Hong Kong

What you need to know before renovating your flat

A construction consultant by trade, Tina Hui was in her element when renovating her own flat. Here, she shares her experience and offers some tips for those embarking on a similar project.

“It is critical to ask yourself at the very beginning: do you have a good idea on how you want to run the project? “

Without a clear direction, you could get lost and importantly, end up wasting time and money. You may have the convenience of having someone plan and suggest ideas (a designer/project manager) for a price, but if this is not the case, you will have to be resourceful!

“Piecing the puzzled pieces together – Finding Inspiration”

Sites like Pinterest and Houzz can be very useful for brainstorming ideas, but remember don’t get space envy! Hong Kong flats are small, work within the confines of what you have. Sometimes simplicity can create the illusion of a larger space .

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Tina's recommendation: websites like Pinterest are very useful for brainstorming ideas.

“Next, select someone to execute and refine your inspired visions.” 

You must have a contractor you absolutely trust, and who also has some ideas and takes initiative to solve the unique points that arise (and they will!). Space creation will definitely be needed, especially around storage and how to use odd spaces, which is absolute gold in Hong Kong apartments.

So how do you find these amazing contractors? Friend referrals are always useful. Providing references on what type of contractors they have had experience with. Keep in mind not everyone will always have the same experience. What worked out for your friend may not be the same for you. Make sure to review the quotation, and ask the really hard questions (including technical words you don’t understand) – it’s your money at stake! No doubt there will be a timeline, but always assume it will be delayed, and this may impact your budget. 

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Creating an open plan kitchen is a smart way to achieve the illusion of a larger space.

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My contractor assisted in drilling more holes for a more efficient ventilation.

“The key is to anticipate and plan for delays, particularly if you need to extend a lease with your existing apartment”

If your home renovation is delayed, your move in date will also be pushed back. Ensure you have enough time when staying at a different apartment to extend the lease or you may find yourself moving from one place to another in a short amount of time. Make sure to also account for the extra lease amount in your project budget.

“Break the rules, think unconventionally, and go outside your comfort zone.”

Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. If you have always dreamt of a built-in jewelry case, speak to your contractor on how to incorporate this into the feel of your home. I certainly did !   

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Working with my contractor closely allowed me to create my ideal jewelry cabinet.

“Attention to Details”

A few centimeters can make a huge difference, so pay attention to details as your contractor is working. I’d recommend frequently being on site to avoid misunderstandings, and working together with your contractor to create an outcome you are pleased with. Redoing a cabinet will cost more than initially building the cabinet from scratch, so don’t let your contractor build for too long without checking the progress of work. Keep in mind: Time is Money!

“Materials will impact the cost dramatically, and good quality materials can be prohibitively expensive.”

Luckily, I found a contractor who sourced quality materials from a reliable source in China to help bring down costs. It’s not all up to the contractor to source materials. You need to do your own research by visiting Wan Chai or Mong Kok. Have an understanding on what type, color, texture materials you like. Grab a sample and show it to your contractor so they can find alternative options which could potentially be cheaper. Do not trust photos; always make sure to get an actual sample so you can have a look and feel of it in person.

“Factor in Logistics”

Some materials and designs will be subject to restrictions. Different buildings have different guidelines. Make sure to consider the size of a service lift, material lead time, and confined building space for material transportation as these restrictions will impact your design. Work with your contractor to understand what material sizes will fit in a service lift or through your front door. If you want a full height accent wall out of imported stone, factor in the shipment time and if the stone size will fit through a lift in one piece as designed or it will need to be cut into several pieces in order to deliver to your apartment (this can change the design and outlook of your home entirely). If you live in a walk up building, transporting materials up stairs will be additional costs.

“Do all this, and you still may not avoid problems, but at least you will have surmountable obstacles.”

Creating a comfortable place you can call home will make all the difference. Renovation can be a painful process but it is all worth it in the end when the end result is feeling “Home Sweet Home .”  

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