Been another long while since I did a post on our kids! So, lots of pictures in this update post. I think we’re blessed in that both Hannah and Peter’s birthdays are in the month of June – which nicely coincides with the stipulated school holidays in the public school calendar. We celebrated both their birthdays at home; with friends in Hannah’s case, and with our larger family for Peter. Hannah is of course at an age now where she recognizes the significance of having a birthday, and that it’s not just about having more presents and toys to play with. Peter on the other hand was completely nonplus about it and probably wondered what all the fuss was about when the family all gathered around him for the celebration song.

Hannah just turned five!

Hannah just turned five!

And received from us a Nikon compact camera as a birthday present.

And received from us a Nikon compact camera as a birthday present.

Hannah admiring her just taken-selfie, while Peter looks bewildered at the bounced flash that just triggered to take this picture.

Hannah admiring her just taken-selfie, while Peter looks bewildered at the bounced flash that just triggered to take this picture.

We haven't bought Hannah a lot to swim in the new main pool @ Minton, given that our weekends have been quite packed with activities. She's been taking swimming lessons too at school, so is more comfortable now in the water.

We haven’t bought Hannah a lot to swim in the new main pool @ Minton, given that our weekends have been quite packed with activities. She’s been taking swimming lessons too at school, so is more comfortable now in the water.

We've started letting Peter have his tidbits of food with us when we eat out of home. Necessary method of engagement, otherwise he'd just bawl (out of boredom?!).

We’ve started letting Peter have his tidbits of food with us when we eat out of home. Necessary method of engagement, otherwise he’d just bawl (out of boredom?!).

Peter more interested in his birthday cake than the singing.:)

Peter more interested in his birthday cake than the singing.:)

Peter is nearly able to stand unsupported on his own now. At the moment, he can keep his balance for a few seconds, but he's getting there.

Peter is nearly able to stand unsupported on his own now. At the moment, he can just barely keep his balance for a few seconds, but he’s getting there.

19. June 2014 · 1 comment · Categories: All Posts, At Home, New Home · Tags:

One of the (relatively) more novel things we did for our new Minton home was to invest in a dishwasher machine. We’ve blogged here previously about our thought-process in going with a bit more automation in the kitchen, and the space considerations we had in mind in view of that. The short version of that is that we were lucky to be able to move our laundry machine out from the original Developer-supplied spot in the kitchen into the yard, therefore freeing up that space for us to put a dishwasher and additional storage in.

While there are quite a few dishwasher models from major brands on sale in home appliance stores here, I’m not sure if these appliances are really staple items for Singaporean households. For starters, our parents’ generation had no such appliances in the kitchen, and within our generation of friends and people of our age with families, we do observe one or two families with these devices but it’s not a common household item either; unlike say vacuum cleaners, microwave ovens, laundry machines and the like.  We decided early on we’d go with a compact/half-height dishwasher, largely on account that:

We wouldn’t be using the dishwasher that often. On non-school holiday periods, the only times we’d cook would be during weekends.

We don’t have that many mouths to feed at this point. Peter is fed separately, and Hannah uses children-size crockery.

We didn’t like the idea of having the entire cavity vacated by the laundry machine used by a full-sized and relatively tall dishwasher.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have quite a wide range of compact dishwashers to choose from, so eventually settled on the Bosch SKS62E12EU. This dishwasher now sits in a customized cabinet our Interior Designer constructed, with a quartz hard-surface counter-top too. Our experience six weeks into using this machine has been on the whole positive. Great things about the machine:

Reasonably cheap. The compact dishwashers we saw were routinely cheaper than the full-height ones.

Easily accepts all-in-one capsule detergent solutions, though the makers of such detergent solutions seemed limited to just two at the big supermarket chains.

Very quiet. Whisper quiet even!

Great for small families.

Great for already small kitchens, like our Minton home.

Utensils and crockery come out clean, for the most part. Ling remarked on the first use that there was some mild residue on a few of the cleaned items, but we didn’t observe it further on.

But on the other hand:

Difficulties fitting medium-sized and larger pans with their long handles. It’d be a non-starter if use big frying pans with long handles and must wash them in these machines.

Long wash-cycle (3 hrs on default settings).

