A guide to planning your home renovation

Managing your home renovation can be a pill, but understanding the process makes it easier to swallow.  

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So, you finally got the house. Perhaps it’s that old terrace with So Much Potential™ or that new semi-D at an up-and-coming suburb. Maybe it’s that second-hand apartment that is a little unlived but you just love the area and community!

Now it’s time for the real work to begin. While getting an interior designer to manage your home renovation can take a weight off your shoulders, the costly hire may not be an option for everyone.  

This guide will take you through every stage of the renovation process, what works need to be done at each stage, and the financial incidentals to plan for.

What this is: A comprehensive guide on how to plan your renovations, what to do at each stage, and what you’ll need to procure at every stage.

What this isn’t: a 5-step easy guide to getting your home renovated. Sorry, getting your home renovated and the word “easy” don’t go well together.

This plan assumes you’ve already done an assessment of your home and understand what needs to be fixed or upgraded in the infrastructure (this is especially important if you’re getting a really old house or one that hasn’t been occupied for quite a while). This plan also assumes you have a design in mind. This isn’t a guide to envisioning your dream home; it’s a guide to actually getting it built.

Stabilise the structure

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If your house is particularly old, you’ll want to make sure it’s liveable (and its roof won’t come crashing down during one of Malaysia’s infamous storms). This might mean some piling work to stabilise existing foundations, steel ties to stop a spreading wall or roof, or steel props, beams, and scaffold inserts to prevent further collapse.

$$$: Piling, steel ties, steel props, beams and scaffold.

Demolition and clearance

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With a stable structure, now the demolition work can begin. It is highly recommended that you engage a professional contractor to assist you with this, as it requires expensive power tools and experience (not to mention pure physical strength) to strip a house down.

$$$: An experienced contractor and disposal system to cart off the waste.

Major structural works and extensions

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This is where you’ll be laying the foundation for extensions, getting new walls erected, making window and door openings, and constructing the roof structure. If you live in a landed property, you’ll want to hire someone to make sure the drains are in working order. Older buildings may have collapsed drains that need to be dug up and replaced.

$$$: Cement, sand, bricks, concrete slabs, timber, a plumber to inspect the drainage and connections (and possibly pipes for fixes).

Weathertighting

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It is paramount that your home is weathertight to minimise complications during the next stage of renovation. You’ll need to get the roof coverings on ­– seal, waterproofing and all – and fit any windows and doors that lead outside. Wrap them up to protect them while other works are still ongoing.

$$$: Roof tiles or slates, doors (if they lead outside), windows, roof sealing and gutters.

First fix

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Once the external works are almost complete and your roof is covered, you can shift your focus to the work that needs to be done inside. Here’s when you will get your wall studs and staircases built, as well as install the door linings, window reveals, and sills. 

When that’s done, the contractor can start laying the pipes and cables for the water heater (or solar water heater), electric wires, air conditioning, CCTV, phone, internet, ventilation, and waste drainage that will be installed into the floors, walls, and ceiling. Those cables you see sticking out? That’s not renovation chic. They indicate the right positions for the lights and power points. Pipes will also need to be set in the right place for your basins, baths, toilets, bidets, and hoses. 

Essentially, any work that requires plastering to conceal imperfections needs to be done now.

$$$: Electrical wires, phone and internet cables, wiring for ventilation, wiring and piping for a water heater or solar water heater, wiring for alarms and CCTV, wiring and piping for air conditioning, pipes for plumbing works, wiring for speakers and home automation equipment.

Plaster and floor works

Here’s where it all starts to come together. Now that your roof is boarded and all your wiring laid in place, it’s time to apply the plasters onto the walls, in addition to plasterboard or dry lining to the ceilings and stud walls. For those doing up the floors completely, you can begin work on the floor screeds.

$$$: Plasters, steel or timber corner beads and screed.

Flooring

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While some recommend laying fixed floorings after the carpentry and fitted furniture are complete, there are schools of thought that believe doing it at this stage will help avoid problems later on while leaving flexibility for the future (instead of laying the flooring around the carpentry works). 

Alternatively, you could move this to the last step and get it done together with your decorating work, which can help you save a bit of cash on materials.

$$$: Flooring materials for your kitchen, bedrooms, and common areas.

Second fix

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Remember those dangly wires? Now’s the time to get at ‘em! Connect the light fittings, sockets, switches, phone and TV points. At this stage, you can install any doors in the bedrooms and common areas. Fix the spindles and handrails on the staircase, as well as the skirting and architrave. Fit the kitchen and any fitted furniture you have planned. Install the air conditioners, CCTV, and alarm units (don’t forget to test the alarm). Box in pipes that you’ll want to conceal. Install and activate your water heater or solar water heater panels.

It’s a doozy, but it’s also one of the most exciting stages as you finally get a look at how your home will eventually shape up to be. 

The kitchen can be one of the more expensive spaces to renovate, so do read our tips to make sure you don’t go overbudget in the kitchen

$$$: Light fittings, sockets, switches, phone & TV points, ducts for extractor hood, doors for bedroom and common areas, skirting, architrave, spindles, stair handrails, bathroom fittings (sinks, taps, toilets, water heater if you don’t have solar panels, tub and timber for box in work), solar water panels, air conditioners, alarm, CCTV, kitchen fittings (sink, tap) plus all fixed carpentry.

Decorating and additional flooring  

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Onto the best parts! This is when you determine the final look of your home. 

Sanding and filing are in order; it’s time to prep your surfaces for painting and staining. Now would be the time to get the tiling done in the bathrooms, then you can fit the shower enclosures and bathroom doors. Soft coverings can also be laid for those final touches of finesse. Finally, install your hood, hob, oven, fridge, washing machine, and other domestic appliances.

$$$: Materials to sand and file, paint and stain, painting materials, tiles, timber, shower enclosures, bathroom doors, bathroom waterproofing, soft floor coverings like carpets or vinyl, domestic appliances, curtains and window tints.

Note: While this article was written with renovations for landed properties in mind, most of this guide can be used for apartments too.

Written by Christyna Fong

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