When you become a home owner, you’ll be thinking of renovating your home to fit your personal style and luxury. Congrats on finally owning your own home! Be it a HDB flat, condo or landed house, succeeding step when obtaining the keys to your new house is to give it a renovation makeover–at the foremost affordable value, of course.

But with the selection of interior designers, contractors, sub-contractors… who should we go to? What precisely each of them do? How do they differ?

Interior designer or renovation contractor?

An interior designer coordinates and manages your entire renovation project from beginning til the end. They basically provide one-stop services which will handle all of your renovation plans! The interior designer won’t solely be responsible on the ideas for your home design, providing floor plans and 3D renders of your home might look, but also the execution of the renovation project as well and liaising with contractors and subcontractors to realise your dream home. Your interior designer is going to be the one guaranteeing that everything is in order.

On the opposite hand, a contractor typically carries out solely the renovation work appointed or requested by you. In different words, you’ll be responsible for the thinking and styling your home and therefore the overall project management. The contractor can execute the duty as per your wishes! They might work with external subcontractors, to assist them perform a number work they are given with. Subcontractors typically specialize in specific tasks – as an example, a contractor may engage an electrician to undertake the wiring work on his behalf.

In short, interior designer manages your entire renovation project, whereas a contractor will take care of only the specific work you assigned to them, with you as the project manager.


Renovation Contractor and Interior Designer. How to Decide?

Now that you know the different roles for both, below are some of the questions you should ask yourself.

  1. Budget

What’s your budget? As you can tell from above, interior designers provide more services compared to renovation contractors and are therefore, more expensive to hire. Not only will you need to pay for their consultation and 3D sketches, but also for their time to oversee the entire project from start to finish, and managing all parties involved. Ultimately, what you’re paying for is the convenience of overseeing the project.

  1. Involvement

Do you want to be involved in the project? While most are happy to take a step back and let the interior designer take over the entire renovation process, if you want to supervise the renovation yourself, then you can work with a renovation contractor to manage the timelines and deliverables yourself.

However, it’s important to note that overseeing your renovation is not as easy as 1,2,3 and can be extremely stressful; it requires commitment, knowledge, experience and patience.

Note: If you’re renovating an HDB flat, it’s advisable to use contractors that are part of HDB’s directory of renovation contractors (DRC). These contractors are familiar with HDB’s requirements when it comes to protecting the structural integrity of the building and safety standards.

  1. Level of Renovation

Extreme or minor renovation? If you’re planning on small-scale projects such as renovating your bedroom, installing new carpentry, installing new tiles and installing a plaster ceiling, you can consider hiring a renovation contractor as you may not need an interior designer. However, if you’re going to overhaul the entire home, then an interior designer may be preferable as there is likely to be multiple ongoing ‘projects’ and sub-contractors to manage.

  1. Design Knowledge

How much design knowledge do you have? You may spend a lot of time on Pinterest or read tons of interior design articles, but the real thing is an entirely different matter.

If you don’t have the right experience, it’s better to hire an interior designer so that he/she can consult you to better understand your preference, needs and how you intend to use the space. Remember, renovation contractors may not have the necessary design knowledge or be accountable for the design choices that you make, which means that you’ll need to be responsible for any design errors (and how to solve them).

Designing your home isn’t just about the aesthetics; equally important is having a good understanding of how to make space functional, the type of materials used, and ensuring that all the measurements and dimensions are correct.


How Much is the Renovation Cost in Singapore?

Renovation budget estimates for a 4-room HDB flat

Here’s a look at estimated renovation costs for a 4-room HDB flat’s living and dining space, taken from Qanvast’s excellent renovation calculator.

Though the living and dining rooms (or combined living & dining space, if we’re talking about most HDB flats) constitute a large part of the flat, renovation costs here can actually be pretty low.

Renovation component Light Moderate Extensive
Hacking $100 to $400 $400 to $700 $700 to $3,900
Masonry $100 to $1,300 $1,300 to $3,000 $3,000 to $22,000
Carpentry $200 to $3,400 $3,400 to $6,100 $6,100 to $23,700
Ceiling & partition $200 to $800 $800 to $1,200 $1,200 to $3,200


Expected costs for bedrooms (price is per room):

Renovation component Light Moderate Extensive
Hacking $100 to $600 $600 to $1,000 $1,000 to $5,200
Masonry $200 to $1,300 $1,300 to $2,800 $2,800 to $8,800
Carpentry $200 to $4,400 $4,400 to $7,500 $7,500 to $33,700
Ceiling & partition Up to $600 $600 to $1,100 $1,100 to $5,000


On to kitchen renovations: This space may seem purely functional, but there’s actually a lot going on in there, which means renovation costs can actually be quite high considering its small size.

Renovation component Light Moderate Extensive
Hacking $100 to $500 $500 to $900 $900 to $3,200
Masonry $200 to $1,300 $1,300 to $3,900 $3,900 to $11,300
Carpentry $100 to $4,300 $4,300 to $6,900 $6,900 to $17,900
Plumbing $100 to $200 $200 to $500 $500 to $1,700

Same goes for bathrooms (price is per bathroom):

Renovation component Light Moderate Extensive
Hacking $100 to $500 $500 to $1,000 $1,000 to $6,800
Masonry $100 to $1,500 $1,500 to $5,700 $5,700 to $17,500
Carpentry $200 to $1,200 $1,200 to $2,100 $2,100 to $9,000
Plumbing $100 to $400 $400 to $800 $800 to $3,900

Don’t forget to budget for these added overall costs in your renovation:

Renovation component Light Moderate Extensive
Electrical wiring $300 to $1,700 $1,700 to $3,200 $3,200 to $7,700
Painting $200 to $1,400 $1,400 to $1,800 $1,800 to $4,100
Windows, doors & grilles $400 to $2,600 $2,600 to $5,100 $5,100 to $13,800
Disposal & cleanup $300 to $1,100 $1,100 to $1,700 $1,700 to $13,900


In conclusion, designing your home isn’t just about the aesthetics; equally important is having functionality and quality works. Hiring an interior designer gives you the convenience while hiring a renovation contractors gives you the honor to manage the renovation process.

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