The Ultimate Guide to
DIY Renovation
(Singapore Edition)

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95 of the best DIY renovation tips to help you complete your project incident-free

DIY (do-it-yourself) renovation projects can be fun and fulfilling. But they can also be utterly daunting, especially when you’re at it for the first time.

You’ve come to the right place to get started.

This guide presents tips ranging from painting to wallcovering installation to interior designing even.

Many of them are cheap renovation ideas that you can apply easily. However, there’re a few that may require some experience.

Whichever the case, whether you’re doing minor DIY house improvements or a larger do-it-yourself home renovation, you should be able to find some useful tips here.

Topics covered

1|11   Partition wall

1.  Check your rental agreement

If you rent your home, installation of a dividing wall could be regarded as a structural alteration, which is specifically prohibited in a typical rental contract. However, if you approach your landlord with professionally drawn-up plans for your partition wall, they may well be happy to give the go-ahead, as the renovation could add value to their property.

2.  Decide on the layout

Do you want your partition wall to be a permanent fixture or one that can be altered at a future date to adapt to changing needs?

3.  Consider visibility between rooms

Determine how you want your partitioned space to work. If it’s for a children’s playroom, you may want a construction that allows you to see what’s going on in there; or in the case of a home office, privacy may be more important.

4.  Do you need sound insulation?

If your partitioned area is going to have noisy activities taking place, the question of sound insulation is important. Insulating materials can be added to the cavities between plasterboards to reduce the transmission of sound.

5.  Let in natural light

Think about glass partition walls if you want to make the most of natural light and create a feeling of open space. Glass walls are also effective in keeping out noise and pests and are moisture-resistant.

6.  Remember fire safety

Ask your renovation contractor how they’ll ensure your partition wall meets fire safety requirements.

7.  Hanging heavy items on the wall

If you want to hang something like a heavy mirror on a partition wall, you may need to use anchor bolts or frame fixings, depending on the wall construction. Consult a partition wall renovation contractor about this.

8.  Do you need a permit?

Guidelines by the Singaporean Government’s Building and Construction Authority suggest that lightweight, non-load-bearing, easily-removable partition walls are OK, but the detailed regulations are complex. A professional home renovation company will be able to steer you through the red tape. For more information about building regulations go here.

9.  Create an extra room

Using a partition wall to create an extra room, such as a bedroom, bathroom, or home office, is much easier and cheaper than moving house. If you later decide to relocate, your partition walls may be just what a potential buyer is looking for; if not, they can be easily and quickly dismantled.

2|11   False ceiling

10.  Get advice on materials

Wooden dropped ceilings used to be the norm but today you can choose from a range of materials, including gypsum board, plaster of paris, bamboo sheets, jute, plastic, aluminium panelling, plywood, fibreboard, and PVC. Ask a specialist in drop ceilings what’s best for your requirements.

11.  Consider the important factors

When planning a suspended ceiling project, take into account aesthetics, fire resistance, sound absorption, exposure to moisture, ease of alteration, life expectancy, and statutory requirements regarding health and safety.

12.  Plan the ceiling layout carefully

Time spent planning your false ceiling grid layout as an installation blueprint will pay off later, enabling you to avoid common mistakes such as ending up with a sloping ceiling.

13.  Do the electrics first

All electrical works for your ceiling lights need to be completed before the actual ceiling installation begins. For peace of mind on safety issues, call in a professional electrician.

14.  Take care with tiles

Ceiling tiles can be extremely fragile, so handle with care to avoid damage leading to the inconvenience and cost of having to go out and buy more of them.

15.  Look after your finished ceiling

Dusting your drop ceiling tiles will prevent an accumulation of dirt and the possibility of dust falling to the floor. Use a static duster to collect the dirt and then follow up with a quick vacuum.

3|11   Flooring

16.  Think about your lifestyle

Choose the type of flooring that will match your needs in the long-term, particularly if you have children and/or pets. The most popular floor coverings include carpet, vinyl, laminate, wood, ceramic/porcelain, and stone.

