Now that our renovation has wrapped and we’ve finished a good part of our decorating the place, thought it’d be fun to post up pictures of the 3D renders our designer prepared during the planning phase, and the actual renovated work. They’re pretty close.:)
Of all the stuff in our Rivervale home that we discovered we had tons of unused of, it was cutlery. We’ve stuck with using cheapo Homeproud forks, spoons etc. for all the years we’ve been staying at our old home – and it was only when we were moving out, did we discover we had been given boxes of this tableware, a good portion of them decent quality WMF cutlery too. And to top it all, our new home gift courtesy of The Minton developer was another box of WMF cutlery. Ling spent almost the entire night and early morning of our Moving day sorting all of them out and packing them into boxes, managing just 2 hours of sleep that night – I managed a bit more as I was designate vehicle driver on Moving day LOL.
We engaged a moving company operating out of Tampines as our home relocation company as they came recommended from one of our neighbors. With our Move completed, our experience with them has been for the most part positive with one annoyance.
On the positive end of things, the company was:
Environmentally responsible. Important for us. They use recyclable boxes, and are loaned to you, and you return them after the move. Side benefit that we didn’t have to worry about what to do with empty boxes, and we’re not contributing to the cardboard clutter lift lobbies.
Very quick with clockwork precision. They arrived before the appointed time, had their smoke/energy break, began work at 0900 hrs sharp, all done with the move at 1015 hrs.
Friendly movers. Chatted with them and made silly jokes all round.
Competitively priced, though there are cheaper Movers around.
Reasonably careful in our move. The only damage we had were minor bumps to the dryer when it was stacked on top of our washer, but it was an old dryer, so we weren’t bothered.
On the other hand:
We were told on the day of our moving that an additional charge was going to be necessary on top of the already agreed price as the management office at Minton had recently disallowed trucks to drive past the Badminton Dome and nearer to the lobbies. This was an important security improvement that we are glad for, as some of the early units doing bulk delivery stopped perilously close to the children’s water play areas. But we were displeased with the Mover dropping this additional charge on top of the agreed-upon quotation.
We paid for the additional charge nonetheless, and followed-up with a Feedback to the Mover today. After some investigation, the Mover got back to us to say that they are refunding the charge as slightly longer push recently instituted at Minton does not apply to us. Hooray!
We finally moved to our new home @ The Minton about 3 months 1 week after we collecting our keys in January. The previous two weeks after we signed on with our Moving company – and especially the last four days have been real hectic – just before the move, during moving day, and immediately thereafter. The both of us were managing just 2-3 hours of sleep each day. Grandparents were fortunately able to help take care of Hannah and Peter over the Easter weekend, and that helped immensely to let us focus solely on the Move.
Our timeline in the second half of last week went like this:
It was pretty congested towards the end as our main renovation finished with just barely sufficient time for us to do up the final specialist contractor works, and we had to plan specifically dates of installation against when we needed them. The digital lock was especially tricky, since we wanted this done only after the main renovation and touch-up activities were completed, but before we shifted in furniture and items that we could not lose – keeping in mind that our main door key has changed many hands over the months!
It wasn’t all smooth-sailing for these last few days too just before our big Move, and the hitches we encountered included:
Night curtains that were incorrect. Our curtains/blinds contractor apologized for the mistake, and agreed to redo them. He asked if we would buy back the already supplied set though at discount, and we agreed. Now we’ve gonna have two sets of curtains!
Yard blinds that rendered inoperable invisible grills’ casement windows. We called Legate back down to redo the casement windows – which they did – so the curtains/blinds contractor will be returning to install the remaining blinds.
Sony TV was delayed by 2 days. We’ve since received it, and image quality wise, I still prefer Plasmas!
Bosch dishwasher was supplied with the incorrect power plug. Parisilk returned on a subsequent visit with the correct plug, but did not fix up the dishwasher plumbing for us. Duh.
FortyTwo: body analyzer weighing machine did not work one day later. Currently contacting them to resolve this.
Comfort Design‘s order was real problematic, and requires elaboration below.
One day before delivery, they called to say that the dinner-table was out-of-stock though it had been paid in full a month ago (what?!?!). I hope they weren’t thinking of asking us to eat dinner on the floor. Then they called again to say it was a miscommunication: they’d thought they’d allocated our dinner-table to a different customer ordering the same item, but hadn’t. Then on the actual day of delivery, they called to say that the dinner-table they thought they had for us was of a different leg colors, and asked if they could lacquer it to our expected color, but it would mean a day’s delay. And finally, on the amended delivery date (19 Apr), they delivered a table that still had the wrong leg colors and a table surface that looked worn. And to top it off, two of the dinner chairs had to be returned for replacement and touch-up.
