10 Important Things to Check Before Engaging Renovation Contractors

Renovation is your next big ticket expenses after getting your house keys.

It is expensive. Most likely, you will need to get a renovation loan.

You will want it to be perfect. But you also heard many horror stories. Rogue contractors, renovation scams, and so on.

So how can you avoid them?

In this guide, you will learn 10 things to do before you engage any renovation contractors. These tips will help you have a great renovation experiences.

1. Rectify Your Defects First

Defects Checking

What do you do after getting your keys?

After rolling your lucky pineapple, the next immediate task is to check for defects.

Unfortunately, your house is not free from defects. When I first got my house, I reported over 40 defects. My neighbor reported more than 500 defects.

Checking for defects is a daunting task for first-timers. Here are some tips for you:

Before Checking

  • Prepare masking tape, marker, notebook, pen, a small ball or marble, and the floor plan.
  • Have a plan. Which area should you check first? Living room? Kitchen? Which direction should you check? From the top to the bottom?

Checking Process

If you find a defect, numbered it, and write it down in your notebook. Stick a small piece of masking tape with the number. Finally, note the number in your floor plan.

At each area

  • Check whether is your floor hollow every inch
  • Look out for cracks on the wall or floor tiles
  • Place the ball or marble on the floor at random areas. Check whether do they move
  • If there are electrical outlets, check that they are all working.
  • If there are air conditions installed, check that they are all working.

At the bathroom

  • Turn on your shower head and faucet. Do the same for your sink. Let it go on for 1 minute or so. You want to check whether are there any blockages in your drainage.
  • For your showering area, leave the wet floor overnight. You want to make sure that there is slope for the water to flow to the drainage.

At the Kitchen

  • Turn on your sink faucet. Check whether is there any blockages.

The above are general guidelines. You will find more details on checking defects with a simple Google search. There are lots of resources online. For example:

HDB Defects checklist

If you have the budget, you may also want to engage professional defects finding firm. Their services include finding defects, submission of defects form, and subsequent follow-ups.

2. Plan for your current and future occupants

Kids in the house

Before you start any planning, you might want to think of who will be staying with you.

Are you going to live with your parents or in-laws? Would you have kids running around in the apartment in the future? Do you have pets or are you getting one?

These are some factors you have to consider.

Having kids, for example, means you will have to install window grilles. You may also want to allocate a play and study area for kids.

Your interior designer will appreciate if you let them know about these factors.

3. Decide whether are you going to DIY or engage Interior Designer


There are both pros and cons to each option.

DIY is cheaper. But you have to design everything. You also have to manage the various sub-contractors. It is a lot of work especially if you are busy.

Besides, you are also prone to mistakes.

For example, I DIY my home design after getting my house keys. I place the ceiling fan at the center of my living room + dining area.

However, the ceiling fan is not strong enough. So, there are not enough wind to reach the living room. There are also not enough wind to reach the dining area as well.

You can avoid these mistakes by engaging a professional. They have worked in many projects. So, they are more likely to avoid certain bad designs.

The costs of hiring an interior designer might be more worth it than rectifying the mistakes.

If costs is a concern, you can still DIY. But make sure to do enough research to avoid mistakes that I have made.

4. Get a copy of your floor plan and do the measurement

Floor Plan

You might have a layout in mind. How are you going to furnish your living room and bedroom? Where should be the bed be facing? Should there be a study table?

These are questions that are bugging you ever since you got your keys.

One common mistake is not to take measurements.

An empty room looks smaller than a furnished room. You might think that it is not big enough to put a single bed and a table. But you are wrong.

Before planning the layout, take the actual measurement. And write these measurements in your floor plan. For example:

personal floor plan

When you meet the interior designer, bring your floor plan along. Some interior designers like to do a rough sketch of their ideas using your floor plan. Best of all, it is free.

5. Research for your desired style first

interior design inspirations

Before you look for interior designers, it will be good if you know what kind of style do you like.

A picture is worth a thousand words. Rather than describing how you like your home to look, it is easier to show photos.

There are many websites featuring Singapore HDB and condo design. For example:

You can also visit websites of interior designers. Most of them will upload photos of their previous work.

If you see a design that you like, be sure to save a copy. You can do this by taking a screenshot.

When you meet your interior designers, show them these screenshots. Then they can get a feel of what is your preference.

