12 Hidden Reno Costs Your ID Won’t Tell You About

13 June 2023 | BY

From fixing leaking pipes to clearing debris, these renovation costs aren’t the most obvious but they’re still important to budget for.

hidden renovation costs -

Home renovations are all fun and games until you get presented with the initial quote. But before you whip out your credit card and put down the deposit, you should ask your interior designers about these hidden renovation costs that they might have overlooked. After all, you wouldn’t want to be shocked when your quote rises 10-14% more than the initial amount.

While a diligent and trustworthy interior designer might present you with all the necessary things to budget for, there’s still a chance for the unpredictable to happen in the middle of your renovation. To ensure your purse strings don’t get pulled too tight before you move in, here are some hidden renovation costs to take note of.

1. Rectifying existing defects

hidden renovation costs - defects checkImage credit: nadnut

Conducting a defects check isn’t just for those who are moving into a brand new BTO flat. Doing it before you buy a resale flat or a condo is also something that comes highly recommended. You wouldn’t want to go through the process of renovating your home only to find out that your floors are water-damaged and walls have toxic mould.

Other common defects that can be found in older homes include faulty wiring, leaky windows, and plumbing issues. These defects might not be a cause for concern if you’re doing an entire overhaul of your new house. But for homeowners that are only doing a light refresh of the interior, knowing the problem areas that need to be rectified ahead of your reno will help you budget for the repairs or cut costs in other areas.

2. Permit submission fees & costs associated with delays

woman looking at documentsImage credit: TheSmartLocal

Renovating your home isn’t as simple as the contractors coming into your home and plugging in their tools. The proper permits have to be applied before any work can start. Some examples of renovation works that require a permit and approval from HDB include:

  • Hacking of floors and walls
  • Changing the placement of a door
  • Replacing windows
  • Replacing staircase railings (for executive maisonettes)
  • Replacing the tiles in your bathroom
  • Installing air conditioning units

HDB estimates that permits can take up to 3 weeks to be approved, so you should get your interior designer or contractor to get the paperwork completed ASAP. Otherwise, you might have to extend your stay at your current place of residence which can be a bummer if you’re renting. 

Some IDs might also charge you an admin fee of around $400 to apply for all the permits on your behalf, while others offer it as a free service. Make sure to double-check your quote and clarify any questions before you sign an agreement.

3. Paying your ID with a credit card will incur processing fees

paying with a credit card mastercardImage credit: TheSmartLocal

Paying for your renovation with a credit card might seem like an easy way to earn thousands of air miles or get some sweet cashback. However, people often forget that the merchants, which will be the interior designers and contractors, will be charged credit card processing fees that can be up to 5%. On a $50,000 renovation budget, that’s $2,500 that’s paid in fees alone.

Since the quote is supposed to account for what the $50,000 should go to, the responsibility of paying the fee might be offloaded to the customer instead, making the total amount to be paid increase to $52,500. Also, smaller boutique interior design agencies might not accept credit cards as a form of payment, so keep that in mind when discussing your payment plan.

4. Utility bills during the renovation process

hidden renovation costs - utilities Image credit: Budget Reno (Singapore)/Facebook

Newsflash: your house doesn’t just get power and water out of thin air. You actually have to open a utilities account with SP Services before your light bulbs and taps will work as intended. And yes, you’ll have to do it before your renovation starts as your contractors will need power and water to use their tools and clean the space.

The initial costs involved include the security deposit when you open your SP Services account, which can range from $40 for a 2-room HDB flat to $250 for a bungalow. After that, you’ll also be billed refuse collection fees along with your electricity, gas, and water bills which can be around $100-$200/month. 

5. Special tile layouts cost more

hidden renovation costs - special tile layouts in a wooden homeImage credit: @181chichouse/Instagram

We’ve all seen plenty of beautiful tile designs on Pinterest and Instagram from herringbone to mermaid tiles. As aesthetically pleasing as they may be, these tiles don’t just come with your home pre-installed and laid on the floor. Someone has to lay the tiles and grout them.

Usually, your ID will quote you for a standard tile design, a.k.a. something classic and possibly boring. Should you choose to have a herringbone pattern stretching across your floor, you’ll have to pay more for labour and possibly material costs as there can be more tiles required and special cuts necessary to fit the layout.

6. You can save costs by outsourcing things like painting

hidden renovation costs - painting a wall blueImage credit: Galaxy Painters

Your interior designer might quote you a figure – $1,500, for example – to paint your entire home with Nippon Paint. While that might seem reasonable to most, you can actually save on costs here if you outsource your paint job to a subcontractor or even DIY the paint job yourself.

If you would rather not have to worry about managing too many parties, you can also bring a third-party quote to your ID and request that they match the offer.

hidden renovation costs - limewashed walls
One couple spent a few thousand dollars limewash painting their living room and kitchen.

