With the high levels of home ownership, undertaking a home renovation is a rite of passage for most Singaporeans. In fact, there’s a high chance home renovation will rank among the top 5 expenditures in your lifetime.
So how much should you expect to spend on your home renovation? What are the major costs involved, and what can you do to keep your budget under control? Here are some factors you should consider.
Table of contents
- What’s the average cost of HDB home renovations in Singapore?
- Common major works
- Factors that affect the cost of home renovation
- HDB renovation rules: What to expect
- ID, Contractor or Design & Build: Who should you hire?
- How to find a legit renovation contractor in Singapore
- Renovation loan options in Singapore
- Tips for getting your renovation budget under control
What’s the average cost of HDB home renovations in Singapore?
|Type of HDB Flat||Average renovation cost for new flat||Average renovation cost for resale flat|
|3-room (60 to 65 sqm)||S$32,000||S$42,600|
|4-room (90 sqm)||S$42,600||S$58,500|
|5-room (110 sqm)||S$52.100||S$65,200|
As the table above shows, you can expect to pay more for renovating a larger home. Meanwhile, resale flats will also cost more to renovate, for reasons discussed further below.
If you’re trying to find out the cost of renovating a condo apartment or landed property, you may be able to extrapolate a rough ballpark figure, using the floor areas provided. For a more detailed calculation, you may find Qanvast’s renovation calculator to be pretty handy.
With that said, please keep in mind that your final renovation bill may end up being wildly off these averages. That’s because when it comes to home renovation, the sky is pretty much the limit.
Now. let’s drill down for a deeper look into the various types of renovation work typically involved, scaled to a 3-room HDB resale flat with floorspace of 65 sqm. All figures provided by Qanvast’s renovation calculator, and are meant for illustration purposes only.
Some of the common major works are:
- Hacking, which include labour to hack, rebuild and touch-up walls
- Masonry, which covers flooring, tiling and works, often determined by area size and labour
- Carpentry, which concerns wardrobe, cupboards and other customised storage solutions
- Ceiling and partition, including box-ups, false ceilings, partition walls and the like
- Plumbing works, which covers water fixtures like washbasins, taps, toilet bowls and shower sets
- Electrical works, for electrical outlets such as lighting, data, heater and power points
- Painting, for walls and ceiling
- Glass and aluminium, for window panes, mirrors, glass partitions, window and door grilles
- Cleaning and polishing, including cleaning of entire house, haulage and disposal of debris, polishing marble floor and, etc.
Estimated renovation costs for living room
|Hacking||S$100 to S$400||S$400 to S$700||S$700 to S$3,900|
|Masonry||S$100 to S$1,300||S$1,300 to S$3,000||S$3,000 to S$22,000|
|Carpentry||S$200 to S$3,400||S$3,400 to S$6,100||S$6,100 to S$23,700|
|Ceiling and partition||S$200 to S$800||S$800 to S$1,200||S$1,200 to S$3,200|
Estimated renovation costs for kitchen
|Hacking||S$100 to S$500||S$500 to S$900||S$900 to S$3,200|
|Masonry||S$200 to S$1,300||S$1,300 to S$3,900||S$3,900 to S$11,300|
|Carpentry||S$100 to S$4,300||S$4,300 to S$6,900||S$6,900 to S$17,900|
|Plumbing||S$100 to S$200||S$200 to S$500||S$500 to S$1,700|
Estimated renovation costs for bedroom (one)
|Hacking||S$100 to S$600||S$600 to S$1,000||S$1,000 to S$5,200|
|Masonry||S$200 to S$1,300||S$1,300 to S$2,800||S$2,800 to S$8,800|
|Carpentry||S$200 to S$4,400||S$4,400 to S$7,500||S$7,500 to S$33,700|
|Ceiling and partition||S$0 to S$600||S$600 to S$1,100||S$1,100 to S$5,000|
Estimated renovation costs for bathroom (one)
|Hacking||S$100 to S$500||S$500 to S$1,000||S$1,000 to S$6,800|
|Masonry||S$100 to S$1,500||S$1,500 to S$5,700||S$5,700 to S$17,500|
|Carpentry||S$200 to S$1,200||S$1,200 to S$2,100||S$2,100 to S$9,000|
|Plumbing||S$100 to S$400||S$400 to S$800||S$800 to S$3,900|
Estimated renovation costs for other works
|Electrical||S$300 to S$1,700||S$1,700 to S$3,200||S$3,200 to S$7,700|
|Painting||S$200 to S$1,400||S$1,400 to S$1,800||S$1,800 to S$4,100|
|Glass and aluminium||S$400 to S$2,600||S$2,600 to S$5,100||S$5,100 to S$13,800|
|Cleaning and polishing||S$300 to S$1,100||S$1,100 to S$1,700||S$1,700 to S$13,900|
Factors that affect the cost of home renovation
When calculating the cost of your home renovation, several factors come into play. The main ones to look out for are:
- The size and type of your property (HDB, condo or landed, etc.)