Will be too small if you use a lot of crockery in food preparation, or have a lot of mouths to feed

In particular, the long wash-cycle is something we had to adjust to – since washing crockery by hand would routinely take just minutes, making those items quickly available for re-use.

Still, the appliance has proven quite handy. It doesn’t draw attention to itself when it’s operating, and when not in use, blends in nicely with the rest of the kitchen finishing too. Though I suspect when over time when there are finally four adults to feed in our household, we might look into a larger unit then.

Our Bosch compact dishwasher sits in a customized cabinet. We gave some finger clearance  when deciding how large the cavity was going to be to house the appliance.

Our Bosch compact dishwasher sits in a customized cabinet. We gave some finger clearance when deciding how large the cavity was going to be to house the appliance.

Typical rinse cycle is 3 hours. Runs very quietly.

Typical rinse cycle is 3 hours. Runs very quietly.

Not fully-loaded. The dishwasher can contain more material than this.

Not fully-loaded. The dishwasher can contain more material than this.

Straight on view of the interior. Do observe the height clearance for utensils and cookery.

Straight on view of the interior. Do observe the height clearance for utensils and cookery.

 

 

There was a news article not too long ago reporting of workmanship issues at The Canopy Executive Condominum, a newly completed apartment project here on our island. In that instance, the general issues faced by new apartment owners apparently were so pervasive and widespread that news media took interest in their story.

To be fair again, our Minton unit was in a reasonably good state when we got the keys in January, and the first defect rectification went more/less smoothly helped by a jolly worker in-charge and an effective customer service officer who acted as the go-between us and the worker team. We were aware however of several neighbors who weren’t quite so fortunate over the last couple of months, though now that most units are already moved-in or in the middle of renovation, we’ve been hearing less of early defect issues coming out of newly received units. Still and mindful of what the The Canopy EC residents encountered, I wonder though if such workmanship issues are endemic to mass market apartment projects, and that it seems whether one gets a unit that’s in an alright state against one that has numerous issues is a crap shoot.

Now that our unit has been lived in for almost 6 weeks now, we’ve started to also observe little issues coming out of it. Nothing that poses danger to life and limb thankfully. Several of these annoyances we just shrug away – I’m certain that the longer we stay in it, the less these minor things will bother us – but one issue did bother Ling, and that was specifically how grouting was done in the living/dining hall and the kitchen. We heard a couple of our neighbors sharing that the grouting for their units were so badly done that they came off after a few floor cleanings.

Ours was thankfully in a relatively better state on the overall – in that they didn’t dissolve and stayed sealed for the grouts in the living and dining halls even though they still aren’t as nicely done as we would have liked them. Just as well, since it’d be hard for grouting to be redone for the living/dining hall now that all our furniture has gone in. The kitchen grout was a different story though – they were of uneven color. Some of it was white, others cream, and several were even grey.

Visible grout hole where the skirting is in the kitchen.

Visible grout hole where the skirting is in the kitchen.

Different grout colors.

Different grout colors.

And Ling would have had none of it, since she spends so much time in the kitchen and she’d have to look at it everyday. So, we contacted our customer service officer – a different lass as the previous one who served us very well had since left the company – over for an inspection a fortnight ago, had a short inspection to ascertain the scope of work, and re-grouting work started shortly thereafter and over the weekend. We also took the opportunity too to get cracklined tiles around the rubbish chute replaced, likewise also for a chipped marble floor tile in the master bedroom toilet – though the worker ended up accidentally damaging a neighboring tile, meaning two tiles had to be replaced.

Kitchen floor re-grouted.

Kitchen floor re-grouted. Looks much better now!

Looking much better after the excess dried up grout had been sanded away.

The excess dried up grout had been sanded away.

Two tiles removed. One which was chipped, and another which was the result of collateral damage.

Two tiles removed. One which was chipped, and another which was the result of collateral damage.

Laying down the new tile!

Laying down the new tile!

 

Newly laid tiles in the master bathroom. Not quite exactly the same tone, but at least no chipping.

Newly laid tiles in the master bathroom. Not quite exactly the same tone, but at least no chipping.

Most new condo projects on our island routinely try to design their blocks such that each unit’s living and bedroom areas are in the north-south orientation, and in so doing avoid the afternoon sun that can otherwise blast unrelentingly into the rooms. Most of the units in The Minton are north-southerly facing (with the exception of one block!), including ours.

