Home Reno: Should you DIY or engage an interior designer?

Is DIY renovation really the best budget option? Consider these factors before deciding whether to do it yourself or engage an interior designer.

  • Home Reno: Should you DIY or engage an interior designer?

Text by Lookbox Living

DIY vs ID – this dilemma is more prevalent now, when it comes to home renovations, with homeowners getting more design-savvy and house-proud.

Depending on your wish list, renovating your home could cost a substantial sum – it’s no longer uncommon to hear of reno costs for an HDB flat running in the six digits! And while some prefer to keep costs down, there are others willing to spend (or splurge) in order to achieve their dream homes. The high cost of home renovation is often attributed to hiring an interior designer, so to save on costs, many homeowners turn to working directly with a main contractor to do the job. Those who are even more gutsy may even take on the task of engaging sub-contractors for individual jobs and coordinate the entire renovation themselves.


DIY or ID renovation interior designer the rocking chair home

(View more information about the pictured home here!)

But does this really save a significant sum of money? And even if it does, are DIY renos the best budget-friendly option for first-time homeowners?

Consider these factors before you make your decision on whether to hire an interior designer, or go it alone:

#1 Is your home a new development or an old one? (For instance, an HDB BTO or resale flat?)

In the case of a new BTO flat, it is possible to DIY if it comes with the doors, sanitary fittings, and flooring for all rooms. If you don’t intend to hack any walls or conceal wiring, you will probably require just an air-conditioner installer, a painter, and a carpenter. With just a few sub-contractors to manage, you could possibly engage them directly on your own. Although this sounds straightforward enough, coordinating these few tasks will still require a chunk of your time.

Deciding whether to renovate an older apartment or resale flat by yourself is trickier. The condition of old resale flats often leave much to be desired and many buyers prefer to have it thoroughly revamped. This usually involves re-wiring the entire house, tearing up the flooring, overhauling the plumbing and even removing a wall or two to re-configure the space. It is best to have an interior designer or even a main contractor to coordinate all the works. However, in the unlikely scenario that your resale flat is still in good condition and requires minimal work, you could possibly save cost by engaging sub-contractors to do only the necessary repairs.

#2 Do you have the time?

A DIY reno means that you will have to regularly be at the job site, whether it’s for the air-con installer, electrician, plumber or carpenter. They need to know what to do and in the event of any changes, they need your approval to proceed with the task. Since renovation works should ideally be carried out during the day in order not to disturb the neighbours, those with a full-time job will have to take leave quite frequently.

#3 Do you know exactly what you want and need?

How many shelves should the built-in wardrobe have? Should all the drawers have the same depth? What material to use for the kitchen countertop? How many electrical outlets are needed and where? Which direction should the tiles be laid? These are decisions that you will have to make in a DIY reno, as your sub-contractors are looking to you for instruction. You will need to do product research and also think through your lifestyle needs and preferences. It takes conscious self-examination and if you know exactly what you need and want, you’re off to a good start on your DIY reno. This way, the workflow can be properly planned out right from the start.

Note too that unexpected changes or additions along the way may require certain works to be re-done, resulting in additional costs. For those who aren’t quite sure where to start or perhaps are not interested in dealing with the nitty-gritty, having an interior designer will be a great help in your home reno journey. Besides walking you through the space in your new home and asking questions to help you find out what your needs are, an interior designer can also suggest design ideas and propose alternatives. A good interior designer will also present the pros and cons of a solution, enabling you to make better choices. The quote provided by the interior designer serves as a guideline of the total cost and will help you in budgeting for the reno.


DIY or ID renovation interior designer the rocking chair home

The general consensus is that a DIY reno helps to save money, but other factors like time and the feasibility of DIY must be considered. While some enjoy the cost savings that comes with DIY, it is those who do it with a great dollop of interest and enthusiasm that reap the most.


Adapted from the Lookbox Living #52 print issue.



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