- The status of your property, whether brand new or resale
- The type and extent of work required
- The materials you want to use
- Who you hire to do your renovation
Size of your property
This one is pretty straightforward. The larger your home, the more work and material has to go into your renovation works, which add towards the final bill. Private properties such as condos and landed properties could cost significantly more than HDB flats simply because of their configuration (such as double-height ceilings, or split levels). They are also free of some of the restrictions that apply to HDB flats (such as full-height or bay windows, etc.), which give you the freedom to explore fancier, but also costlier, options.
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Status of your property
Many homeowners don’t really think about this, but generally, resale flats are more expensive to renovate. This is because pre-loved flats may come with built-in furniture that would need to be dismantled and disposed of. Older HDB flats may also have less-than-ideal configurations, which might prompt you to splurge on hacking and masonry fees just to get the toilet entrance facing the right way. If you’re looking at renovating a resale flat, be prepared to spend up to 40% more, according to Qanvast.
Type and extent of work required
Now, when it comes to renovation work, the cost comes from several different areas. Therefore, you may need to spend more (or less) on your refurbishing work, depending on what you actually want to do.
The big items to watch out for are carpentry, hacking (including of tiles and walls), masonry, and disposal. Plumbing and electrical work can also add up depending on the designs you choose.
Do take note that if you have a lot of space to cover, painting can add up to a hefty amount.
The materials you want to use
Another big source of expenditure can come from the material you want to use. Heavy wood doors, marbled bathrooms and granite countertops can give your home a refined look, but they could end up blowing your budget, if you’re not careful. Also consider the installation/labour costs for shipping, transporting and installing your gorgeous but pricey Amazonian heartwood coffee table.
Who you hire to do your renovation
Who you chose to do the job can also play a factor in how much your final bill comes up to. Generally, there are three choices you can choose from: Interior designers, contractors or design & build service. As their service levels vary, so will your final bill. See below for a more detailed discussion.
HDB renovation rules: What to expect
Before you renovate your HDB flat, you should know that the flat owner(s) is ultimately responsible for any renovation works. Therefore is it helpful to familiarise yourself with the many rules and regulations involved.
To give you a general idea of what to expect, take note of the following:
- Engage only contractors from the Directory of Renovation Contractor (DRC) to carry out the renovation, including those works that do not require HDB’s approval.
- All demolition and hacking of walls (be it partial or complete) require HDB’s prior written approval. The approval ensures that any proposed demolition/ hacking work will not affect the structural integrity of the building and compromise public safety. If the structural integrity of the building is affected, it may potentially endanger the safety of your household and your neighbours.
- Do not instruct workers or any person to carry out demolition/hacking works that have not been approved by HDB in writing.
- Comply strictly with the permitted time stipulated by HDB so as not to inconvenience your neighbours. Noisy work or those requiring excessive drilling can only be performed between 9am to 5pm on weekdays.General works may be carried out between 9am to 6pm, excluding Sundays and Public Holidays.
- A Notice of Renovation from HDB must be displayed at the entrance of your unit throughout the duration of your renovation period.
- You may face prosecution for failure to engage contractors from Directory of Renovation Contractor (DRC) or if you are found to have contravened any of the Housing and Development (Renovation Control) Rules, such as carrying out unauthorised demolition or hacking works.
ID, Contractor or Design & Build: Who should you hire?
Interior designers (IDs) offer a full-fledged service starting from professional design works (inclusive of floor plans, and 3D previews) all the way to project scheduling and management. They usually charge a separate project fee on top of the renovation work, which can amount to several thousands. While this will no doubt inflate your renovation budget, hiring an ID is also the best way to realise a dream home built to your specifications and fancies, or to create a themed living space according to established design principles.
Contractors, on the other hand, will come in and do the work you require, but mostly on a task-by-task basis. Don’t expect any input on design or theme – the suggestions offered will mostly be functional at best. Also, you’ll have to plan and manage the entire renovation yourself, and should probably be prepared to oversee some of the more important aspects of the work. Managing contractors by yourself can be a challenge, considering that full-flat renovation takes several weeks to complete, on average.
