Building the Ginger bread house timelapse. EOS 40D, 16-35mm lens, 3890 frames, Graded with Magic Bullet looks
Just had a friend move into his renovated (or as the Americans would say “remodeled”) home a few weeks back. It’s kind of interesting to see how much thought goes into a project of this scale or magnitude. It also reflects a lot of our own personal experience with our current and previous dwellings as well as our current requirements and situation. For example, he has three kids and all girls so the bathroom for the girls has separate cubicles for showering and doing your business in addition to the sink and mirror — in tech speak, single-core triple-threaded bathroom! Some of the little things you wouldn’t really notice or want can get pretty handy down the road such as two-way light switches – done reading? flip that switch by the bedside to go to sleep. Want to prevent anyone with a cheap radio transceiver from opening your auto-gate at night? Put a switch and turn it off at night. Well, the list goes on…
I’ve just done up my house a about a year and a half ago. It is a 45-year old house that used to sell at about RM10,000. During that time, I had other friends and colleagues doing up their own homes at the same time so it was good to share experiences with each other. We could have written a book! Or should have! Anyways, here are some things that we found we had in common.
1. The price quoted to you will never be the price you finally pay.
The lowest bid usually has a bunch of assumptions that are generally wrong or worse yet, you’ll get smacked with a bill for every little change. The highest bid usually covers all the bases but still you will end up paying more. I ended up choosing the middle quote but I still paid more. Some things are unexpected of course such as a friend’s home had a car swallowing sinkhole under the living room and cost him two weeks and a loaded cement mixer to plug it. More reasons below!
2. Buying the stuff yourself is always cheaper but not always
You can always get cement, aggregates (sand, gravel, etc for mixing into concrete), steel, etc cheaper but you’ve gotta let the contractor make some money. It’s also not so practical to obtain a truck-load of sand every week for example. Plus remember, you’ll bound to have some pilferage. These “foreign” workers building your home are bound to sell a bag of cement here or there. Unless you are on-site daily, you can’t tell the usage rate. Plus, exterior work have require remedy or re-doing if it rains while they start the cement or plastering work for example. I decided on ONLY getting the slightly more premium or aesthetic type of things. We went to Niro for tiles (and they have great customer service – read why). We also went to Han Lim (near Niro, Jalan Tandang, PJ) to get bathroom fixtures like my rain shower, sinks, mixer taps. Then off to Mectrades, KL, Jalan Pasar, to get those fancier light switches. While you’re at Jalan Pasar, might as well get some lights too. Rest of the stuff, we let the contractor provide — already too much to handle to sweat the basics.
3. As with point 1 and 2, do get a sanity check
My boss at that time was quoted RM120 per down light fixture and another RM120 per point for the wiring. That was simply absurd. If you don’t know the price of things or would like a second opinion, always check the quote. My electrician quoted only RM100 per point including the fixture, light bulb and wiring. He was also quoted RM5,000 for a 7-foot wide kitchen counter top. The going price at that time was only about RM120 per foot-run and RM250 per side. We’re looking only at the total RM1,340! Even if it included tile-work (going at RM4.50/square foot) it wouldn’t come close to 5K!
4. Sometimes, you gotta put your foot down and insist on things done right or your way
My wife and I are taller than the Malaysian average. We also wanted a counter top at a comfortable height for us. Contractors like to do things their way not because it’s best for you, but because it’s easier and cheaper for them. Of course this is not always the case but it actually is quite likely the case from mine and other friends’ experience. Sometimes, you let them because it may not be a big deal for you but always remember that you’ll be living in that home and for a decent amount of time too. Since we were doing our wiring (45-year old electrical wire is ripe for disaster), I insisted on several things, some being fully galvanized rigid electrical conduits to run my wires to and from the main switch/circuit block. I also insisted on star-topology (which costs more but a blown fuse only affects that small circuit vs the whole room for example) and of course, proper sharing of the three phase power so that a failure of any phase meant only partial loss of power in any room or area. Even if such things didn’t cost more, it’s more work but if you want something, you got to insist on it.
5. Things never get done your way when you’re not around
You want your project completed on time? Show up randomly. Once I just circled around a few blocks after a visit and caught the previously hard-at-work crew lazing in the shade and smoking. Constant checks also allow you to spot certain things that aren’t done right and correct them. Also, invariably (see number 6) you will change things so seeing the progress allow you to sometimes fine-tune certain things. Generally, the tops of windows match the tops of doors but in cases of ground floor bathrooms, you might want otherwise.
6. You will definitely change your plan while in progress
This is almost a given. It also of course depends on the size and scope of the work. For someone who’s building a house from ground up will have more changes that one who is just remodeling the kitchen. I think I had over a dozen changes from window heights to where some windows will be. Bathroom layouts and switch placements were changed. Roof-line, roof-style and even slope were changed. I know everything is a compromise of sorts unless you have unlimited funds but hey, get the best you can. We even changed the color of our kitchen tiles (Thanks to Niro, at no charge!). So, going back to point number 1, yes, buffer for a 20-30% cost above and beyond the quote.
7. The project time line is always too short
Isn’t this like everything else in life? Anyways, most contractors will give a more optimistic time line and not include things like material delivery delays or most of the time, weather related issues. The older the house, probably some additional surprises like that hidden beam or some other delay will crop up. Again, factor in at least 50% more time required. We were told 4-5months. It became about 9 months. Like giving birth. Goodness!
At the end of it all, just be patient, try to enjoy the process (even though you feel like going postal!) and best of all, try to share that experience with friends. It makes the whole thing a bit more bearable.
If you’re currently or have renovated or remodeled your home and have a tip or story to tell, or plain disagree with what I said above, drop me a line here! Would love to hear them experiences – good or bad!
