Renovating and furnishing your hdb flat can be costly for many Singaporeans.
According to Qanvast, the average renovation amount spent on a typical HDB flat is about $56,000. This excludes the cost of furniture such as dining table set, sofa and a study table which estimated by Dollars & Sense to cost $10,000-$20,000.
Assuming that these are the estimates, in total, the entire cost of renovating and furnishing a new HDB flat is expected to cost $71,000 on average.
To help other Singaporeans, I put together this post on the 10 Lessons I’ve Learnt When Renovating My HDB flat. If you’re renovating your own flat for the first time, I hope that these lessons would be useful for you.
Through these tips, you’d learn how to save cost during the renovation process and also in the long term.
1. Reduce the amount of tile work
If you look at the breakdown of the cost of home renovation in Singapore, you’d see that tiling is second most expensive items.
If you’re buying a resale, I would recommend that you pick a flat with the flooring you already like. I personally did not change the floor tiles in my kitchen (above), living room and bedrooms. This saved me a lot of money during renovation.
Rather than tiling a wall or floor, one wish to consider other options. This includes overlay flooring, like laminates and vinyl, which would help you save cost. This is because your contractor won’t need to hack the existing flooring away.
You may also wish to consider the option of cement screed like I did for my kitchen wall (in the picture above).
Some are concerned that there may be cracks over time but really, that is all part of the character and design. Another benefit I’ve noticed is that they have helped cool down my kitchen significantly. I don’t even need a fan in my kitchen when I cook.
2. Reduce built-in carpentry work
If you’re renovating your first HDB flat, chances are you are probably unaware that the most expensive component in the list highlighted is actually carpentry work.
For your living room, you may wish to opt for a nordic themed interiors which usually features less built-in carpentry and simpler aesthetics that make it easier and also less costly to execute.
I personally only had carpentry work done in my kitchen, wardrobe and a little bit in the toilet. I kept my living room entirely free from that.
Since I don’t have carpentry, I opted for plants instead as a form of decoration as well as loose pieces of furniture.
3. Install a powerful ceiling fan
I cannot emphasise the importance of a ceiling fan in reducing your expenses. I personally have about three in my home.
Singapore is warm all year round with temperature reaching up to 32 Degrees on some days. While we have aircons, they tend to consume a lot of electricity bills.
One of the reasons why I was able to achieve a monthly utilities bill that is lower than $50 was because I had really good ceiling fans.
Even when I don’t open my window or turn on my aircon, I have to sleep with blanket because if not it would be cold for me.
If a warm house and high electricity bills is something you’d like to avoid, I also would recommend looking out for these two factors when choosing your home:
- Facing of your HDB: If the last you want is a unit with the scorching afternoon sun heating up your flat, then avoid flats that are east or west facing. If you hate dark and gloomy units, then avoid North or South facing units as well. Many argue that the better units are those that are either south-east facing or north-east facing
- Floor: If you live on a high floor, chances are you won’t be blocked by trees or other flats so you get exposed to wind. Other benefits include lesser noise from people downstairs and a better view. 🙂
These are some factors that those buying their first hdb tend to neglect but they are actually really important.
4. Maximize your storage space
On average, a four room flat is around 990 sqft. If you don’t like clutter and having too many things lying around, you may wish to opt for furniture which comes with storage spaces.
I personally chose to have a bed with drawers at the side so that I could keep stuff in them, maximising the usage of space.
It also replaces the need for a bed side table, freeing up so much space in the house and reducing my expenses as I have two less furnitures to buy or build.
I would have done that for my coffee table in the living room. However, it was only after I bought my existing one that I came across a really nice and functional coffee table on Fortytwo.sg called the Avellino Low Coffee Table.
It is reasonably priced and has good practical value. I’ve heard from my colleague that Fortytwo.sg is one of the best places in Singapore to get furniture at a price that isn’t too expensive.
5. White paint can work wonders
My HDB flat doesn’t face the east or west direction. Thus, it was originally a little dark. Thankfully, it was saved by white paint which has brightened up my home significantly. This has reduced the need for me to turn on too many lights. In fact, during the day time, I hardly have to turn on any lights in my house.
If you’re looking for the easiest way to open up your home, you can count on crisp white paint to do just that. Since non-hues attract light, it can boost the amount of light that enters the room while keeping it cool.
With so much visual “noise” out there, coming home to a deliciously simple white room can be a joy. White also never goes out of style.
If you’re worried about white being dull, you can check out some great examples here.
6. Adopt a Minimalistic Lifestyle
Another way to have more space at home and save cost is basically to be a minimalist.
Not sure if you had the chance to watch this documentary on Netflix called Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things. If you haven’t, I highly recommend that you do.
Minimalism is a lifestyle where you reduce your possessions to the least possible and to find freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture. In doing so, you also help the environment and women from less developed countries.