Ling was furious, and she was going to call the store today to give them an earful. I’ll probably be writing in too to state my disappointment at their service levels. Suffice it to say we’ll be thinking long and hard about whether to get items from this store again, even though they’ve got a pretty good range of items.
Oh well. Of all the bulk deliveries, the three vendors which did a marvelous job were Electrolux (who fitted our washer into that very tight yard space), Taylor B which came at the appointed delivery time, and Tilam King for likewise too.
Another decision we made early on in our new Minton home was to move away from bamboo poles (or ‘tekkos’) for laundry clotheslines. Bamboo poles with laundry are common sights here on the island. They’re simple in function and design, cost little to install, and nothing to maintain. Given the amount of laundry that we’re doing though, hanging laundry using ceiling-mounted bamboos has been quite a chore over the years – or rather specifically, having to use the aluminum prong to foist each piece of clothing up and down was something we wanted to move away from!
There are several clotheslines systems contractors here, and while some of them have pretty exotic solutions, many of them at least offer the same basic types:
The motorized systems were the priciest ones, but I wanted to avoid employing systems that were electrical – on account that we would be buggered if those parts ever failed from wear and tear. The chain pulley system isn’t electronic, but uses gears to expedite the pulling process to lower or bring up the poles. We seriously considered these too, but eventually decided on rope-pulley systems. These seem to come in two flavors too: the ropes could lower all the poles at the same time, or it could be individual pole pulleys. We chose the latter.
As for us deciding on the specific manufacturer and specialist offering these systems, we went Ezzliving – as their ‘EZ Tier‘ rope pulley system which gave us the most confidence in load-bearing (quilts are heavy!), and their price points were reasonable too though not the lowest. As our yard balcony is sufficient long too, we went with not one but two of these systems. Total damage was just a shade above $400 for each of our two systems.
Many of the unit types at The Minton have a yard toilet, and one interesting challenge for such unit type owners has been if the yard toilet can be repurposed into a washer area. I’ve blogged about our intention to do exactly just that from our renovation’s get-go, but there were various things to consider and put into place. Specifically, to have converted the yard toilet into a washer, we:
Had a Professional Engineer certify that such an alteration would be alright, and had the endorsement submitted.
Removed the existing toilet bowl, created a washer-base and drew new water inlets and outlets
Removed the foldable door and its door frame, and touched up the door way
Once the area was ready, what remained was for us to select a washer that could fit past the door way, for it to be turned around and put onto the base. We’ve been using a 6.5 Kg Electrolux front-loading washer for 8 years now, but while the machine is still nominally functional, there’s a great deal of mold growing about the edges. Washers are largely standard width and height for the most part, but their depths can really differ. I had my eye on a 9 kg Electrolux front-loader (the EWF10932) – we needed a larger capacity in view of our king-sized mattress bed linen and supplements, and also the amount of laundry Ling does for the kids – but it was a tough decision whether to risk buying this 665mm deep washer and if it’d actually fit past the door way!
To help us decide, I made an actual-size footprint of the washer base – 665mm X 650mm – out of packing box cardboard, and tried several times to fit this mockup past the door way. I discovered through the trial runs that it wouldn’t be easy, but it was possible. Basically one would need to push the washer in side-facing first, slowly jiggle it bit by bit at an angle until it sits properly into the washer base.
Still, we had our designer on standby to remove the wash basin if for any reason the actual thing wouldn’t fit. And a week ago since we made our order, I was a little nervous if my calculations were wrong; we’d be possibly stuck with a washer that could fit into its designated area!
As it turned out, the washer indeed just managed to fit in. Hooray for trial runs! Credit had to really go to our designer who thoughtfully relocated the outlet/drainage pipe and also water inlet all the way to the far corner, allowing the washer to be pushed all the way back behind.
The old dryer will be next put onto of it soon on our big moving day.:)
The first round of touch-up work in our Minton renovation completed on Tuesday, which also saw our project handover from our designer back to us. He’ll still be having someone come by next week to help us fix up the very many wall fixtures (e.g. photo frames, TV-mount brackets, full-length mirror, hangers, hooks, bathroom shelving, clocks), and further down the year, we’ll probably be finding a few more minor areas where we’ll ask him to help touch-up or improve. He assured that this will be part of his service promises to us at no charges – within reason of course, against say our asking for the entire floor to be re-tiled – and we can call him back anytime to look through things.
