SINGAPORE: Darius Fan has a new three-storey home but is not enjoying the space; instead, he is holed up in one of the rooms with his wife and daughter.
What was meant to be four months of renovation work — mainly carpentry, flooring and lighting — has dragged on for more than nine months.
Among other setbacks: A sliding door between a flight of stairs and a room had a protruding track — despite instructions that it should be recessed — which was unsafe for his four-and-a-half-year-old.
“I went berserk,” he said. “I just told the contractor (to) strip everything.”
A toilet door still cannot close completely, and Fan’s home is only 75 per cent complete. He has overspent by S$10,000 and has lost seven kilogrammes from stress.
His renovation woes are just the tip of the iceberg. The Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) received an annual average of 1,100 complaints involving renovation contractors from 2019 to last year.
In response to queries from Talking Point, Case said there were more than 1,100 complaints about home renovation contractors in the first nine months of this year, 9 per cent up on the same period a year ago and approaching the 1,300 complaints made the whole of last year.
Approximately two thirds of the complaints pertained to contractors’ failure to complete projects on schedule and unsatisfactory workmanship, Case reported earlier, in July.
With many horror stories plaguing the industry, here is how you can better spot red flags before and during the renovation journey and avoid a nightmare at home.
WATCH: Hiring a home renovation contractor? Beware these 5 pitfalls (3:36)
1. HAVE AN ITEMISED QUOTATION
If a home renovation quotation shows sums that cover several items, you should ask that it be more itemised, said former interior designer Diana Leyau.
One example shown was a quotation of S$18,200 for renovations to the first storey of a property, which included the living and dining rooms, kitchen, guest room and a bathroom.
“You don’t know exactly how much you’re paying for each of these items,” Leyau said.
Having an itemised quotation is important in case you want to remove or add an item, so that you know how much to add to or subtract from the total, she added. This would also help in managing one’s budget.
3. SCRUTINISE YOUR MATERIALS
Your quotation should also come with a bill of materials. For example, it should specify the brand of tiles you would be getting, where they are from and the cost per square foot, cited Leyau.
“Exactly what kind of material (is used) is a key area of contention very often,” she said.
There are variations between different materials, but when home owners can scarcely tell them apart, rogue contractors “may (take this) opportunity to increase their profits”, said Inspire ID Group director Russell Chin.
Take, for example, basic low-odour paint and premium odourless paint. When the walls are painted, you cannot spot the difference with the naked eye, cited Chin. Rogue contractors might charge the premium price but supply the basic paint.
Tan added: “Maybe the firm is doing very well, but the individuals … aren’t trained in running the project.”
He believes that accreditation “will reduce a lot of problems” in the industry, such as “unscrupulous contractors” who mark up prices “unreasonably” as well as the practice of swapping materials.
Watch this episode of Talking Point here. The programme airs on Channel 5 every Thursday at 9.30pm.