I personally decided to do a way with a dressing table. I don’t wear makeup to work on Monday-Friday unless I have external meetings.
Instead of having a dressing table, I have a full-length mirror from IKEA (below).
I also a small drawer where I basically keep my beauty products/cosmetics/hair dryer in the first drawer. And, in the second drawer, I keep all the bags that I own.
Another item that I’ve decided not to have in my house is a television set and it’s accompanying furniture. I personally do not watch much TV and thus, do not see a need to subscribe to any channel. Instead, I watch videos on my laptop.
Finally, almost nothing in my house is for decoration alone. Every thing has a functional purpose, including the plants and I’d go into that towards the end.
I know my lifestyle may not be suitable for everyone but I’d like you to think about your future home, what kind of items found commonly in a typical Singapore HDB are those that you can you do without?
For instance, do you really need so many stools and chairs in your living room if you hardly have guests?
7. Reuse old items from your previous home
I know that some people believe that in a new house everything needs to be new. However, that isn’t always the case.
You can save cost and decrease your carbon footprint by reusing old items which are still in good condition.
What I’ve observed about some members of the older generation is that they tend to have a lot of free gifts and items in their house, sometimes in excess. If they don’t need some items in their house, you could bring it over.
I personally brought over several items from my previous home. Some examples include the study table chair, blanket, cloth, all fork and spoon, cups and vacuum cleaner.
It is really ok to bring items over and not everything has to be brand new. Doing so, would save you the additional cost of purchasing them.
8. Select appliances with energy and water saving
Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’d probably learn that electricity prices will go up by 6.9 per cent over the next three months. The second phase of the 30% water price hike also took effect on 1 July.
To save your electricity bill in the long run, I would highly recommend that you pick appliances with are energy efficient during your furnishing process.
In order to help consumers better identify the more energy efficient models and spur suppliers to offer more efficient products, Singapore has introduced an energy rating system for air-conditioners, refrigerators and clothes dryers. You can see this label on these appliances and it looks something like this.
For my aircon, I picked one with five ticks (“Excellent”) and for my fridge, I chose one with three ticks (Good).
To save on water cost, do choose a water efficient taps, showers and toilet bowls. Showering, flushing account for nearly half of water used in homes.
How can you identify the water-saving appliances. Do refer to the Mandatory Water Efficiency Labelling (Mandatory WELS) is a grading system which indicates the the water efficiency level of a product. It looks like this. I personally chose the one with three droplets for all my taps, showers and toilet bowls.
9. Shopping at places with the best prices
For online stores, my personal favourite is Lazada. Several Lazada items also come with return option and warranty.
I personally know of some young couples that go to brick-and-motar stores to try appliances. However, they eventually purchase from online because of the competitive pricing.
What I love about online shopping is that you can get cash back for your purchase through the following ways:
1) Pay with a good credit card: You can also pay for your renovation and furniture using good credit card that give you cashback or miles. Check out the list of best cashback credit cards in Singapore.
2) Use Shopback: Get additional cash back besides the one provided by your credit card. Use my promo code so we can both get $5 cashback bonus each.
If you’re keen on physical stores, you can also try Gain City where I purchased my fridge.
10. Have house plants
I have around 15 pots of plants inside my house. I personally see several benefits of keeping them.
Plants can remove harmful pollutants from outside, detergent and other chemicals. Extensive research by NASA has revealed that houseplants can remove up to 87 per cent of air toxin in 24 hours. This helps you save on an air purifier, humidifier and the electricity bill of operating one.
Plants also cool down your house, reducing the need for aircon which is one of the biggest killers in your electricity bill.
Studies have also proven that indoor plants improve concentration and productivity by up to 15 percent. They can also reduce stress levels and boost your mood after a long day of fighting fires at work.
However, just like buying stocks, the first few plants you have is often to 還學費 (English Translation: “Pay school fees”).
They may die in your hands but you’d learn from experience. I personally learnt from failure that I should read up in detail about every plant before owning them.
Some of the plants I have at home include the Snake Plant, Rubber Plant, Aloe Vera, Money Plant and dracaena marginata. All of which are proven by the NASA study to help purify the air at home.
Ultimately, I feel that a own should reflect your unique personality and living style.
My personal goal is to live a clean and sustainable way of life – pursuing a minimalist lifestyle; using solar energy; practicing recycling habits, reducing meat intake and having plants to eliminate pollutants in the air.
I understand that your priorities may differ and hence the way you approach renovating and furnishing your first HDB flat could be very different.
However, I hope my tips have been useful in helping you reduce cost and maximize the space in your home. Feel free to let me know if you have any suggestions to add.
If you feel that this post about reducing expenses when renovating and furnishing your first hdb flat has been useful to you, do share it with your peers!