A year ago while I was doing my fortnightly photo-visits to the ongoing construction site then, I observed that our front balcony would get some morning sun. Not quite an issue for us. And when keys were collected in January this year, we again observed that there would be some mild afternoon sun getting into Peter’s room – but not the other bedrooms. Whew – we thought. But then, exactly as Ling feared, this was a seasonal thing, and since 3 weeks ago, our Tranquil World facing bedrooms have been getting some direct sunlight into the rooms. Not full-on thankfully in the east-west sense, but sufficient to heat up the room to the point that it’s noticeable. Hannah’s room and our workroom are especially affected, since the Zebra blinds we’ve got there can’t block a sufficient amount of sunlight.

So, we had to look into window films and specifically of the solar control type. There were already several advertisers promoting their various brands on different web sites and the like, and it was some intensive fact-finding on our part. And also because solar control films are a commonly-requested product for new built-up apartments on a hot and humid equatorial island, our mail box over the last months have been stuffed with flyers and brochures from many, many window film contractors.

Without getting too much into our exploration process, what we’ve learned in the last one week – from deciding to go with films to learning about the different film types and specifications to inviting different contractors down for measurements to deciding who to go with and finally actual installation – include:

Competition in this industry seems extremely intense. We heard and read of stories of companies badmouthing their competitors products.

The more affordable films seem compacted around the same price range (about $4 to $6 per square foot).

Most films we saw all offered 99% UV rejection, and Solar energy Rejection was routinely between 45% to 55%. The other characteristics (Visible Light Transmission, Warranty, Infra-red Rejection) varied significantly however.

Some characteristics of the film are (a lot) more important than others. The important ones are Total Solar Energy Rejected and Visible Light Transmittance if you’re also concerned about how much darker your room might be once films are installed.

With regards to the last point, there are quite a few online resources that debate on the often-cited Infra-red rejection film characteristic how what it really means, including here, here and here. The long and shot of what those resources all say is that IR rejection statements needs to be read with caution.

Lots of brochures and flyers from window film contractors.

Lots of brochures and flyers from window film contractors.

As for the other characteristics; after having been convinced about the importance of the selected film characteristic indicators, we invited several film contractors down for their sales pitches, measurements and quotations. Not quite easy deciding between the lot, but we eventually settled on LLumar solar control films, and with a contractor who was its local distributor. The film manufacturer seemed well-established and having been in the business for decades, and their films well-reviewed and received too and used across different purposes. The cost per square foot of their solar control films were just a little higher than their competitor products, but we were persuaded to take up their package largely on account that their films seemed in our exploration to be most premium of the bunch.

The installation took 2 afternoons, and we had different film types installed for the living/dining halls and the bedrooms. The two films’ Visible Light Transmittance was 48% and 60% for the Living/Dining halls and bedrooms respectively, and both offered 53-54% Total Solar Energy rejections. Total damage was almost $1.9K. Ouch!

Photos.:)

Workers going about it in our workroom.

Window Film Workers going about installation in our workroom.

And in Hannah's room.

And in Hannah’s room.

Oh yes. We had roller blinds installed in our front balcony too. The contractor was the same fellow who's done all of our blinds and curtains too.

Oh yes. We had roller blinds installed in our front balcony too. The contractor was the same fellow who’s done all of our blinds and curtains too.

 

Catching up on another post of our children in the last fortnight. Another recent thing we’ve gradually realize of our new home is that the Tranquil World-facing bedrooms of our unit – which includes Hannah’s room – gets a seasonal blast of direct sunlight. We didn’t observe this earlier in the year at the time we collected our keys, but possibly also in good part that the weather has turned hot and humid again, their room gets a good toasting in the early to mid-afternoons every day. As a result, We’ve been looking closely at solar films and will have some notes to write on very soon.

We’re still thankful that Peter sleeps soundly every night, but boy – can he make a royal din in the day time. It might be the effect of his room facing inwards against other neighboring blocks and how sound bounces around coupled also with his very healthy pair of lungs, but when he yells, we’re pretty sure everyone can hear it. Yep; he yells for attention, not merely cries for it! Hannah loves playing with him still, but when she’s busy with something else (like her art n’ craft), our boy gets all moody and will holler when he’s left alone in his cot.

