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3 Types of Renovation Professionals You Must Know

Reality TV certainly isn’t helping to curb your renovation tendencies. Extreme Makeover Home Edition, anyone?

Fact is, televised programs like these are more for entertainment. Unlike on TV though, actual reality isn’t as simple as getting a team of renovation professionals into your house and giving them free reign, only to surprise you later on with exactly what you wanted.

Small DIY projects are all well and good (if they are your cup of tea) but when it comes to really doing up your first home, you’re going to need professional help from the experts. Looking for said experts will take more than just typing in your search on Google.

Dots N Tots Interior Group Pte Ltd - Bukit Drive
Design & Built by Dots ‘N’ Tots Interior Group Pte Ltd

Finding the right renovation experts means trusting them to do a good job, deliver good results and paying for what they are worth. So then, do you go for an interior designer, a renovation contractor, or should you be looking for a design-and-build team instead?

You are probably asking, aren’t they all the same? It’s just different names for the same thing right?

Well the answer is no. It’s not surprising that most of us harbour the same thought. To clear up the confusion for couples setting their first home, here’s a short but simple guide on the kind of expertise and services each of these professionals offer.

This way, you can have a good idea to decide exactly what type of renovation expert you will need and save yourself from hiring the wrong guys for the job.

INTERIOR DESIGN FIRM

Ascenders Design Studio - Boon Tiong Road
Design & Built by Ascenders Design Studio LLP

WHAT THEY DO:

Also known as interior design consultants, these professionals will be working with you from the start of the project until the end of it.

They are the ones who will help you with space planning, designing your home, your home décor, procuring the building materials, bringing in various teams of sub-contractors for the renovation work, and oversee the entire project until completion.

If you come across their website, you’ll often find they have certifications and awards as well as a portfolio that ranges from residential to commercial.

The fee you pay to an interior design firm maybe a little more but for many working couples who don’t have a lot time, these professionals will take care of everything and hand over a nicely completed home to you.

i-Bridge Design Pte Ltd - Redhill
Design & Built by i-Bridge Design Pte Ltd

HOW THEY WORK:

Interior designers aren’t people who look at your house and immediately see what needs to be done.

They will take the time to meet and interview you several times to give their team better working knowledge of your lifestyle needs and what you want. All of this occurs before they even start working on the design so expect a longer timeline.

Just like artists, an interior designer has his or her own unique style. Based on your discussions, the design of your home will incorporate your lifestyle as well as your budget. Expect to get 3D drawings of the various rooms for your house based on your floor plans.

Once the design is approved by you, they will plan for materials and for different teams of contractors to work on tasks such as hacking, flooring, carpentry, electrical, plumbing and painting. This is when the final budget will be calculated and you’ll be given a quotation for the entire renovation project.

As mentioned, interior design firms will oversee the project from start to finish. This means that they will be the ones working with their sub-contractors, making sure that everything goes according to plan and timelines are met diligently. A responsible interior design firm will send you updates regularly throughout the project.

Home Reno Pte Ltd
Design & Built by Home Reno Pte Ltd

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR:

While good accreditations and reviews are essential to determining a firm’s reputation, it does not necessarily mean that you’ll feel at ease working with whoever they assign to oversee your home renovation.

As interior design firms tend to have several designers working with them, you should try to find out the names of those who worked on projects you take fancy in or frequently mentioned in client testimonials.

Always make it a point to meet up with the designer first and have an in-depth discussion to gauge if they meet your requirements. You wouldn’t want to leave everything in the hands of someone you aren’t comfortable with.

WHO SHOULD GET THIS:

If the both of you want a turnkey solution and for everything to be well taken care of from start to finish, and with a big importance placed on design aspects of the renovation, then it’s best to go with an interior design firm.

RENOVATION CONTRACTOR

Rhiss Interior Pte Ltd - Tampines
Design & Built by Rhiss Interior Pte Ltd

WHAT THEY DO:

You might already have an idea of what these guys do. Renovation contractors do most of the heavy lifting work as they are focused on the building and construction tasks of a renovation project.