  • Carpeting adds a feel of warmth and softness to a room, and carpet fibres act like an air-filter, trapping pollutants and allergens.
  • Vinyl floors now boast the latest advances in flooring technology, making them extremely robust and versatile.
  • Laminate flooring is durable, hygienic, and relatively easy to install and maintain. It can be a low-cost alternative to hardwood, tile, and stone.
  • Wooden floors can last for decades and, with proper care, will look better as time passes. They’re also easier to clean than carpets.
  • Ceramic/porcelain floors are chosen mainly for their aesthetic appeal, although they’re also durable and involve minimal maintenance.
  • Stone flooring is now much more affordable than it used to be. Like wooden floors, the appearance of stone flooring improves with age.

17.  Choose quality products and materials

Selecting high-calibre supplies and hiring a floor covering renovation company to install your new floor will ensure a quality finish to your renovation project.

18.  Understand what carpet you’re buying

Choosing a new carpet can be a daunting job, with hundreds of various products available. The more you know about different types of carpeting, the better chance you have of getting the best product for your budget.  Avoid making a decision based on small samples.

19.  Lay a sub-floor, if necessary

A solid hardwood floor has to be laid over a wooden sub-floor. Engineered wood floors can be laid anywhere in the home, including basements.

20.  Avoid problems with damp

If you’re installing a concrete floor, lay down a water-resistant membrane across the whole floor area, linked to the damp-proof course in the surrounding walls.

21.  Consider lighter colours

Dark-coloured wooden floors show more dirt and dust than medium- or light-coloured wood; extremely shiny and smooth floors also show more grime.

22.  Keep your tiles clean

Because glazed ceramic tiles resist dirt, odours, and stains, it’s easy to forget they still need cleaning. Use a damp mop or common household cleaning products.

4|11   Wallcovering

23.  Prepare the wall surface properly

After sanding the bare wall and filling any cracks, you need to size or seal the surface to prevent the plaster from drawing moisture out of the wallpaper paste.

24.  Apply the correct amount of adhesive

Use an adequate amount of adhesive on your wallpaper, but don’t lay it on too thickly; make sure you paste the edges.

25.  Use a new blade for cutting each strip

A dull blade can tear wallpaper, so use a fresh blade with every strip to avoid time-consuming and costly wastage.

26.  Avoid starting the papering process near the focal point

There’ll be an awkward end point in papering when you have to try to match the last sheet to the first. Determine the least noticeable place for this, such as above a doorframe, but definitely not the focal point of a room!

27.  Smooth out wallpaper from the centre

If you try to smooth out paper from the top down or towards the centre, there’s more risk of trapping bubbles of air underneath the paper.

28.  Avoid gaps at the seams

Wet wallpaper shrinks slightly as it dries. Avoid gaps at seams by overlapping the wallpaper a little; it can then be pressed into place as it dries.

29.  Rinse off wallpaper after hanging

Failing to rinse your wall after paper-hanging can result in a residue of excess paste. Rinse with just water or a cleaning solution recommended by the manufacturer.

30.  Save scraps

Retain scraps larger than 30cm for future repairs in the event of accidents causing visible rips or stains.

5|11   Custom furniture

31.  Generate a vision

When deciding on a custom furniture plan, you have a blank canvas, with the only limitation being available space. Come up with a vision of how you want your room to look, rather than a blueprint.

32.  Choose the right designer for you

It’s imperative you have faith in your custom furniture designer. Examine their portfolio and establish whether they have the right sort of personality for the two of you to get along.

33.  Communication is key

Once you’ve selected your designer, liaise closely with them to come up with a plan to turn your custom furniture vision into reality.

34.  Examine the function of the room

Bear in mind the function and size of individual rooms when you plan your customised furniture refit, so your new furnishings match the overall design of your home.

35.  Think about aesthetics

Consult with your interior designer on how to combine materials of your custom furniture scheme to produce a tasteful, stylish result.

36.  Manage your expectations

Be aware that if your designer gives you a ballpark figure for a customised furniture plan, this will increase if you later expand the scope of the project.

37.  Show off your personality

With custom made furniture, you can get precisely what you want in terms of design, materials, and colour, tailor-made to satisfy your specific needs and wishes, so incorporate your individual style into the fabric of your home.

