Monday, 17 December 2012

Bathroom Reno Journey Starts

I am going to renovate my two toilets. For the sake of sounding more refined, I use 'Bathroom' for my heading.

Hunting for a good contractor is a tedious process.

Usually, I get some contractors or IDs to come down to my place to give me an assessment and an accurate quotation. From there, I can also find out things that I need to do in order to achieve what I want.

I am actually quite keen to get a contractor's contact from the carpenter who did up my study. Although he got the measurements wrong for the the hanging cabinet and my settee which resulted in us not being able to put what we had intended them for, I was pleasantly surprised to hear from a contractor that the workmanship of my book cabinet is good, and the carpenter had indeed charged me at almost cost price for the sliding door. For some reason, I felt comfortable with the carpenter. I just felt that I could trust him not to cheat me or run away with a job half-done. However, he has been very busy and did not get back to me despite reminding him once.

This time round, I sent out a request for reno quotes on Renotalk forum. I received about 16 replies. I have invited some of them to come down to quote me for my toilet jobs. However, I don't have very good feelings with most of them.

So far, I have met up with:

1) Michael from Mix Box
However, I felt that he was more like a contractor. He was not able to suggest anything aesthetic and functional at the same time, but quotation is relatively cheap and quite a nice guy. However, I am not comfortable at the fact that he only wrote out the quotation on paper on the spot. There are quite a few items I had not thought of, and he only wrote down the items he could remember off-hand! When I mentioned water-proofing, he said,"Oh, now you remind me of something I haven't included - water-proofing."

Goodness! That was like a red-light warning to me.

2) Chen Kai from Hoe Heng Interior Construction
A very young guy in his twenties. Relatively inexperienced but rather sincere compared to the other contractors, but very honest in his opinion. I am not sure exactly who is right, but according to him, boxing and tiling up pipes in the toilets are not allowed. However, most other contractors said they are fine.

3) Ken from Edgespace
I was quite keen on meeting him as I saw that the company's website had a few toilet designs that I had in mind.

However, he said that he would email me the quotation - without getting my email address from me!

4) Mr Goh
No namecard. No introduction. A very private and quiet man who looked sad to come to my place. Quite inflexible I thought. He was not able to understand my puzzlement at why certain things had to be done in certain ways.

However, he was the only one who got back to me by smsing me that he had bought my floorplan and would give me a quotation by email soon. Unlike Ken, he got my email address before he left.

5) Mike Tan from Chin Ang or Esprit Interior
A big-tummy guy. I had thought I had good vibes about him.

He was able to advise on the hows and the whats. He was the only one who told me I had to change just about all my pipes to stainless steel. He could also give me an idea of what to do, and where to hang my storage heater. He was the only one who cautioned me against using natural marble as it is porous and sucks up water and any liquid that is placed on it readily.

I was quite ready to hand him the project. However a few things bugged me:

- he arranged a second meeting with me the next morning to show me the designs he would draw up but smsed me at the last minute to tell me that he had a fever.

I gave him the benefit of doubt and agreed to meet the following Monday.

However, he called on Monday and asked if he could come at a later timing, claiming that he was in the eastern part of Singapore for his lorry's repair.

- he called and smsed me the next day after the first meeting, telling me that he had lost his phone, and that that was his new number.

Naturally, I became suspicious. You mean you lost your phone, but still have my number?

- when he called me to schedule for the second meeting, he asked me if I was somebody else. Then suddenly, without any prompting, he asked if I was me!

All these make me highly uncomfortable. They sound like what an unreliable contractor would do. And if I am going to feel so uncomfortable, I would have to let go no matter how cheap or 'reasonable' the charges are.

He is just about the only contractor who follows up very closely. He would sms or call me to check on whether I have made up my mind on who to give the project to.

He arranged for me to view his workmanship after I communicated my worry about poor workmanship to him. We were to meet up at two flats that were half-done last Saturday.

However, something happened again.

He called me in the morning to tell me that the owner of the first flat had chased all his workers out of the flat as he was going to pray to the dieties, so we could not go over.

That made me suspicious: didn't he say that the flat was not completed yet?

But fine, there was still another flat.

Then he called me in the afternoon to tell me that the second flat was handed over to the owner and that the owner had locked it up.