For more complex jobs like limewash painting, professionals and contractors might charge around $4-$5K just for your living room and kitchen. Alternatively, you could invite a few friends and family members over for a painting party and DIY your home for a fraction of the cost.

7. Installation of smart gadgets & appliances will cost more

hidden renovation costs - smart home devices will cost more like this google homeImage credit: Josiah Neo

Houses have become a lot smarter in recent years. But a home cannot become a smart home without the necessary infrastructure. While a smart doorbell can get away with using batteries, other gadgets and devices like thermostats and CCTVs all need to be plugged into the main grid, which means planning for additional power sockets and a space on the wall for them.

There’s also the issue of Wifi. You wouldn’t want to put smart lights all over your home only to find out that your kitchen is a dead spot that gets no reception from your router.

Be sure to meticulously plan out where your smart gadgets will be in the house so that your interior designer and contractors will ensure that they are properly put into place.

8. Extra costs for replacing pipes that might be damaged

hidden renovation costs - fixing leaky pipesImage credit: Baey Yam Keng

An older resale flat or condo might have pipes and plumbing that are concealed behind dry walls, and it’s not until you hack everything down that you discover every pipe is rusted and some are leaking. Corroded and rusted pipes often release rust particles into the water it carries, leading to bigger plumbing problems down the line. And the last thing you want is to have a blocked pipe which can burst and cause widespread damage to your home.

Rather than pay for the pipes to be replaced, you can negotiate with the previous owner to either lower the cost of the house, or get them to replace the pipes. This will only work if you are still in the negotiation process. Once you’ve signed the contract to buy the house, you might be out of luck.

9. Taobao sanitary fittings don’t last

hidden renovation costs - replacing rusting sanitary fittingsRust started to form on the bathroom shelves after 8 months.
Image credit: BTOnomics

We know how tempting it is to just buy all of the necessary bathroom fittings from Taobao since they’re so much cheaper than what you might find in local stores. However, there’s the saying that you get what you pay for. Some homeowners have reported that their Taobao bathroom fittings have been rusting after just 8 short months.

This might not be an issue immediately after you move in. But you wouldn’t want to drink water with rust particles just one year after getting them installed.

On the same note, Taobao appliances and electric fittings do not bear the SAFETY mark, which means they have not been tested against fire, electric shocks, and other potential hazards.

10. Emergency fund for unexpected complications

The quote that your interior designer presents is just a quote at the end of the day, and it won’t take into account any unexpected complications like water leaks and delays. This is why most homeowners who have already gone through the whole renovation process will advise new homeowners to start an emergency fund for when things go awry.

We recommend a buffer of at least 10-20% of your home renovation budget for these unforeseen circumstances. For example, if your carpentry doesn’t fit into the space because the measurements were taken wrongly, you’ll have to pay to get that fixed and rebuilt. Although in this case, the burden lies with the ID as they’re the ones who failed to measure properly.

11. Rubbish & debris removal at the end of the renovation

hidden renovation costs - rubbish and debris removalImage credit: DA Engineering

The walls and floors of your home don’t magically disappear into the ether after they’ve been hacked away – they have to be properly disposed of, and not down the rubbish chute. This is usually where large containers come into play; you would have seen some of them at the car park with a ton of rubble.

Usually, an interior designer will quote a standard price for rubbish and debris removal. But if your scope of work is significantly higher than average – say you’re hacking all the walls and floors of your house – then they would have to get more containers just to dispose of all the tiles, cement, and old carpentry.

12. Post-renovation cleaning and/or acid wash for tiles

hidden renovation costs - cleaningImage credit: TheSmartLocal

Once all the tiles have been laid, walls have been painted, and carpentry installed, the last step is to clean the house before the furniture gets moved in. Sometimes, interior designers would lump the cleaning fee along with the aforementioned rubbish and debris removal fee. If you want a more thorough cleaning, you might need to pay more for a better job.

Bonus: Changing your mind at the last minute

We’re all guilty of wanting to change something at the last minute. Be it the colour of a certain wall, or the layout of your kitchen drawers, some things just make more sense in person than in a 3D sketch. Unfortunately, changing our minds at the nth minute is not something that comes without a cost. 

If you have a fickle mind, it’s best to trust the vision your interior designer has for your home. After all, they are the experienced ones and they will know how to make the most out of your four walls the best.

Hidden renovation costs in Singapore

Renovating a home is no small feat. It costs time, effort, and lots of money. What we can do is ensure that you are aware of all the costs involved in the renovation, whether they are upfront costs or these “hidden” costs.

You should also check with your interior designers and contractors on what to know before engaging renovation services and what kind of fees might come up in the midst of the renovation process, as they have the best overview of the type of works your home needs.

Read other articles about home renovation:

Cover image credit: Galaxy Painters, @181chichouse/Instagram

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