6. Getting Renovation Contractors

Renovation Contractor

No matter you DIY or engage an interior designer; you will need somebody to do the work.

But how do you find them?

The easiest way is to talk to friends.

Many of your friends should have engaged renovation contractors before. Ask them what do they think of their contractors. If the feedback is positive, then ask for their contacts.

There is no harm meeting a few contractors or interior designers. It is good for you to compare the quotations.

But what if you are the first among your friends to get a house?

Then you can go to sites like Qanvast and Renonation to request quotations.

When comparing quotes, make sure that the price is within your budget. If not, do not be afraid to negotiate certain terms. You might also want to ask for the payment plan and milestone.

Finally, be wary if the quote is too low, but the contractor wants a full payment upfront. You will be taking a lot of risks should the contractor default.

Before you decide on the contractor, make a trip to the company’s office.

Finally, make sure that the renovation contractor you are going to engage is in the HDB Registered Renovation Contractors.

7. Check whether do you need permit for renovation work

HDB Permit

Certain renovation works need HDB’s approval. For example, hacking of walls.

Before you start the renovation work, check the HDB guidelines on renovations. If in doubt, please contact them. Your renovation contractor should also know whether do you need a permit or not.

8. Setting Timeline and Payment Schedule


Do you have any urgent timeline which you need to move into your new house? If yes, make sure you communicate this to your interior designers.

They will have to assess whether is your timeline reasonable. You will also need to allocate time to check the work.

The payment schedule should be according to the timeline and milestone agreed with the contractor.

One final warning:

Never pay the full price upfront.

9. Read the contract in detail and ensure there are no hidden costs


Now you have decided on your interior designer. And he has prepared a contract for you.

Read the contract carefully.

Common hidden costs are:

  • Cost of electrician for doing the electrical works
  • Materials cost – the floor tiles, paint, wood, etc.
  • Bathroom fittings such as the mirror, shelf, heater, bath screen, etc.
  • Lightings fittings
  • Window grilles

The idea is to know how much you have to pay instead of getting a heart attack when your contractor sends you the bill.

One issue to note is the changes after the work is done.

Different contractors handle changes differently. Clarify with your contractor how they deal with changes.

10. Ensure your renovation contractor has insurance

renovation insurance

All renovation contractors bear some risk. The two biggest risks are public liability and workers compensation.

Public Liability Risks

Public liability risk refers to the risk of injuring a member of the public.

How does it concern you?

Imagine this scenario:

Your contractor is fixing the windows. The window is not secured. It dropped from a 10th storey high apartment. The falling window hit someone on the ground floor.

This mistake might cause death to the poor person.

Even if it hits no one, it might also cause property damage. The unsecured window might hit cars or shelters.

The question is:

Who should be responsible? You or your contractor?

The answer is quite obvious.

Your contractor should be responsible. But it will still affect you:

  • The victim might look for you instead of your contractor. You will have the hassle of liaising and directing them to the contractor. You also do not know how the contractor will deal with them. The victim knows your house, but might not know the contractor’s office.
  • Even if your contractor is willing to take responsibility, they might delay your project. Now they will have to divert some attention to this issue.
  • Your contractor might be liable to pay huge amount of damages. They might even go bankrupt before finishing your project.

So even if it does not concern you, you will still be affected.

Material Damage

Another risk you face is material damage done to your apartment during the renovation works. For example, your contractor accidentally destroys a key water pipe.

Yes, the contractor will be liable to rectify them or make payment. But you do not know whether are they able to do that.

This is where renovation insurance come into the picture. If your contractor has renovation insurance, the insurance company will indemnify the damages.

A good thing about typical renovation insurance is that it includes public liability insurance as well.

What can you do?

Asked your potential contractor whether do they buy renovation insurance. Do this before engaging them and signing the contract.

After signing the contract, ask for a copy of the insurance. Each public liability insurance is for each project. So you should have one renovation specifically for your house.

If your renovation contractor is reluctant, direct them to our article on renovation insurance. Please note that renovation insurance does not cover the risk if they went bankrupt without completing the project.


Managing renovation works for your house is tiring. But it can also be lots of fun seeing your dream house come to fruition.

By following this 10 tips, you will have a much more enjoyable process.

After you have completed renovation works and furnished your apartment, what’s next? Check out our article on home insurance. Decide for yourself whether do you want to protect your investments.