How to remodel without going through roof

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 June, 2011, 12:00am


The cost of renovating a flat has risen by 30 per cent in a year as a result of the appreciation of the yuan and pay rises for workers.

'The daily salary paid to workers increased from HK$700 last year to up to HK$900 this year, and the prices of materials from the mainland have risen by between 20 and 30 per cent,' said interior designer Kelvin Chan Lai-sin.

'Prices of electricity wires and switches from the United Kingdom and Australia have also increased by 30 to 50 per cent in nine months,' he added.

The sharp increases had made some customers abandon their renovation plans, Chan said - but he has a few tips for flat owners to help them save on some of the costs.

First, let a reputable design company buy the materials for you, he says. Many flat owners like to buy materials such as tiles and doors on their own, but they might be better off if they hired a reliable design company to offer a full-services design, which means buying the materials and carrying out the renovation work.

'Some designer firms have connections with suppliers of construction materials. They can get a discount from the suppliers and that will help flat owners save money and time,' he said.

For example, a flat owner might have to spend about HK$300,000 for design and renovation work and pay a further HK$100,000 on materials if they bought the materials on their own.

But their total bill in such a scenario might be reduced to HK$360,000 if the design company helped them to buy the materials.

'The design firm could help the flat owner save 20 to 30 per cent of their total bill in such a case. But the flat owner will have to find a reliable designer firm,' said Chan.

Second, save money by better planning the logistics.

'With better planning and organising, construction time could be cut from maybe 50 days to 30 days. Some of the workers in different divisions could work at the same time,' Chan said.

A third way to save money, another designer advises, is to avoid unnecessary work.

If the windows are in good conditions, flat owners should skip getting new windows or avoid changing the sizes of the windows.

Changing window size involves many different costs, including demolition, scaffolding, installation, and external-wall waterproofing. All the different processes mean more money will need to be spent.

In the case of kitchens and bathrooms, owners could avoid changing the tiles if they are in good condition and the colours are not dated. Instead they could achieve a new look by installing a new toilet and basin.

Avoid complicated renovation work unless it is absolutely necessary, and avoid getting tailor-made furniture - which can cost up to 50 per cent more than designs available to order in stores.

'A four-foot cabinet from IKEA will cost about HK$4,000 to HK$5,000. But it would cost HK$8,000 if you installed a tailor-made cabinet,' the designer said.

Number four on the list of ways to cut costs is to be vigilant when buying materials in mainland stores or online.

Many flat owners like to buy furniture, lights, tiles and other fittings from mainland websites and the vast furniture shopping malls in Guangzhou and Shenzhen in the belief they are saving money. However, Chan said they should proceed with caution.

'The price differences of materials between the mainland and Hong Kong have narrowed since the appreciation of the yuan.

'Some materials are even more expensive than in Hong Kong,' he said.