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  • Writer's pictureChan Alan

A step-by-step guide to the renovation process.

Updated: Mar 15, 2022

Being an interior designer for 10 + years working on residential interior design projects in Singapore as well as Malaysia (Johor), had me accumulate some humble experience executing the building aspect of the interior design service that I provide for my client. I would like to share this, less like a guide, more like a reference to you what is my renovation procedure like, step by step. FYI, I am constantly learning new/better ways too.


Disclaimer 1. This process that I share here is solely based on my personal field experience, there's no specific right way in my opinion, and there could be better ways too. This is just how I execute the works for a typical residential renovation/interior design. 2. Even though the process goes from step 1 to step 20, if step 3-5 is not in the scope of the renovation, I might re-arrange a couple of the steps in between (say swap step 6 & 2) to re-gain the logic of the workflow. So yes, logic plays a big part here. I am not going to go into the research, layout planning & design part of the entire "interior design" workflow, but really just focusing on the execution part of the renovation.


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Without further ado, Let's roll !! There are more than 20 individual tasks to be executed as the renovation progresses. To make this process easier for you to understand, I have grouped the 20+ tasks into fewer groups, I call them actions. The list of actions goes as the below : 1. Protect 2. Hack 3. Lay 4. Install 5. Treat 6. Paint 7. Install 8. Clean 1. Protect To lay a layer of protection materials (usually corrugated sheets/thin vinyl sheets) onto what is needed to be protected from being damaged. This could mean protection to existing door & door frames, new floor tiles, existing kitchen cabinets & the list goes on. 2. Hack (Floor, Wall, Ceiling, Air-con, Built-in units) To hack/demolish things that are to be replaced or removed. If the protection is properly funded & executed, the damages caused by the hacking or future works would really be minimum, This could mean demolishing an existing wall entirely, making an opening on non-structural walls, removing existing cornices, removing an air-con fan-coil indoor unit, etc. For some strata-titled properties, a professional engineer endorsement may be required for general or specific demolition works, this post here does not touch on the regulations/by law. 3. Lay (Conceal Electrical Wirings, Pipings for Air-con, Plumbing & Gas) While the walls are bare now, the concealing task is best performed at this stage. Note that whenever the plumbing pipes need to meet with the electrical wirings at any point, we will have the electrical wiring run higher than the plumbing pipes for safety purposes in case of water leakage. For homes with limited ceiling heights and has a lot of exposed beams in the unit, the position of the Fan-Coil-Unit (FCU - the indoor air-con unit) is pretty much dependent on the location & heights of the beams, so that the water that's formed, due to the condensation of air, can flow to the outlet with a proper piping gradient.


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4. Install (Door & Window Frames - Timber, Aluminum, etc.) Frames are installed at this stage so that the connecting walls/structure can be appropriately extended/filled/finished. Some architectural products, especially windows can only be installed as a whole. In this case, leave the protection sheet that comes with them, to protect the surfaces from flying renovation particles. 5. Lay (Floor & Wall Finishings - tiles, timber, natural stone, vinyl boards, etc.) When those that needed to be concealed are done, it's time to slowly put up the surfaces. Note that whenever the plumbing pipes need to meet with the electrical wirings at any point, we will have the electrical wiring run higher than the plumbing pipes for safety purposes in case of water leakage. For homes with limited ceiling heights and has a lot of exposed beams in the unit, the position of the Fan-Coil-Unit (FCU - the indoor air-con unit) is pretty much dependent on the location & heights of the beams, so that the water that's formed, due to the condensation of air, can flow to the outlet with a proper piping gradient. For wet areas (Bathroom & balcony, wet kitchen), a waterproofing membrane with a water ponding test is a must-have.

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6. Install (False Ceiling, Partition Walls & Electrical Faceplates) When the ceiling boards are in, all the electrical wirings, plumbing & gas pipe (those that passes the ceiling) will all be covered. This is where we want all the #3 tasks to be appropriately planned & executed. We want to have structural supports for items like ceiling fans, pendant lights, sliding/pocket doors, etc be installed and ready before the boards are in place and sealed. In the same mindset, if you do have a storage water heater, the hose for an electric ventilator, etc to be installed in the false ceiling, please do so before the ceiling is "closed".


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7. Treat (Natural Timber/Stone Floors) Ceiling works are usually messy and dusty. Therefore the completion of the ceiling works is the best time to treat the timber/stone floor. Treatment of material includes staining, whitewashing, grinding & sanding, polishing, etc. The benefit of performing the treatment at this stage is that it lies in the sweet spot between (a) Where all the "dirty" jobs are completed (b) The floor is clear from any carpentry works, this allows the treatment to be done appropriately, without obstruction. 8. Painting Painting of walls starts with mask-taping the edge of the wall switches, sockets, door frames, etc. Basically giving a layer of protection to non-wall/ceiling materials from being painted. A very straightforward task amongst the rest of the works. Usually, 3 coats of paint are applied, and there's a "touch-up" session - #9(b) when the site is almost ready for the handover. 9 (a). Install (Protection, Doors & Gates, Built-in Cabinets) New protection is required prior to the rest of the installation jobs, to help the polished floor survive through tasks #9 & #10. This is the last heavyweight task in a renovation. Built-in cabinets will be delivered & installed. Countertops will be arranged to measure on-site once the relevant cabinet is been installed & ready for measurement. This (Task #9) is one of the most critical parts of a renovation because this is where everything that you've planned for, meets. In other words, the success of this installation has very little to do with what is being executed now, but a lot to do with what's been thought of in the discussion (reflected in the detailed drawings) and resolved prior to this installation. There's a saying: "The game is won, not in the Ring, but in the gym room." 9(b). Install (Countertops, Kitchen & Bath Fittings, Sockets & Switches, Lights, Air-con & Electrical Appliances ) This is where small final items are coming together Cut-to-size countertops will be measured & installed, and only then can the kitchen & bath fittings be installed. Sockets & switches that are in the cabinets will be installed. I will usually have some of the Lights, that I designed to be in-lined with the cabinets, which will too be installed at this stage. I will try to have the Air-con installed as late in the process as possible because the warranty is activate upon installation. Again, there are no die-hard rules, just what makes more sense. 10. Clean (Clear Debris & Washing) The last step in the renovation process, removing all the renovation debris from the site, a team of cleaners will be in, to dust-free the newly renovated home. Usually, I will encourage the client to go with a more professionally trained cleaner, the last thing you want, is to have the cleaner damaging the new surfaces/items because of the lack of relevant knowledge and field experience. Remember, we've been through a loooong period of renovation, the handover may just be a couple more days, this is a bad place where things go wrong.

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Some questions may raise, such as when the curtain tracks are to be installed? What about wallpapers? When should we have pest control in for the checks and injections? Should window tinting be in early or late? These in my opinion are less common items, and I might consider making a more comprehensive walkthrough in the near future.

My say is, this may be useful for green designers / inexperience homeowners. The above step-by-step should give you a rough idea of what tasks are involved, and the logic that contributes to their order in the lengthy renovation. Should you want a quick chat or looking for more interior tips : Reach me at my Instagram account here, screen through my post, or hit me up in the chat, we can talk about it. If you are in this professional field, looking for some project solutions : Do check out the resources that I have made available here. That's about it from me, Folks!



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