The anatomy of a house move. Not many photos but I guess some will suffice. And here’s a freebie I cooked up last Monday. I didn’t have any photos since I was experimenting.
– Chicken breast, approximately 300gm.
– Bacardi rum obviously
– Herbs: oregano, marjoram, black pepper, garlic salt, paprika
– 3 tablespoons finely chopped garlic and one medium size onion, coarsely chopped.
– 2 tablespoons corn flour
Cut chicken into small pieces and marinade with 1/4 cup Bacardi, and herbs. Add 1 table spoon olive oil.
Heat pan on medium heat, add olive oil to coat, add garlic and onions. Saute lightly.
Toss in chicken only (no marinade). Brown chicken with high heat, let rum catch fire if possible.
Mix 1/2 cup Bacardi, 1/4 cup water, corn flour mixture. Pour into hot pan, stirring till sauce thickens.
Serve with rice or potatoes 🙂
New Home switches!
Rushed back in heavy traffic to condo to get essential cleaning stuff.
Contractor workers came to touch up paint job, adjust wrong dimension kitchen stove top hole.
TNB connected electrical supply at 3pm so went to test all lights.
Cleaned up after the workers left.
Had quick dinner, went to in-laws place to borrow more samsonite bags for clothes
Packed a bit and then collapse into bed.
Good Fri 8:30AM
Go to house to meet contractor to fix leak in roof and finish touching up grills, etc Begin cleaning outside Massive whole house cleaning begins.
Water filter guy arrives, can’t reposition water mains right away so shift to 3pm.
Clean up grills, windows, doors, bathrooms.
Autogate installation begins.
Wipe down kitchen.
Fried rice for lunch
Moved several non-essential boxes from condo 3:00PM Water filter guy arrives, starts work.
ML goes to pick up friend from Melbourne to the house.
House cleaning continues.
Water filter done, flush water system.
Sort keys, wax timber flooring
Go for dinner with friend without showering 10:00pm Back at condo, shower and see photos for a bit.
Drop friend back to Bangsar
Begin packing like mad
I dismantle sofa set, two beds, wrap spare mattress, dining table in bubble wrap.
Move mattress to living room.
Saturday, April 11
Continue packing stuff,put clothes into bag, dismantle Ikea Effektiv/Aneboda/etc
Collapse into bed
Duck quacking (alarm clock), wrap mattress in plastic wrap, finish packing essential boxes.
Bread breakfast & coffee while packing kitchen stuff.
Mover arrives along with AK & JV (bro-in-law) Park truck in lobby with two SUVs and a one-tonne lorry Mover begins to move things down to lobby including single bed, fridge, washer
Mover loads up lorry, truck and two SUVs.
Me and AK depart in two vehicles to house.
Lorry and ML & bro-in-law depart condo 10 minutes later and meet dad at house.
Movers begin to unload. Labeled boxes go to specific rooms.
Big furniture gets dumped into dining/living Auto-gate guy arrives to touch up paint job on gate.
Mover goes for drinks, four vehicles head back to Condo.
AK brings 7-11 big gulp. Need sugar badly. Continue packing and moving boxes down to lobby
Mover arrives at Condo again. Begin moving closets, queen bed and effektiv storage down to lobby. More kitchen stuff moved down along with 300kg of books.
Movers load up lorry for the second trip. CRV is full of hanging clothes (too lazy to iron again), boxes go into truck bed, glassware into AK’s X-trail. Pillows and bedding go into JV’s car
Arrive back at house. Dad leaves for home. Unload begins
Unload finishes, movers depart after being paid. Clean-up and a bit of stuff moved to correct place. AK and us go for lunch.
Most important thing: assemble the bed and change sheets Sweep and mop the dusty house. Put back closet, chest drawers, etc.
Inspector #1 arrives: Mom & Dad.
Sit for the first time all day and rest. Just plain water for drinks. Unwrap dining table and chairs in the process since they need to sit somewhere.
Restart fridge, move things from icebox to fridge.
Take a quick cold shower (no water heater yet). Go back to Condo to get more stuff like hangers, electrical stuff and appliances. Mops, detergent, pails and toiletries. Make 4 trips down to car. Rain pours with unabated fury.
Arrive back home, unload.
AK arrives with SC & JT (Inspector #2) 8:00PM Hokkien mee dinner with ikan bakar, and more lard laden food.
Finish dinner, go home.
Continue unpacking, clean up cups, and unwrap essentials 10:30pm KW arrives with ladder (inspector #3) 11:00pm collapse into bed again
Wake up, boil water for shower
Continue to unpack kitchen.
8:40AM: No coffee, no breakfast, go to church
Coffee at last!
Go to ACE to pick up new locks, new mop, some light bulbs, etc.
Go to in-laws place for lunch. Get bamboo poles for laundry line 1:00PM Rush back due to heavy rain.
Do Laundry, mop house again, unpack clothes and put into closet 3:00PM Put in external light bulbs, set-up master bed room, Clean-up kitchen, put in food stuff and arrange back glassware 5:00PM Back to Condo to get more things, collect laundry from condo clothesline, microwave, water filter, mirror and laptop, shoes, etc.
Back to house, unpack
Go to Mom’s place for dinner, get puppy home 9:00PM Arrive home, prepare place for puppy. Put up bedsheets for curtains!
Unpack more stuff.
Fall unconscious into bed!
Last minute packing!
Next morning, everything looks much cleaner!
Finally arriving at destination!
But this is just the beginning — the unpacking has to start!
Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.
~ Psalm 36:5
The sad story of the poor Malaysian consumer who will most of the time keep quiet about it. I suppose you never get lawyers where and when you need them… Guess which photo is in-store and which is at home? Well, I’m definitely not letting them go with this!