Well, I just said,"Oh ok ..." I was quite sure I was not going to engage him because I had told myself to strike him off the list if he found excuses to prevent me from viewing his workmanship.

But he managed to source for a flat done up about 3 months ago and we viewed the common toilet.

I was not impressed with the grouting. Some of them were white while others were grey, like my kitchen grouting which I had done myself!

And something he said made me very uncomfortable,"This (wall) tile cost $3-something."

I was thinking,"You mean I have to pay more for this tile?"

And it made me reflect on the vague quotation - without specifications, measurements, type of materials used. Although he had told me there was no hidden cost, I don't want to get caught in the situation where I needed to top up because of the vagueness of the quotation.

6) Alan from Aian
Highly recommended by a few Renotalk members. A soft-spoken man, he gave me a quotation a few days after I smsed him a reminder. I am quite keen to engage him as his price is comparable to Mike - without the mirrors and boxing-up of pipes.

7) Mr Lou
A down-to-earth and seemingly honest man recommended by renotalk members. William was impressed that he closed the windows at the platform for us so that the rain did not wet the wood.

However, I was quite worried with the 'miscellaneous jobs' on his quotation and he was quite sure that he would build shower kerbs instead of the drop-down I prefer.

Some other ID firms which gave me quotations without meeting up:

1) Inspire by D'trenzo
The quotation is the highest among everybody's, excluding quite a few things I wanted to do - $13k.

On top of that, the parent company D'trenzo has a bad reputation among the renotalk forummers. So the answer is obvious.

2) Sky Creation
The quotation priced the works at close to $9k, excluding many things I wanted to do.

The quotation came very fast - 90/100 for their efficiency, but the service attitude did not sound great to me,"We can do it for less than $10k - what you had asked for ... Huh? You want us to go down to your place ah? Can you come down to our Ubi showroom tomorrow to see our workmanship? ... You want a quotation ah? Ok lah, later I got time, I do and send to you lah ..."

Haven't even met up, already so ya-ya. I can't imagine what would happen after I pay them a deposit.

3) Andrew from Designer Guys

Also highly recommended by Renotalk forum, we had arranged to meet up, but he had something 'urgent' to attend to and he emailed me a quotation after I specified what I needed to do. Wah ... the highest of them all: $17k for two toilets, without any sanitary ware.

4) Jiawei

Got his contact via a renotalk member whose house is tastefully done. However, his price seemed to be on the high side. He merely mentioned that hacking and tiling would be already more than $4000. And he did not seem to be willing to meet up. I tried arranging the meet-up at least twice and each time he could not make it.

After this arduous journey of trying to find a good contractor, I feel that this industry is quite similar to the photography industry - everything also hush-hush. And worse, it is largely unregulated besides having HDB officers coming down to check if you have done anything 'illegal'. No one is able to help you for poor workmanship, or if the contractor or ID decides to run away with your money and leaving you with undone or half-done jobs.

I always take a long time to think about the designs and colours I want. And I worry alot about whether the contractors would do a good job. After a horrible experience 7 years ago, it is enough to frighten me for a lifetime. The lousy works stay with you for a long time, so I don't want to repeat that awful experience ever again.


Leonard Ng said...

You can try Vincent Kong of Meng Design(Hp:97922715)from Meng Design. May not be the cheapest, but really dependable and worry-free.

missymessy said...

Your analysis of the renovators are very sound. If i come across this in November I would not ave engaged Inspire by Dtrenzo, promised the world and deliver nothing. They left my house overturned in 50% mid reno state over balance 5%+VO-4+k when I already paid up 95% =$46+k. Promises aplenty but actual work sucks and the designer always absent leaving a 1 month exprience trainee to man the EM project.What a joke. nowhere in the house can you see $46k worth of works. Sigh... Please avoid using them.

Rain said...

Hi missymessy,

It's usually the ID, not the company, that matters. I've come across good reviews on certain IDs at Inspire by D'trenzo, but their price seems to be on the high side.

I was a victim of an unscrupulous contractor too, so I can understand how you feel. Take heart and monitor closely. It seems to me you will need to take over and tell the trainee what to do and give him a timeline. But it's not uncommon for the owner to take over as the ID even though that was why you engage them in the first place.

Anonymous said...

At least we now know.dun engage base anyone based on use if they dun apply whatever they are good for on your project.