Taman Nusa Bestari, 81300 Skudai, Johor Bahru
Tel:607-5569037
- Starworld Lighting
Add: 28 Jalan Titiwangsa 3/1, Taman Tampoi Indah, 81200 Johor Bahru
Tel:607-2358860

At first instance, I feel loss when surfing Taobao website but after I joined several Taobao Facebook page, read a lot and learn from there. I also save the links of those items which the renotalk forumer bought for reference. It's better to buy lights from Tmall which is more expensive but more reputable (Tmall is operating on B2C system (business-to-consumer) whereas Taobao is operating on a C2C system (consumer-to-consumer). I have inform the seller that the purchase are to be ship overseas hence they will usually take extra steps in the packaging. As I'm buying many big items, renotalk forumers recommend shipping agent Peeka or Amcon and I used Amcon for my shipment. The charge is RMB550 for 1st cbm (rounded to nearest 2 decimal places), S$35 shipping document, S$40 local delivery and 7% of the item value purchase. Amcon provided me their Guangzhou warehouse address which I have keyed in when checking out my items. They provide 14 days free storage from the day the 1st item is received. I have to provide Amcon the list of items which I have bought and I will ask for update on the items and the volume received at Guangzhou warehouse. After all the items have reached Guangzhou warehouse, I will ask Amcon to proceed to ship the items to Singapore which takes about 7-10 days. Then Amcon will call me to arrange delivery to my house. 

We visited furniture stores almost every weekend and below are the list of Scandinavian theme furniture stores which we have visited:

Affordable
- Star Living
Various location
- Comfort Furniture
Add: 110 Eunos Avenue 7
Tel:67474809
- Home's Harmony
Ad: 978 Toa Payoh North #01-01
Tel:67104568
- Nook & Cranny
Add: BLK 514 Chai Chee Lane #02-07
Tel:93831176
- Tan Boon Liat Building
- Prestige Affairs
Add: 9 Tagore Lane #03-08
Tel:65521333
- Born In Colours
Add: 1024 Yishun Industrial Park A #02-37
Tel:90093586 (by appointment)
- Castlery
Add: 2 Alexandra Road, #01-03A Delta House
Tel:67445333
- Ikea
Add: 317 Alexandra Road or 60 Tampines North Drive 2

Expensive
- Commune
Add: 9 Raffles Boulevard #02-52 Millenia Walk 
Tel:63383823
- Danish Design
Add: 100E Pasir Panjang Road #08-01
Tel:62708483
- Teak Avenue
Add: 9 Tagore Lane #02-05
Tel:62202667
- Grafunkt
Add: 9 Raffles Boulevard #02-34 Millenia Walk
Tel:63366046
- We Love Air
Add: 29 Tai Seng Avenue #01-02
Tel:62969272
- Lush Lush
Add: 134 Joo Seng Road Level 2
Tel:62879096
- OM Home
Add: 16 Tai Seng Street Level 8
Tel:62350777
- Scan Teak
Various location
- Pickle and Rail
Various location

After visiting so many furniture stores, we bought sofa, TV console, dining table and bench from Star Living. Our bed frame is purchased from Prestige Affairs and we also bought the glass cabinet and dining chairs from Ikea. I have read that there are many people who bought furniture from Taobao nowadays but we decide to buy locally as we prefer to see the physical sample before buying. We did purchased smaller items such as coffee table and bedside cabinet from Taobao. It's better to start from the big items follow by the smaller items e.g buy sofa follow by TV console and coffee table as the smaller items can be omitted if there is not enough space. 

We did not major haul our bathroom as we do not see the necessity in spending on the bathroom. We only change the basin in the MBR bathroom as we find the basin provided by HDB too small. We went to a sanitary shop in JB which was recommended by hubby friend and bought rain shower, 2 bidets and a kitchen mixer. These only cost us $230 which I don't think we can get such price for Johnson Suisse product in Singapore. Do note that if you travel out of Singapore for less than 48 hours, the GST relief is for goods valued up to $150 per person.

