Saturday, May 16, 2009

You Are Wasting Your Time and Money If…

1) The end result of your renovation is a mismatch of colours.
2) The overall design, planning of functional space and choice of soft furnishings are not well coordinated.
3) You need to keep applying leave and having the hassle of managing so many different groups of contract workers.
4) You don't change your old habits.


We once finished a kitchen and when I visited the house after it's done, I really felt sad. Because we were only asked to do the kitchen, we had no hand in helping out with the planning and proposal stages. Our work only started after all the other contract workers had left. We had no control over the other workers' work nor helped in the colour coordination. The owners had spent RM70,000 and I felt they were not getting their money's worth. I'm not talking about them being cheated of their hard earned cash by slimey contractors. Sure, they had gotten some lower-paid workers but who were not able to give them advice on what colours to purchase for tiles, what paints for walls, and the current trends. The result was they had wrongly chosen some glossy China tiles with hues of pink/orange and mocha concrete surface for kitchen and of all colours - lilac for foyer entrance. And all these colours were matched with pale mint green for the walls. Of course I didn't tell them they had made a big mistake! Chee Hoong and I have a policy that unless we can help to make a difference and there is still time to do so, only then it's appropriate to voice out. When it's already too late, we choose to keep the peace
and not make people unhappy.

It was because of too many instances like this that we have the vision and passion to help people plan for whole house renovations instead of just concentrating on kitchen cabinets and wardrobes like we did a few years ago. We were unable to help our customers back then because our work only commenced at the end-stage.

I have always emphasized that colours can make a world of difference. That's the first thing we see when we enter a room! After this only comes quality. Why do I put quality ranked after colours? Because one is first attracted to the colours…only when one is sufficiently settled down will one pay closer attention to the workmanship.

I'm speaking this from our own earlier experience. During our initial years concentrating just on cabinetry work, I realise that however much effort I put into the woodwork…even if our carpenters had done their best, all our efforts cannot contribute to making the home nicer if the houseowner chooses to paint the surrounding in a non-harmonious colour, or chooses wrong coloured tiles or simply not knowing good housekeeping habits (this I will talk about later).

Co-ordination of form and function

Most people only renovate house 2 or 3 times in a life-time. Because of this lack of experience, there is a higher chance of missing out on something in terms of functional planning,
or lack of experience in co-ordinating concept and colours, or not organizing the work in its most ideal sequence.

This is especially so when budgets are limited and has to stretch as far as it can go. Therefore, every bit spent has to meet a functional need and yet look good.

Another limition is space. In urban living, every inch of space is a premium. The design then has to make creative use of whatever little space there is.

Another common mistake is to use too much of the same material in the same room. To some people, renovation means building cabinet shelving , building divider panels, building the tv cabinets back-panels, etc. All these call for usage of wood, wood and more wood. The overall look would be more balanced if combined with creative usage of natural stones, glass, fabric or wall paper.

Managing different groups of contract workers.

Before you decide to go ahead and manage the whole renovation process the DIY way, find out how long it takes to finish the whole scope of work. You will definitely save some money if you manage independent groups of workers yourself, but...

Will you have the time ? Especially if the project spreads out to over a month?
Will your accumulated leave days be enough?
Do you know that dealing with so many workers mean delays or absenteeism, which means you'll need to provide extra days into your supervision time?
Will you know which teams are reliable and responsible and which are not?
Will you know enough about construction technicalities so as not to be taken for a ride?
Will you know how to work out progressive payment calculations so as not to over-pay to reduce risk of work-abandonment?
Do you know you will have to buy all materials yourself?
Do you know each time the workers do not have enough materials, you'll have to stop whatever you are doing and rush to the supplier's?
Do you know enough about renovation to be able to arrange the work in its proper sequencing?

Solutions to these headaches :

1) If you are not working full-time, then go ahead. You'll have all the time in the world.
2) If you have anyone else in the family who is not employed full-time, you'll have some help to monitor the work.
3) Get contractors recommended by friends. They've been tried and tested.
4) When the project is big, you might want to do a credit check on your contractor. A contractor with huge debts may just buckle under the pressure
without completion of work. This happens because they can no longer afford paying wages to their workers.
5) To avoid the risk of workers disappearing with your money, learn how to work out progressive payments so that you don't over-pay. I've provided a sample below.

To work out a Progressive Payment Chart :

This Cash Flow Sheet is a translation of the renovation process into monetary cash flow that allows us to work out a justifiable and fair progressive payment every week. It also helps houseowner to check that they are not over-paying by too much.

6) We often come across people who arrange work in the wrong sequencing. Like I have explained in the very first point about colours, they engaged a designer at the very last stage when I wasn't able to be of much help. Everything has been done up, so I just followed the space allocated by the earlier workers, followed whatever tile colours they have chosen.

I've provided a sample of a Critical Path Method chart for you to arrange your work. Please pay attention that my sample chart is not THE only sequencing to follow. Work arrangement varies according to situations of every house. You can say that every project is unique!

The Critical Path Method Chart is a progression of the Work Precedence Chart. CPM shows in graphic form the following :

1) The 1st start date of the renovation work and the expected last date of renovation work. This is denoted in WORK DAY.
Total dedicated time for this work is 63 WORK DAYS (Mon -Fri, 9am to 5pm).
2) It tells us when to inform supplier to get ready to deliver supplies to us. Eg, Air cond fixing is on the 26th day, so the aircond MUST reach before the 26th.
Painting is on the 29th so every supervisor must make sure their team finishes work BEFORE 29th.
3) It also alerts us which teams' work are fundamental in controlling the overall smooth progress of the work and to avoid costly delays. This is represented
by the Critical Path which I denoted in red.

Change your old habits !

I really can't stress enough about this last point!

A VERY glaring example is the kitchen usage. I know a lot of people like to leave a lot of stuff on their kitchen table top - the dishes, the cups, the water filter, the kettle, the microwave, the kid's milk bottles, etc. etc. Do you realise that when you are going to move into a new house, spend a big amount on renovation and want the end result to look good, you'll first have to change your old habits first! The excuse of leaving things lying everywhere is always an age old one : I use these items very frequently, so I'll just leave them on the table. Then how do you expect the renovation result to look nice if it ends up looking messy?

I have a friend Heiko and I always wondered how he kept the house looking EXTREMELY neat and clean being a bachelor. He says he is very fastidious and always insists on putting things back in its rightful place. That's the key - putting things back in its rightful place.

Secondly, never keep things that you haven't used for 2 years. Be neat, get rid of clutter!


Kenny said...

Very insightful and well written article!

I am expecting to receive the keys for my Dataran Prima condominium unit hopefully by next month, and I will touch base with you then for whole house renovation.

HJ @ Haji said...

Hi Lola,

I kind of agreed with ur policy of not commenting on what people has build or purchased unless u could change and make it better.

p.s. i always practice the above policy whnever my wife asked me to commnet on her new dress...and had so far survived by just nodding my head without saying anything...

Regarding colour coordination/choice, I wonder whether will it be safer for a home owner to just cut a pic from a magazine of what they like and ask the contractor to do it?

comments plz.


Lola Lim said...

Hi Hussien!

You are hilarious lah! If Chee Hoong tells me I look good in something when in fact I don't, I'd whack him on the head!!!

Yeah, showing what you like to your contractor is the best way to communicate your likes. However, take note that :
1) It's very difficult to match the wall colours we see from pictures. Paint suppliers have many many colour codes that look almost identical. In such a case, just buy a 1L can, paint a sample wall and see if you like the result.

2) Photos and pictures sometimes do not show the real colour. These days of digital photography allows pictures to be toned or altered.