Here’s my Report Card on specifically the various activities in our main Renovation project scope. Going with a scale of:
‘A’ – Very good, outstanding work or service rendered here
‘B’ – Good, and surpassed expectations for the most part
‘C’ – Average, met expectations but could be improved
And here is our Report Card, and being the critical person i usually am:
Project management – ‘A’
Whether the designer made regular on-site checks on work done and his ability to convey to workers instructions. Our designer did very well here, and we were impressed with his general ability to remember many things we noted to him in our frequent rounds of checking over the 6 weeks.
Project schedule/timeliness – ‘B+’
Our designer said before work commenced that the project would take 6 weeks, and it took just that – except that there were a few further-on days for touch-up, and we finished exactly just in time to move. We would have liked just a bit more buffer. That said, he was able to marshal the different subcons in the final days and at very short notice to do each touch-up area in the last couple of days – not easy!
Project cost – ‘A’
Of the thirteen designers we receive quotations for against our project scope (caveat again that the project scope often varied slightly, and also materials/workmanship affecting project costs), our designer’s proposal was routinely in the lowest pricing tier.
Design and Conception for Carpentry – ‘B’
This is where things can get very subjective, since both the wife and me can already disagree on what we think are good and less-good designs, and you also have the designer’s experience and realizations coming significantly into play. I (as in not speaking for the wife!) especially liked the designs for the children’s bedroom and our master bedroom, the worktables in our workroom, the shoe cabinet, and also the massive book shelves in the study. I’m more blasé about the two TV feature walls and accompanying consoles. They’ll serve their function well though I’ve seen better designs. Oh well. We did sign off on those designs.
Design for compliance to visual theme – ‘A’
One distinctive trait Ling observed in our designer was his ability to quickly understand the look and feel of our desired home theme (‘Scandinavian’). Based on this desired theme, our designer was able to frame the rest of the visual decisions in our home and provide us good advice on this score.
3D Renders – ‘A’
It’s not industry practice for Interior Design companies to produce 3D visualizations before home owners sign-on for renovation projects. Some will but most won’t. Our designer did, and kudos to him. He also noted that these are largely calculated decisions on the part of designers, and they routinely might prepare (some) visualizations if they sense they are very close to securing the deal.
Carpentry – ‘B+’
Of all the things that can potentially go wrong in a home renovation project, it’s in carpentry. Our assigned carpentry was experienced and he was able to implement our designer’s visualizations. The actual woodwork was very close facsimiles to the earlier renders, and credit really has to go to the carpenter for being able to realize the designs. On the other hand, we noted there were still some oversights in the actual built products – including rough edges along joint lines of wood and laminate surfaces, that the shelf layers for several cabinets needed to be strengthened, and that the carpenter had forgotten to box-up the bottom of one TV console. Our designer promptly told the carpenter to rectify these, which he did.
Electrical work – ‘B’
The lighting fixtures and wiring work was a mixed bag though still on the overall positive. Wiring was hidden, lights were placed (though lights were incorrectly fixed in the children’s room, and the light switch control in the workroom was initially incorrect done, but these were also quickly rectified) and shifted without complaint when we asked for re-positioning. We also give credit to the electrician team to be able to mount our LED downlights which were a challenge to install. We were less impressed with their fans installation though – which I’ll note in a different post.
Brick wall – ‘A’
This was done well, done quickly, and without fuss. Lots of neighbors have been interested in our wall here though it’s actually a pretty common home item.
Solid surfaces for bay windows – ‘B’
We thought hard about whether to go with wood laminate or solid surfaces, cushioned or not etc. The solid surfaces we chose were installed midway in our project, but at project conclusion, we saw that there were marks and damage spots in the surfaces for two rooms. These were buffed away during our touch-up phase, but that these marks occurred so soon left us a little worried about how well these surfaces will fare against our rough and tumble usage long-term, or we’ll have to exercise greater care in our use.
Painting – ‘C’
We were least impressed with the painting work. There were little paint spills especially in the living room tiles, rough work done in several places (e.g. painting along door frames), and along skirting. These were all rectified during the touch-up phase, but it would had been nice if the painters had done it properly the first time round.
Post-renovation touch-ups – ‘A’
The touch-up workers however were able to rectify the issues coming out of the main renovation. Very impressed. If it wasn’t for this safety net at rectification, Ling would had been quite displeased!