- The Best Sanitaryware Trading 
Add: No.37, Jalan Setia 12/3, Taman Setia Indah, 81100 Johor Bahru, Johor 
Tel:07-355 5020

Below are 2 sanitaryware shops frequent by Singaporeans. We bought our kitchen hob and hood from Universal Union as we find that Hoe Kee pricing is slightly more expensive. We decided to invest in a better hob and hood and have chosen the Fujioh brand.

- Universal Union
Add: 710 Geylang Road
Tel:67490007
- Hoe Kee
Add: 8 Genting Lane
Tel:67494521

We opt for gas heater instead of electric heater because the gas heater has inner storage tank and is able to support the rain shower system. We do not want to install the water tank in our toilet as we find it ugly. In addition, gas is also cheaper than electricity.

We purchased most of our appliances from our neighbour as he's working in LG. We got a good discount for our TV, fridge and washing machine. We purchased Mitsubishi Starmex System 3 from AJ Aircon where we enjoyed bulk BTO purchase price. The aircon specs research are done by hubby. We got our ceiling fan from JB e-mart which is half of the price in Singapore. We bought a Mayer 3.5L air fryer for the price of 2.2L during the SG50 promotion. We also bought discounted food blender, rice cooker, iron and hair dryer during the Philip warehouse sales. We decided to do without a built-in oven and microwave as our kitchen is relatively small and I seldom bake.

Below are list of appliances shops which offer competitive pricing and most accept cash or NETS, there is extra charges for payment by credit card. 

- Maximum Credit Co Pte Ltd
Add: BLK 121 Bukit Merah Lane 1 #01-02
Tel:62233575
- Aik Leong Enterprise
Add: BLK 121 Bukit Merah Lane 1 #01-16
Tel:62719365
- Hong Liang Electrical Enterprise
Add: BLK 121 Bukit Merah Lane 1 #01-70
Tel:62783331
- Goh Ah Bee
Add: Blk 210 Hougang St 21 #01-247
Tel:62288611

I choose curtains over blinds for easier maintenance. Instead of engaging those curtains makers who charge at least $700 for four rooms flat, I decided to DIY which only cost half of it. We bought curtain rods from Ikea and asked our contractor to install for us. For the curtains, I purchased them from Qoo10 and the quality is good.

Floor plan
Living room under day light
Living room with lights switch on
Close up view of living room
Walkway
Miniature liquor collection
Living room
- Sofa: Marine L Shaped Sofa Blue with 6 cushions (from Star Living)
- TV console: Button TV Sideboard Yellow Matt (from Star Living)
- Coffee table: 80*50*45cm (from Taobao)
- Glass cabinet: FABRIKÖR Glass-door cabinet Dark Grey (from Ikea)
- Display shelf: 4 layers brown shelf (from Taobao)
- Stool beside shoe cabinet: Square dark blue pokka (from Taobao and no longer selling)
- Table stool: Pink stool (from Taobao)
- Sofa throw: Gurli Throw Grey/ Black (from Ikea)
- Curtain rod: Hugad Curtain Rod 210-385cm (from Ikea)
- Curtain bracket: Betydlig (from Ikea)
- Curtain finals: EFTERRÄTT Finials (from Ikea)
- Curtain: Prielle Jade Set M Size Ivory (from Qoo10)
- TV: LG 49LF630T (from neighbour)
- Ceiling fan: Fanco e Trinity DC 3 Black 56" (from Malaysia)
- Clock: 14" Black wall clock (from Taobao)
- Poster: 50*70cm (from Taobao)
- Remote holder: MA2017 复古色 (from Taobao)
Door sensor camera (from Taobao)

Dining area
Dining area
- Dining table: Corn B Dining Table (from Star Living)
- Dining bench: Azumi S-N Long Bench (from Star Living)
- Dining chairs: Nordmyra Chair (from Ikea)