Ling was sharing too the other morning that our girl has reported being occasionally called names by her friends in school. Nope we’re not going to step-in at the moment, since this is part of growing up and she doesn’t seem too bothered by it. But if that’s indeed happening, it doesn’t surprise us too much either – on account that Hannah is just a little bossy and has no compunctions telling other kids off when they engage in acts she believes are wrong. She has the makings of a a social butterfly for sure.

And of late, she’s returned again to carrying sheets of stickers that she brings along with her when we’re out of home, and passes them out to other children that she walks past. “Mommy/Daddy/whoever’s nearer, can you cut this sticker out? I want to pass it to that 妹妹 (little sister)!” In fact, we’ve had to reign her in a little one time when she wanted to run off to the other side of a Metro store to look for a girl that walked past her several minutes ago LOL.

The two kids at play at our new home on a weekend morning.

The two kids at play at our new home on a weekend morning.

Hannah having fun with ice water and a straw. This was over dinner at a Malay-Muslim cafe @ Hougang Avenue 1. They whipped up wonderful Roti Johns (our Ang mo friend will be thrilled to hear that!).

Hannah having fun with ice water and a straw. This was over dinner at a Malay-Muslim cafe @ Hougang Avenue 1. They whipped up wonderful Roti Johns (our Ang mo friend will be thrilled to hear that!).

Peter's gonna be one year old very soon.

Peter’s gonna be one year old very soon.

Her new post-it notice board mounted in her room. Hopefully, no more loose pieces of all her drawings all over the house now.

Her new post-it notice board mounted in her room. Hopefully, no more loose pieces of all her drawings all over the house now.

Aside from the carpentry work that we included into our workroom at our Minton home – which was a lot – the only other renovation item we put in was to draw two additional LAN points, one on either side of the room. But we just discovered before the public holiday yesterday that our electrician had made a bloop when the cables were laid a few months ago. We’d requested for Cat 6 cables, but what we got were actually Cat 5e’s. Our ID was shocked when we appraised him of it, apologized sincerely, and promised to get to the bottom of it. Though at this point, we’re not sure what can really be done aside from the usual refund of work that was not quite what we wanted – since the two cables are running through false walls, up to false ceilings, across a good part of the house, and ending where our apartment’s main junction box is.

Oh dear. Says clearly that it's 5E and not 6.

Oh dear. Says clearly that it’s 5e and not 6.

Adding on to another issue we discovered of our electrician’s work (basically that he took a few short cuts when installing those very tricky LED downlights), Ling is so very not-pleased with this subcon’s work. To be fair though, the Cat 5e cables are already reasonably good for our current needs since they theoretically support Gigabit Ethernet networks – but putting aside that we really should get what we paid for, the Cat 6 is simply the higher spec-ed and more stringent standard. And not forgetting future-proofing our home too for better connectivity standards in years to come too. We’re waiting for our ID to get back to us on this and what he’s going to do to make good, so more updates to come at some point, probably.

That aside; a good part of the weekend was spent installing and configuring our home office multi-function printer. We’ve been using dedicated laser-printers for a long while now ever since they reached consumer-friendly price-points just before the turn of the century – but for our new home, decided to bump it up to a multi-function printer instead. My key requirements in the recent hunt for one such were that it would had to:

Support the three functions we use: scanning, printing, copying

Support wireless printing

Support automatic duplex printing

Support scanning to email (but more on this later)

Offer an unexposed paper tray

Use an automatic document feeder

Pretty much everything that I use at my own office printers and have come to require in order to be work-effective. Not surprisingly too, the mainstream printer manufacturers all seem to recognize how important are these printers to small home-offices, so they routinely offer at least a few models that meet all these standard requirements, largely differing only along how large these printers are, their price-points, warranty and support policies, and additional features. We’ve had pretty decent experiences using Fuji laser printers previously, so opted for the Fuji Docuprint M255z, a widely carried model in most computer and electronic appliance stores. The printer is about the most affordably priced in its range at S$309 with an additional $40 worth of everyone’s favorite shopping vouchers – NTUC Fairprice ones – and comes with a hefty 4 year warranty period too.