6|11   Granite, marble, and quartz countertop

38.  Introduce an element of eye-catching style

Countertops in natural stone like granite and marble, or engineered quartz, can give your home a new, stylish lease of life.

39.  Make your home unique

Granite and marble tops bring a uniqueness to your home. These stones have been formed by the forces of nature, so no two pieces are alike.

40.  Choose quartz for easy care

Engineered quartz counters are tougher than natural stone, therefore easier to take care of.

41.  Spruce up your kitchen or bathroom

Marble countertops come in a range of attractive colours. Although porous, they’ll resist water penetration. So, they’re ideal for bathrooms and kitchens. Marble is also resilient against infiltration by bacteria.

42.  Choose a knowledgeable countertop installer

A countertop contractor experienced in both interior design and renovation can give you a highly-functional installation that’s tailored to mirror your design style preferences.

43.  Look after your countertops

Regular cleaning will help to ensure your countertops look good for many years. Use warm water, a mild detergent, and a soft cloth; and rinse thoroughly to avoid streaks.

44.  Increase your home’s value

Granite and marble countertops can raise the market worth of your home. House-buyers concentrate on bathrooms and kitchens when viewing properties, and the timeless elegance of marble counters will be a crucial selling point.

7|11   Aluminium fixture

45.  Minimise noise and maintenance

Aluminium doors provide excellent sound insulation, and are virtually maintenance-free, owing to the corrosion-resistant properties of the metal.

46.  Customise your living space

Aluminium doors come in an extensive assortment of colours and finishes to match the surrounding decor.

47.  Stay safe and secure

Aluminium window grilles are an important safety feature in Singaporean households, particularly those with young children. They’re also an effective deterrent against intruders, while giving your home a stylish look.

48.  Save money

Aluminium is the preferred choice for window grilles in Singapore over costlier options, like wrought iron.

49.  No need to sacrifice appearance for practicality

Aluminium cabinets can inject new life into your bathroom or kitchen in terms of both aesthetics and functionality.

50.  Take it easy!

Unlike wooden fittings, aluminium kitchen, and bathroom cabinets don’t need polishing – just a quick wipe is all that’s necessary.

51.  Show off your prized possessions

Aluminium glass cabinets provide an elegant showcase to display prized possessions in your living space.

52.  Boost your home’s security

Aluminium door gates provide an extra layer of security for external doors to keep out intruders. Ornamental designs are available that will also enhance the appearance of your premises.

8|11   Door

53.  Pick the right door for the job

When choosing exterior doors, ensure you select a door and frame that can withstand exposure to the environment and climate. If you use an interior door as an outside entrance, it won’t be able to cope with the elements, and you’ll find you have to replace it sooner rather than later.

54.  Find out about fire safety regulations

If you live in an HDB flat, main entrance doors and frames along a fire-escape route, such as passageways and staircases, need to be fire-rated. Read the guidelines of HDB on building works here.

55.  Make sure your front door is visually appealing

Create a great first impression by ensuring your front door is in harmony with the colour palette and overall style of your home. Victorian-style door-knockers, for instance, will look out of place unless your home is Victorian.

56.  Be careful with measurements

Getting precise measurements of the space for your new door is essential; if your measurements are slightly out, your door won’t fit the frame.

57.  Use a proper door level

Having the right sort of spirit or bubble level is essential for a door installation. A specialised door level will make the job much easier and enable you to achieve a stylish result.

58.  Ensure the door is plumb

Make sure the door, frame, and wall are plumb (vertically levelled). Before fitting your new door, fix any problems with walls that aren’t true.

59.  Make sure the floor is level

Many people fall into the trap of levelling the door by aligning it with the floor while overlooking the fact that the floor itself may be uneven. So, first make sure your floor is level.

60.  Use suitable fixings

If your hinges and screws are too small, they won’t be able to bear the weight of the door, which will then sag and shift, eventually causing the frame and surrounding wall to crack. Don’t over-tighten the screws.

61.  Position shims correctly

Mark the position of the hinges on the wall so you’ll know where to place the shims. Put shims at the top and bottom hinge locations, using a long level; then add the centre shims.

62.  Make sure the reveal is even

If the frame isn’t plumb, it may need to be adjusted to provide an even reveal on each side of the door.