Kitchen
Kitchen
- Sink: Monic E-800 (from Universal Union)
- Mixer: Johnson Suisse Ferla Sink Tap WBFA300774CP (from Malaysia)
- Dish rack holder: ADL S6200 - 22" Dish rack (from Ang Mo Kio Hwa Aik General Store)
- Utensils holder: 多功能B款 (from Taobao)
Waste bin: Fniss Waste Bin Red (from Ikea)
- Kitchen Hook & Rail: Fintorp Rail 79cm & Fintorp 7cm hooks (from Ikea)
- Fridge: LG GT-B4381PZ (from neighbour)
- Gas Hood: Fujioh FJS-900 Black (from Universal Union)
- Gas Hob: Fujioh FG772 SVGL (from Universal Union)
- Air fryer: Mayer MMAF50 3.2L (from Mayer)
- Rice cooker: Philip HD3077/62 (from Philip)
- Food & Juice Blender: Philip HR2118 (from Philip)
- Clock cum timer: Normal orange (from Taobao)

Service yard
- Washing machine: LG WFT1071DD (from neighbour)
- Gas water heater: Macro MA-10FE (from SP Services)

MBR bathroom
Common bathroom
Bathroom
- Rain shower: (from Malaysia)
- Basin: Johnson Swiss Latina 500 (from Hong Soon Hardware)
- MBR Mirror: SILVERÅN Mirror cabinet White (from Ikea)
- Common toilet Mirror: (from Ang Mo Kio Hwa Aik General Store)
- Bidet: Johnson Suisse WBFA300643CP (from Malaysia)
- Toiletries shelf: (from Mustafa)
- Toilet paper holder: Black single layer holder (from Taobao)
- Towel rod: FOC from relative
- Shower rod: 140-260cm (from Taobao)
- Shower curtain: 180*180cm (from Taobao)
- Hair dryer hanger: Blue hanger (from Taobao)
- Hair dryer: Philip BHD006 (from Philip)
Master bedroom
Bedroom 1
Master bedroom
- Bed frame: MK12 Romeo King size Steel colour (from Prestige Affairs)
- Curtain rod: Hugad Curtain Rod 120-210cm (from Ikea)
- Curtain bracket: Betydlig (from Ikea)
- Curtain finals: EFTERRÄTT Finials for MBR & RAFFIG Finials for other bedrooms (from Ikea)
- Curtain: Prielle Fine Window Ivory (from Qoo10)
- Mirror: GRUA 45 * 140cm (from Ikea)
- Bedside cabinet: 3 layer Yellow (from Taobao)
- Ladder cloth hanger: (from Taobao)

Household shelter
- L shaped rack:  910mm & 1830mm, W:460mm, H:1840mm (from SG shelving)

Others
- Iron: Philip GC2048 (from Philip)
- Vacuum cleaner: Samsung SC5250 (Free gift)
- Datapoint conversion for 3 bedroom (BTO bulk purchase)
- Sliver Sliding Door Arm for main door (BTO bulk purchase)

Other items purchased from Taobao
From top left: VaseStorm glassWelcome display (no longer selling), Fengshui wheelBedroom clock3 bears piggy bank
From Bottom left: Corner protectorRemote cover, Pillow hangerUndies storage boxStorage boxToothbrush mug
From top left: Kitchen towel holderDrawer linerKitchen ragSink rackStove dirt removerBaking gloves
From top left: Mason jar, Noodle bowlPizza boardTea pot & cupsSalt & sugar canisterPepper containerPudding glass containerFood slicerOrange juicer
From top left: Food clipsRubber grip opener (no longer selling), Beer openerWine vacuum pumpWine pourerColanderRice scoopIce cube mouldMeat pounder
From top left: Egg shaperMelon scoopEgg separatorSpatulaMeasuring spoon, Measuring cupMeasuring glass cupFunnelSpaghetti measure (no longer selling)

Our renovation was completed within 2 months and we spent ~ $32K on our home sweet home:
- $17K Reno
- $750 painting
- $450 lighting
- $900 sanitary
- $300 curtains
- $5K furniture
- $7K electrical appliances
- $350 miscellaneous items