Honesty – ‘A’
At no point in our renovation discussions and actual execution did our designer try to sell us things that we wouldn’t need. In fact, if anything else, he would dissuade or caution us about items that were extraneous, too expensive, or would not fit well against our home theme. He also readily deducted items that we dropped from our renovation project, and also absorbed the cost of varnishing from our original proposal on account that this turned out to be necessary only because it was caused by renovation. That alone saved us quite a bit of money.
Perception to blindspots – ‘B+’
Our designer was experienced, being the co-owner of his own company and also having been in the trade for decades. For the most part, he was alert to potential problems with our preferred design ideas (especially in carpentry). However, there was one project scope item that had to be amended just before the actual renovation began after further-on site visits showed that it would not be practical. And in another case, the placement of the study room’s ceiling fan was not ideal as advised by our fan manufacturer technician, but it was too late to correct that. I’ll comment on this in the later post as well.
Accommodation to changes and added value – ‘A’
We had additional requests as we went along in our renovation e.g. additional shelving, conversion of the dry kitchen shelving into enclosed shelving, wall-hung Scandinavian-styled shelving, reinforcement of various shelf levels. Thankfully they were either all minor or did not require changes to other project aspects. Our designer readily factored them in and did all these additions for us without fuss. He also brought us to laminate factories just so we could visually see and feel the large laminate pieces to better visualize our choices. He had workers come by to do not just one general cleaning but two. And finally, he assisted us by assigning workers to do the many other home fixture items without charge.
Communication and responsiveness – ‘A’
Credit especially to our designer here; he was easy to reach on phone, always called back when asked to, did not forget arranged meetings, always alerted us if he was going to be late, and was willing to reschedule his other appointments if we had to urgently meet. Caveat though; that we had great communication with our designer isn’t to guarantee everyone else who engages him will have the same experience! As these things go, the customer really has to be able to click with the service provide, and in our case, we count ourselves blessed that we were able to.
On the overall, would we recommend our designer? Our answer – a solid and resounding ‘yes’.:)
We’ll be moving into our new Minton home this weekend, and that’s meant a lot of trips between our current and new homes transporting fragile equipment that we’re not trusting to the movers. These have included the many electronic appliances from the kitchen and kitchenware – and lots of other things that will not be easy fitting into the stack of rectangular boxes that we’ve been given – e.g. Hannah’s (many) toys. And anything else that can fit into the car each trip. Come to think of it – I don’t think our movers will have much to do during our Big Moving Day this weekend, besides carting along a few boxes of books, the fridge, the dryer, the TV, and a couple of other large pieces LOL.
Our new home has gone through several rounds of washing since the middle of last week too; including one general washing as included as part of our main renovation and another cleaning done by our own part-time helpers. As it turns out, these were both wasted as we discovered scratches on our parquet floors caused during the main renovation. That’s required urgent re-sanding/varnishing of our parquet floors one more time round just yesterday, and the dust and particles generated have coated the bedrooms and to a lesser degree the other parts of our apartment with a dirt layer. So, the general cleaners came in again this afternoon to do another round of washing, and our own cleaners will be returning also for another round. With hindsight, we should have expected that some damage to our wooden flooring would have occurred and required our designer to explicitly forecast it into his project schedule. Oh well – lesson learned, and ultimately a price to pay for a tight timeline for us to move-in.
The apartment does look quite nicely done up at this point, and the look and feel of our new home has changed significantly since the curtains and blinds went in this afternoon. To be fair, we didn’t look too far and wide for curtain contractors (we checked out perhaps just about 4 such contractors), before deciding on a Johore Bahru-based curtain specialist who’s also incidentally doing a number of other units at The Minton. Ling was in charge of choosing the types of curtains and blinds and the materials for each to her, but we did have a couple of commonly-agreed considerations guiding the decisions:
Our parents once remarked that curtains project a sense of ‘homeliness’ (whatever that means!) that is less evident in blinds. Might be traditional thinking at play.
We were watchful of shrinkage in curtains. Our Ikea curtains in our first/current home shrunk significantly over the years.
We were mindful of maintenance, taking into account that we’re staying in a relatively dusty environment.
Pictures of the three men who came by to work on the curtains:
We also made sure that our designer was looped in our discussions with the curtain specialist before main renovation began, since we did want colors and materials to mutually complement. Here’s the outcome of each room and its covers. As it turned out, our curtains specialist might have made a mistake in one of the materials used.