On the down side, the printer is a little larger at its footprint than competing models, and it just barely fit into the bay window ledge. Particularly; the enclosed paper tray sticks out at the base by a couple of inches while the back of the printer is recessed by about the same amount (duh!) – so if table area is premium for you, then you might need to look elsewhere.

Pretty large fellow.

Pretty large fellow.

Configuring the printer was a different story altogether though. Printing, copying and scanning were easy enough. Connecting it to work wirelessly, and to send content to a common shared directory in our home network were much tougher. The printer didn’t seem to work with 5 GHz wireless networks, which meant I had to also use the routinely more congested 2.4 GHz wireless network for our home. Nor can I get the scan to email feature working properly yet. Bummer.

Many homeowners when putting together the furnishings for their new apartments will routinely check out Ikea. We’ve had pretty varied experiences with Ikea furniture at our Rivervale home. Basically ‘good’ for their baby changing table and baby chairs, ‘so-so’ for lighting fixtures and sofas, and just ‘godawful’ for their book shelving (they started sagging after 6 months). The fact that their self-assembled furniture though are priced so low has meant we still check their two large stores out to find items that we can get that won’t be too painful even if they don’t work as well as expected.

Shopping @ Ikea Tampines

Shopping @ Ikea Tampines

Our purchases for our Minton home this time round have included quite a large number of items on top of the previously blogged lighting and 1.5 seater sofa, and they are:

Bathroom clothing hooks

Bathroom towel rods

Bedroom full-length mirror

Children bedroom shelves and clothing hooks

Living room photo frames

Bathroom full-height open shelf

Foyer shoe bench

Outdoor furniture: rocking armchairs and sidetable

The last three items were packed flat and unassembled – one of the well-known characteristics of Ikea’s offerings. We had the option of having the store deliver and assemble it for us, but like many Singapore families, we brought the furniture back in our trusty family sedan and assembled it at home. I was able to assemble the whole bunch of items pretty easily without hitches except for the Molger shelf. Pretty sure I followed the instructions closely, but the joining screws wouldn’t go in all the way, resulting in noticeable gaps between the supporting struts and beams. Oh well.

Kitchen appliance rods; no assembly required - just drilling.

Kitchen appliance rods; no assembly required – just drilling.

A POÄNG armchair as packed in flat boxes.

A POÄNG armchair as packed in flat boxes. $99 a pop including the cushion.

Two POÄNG armchairs + Lack sidetable - all done. Pretty easy to assemble too.

Two POÄNG armchairs + LACK sidetable ($17.90) – all done. Pretty easy to assemble too.

TJUSIG Shoe bench - easily assembled too.

TJUSIG Shoe bench ($129) – easily assembled too.

MOLGER shelving unit ($99) in the bathoom, and a real pain to assemble.

MOLGER shelving unit ($99) in the bathoom, and a real pain to assemble.

 

It finally happened. We were at Isetan department store @ Nex just before the Labor Day public holiday when store patrons heard the following over the PA system:

Paging for the parents of a 4 year old girl who got lost; her name is Hannah Foo and she has a Pluto plush toy. Please come to the customer service counter at level 3!

We were at the store to pick up a Panasonic microwave oven (I finally reconciled against my long fears of eating microwaved food). Hannah wandered off to look at toys after I joined a long queue to pay for the appliance while Ling was looking for some face towels, and somewhere in between our girl couldn’t find her way back to us. Hannah was completely red-eyed and sobbing when we picked her up clutching onto her constant companion Pluto, and in uncontrollable tears. But just 30 minutes later when we were driving our way back home to Minton, she was rattling off to the both of us that she wasn’t lost, but it was mommy/daddy who were lost, and how we should know better!

Our two kids have adjusted very well to our new home @ Minton, with Hannah easily having the best view in the house now. Her bed overlooks Tranquil World, and it’s quite a pretty sight with the nearly a hundred path lights lining the many walkways and ponds. Every night, we’ve taken to spend time to look at the sights with her on her bed before she turns in. Peter has also a larger floor space now to crawl around too.

The adults though are still gradually easing into the new home. Perhaps because that the space is now larger with a lot more partitioned areas, we found ourselves having to walk a lot more and turn around corners to get to everything in the house! Frequently heard of late also – especially from me – is the line “Dear, where did you put the spatula / Hannah’s milk carton / table spoon / plastic bag / dishwasher capsule / masking tape / Hannah’s socks / Peter’s towel / coffee powder…??”

