Mar 192013

A couple of months ago, I decided to renovate my old apartment, to give it a new lease of life. I’m currently well into the implementation phase, and have hopefully encountered (and passed) most of the hurdles and pitfalls that crop up while renovating an old residence.

With the clarity of hindsight, I’ve written down some of my experiences so that you, my gentle readers, can hopefully gain some benefit, however small. What follows is a list of issues, big and small, I have encountered in the course of planning for and implementing my renovation.

Pressure sales

Here, I’m talking about the common claim that ”this offer will be gone soon!” or “we can’t guarantee prices won’t go up after this deal is over!”

This is the most common tactic encountered when shopping for your home, and also the most prolific. I’ve seen it used for almost any goods or services, from interior design services to electrical appliances, from broadband plans to bedding. The reason it’s so widespread is probably because it’s very effective at using fear to convince a potential buyer. The fear of missing out on a unique offer or one-of-a-kind deal can sometimes be very strong. Strong enough to over-ride the common sense of taking the time to shop around and compare before buying.

My experience has been that this fear is usually unfounded. Taking the proper time for research, comparison and getting multiple quotes is usually more fruitful.

Hidden wall “features”

If you’re thinking of renovating an older place with wall panels and decorative features, you may want to plan for unforeseen structures. Such wall cladding and paneling may conceal internal load-bearing beams and supports, which cannot be drilled, altered or removed in any way. Built-in cupboards may also hide unfinished sections of wall, such as bare masonry in the middle of a tiled wall. All these will require additional cost to conceal or fix up, so some preparation is advised.


If, like me, your air-conditioning system is more than a decade old (17 years, to be exact), it’s probably a good idea to get it changed during the renovation. In addition to adding cost, a few other considerations may be relevant, mainly to do with installation of piping and type of air-conditioner system. While internal piping, hidden within the walls, looks much more presentable and unobtrusive, it can be a challenge to install and maintain. Any installation and repair work will entail breaking into, and subsequent patching of walls. You may also consider re-using the old gas piping for your new air-conditioning system, but with older systems, this might be risky. In the end, I opted to replace my entire air-conditioner piping, without knocking down any walls. In order to minimise exposed ducting, I routed as much as possible into the false ceiling. Some exposure was unavoidable, however, especially for the drain-off pipes.

Electrical and data wiring: trunking vs concealing

Similar to air-conditioner piping, one must consider whether electrical and data wiring can, and should, be concealed or not. While not as disruptive as concealed air-conditioner piping, concealed wiring might still incur additional costs, including plastering and touch-up after the wiring is laid within the walls. The cheaper, but less discreet, option is to lay trunking. In order to minimise the visual disruption, try to run as much wiring as possible within false ceilings, and plan wiring paths to co-incide as much as possible. If using exposed air-conditioner ducting, such wiring can also share space inside said ducting.

Termites and other infestation

For older homes, a renovation may uncover termites, rodents and other pests. Such infestations can cause serious havoc, and should be taken care of immediately. If the renovation must be interrupted, as is usually the case, the disruption can be minimised by being prepared beforehand for such a contingency.

Disposal costs

Something that all contractors should warn customers about are disposal costs. Old furniture, demolished cupboards and fittings, and construction debris cannot be simply tossed down the garbage chute. Disposal can cost even more than home moving services, so be prepared and try to work it into the total cost of renovation.

Cost over-runs

At the end of the day, all such contingencies should be planned for, with a reserve sum of at least 20% of renovation cost set aside to address them. A safer buffer would be 50%, which can subsequently be used for new furniture or better appliances should you be lucky enough to keep all of it at the end of your renovation.
I hope that this little bit of sharing has been useful for some of you. If you have any suggestions or feedback, please leave a comment below, or on our Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. You can also follow or like us for the latest BLUTA updates.

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