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Stretch Your Renovation Budget

Doing up your home, but don’t want to spend a bomb? Here are a few substitutes to get you going:


INSTEAD OF: False ceilings to cover wiring

GO FOR: Exposed electrical trunking – just let all the wires hang out. This is why so many hipster cafes are opting for the industrial look: It’s cheaper, and gives any place a retro feel that’s not too try-hard. It’s more of a hassle to clean than a false ceiling, but it’s (literally!) a small price to pay.



INSTEAD OF: Tiling over a concrete or cement floor

GO FOR: An acid stain application, which brings out the natural texture of concrete or cement. You’ll get a marble-like result that looks just as finished as a tiled floor and is just as easy to care for, according to Li Yongyu, a designer with a renovation contractor – no special cleaning agents required. The plus: It goes better with modern, minimalist decors than tiles do.



INSTEAD OF: Luxe materials like timber and marble

GO FOR: Laminates or tiles. These are cheaper and easier to maintain than the real thing, and you won’t be sacrificing much in terms of looks either. “The trade-off between looks and cost has narrowed over the years, as substitutes are looking more and more authentic,” says architect Hsu Hsia Pin. But you’ll need a trained eye to choose a good one – so do your research first.



INSTEAD OF: Hacking and retiling floors

GO FOR: Overlaid finishings, which go over existing tiles. Hacking is labour-intensive and will bump up costs, says Yongyu. He estimates savings of about $5 per square foot if you opt to overlay. Overlaying does reduce ceiling height, though, so William recommends selecting the thinnest overlays possible – vinyl tiles are a good bet.



INSTEAD OF: Wall tiles for your kitchen

GO FOR: Washable paint, suggests interior designer William Chan. He points out that, though most people assume they need wall tiles for the kitchen, tiles aren’t actually necessary – what’s necessary is a surface that’s easy to clean. Washable paint gives you exactly this, while costing about half as much as tiles on average.



By Yeoh Jo-Ann, Her World, August 2014

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