Couple of pictures using the 17mm and 25mm primes:

Hannah loves her new brightly colored and lit room!

Hannah loves her new brightly colored and lit room!

The two kids enjoy each other's companies; especially Hannah who almost a year in still loves to play with her little brother.

The two kids enjoy each other’s companies; especially Hannah who almost a year in still loves to play with her little brother.

Still wearing her pair of kiddie sunglasses that we bought her for a third year old birthday two years ago.

Still wearing her pair of kiddie sunglasses that we bought her for a third year old birthday two years ago.

 

Continuing from the last post.

Be firm yet polite

There’s a poster at the NTUC Fairprice supermarket check-out counters that remind us that even as store customers, we should try to be polite to the checkout cashiers and that they reserve the right not to serve us if we are abusive. They are, after all, only trying to do their jobs.

While our unit as far as we could tell was in a reasonably good state already upon handover and our defect identification and rectification was handled both by a (very!) responsible customer service officer (CSO) and also defect team lead, we observed many neighbors who weren’t quite so blessed. That, alongside the very long key issuing process and the overly optimistic key release projections that were circulating around last year has meant lots of homeowners have had to keep postponing their own plans, or at least keep it nimble as their key collection dates were changed or pushed back. Unhappy residents either way as a result, and that’s in turn seem to lead to heated disputes. A couple of residents have also talked about getting their lawyers to send notices to rectify without further delay to the developer.

On one occasion, we witnessed a heated exchange between a resident and the Managing Agent officer. While we don’t know what the argument was about, observing that exchange did made me reflect that while situations might not be ideal and we might be at the end of our tether, whether unloading on a poor customer service officer is going to make one feel better.

I found that I had more luck being nice to people all round who were also stakeholders in our new home project. Whether it was the CSO – and I had a lot of emails and phone-calls with her reminding of outstanding defects that had yet to be rectified – or the normally jovial defect team lead, whom I also had to persuade that certain defects should be made good – or the Managing Agent officers, when I persuaded them to expedite some request or another. And my being nice to these various persons have also meant (so far!) that they are equally nice to me.

Enlist help in defect checking

I think there are at least three levels of rigor in defect checking. First up is us as the homeowners. Ling was certainly a lot more eagle-eyed than I was in this. Next are your interior designers and contractors. During the onsite measurements and visits in January, both our shortlisted designers also helped us spot things that would have never occurred to us – e.g. uneven grouting between floor tiles. The professional defect identification companies will of course do the best job at this. It’s their primary line of business, but it would have cost us about a thousand moola for their services. And lastly, there are also online resources and checklists on common defects and things to check for in new homes in Singapore.

Checking progress diligently

We were lucky in that our designer went out of his way to impress us in our home renovation project. He was easily reachable by phone throughout, kept us posted, and his workers seemed to have a healthy degree of respect for his working and communication style (i.e. we required, he conveyed, they obliged without complaint or argument). Even then, we made frequent checks on the state of work done for both the defect rectification phase, and also main renovation project that followed. Part of it has to do of course with my wanting to record through imagery and notes as much as possible this big milestone event of 2014 (our preparing and moving into our new home). The other part of it came from that this was our first ‘real’ and intensive home renovation project, and we were also a little paranoid, after reading all the horror stories on renovation portals and the like. The both of us took turns to make almost bi-daily trips down to the Minton – we were averaging around 4 trips each week – to make notes, spot more defects, try to catch our defect CSO and lead for verbal follow-ups, check on the work done during the main renovation, and to review suggestions made by our designer during which too.

Be circumspect

As tough as this will sound – a good portion (not all) of the defects homeowners get anxious about won’t get noticed once the apartment gets lived in. From my point of view:

Scratches and light dents on the parquet flooring: once our furniture went in, we didn’t have nearly as much bare parquet flooring left to look at. A lot of it was covered up by bedframes, storage, shelving etc.

Light stains on walls/floor/guard railings/windows: can be easily cleaned during defect rectification, but will likely get dirtied again during the main renovation.

