Right products key to success of DIY
Forewarned is forearmed when it comes to do-it-yourself jobs. Though almost everything you will need is available in Hong Kong, it is sometimes hard to differentiate between similar-sounding products in stores.
'You should never, ever listen to what the shopkeeper says,' Paul Cowling, owner of a contracting firm, says. 'They deceive you and they will just sell you the next best thing.'
It is important to research the products you require before you go shopping. For instance, a good-quality silicone sealant - such as Dow Corning 791, for which Cowling would expect to pay HK$38 a tube - should last three to four years in a bathroom, he says. Paler imitations, available for about HK$22, will do the job for less than 12 months.
'You have got to go to a reputable supplier with high turnover,' he says.
Still, there are plenty of tasks you can take on yourself without hiring a builder or designer, Cowling says.
Painting walls and staining wood for decking are tasks that most people could take care of at home. Though homeowners may require a contractor to install decking, they should be able to perform the regular maintenance once it is in place.
Cheap is certainly not always best. Wood that is exposed to regular sunlight will need an oil-based decking stain, whether the wood is around a pool, on a balcony or even on a vertical surface or door. The stain should contain an ultraviolet retarder to protect the surface against sunlight.
That explains the difference between a high-quality decking stain that might sell for HK$500 per five-litre can, and low-grade stains for HK$150 to HK$200, he says.
'The cheaper ones don't even last a year,' Cowling says. 'The poor customer who puts up with this will find the wood will allow water to come in, and then the wood will start to rot.'
The wood will require sanding on installation to ensure a smooth surface, and three layers of stain when it is first put in. But subsequent touch-ups do not require sanding, and a single coat of stain is all that is needed roughly once a year.
'You spend a bit of money in the beginning with a good quality [stain], and then a person can do [the upkeep] themselves,' Cowling says. 'There's no need to get a contractor.'