As it turned out, the job was not completed. We’d discovered that the roller blinds in the short side of the yard balcony would mean that the grill windows – that swing in – can no longer be opened. We’re laying this on the invisible grills fellow, as we did tell him that there’d be roller blinds at that spot. In any case, the grills contractor will be coming by soon to reverse the swing direction of those windows, and the roller blinds at the yard can go in thereafter.
Our main renovation project at the Minton has concluded, with just a few more items to touch-up and fix. At this point, I thought it’d be useful for me to share about timelines, the different phases of our home renovation, task dependencies and the like. This might not be indicative of renovation projects in general, but it’s from our Minton project point of view and our working with our designer. Firstly, the key dates are:
Renovation start date: 28 Feb 2014
Main Renovation end date: 10 April 2014
Total calendar days: 42 days (30 days if deducting Saturdays and Sundays) / 6 weeks
I’ve excluded touch-up work and minor fixes from this period, as we’re likely gonna find additional numerous things as time passes. Most IDs we spoke to in our preliminary discussion and exploration phase last year suggested that our scope of work would require between 4-6 weeks of work, so that our own eventual home project took 6 weeks is within the suggested period. Interestingly, when we first met and spoke to our appointed designer last September, he’d confidently said that our project would take 4 weeks, and it was only later in January this year upon further discussions and planning when that period was extended to 6 weeks. And even with that, things got just a mite rushed towards the end.
We didn’t eventually take on all our items in our intended renovation, but based on what I’ve learned, here’s my list of how long each activity would take and its dependencies.
Keep in mind too that several activities can run concurrently; e.g. ceiling work could run simultaneously alongside tiling work. The time taken for each activity will also depend on the scope of work involved; e.g. a project involving less carpentry than ours will almost certainly wrap sooner too.
1. Invisible grills should ideally be done after (not before) the washing if it involves chemicals.
Day 40 of our renovation @ Minton, and more finishing touches to various things in our home. We are appreciative of our designer who has been quite amendable to our requests for numerous little additional features and complements to our home.
For instance, take a look at the legs of the living room sofa we bought from Taylor B:
But our complementing 1.5 seater sofa from Ikea on the other hand looks like this:
Trust the wife again with her eagle-like eyes to immediately notice that the colors don’t match! So we asked our designer if his carpenter could help us lacquer these four legs to a dark brown shade – and he readily helped us out! Here’s what it looks like now:
And more pictures of small item work that was done today:
The last painting work should begin in the next few days, so another post to come soon.:)
We received our project handover date for our Minton apartment last week – which meant that the numerous other activities that had been kept in view could move quickly too. These included picking up several more small items and fixtures for various parts of the house – these will be installed by our designer’s workers in a single swoop – scheduling our own cleaners to clean up the place before moving in, appointing our clothesline system contractor to fix up two pulley-based systems in the yard, and making orders for large household appliances and fixing up a delivery date for them. And our boxes for our moving arrived midweek too – all 90 of them – and packing and disposing all our current furniture and items in our current home has take up pretty much all our free time in the last few days.
The large household appliances – TV, laundry machine, washer, refrigerator etc. – at our current home were mostly purchased 8 years ago at a electrical appliance store situated in the heartland. The notion then was that these stores offer appliances at price-points that were routinely cheaper than normal stores. Interestingly, this time round, we found pretty good deals for appliances at Parisilk, an appliance store with several outlets in heartland areas, and settled on a Sony KDL50W704A 50″ LED Smart TV, the Bosch half-height dishwasher that we’d constructed a kitchen cabinet for, and an Electrolux EWF10932 9kg washer that we’re hoping very hard will be able to fit past the yard toilet door frame. The rest of the household appliances – the 8 year old fridge and similarly-aged dryer, and a 2 year old 46″ Panasonic Plasma TV – will be following us to the new home.
The carpenter was also finishing up his carpentry work today on Day 39 after taking a break over the weekend. We met him with our designer late this evening to go through some final details before he wraps work the next day (or so). Our assigned carpenter is a one man (and his wife) team and his workshop isn’t far from The Minton, and all the furniture in our home was handmade by him. While inspecting the various furniture items we’ve got in our home just now, he shared a story: that the children’s bedframe was super complex for him to fabricate and he thought very hard how to implement our designer’s plans, and he was very proud of how he fabricated it. But when his wife saw what he did for this children’s bedframe the other week, she asked him “How come you do this owner’s house so nice, but you do our own house like sh*t?!”
Too funny for words.:)
Just a couple of pictures this time.