Dirty shelving in cabinets/wardrobes: will get dusty and dirtied again during main renovation

As another neighbor pointed out; one could bang the table and demand that the defect team made good scratches and stains on parquet flooring by getting them to resand/revarnish. But it’ll could get undone by main renovation. And if you get the main renovation to resand/revarnish another time, there’s no guarantee that your Movers won’t damage it. And even if you get ‘perfect’ Movers, your kids might do what kids do to flooring at homes – i.e. damage it very quickly.

There are defects though that should definitely be sorted out though, and these would include grouting issues on flooring (these will be very tough and expensive to fix later once the unit is lived in), ponding in toilets (since the tiles might need to be removed and adjusted) and planter boxes, those deep chemical stains that were found on some toilet seats (since these can’t be easily scrubbed off), cracklines, chipping, and appliance (e.g. kitchen) issues.

That’s it for our post-mortem series of reflections for the moment. Once we’ve lived in our unit for a good while longer, we’ll probably return to this thread and share more of our experiences living @ Minton.:)

 

Lessons learned during the approximately 7 months we spent in preliminary home renovation discussions to deciding who to go with to key collection and defect rectification and finally to the actual renovation project itself.

Start planning early

As these things go, many homeowners routinely start developing general ideas once they’ve signed to purchase a new home years before the apartment project gets completed. The floor-plan supplied within the new apartment brochures will also help give a sense of scale – and in our case @ The Minton, the floorplans we got years before key collection were reasonably proportionate to actual measurements that I extrapolated from our floorplan. We were thus able to determine approximately correct dimensions of our various rooms well before key collection, and gave us a reasonably accurate floor plan to designers to propose.

Ball park; here are the key periods in our detailed planning:

Time taken to produce first version of detailed project scope and send invitations to quote/propose: 2 days

Time taken to meet/discuss/communicate with approximately 12 designers (one round of discussions): 3 full weekends (6 days)

Time taken in face-to-face first round of discussions: typically between 45 to 60 minutes per designer

Time taken for designers to revert with first drafts of itemized proposals and quotations: between 2 days to 3 weeks

Time taken in face-to-face second round of discussions (detailed with some discussion of materials and also review of first proposal drafts): typically around 2 hrs per designer

All in, a good gauge of how much time you’d take to start detailed planning to deciding on one (or shortlist a few) designers for site visits and measurements is about 2 months at least, with a 3 month period being reasonably comfortable. Anything substantially longer than that might lead to consequences on quotation validity periods. So, working backwards, once you have a sense of when your key collection month or week is scheduled – e.g. in April – then a good time to start detailed planning would be in January.

Expect and be receptive to changes

Our first home @ The Rivervale required very little renovation. All we did was re-painting, replacement of key sanitary appliances in the toilets, installation of grills, refurbishing of parquet floors, and general cleaning. The furniture we had were all purchased off-the-shelf or hand-me-downs from our extended families. Our new home @ The Minton was a much more extensive renovation project in comparison, especially in consideration of the amount of customized furniture our designer had to design and fabricate. While designers are able to work off floorplans, there will be lots of things that will need to be seen, observed and checked in person towards producing an itemized renovation proposal that’s both accurate and complete for you to sign on. And materials sometimes don’t work well or blend with each other. In other cases, what you want can be constrained also by dimensions of appliances you’d like, e.g. of washing machines and dryers. In other words, expect a lot of changes!

Of course, if you’re happy with proposed renovation packages before key collection, signing first and trusting your assigned designer to figure it all out later, then this wouldn’t matter. Interestingly, several of our Minton neighbors went by this route, selecting their ID and signing off their packages before they collected keys. That wasn’t something we were comfortable with. In fact, one of the key decisions we made early on was that we would not sign until our designer had seen the place, done his own measurements, and matched every proposed item against our own actual measurements. Sure, the process was slower and energy-sapping, but it did allow us to sign off on a price that we knew would be less vulnerable to changes because of project scope creep.

Use technology

It’s not just the tools to keep track of our project scopes and general comparisons between quotation packages and also communication tools, but also relying on online resources. While we found our eventual selected ID by chance, the initial invitation to send renovation proposals via Renotalk was really helpful in providing a sense of what the renovation package was going to cost us, ballpark. Though the various renovation portals typically boasted that their designer respondents amounted to a few dozen, we actually had about just six of them revert back to us though.

More in the continuing post.