Nevertheless, installing a door frame properly isn’t an easy task for a layperson. Ideally, you should engage a door and door frame specialist for this job.

9|11   Painting

63.  Choose the right materials and tools

If you don’t know your water-based paint from oil-based, it’s probably advisable to engage a professional painter and decorator. If you decide you have the necessary DIY skills to carry out painting work, bear in mind that quality tools are essential for good results and they last longer. So, don’t be tempted to skimp on brushes, rollers, and pads.

64.  Ensure thorough preparation

Preparation is key for a quality painting job. Repair any cracks, sand down bumps, and wash surfaces meticulously (sugar soap is best). The wall or ceiling has to be dry and clean of any loose debris.

65.  Use a primer on new surfaces

A primer preps a new surface, so paint adheres to it more effectively. It also ensures the true colour of the paint shines through. Make things easier with a two-in-one paint and primer.

66.  Use washable paint in high-traffic areas

Flat matt is considered the standard for walls and ceilings, but washable satins or semi-gloss are ideal for areas such as foyers, hallways, and stairways.

67.  Load your brush carefully

Be careful not to plunge your brush too far into the paint container. Just dip it one-third of the way into the can to avoid waste. If you force paint deep into the bristles of your brush, it’ll be a tough job to clean it.

68.  Work from top to bottom

When painting walls, start from the ceiling and work downwards for the smoothest finish. If you use a step-ladder, make sure it’s positioned in a safe way, to avoid accidents.

69.  Use the right tape

For clean lines, use proper painters’ tape, not masking tape. This will help to ensure you get crisp edges. To avoid bleeding, seal the tape tightly around windows, baseboards, and moulding. Remove tape as soon as the paint is applied.

70.  Protect the work area

Paint splashes on carpeting and soft furnishings can be difficult to remove, so, if possible, remove furniture and then cover the whole floor with a drop cloth.

71.  Clean up promptly

Brushes, rollers, and pads need to be thoroughly washed with water and detergent and stored away properly. If you’ve been using gloss paint, you’ll need turps or white spirit.

10|11   Lighting

72.  Understand the importance of lighting design

A high-standard lighting system can add a stylish finishing touch to a home renovation, if it’s incorporated as a component of the overall interior design. Lighting experts regard illumination as an actual dimension.

73.  Consider the colour of lighting

During the lighting design and planning stage, try to visualise the quality of colour and light distribution from each fixture.

74.  Go easy with recessed downlights

Instead of fitting recessed downlights everywhere, achieve a more aesthetic, layered effect of illumination with a balanced combination of ambient, task, and accent lighting.

75.  Think about pendants and chandeliers

Pendants and chandeliers work well with higher ceilings. Refrain from trying to use recessed downlights as ambient lighting in a tall ceiling.

76.  Avoid decorating with lighting fittings

Picking light fixtures based on how they look, instead of performance, can lead to poor output and a waste of energy.

77.  Use energy-efficient technology

LED lighting can drastically cut energy bills while maintaining eco-friendly standards. The lengthy lifespan of LED bulbs means that maintenance costs are markedly reduced too.

78.  Make use of dimmers

Using dimmers with halogen or incandescent lights will cut energy and heat output, and lengthen the life of the lamps.

79.  Keep in control

For flexibility and efficiency, each type of lighting should be controlled separately. Think about installing programmable wall-box systems or wireless controls.

80.  Set the mood with ambient lighting

Used properly, natural and flat ambient lighting in the home provides a soft glow that generates a relaxing atmosphere in which to wind down from a stressful day.

81.  Take care with task lighting

Task lighting is only effective when used as contrasting illumination. A room with low-level lighting in which one spot is illuminated by a desk lamp will provide more efficient lighting, with less glare, than if the entire room is brightly lit.

82.  Create a stylish finish with accent lighting

Accent lighting can add a touch of class to a room in dramatic fashion. Consider using it to highlight ornamentation such as artwork, collections, and bookcase displays.

83.  Use wall sconces

Wall sconces and wall lights are extremely versatile and can be used almost anywhere. Position them sparingly in hallways and porches to create a great effect.