They also work with other sub-contractors – people who provide specific skills such as electrical wiring or carpentry – on the renovation needs of your home.

Unlike interior design firms, some of them may not offer project management services. Some may also not possess space planning and design capabilities. Often, these guys are more about executing the plan rather than offering you consultation on it.

Their fee is usually based on the actual building or construction work performed for a project.

HOW THEY WORK:

Before you hire a renovation contractor, you should already have a clear idea of the tasks that you want them to execute. Once you have the plan ready, you’ll need to meet up with potential contractors for quotations.

After choosing your contractor, you give specific instructions to them about the project and oversee the work yourself. It is not uncommon for a contractor to bring in sub-contractors for specific jobs.

Renovation contractors may also not have a dedicated liaison or project manager to provide you advice or correct interior design-related problems unless you take initiatives to ask.

Dots N Tots Interior Group Pte Ltd - Suffolk Road
Design & Built by Dots ‘N’ Tots Interior Group Pte Ltd

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR:

Your plan may be perfect but your measurements may not be. You should arrange for a contractor to personally make an on-site visit to your house, this will allow him to take accurate measurements and to evaluate the complexity of the work.

Prepare and provide as much information as possible about the nature of work you want them to take on. Show them pictures of the finished product(s) that you want done, indicate its purpose, and remember to highlight safety aspects so they can correctly advise you on selecting the right type of materials, its work process and timelines.

Some contractors may not be able to provide you 3D drawings of the finished product because often times they use technical drafts for their work. However, they bring with them many years of hands-on experience and are competent in making sure of delivering results and giving good workmanship.

Also, be aware that more time may be spent to monitor work progress to ensure things are done correctly.

WHO SHOULD GET THIS:

While this is a cheaper option (provided you don’t experience any design-related mistakes), this will require some experience and time management on your part. Homeowners who opt for contractors should also need to have a simple design at least.

DESIGN-AND-BUILD CONTRACT

The Local INN.Terior Pte Ltd -Tampines
Design & Built by The Local INN.terior Pte Ltd

WHAT THEY DO:

These are professionals who offer design and construction capabilities as part of their services. They usually have a team of interior designers, project managers, contractors, and sometimes even architects who handle everything. Fees are charged for the design and construction work of the project.

Colourbox Interior - Waterway Terrace
Design & Built by Colourbox Interior Pte Ltd

HOW THEY WORK:

Other than standard accreditations and licences, a proper design-and-build firm is also licensed to conduct Addition and Alteration (A&A works) or tear down and rebuilding work for houses, and their focus are usually private or landed properties and commercial premises. Most interior design firms and contractors do not have such certifications to take on work of these nature.

Consultations and site visits are usually non-obligatory and occur before the project starts to give the team a better idea of how much time and work will be required. They will also provide you 3D drawings, space planning, interior design and architectural plans.

Project timelines are provided by the assigned project manager and is often created from a construction perspective.

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR:

While these firms do handle project management, it is still recommended that you visit the site regularly to check on things and to avoid any occurrence of negligent work.

WHO SHOULD GET THIS:

If you require specialised work to be done, then a design-and-build team is just the thing for you.

The Local INN.Terior Pte Ltd - Double Bay Condo
Design & Built by The Local INN.terior Pte Ltd

If you are still undecided, here are some tips to help you out:

  • What is your priority? Is it design, budget, or time? Listing them in order of importance will help you make the right decisions.
  • Don’t forget to do your research. You won’t learn much about a firm through their website (if they have one). To seek the truth behind the façade, it’s best to go through customer reviews and also do background checks.
  • Not everyone’s needs are the same. Don’t let pricing alone lead your decision-making. Your standards and that of someone else’s could be entirely different. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Always meet up with potential firms and their designers, contractors, or project managers to ensure that you’ll be comfortable working with them. Ask questions about their services as well as understand their expectations and yours. Don’t forget to air any concerns that you have regarding their firm or the project.
Dave is a thoughtful and thorough editor who never loses sight of the core meaning behind a written piece. He has worked in the communications, event production and video production industries in The Asia-Pacific region.