A design & build service straddles the middle ground between IDs and contractors. For the most part, these providers are simply contractors with the ability to offer some design and conceptualisation capabilities. Don’t get too excited though, this mostly comes as a set package following a template of some sort. Think a copycat IKEA kitchen but with more generic fittings and finishings. You may be able to find some packages that match both your taste and your budget, but don’t expect them to turn your home into the W Bangkok.
How to find a legit renovation contractor in Singapore
Home renovations in Singapore used to kinda be a Wild West-type situation, rife with hold-ups, scams and ugly sights (sometimes literally and figuratively).
Years of regulation and advocacy for consumer rights has gone a long way in improving the situation. When choosing a renovation contractor, take note of the following.
Work only with HDB-approved contractors
Before you sign any contracts, be sure to verify that your contractor is indeed HDB approved. This ensures that your contractor will know how to avoid serious structural damage to the building or the surrounding units, which can result in a hefty fine and expensive repair charges.
However, do note that HDB does not endorse the quality of the contractor’s work, and any contract agreement entered into is strictly between you and the contractor.
Do your due diligence
You should also look into the background of any renovation firms you are interested in. You’ll want to establish that they have a good track record not only in delivering quality work, but also in rectifying complaints quickly and fairly.
Watch out for any vague phrasings in the quotation. If you have requested for branded items, make sure they are stipulated in the contract. This is to avoid unscrupulous contractors from sticking you with low quality fittings and skimming the difference.
Also, be sure to verify all costs so as to avoid any hidden charges.
Renovation loan options in Singapore
By far, the best way to finance your renovation in Singapore is to get a renovation loan from a bank. This is because of the highly competitive interest rates and flexible loan tenures on offer, which makes it easier to get the loan amount you need.
|Renovation loan||Interest rate (per annum)||Processing fee|
|Citi Quick Cash Loan||3.99%||$0 (loan amount min $20,000)|
|DBS Renovation loan||3.88%||$600|
|OCBC Renovation loan||4.18%||$450|
|CIMB Renovation i-Financing||4.33%||$300|
|Standard Chartered CashOne Personal Loan||3.48%||$0|
|HSBC Personal Loan||3.7%||$0|
Tips for Getting Your Renovation Budget Under Control
Overlay, rather than hack
You may be tempted to take a sledgehammer to hack down those kitschy kitchen tiles left by the previous owner, but there may be a simpler, cheaper solution. Hacking is not only expensive, but it will also require masonry work afterwards to repair the surface before new tiles can be installed.
Instead, check if you can overlay the offending wall with laminate or other materials – this will be much cheaper and once you drink the memory of those ugly tiles away, no one will be any wiser.
Same thing with that outdated marble floor that now clashes so horribly with the Scandinavian look you have in mind. Overlay with laminate or tiles, instead of ripping up the entire floor.
Balance between premium and economical finishes
As much as we would love to be surrounded by luxury, we can’t all afford taps made of pure gold. One good way to balance our renovation budget against our wants is to be smart in our application of premium materials and finishes.
For every room, choose one or two elements as the centerpiece, allowing yourself to splurge on luxury touches. For example, having a full-sized chandelier in the living room may be impractical and expensive, but a mini one in your bedroom could be a source of delight for many years to come.
Instead of pricey hardwood kitchen cabinets, why not splurge instead on a top-line refrigerator that the entire family will love using? Can’t afford that industrial look you love so much? How about doing up just the bathrooms, so you can still enjoy the design without going over budget.
Buy ready-made, instead of ordering built-in
Due to the labour and skill involved, carpentry work is costly. You can bring down your budget by reserving carpentry work for when you can’t find a suitable off-the-shelf solution. Between Ikea, Taobao, and the hundreds of indie furniture shops both online and in brick-and-mortar stores, you should be able to find everything you need, and at lower prices too.
Also, remember that while having everything made to measure, flush with every nook and cranny might satisfy your OCD, built-in furnitures are meant to stay where they are. So think twice if you (or your spouse) is the sort that itches for a change in layout or furniture every few years or so.
Don’t forget to protect your newly renovated home
Now that you’ve spent a fortune renovating your home, the last thing you want is to lose it all in a fire or something similarly disastrous.
Don’t forget to protect your newly renovated abode with an appropriate home insurance plan that covers accidents and other unwanted incidents. Head on over to SingSaver’s Home Insurance portal to compare and find the best home insurance plans – for free!
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By Alevin Chan
An ex-Financial Planner with a curiosity about what makes people tick, Alevin’s mission is to help readers understand the psychology of money. He’s also on an ongoing quest to optimise happiness and enjoyment in his life.