84.  Go for an integrated solution

Although some kinds of lighting fixture are often associated with a particular layer of lighting, most are so adaptable they can be put to use in several different ways. Talk to a professional about an integrated lighting design installation.

85.  Brighten up your garden

If you live in landed property and have a garden, use solar lights to brighten up the area and highlight any features such as ponds or pathways. Solar lighting is inexpensive to buy and costs nothing to run.

86.  Clean lights regularly

Routine maintenance and cleaning of lighting fixtures will avoid a build-up of dust that will affect the quality of light output.

11|11   Interior design

87.  Identify your personal style

Your home should be all about you, with the interior design reflecting your personality and lifestyle.

88.  Go with the flow

Organise shapes, colours, and patterns to form a cohesive design thread throughout the project, which will create a sense of calm and flow.

89.  Think about scale and proportion

Be mindful of balance, harmony, scale, and proportion. An experienced interior designer can provide professional advice on these elements of home renovation.

90.  Consider the 5 senses

To create a space that makes people feel good, the design should appeal to all 5 senses – sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste.

91.  Pre-plan spaces

Planning ahead will avoid any later problems when it comes to installing furniture, fixtures, and appliances.

92.  Avoid over-coordination

Instead of placing too much emphasis on matching up design elements, regard your interior design as a work in progress, gradually adding items over time to add character and mirror your personality.

93.  Create a focal point

Every space needs a point of interest that draws the eye towards it. Determine a focus for the room, and then work the space around it.

94.  Decide on furniture and fabrics before painting

Buy furnishings for a room before you choose a colour palette. It’s far easier to match paint to fabric than the other way round.

95.  Use neutral colours for walls

Mid-tone or neutral colours on your walls will unify a room while creating a warmer atmosphere than plain white.

96.  Add an heirloom

You can give a room extra warmth and character by adding a treasured heirloom or an original piece of art.

97.  Incorporate nature

Bring a feel of outside spaces into your home by incorporating nature, such as plants, into a room. The simple addition of plants can touch on the senses of sight and smell.

98.  Create different heights

Use furnishings, artwork, and curtains or blinds to add structure to a room by creating different heights.

99.  Avoid backing furniture against the wall

Positioning sofas, chairs, and other furniture even a short distance from walls will create some breathing space and make a room appear bigger.

100.  Hang artwork properly

When artwork is placed too high on walls, it appears to be floating on its own, impacting on the balance and composition of the room. Avoid hanging several pieces of artwork at the same height.

101.  Display accessories in groupings

Show off your accessories in a tasteful way by arranging them in groupings. The rule-of-three declares that items arranged in odd numbers are more pleasing to the eye, and three seems to be the magic number.

102.  Be sparing with furniture

If you try to cram too many pieces of furniture into a space, your room will look overcrowded and cluttered, presenting a confused, muddled appearance.

103.  Remove things you don’t like

You don’t have to live with anything you don’t like just because you inherited it or someone gave it to you. So, keep unwanted gifts out of your rooms.

104.  Allow enough time for the design process

Avoid the temptation to rush things. Interior design is an art that affects how people perceive spaces, so talk to a professional designer about how to achieve a functional but visually-appealing space.

105.  Be selfish!

Your home should reflect your individualism – your life and loves. Incorporate items such as photographs and mementoes into your interior design.

106.  Go for the feel-good factor

If your interior design creates a space that makes you feel good, it’ll have the same affect on potential buyers if you decide to sell your home.

107.  Budget for lighting

Set aside a realistic amount in your budget for a quality lighting system, and take your time when choosing lighting fixtures.

108.  Are you a maverick or a modern minimalist?

Several types of style are commonly employed in interior design, including contemporary, modern minimalist, maverick, high-tech, and retro. Discover the 6 common design styles in Singapore.

109.  Get a second opinion

Even if you’re confident about your own design sense, getting another viewpoint will give you peace of mind and possibly avoid expensive errors.

Remember to have fun!

Even though cost-saving might be your objective, your DIY renovation project should be fun! Get your family members or colleagues involved, as it’s a wonderful opportunity to bond.

Further, the elation you’ll experience after the project is completed will be worth the earlier hardship.

Nevertheless, if you do need professional help, we’d gladly be of service as we provide an extensive range of renovation services!

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