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Budget busters: Common home renovation choices that break the bank

Renovating your home with a fixed budget in mind? Think twice about whether you really need that kitchen island.

Budget busters: Common home renovation choices that break the bank

(Photo: Unsplash / Naomi Hebert)

Home renovation is already an expensive affair. So why make unnecessary design choices that will needlessly lead to more stress and bigger loans?

Here are some are home renovation decisions to consider avoiding:

A false ceiling is a ceiling under your actual ceiling. They mainly exist to conceal wiring, and to alter the appearance of the ceiling (outside of Singapore, these can help housing interiors adapt to seasonal changes such as winter to spring).

(Photo: Pixabay / equolipt)

False ceilings can cost anywhere from S$4 to S$6 per square foot to install. They may be an unnecessary cost. Unless your ceiling is truly crawling with wires (a rarity these days), a good contractor can easily find ways to hide these without a false ceiling. Besides, false ceilings have a tendency to cause project delays, due to the intricacy of the work.


(Photo: Unsplash / Piotr Miazga)

Many people can’t tell between quartz, granite and marble. Using a higher grade of material on, say, a kitchen counter, won’t result in a huge visual difference. Material like marble can cost up anyway upwards of S$80 per square foot for counter tops.

READ: Important things to know about using your CPF to buy a home 

Consider using simple wood or plastic instead. The cash you save could be used towards essential kitchen appliances. You can probably get a refrigerator, washing machine, or dryer with the savings you made using simpler counter tops.


If you’ve bought a house, your first instinct may be to do all the renovations at once. But this isn’t always advantageous. Unless you’re a rushed for time landlord expecting tenants, it is often a good idea to renovate in parts to avoid busting your budget. Perhaps start with the living room first, move on to the kitchen and then hit the bedrooms last.

(Photo: Pixabay / ElasticComputeFarm)

This prevents you having to take out huge lump sums, or burn through multiple loans. On top of that, you can make more cost-effective decisions: over a few months, for example, you’ll get a sense of whether you really need to rip out the shower of a resale unit and replace it, or whether you really need a kitchen island.


For most non-landed properties, keep your eye on flooring and tiling. This is the most common cause of busted budgets.

(Photo: Unsplash / Toa Heftiba)

Marble flooring, for example, can cause between S$12 to S$18 per square foot. Compare this to vinyl which resembles fake marble that only costs around S$5 -S$7 per square foot. 

Now, consider around 900 square feet of flooring: At the high end of prices, marble would cost around S$16,200 before labour costs. Vinyl would cost about S$6,300. A difference of $9,900 is a huge deal, given that the renovation loan cap at banks is S$30,000.

Anything more than that and you need to take out a more expensive personal loan.


(Photo: Pexels / Christa Grover)

If the bathroom is in working condition, why not just skip renovating it entirely? The entire process incurs two costs: First, there’s the cost of demolishing and clearing away everything, which may include perfectly good faucets, sinks and cabinets. This alone can run up to a few thousand dollars.

The second cost is reinstalling the new bathroom – it’s estimated that costs can run between S$8,000 to S$12,000 for a full bathroom remodel.  Simply put, consider perhaps touching up the existing bathroom instead of ripping everything down and apart. Especially if the current bathroom works just fine.


Kitchen islands – those multi-purpose big rectangular blocks in the middle of kitchens – have been a home design trend since the early 2000s.  They can be useful, but they can also be expensive.

Kitchen islands, depending on the complexity of design, can range from as low as S$300, to as high as over S$10,000.

(Photo: Unsplash)

The massive price range comes from the availability of options – from installing a full working bar with beer taps on the island itself to incorporating ovens and seating.

However, unless you’re running a secret lunch diner from your house, is this a necessity? Will the novelty last? Because a S$10,000 kitchen island is not going to add S$10,000 in value to your house; nor will the average tenant fork out hundreds of dollars more for rent just because of it.

And take note that complications arising from fixing a kitchen island with running water and electricity may cause renovation delays. And as we all know, longer renovations mean more money.


(Photo: Pixabay / Irina_kukuts)

Built-in aquariums can greatly raise the cost of otherwise cheap and simple room designs. First off, it’s eye-poppingly expensive – these tanks are custom built with glass needed to be cut to your specifications and the lighting and access points all incorporated into the walls or cabinetry.

READ: Buying a condominium: Breaking down the freehold vs leasehold debate

Even a small built-in aquarium (a slit in a living room feature wall) can set you back well over S$3,500. For more elaborate versions, like those that curve alongside the length of a wall, the price can sneak past the S$10,000 mark. Add to the fact that these aquariums are notoriously difficult to clean and expensive to upkeep, it’s an all-round pricey design decision.

And remember, a massive built-in aquarium can be a big turn off to future buyers – not everyone is a fish lover like you.

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