We Are Grout-chy

One thing about us is that we are quite particular about cleanliness. So we did our best to renovate and build our home to be easy to maintain and clean.

As with every first-time (and probably second, third-time) home owners, we found some things that we could have done better or changed when renovating our home. One of those things is our Genkan area right at our door.

Our current situation is that we used relatively small tiles for the Genkan area, resulting in wide grout lines between tiles. So after about 7 months of moving in, with this being where we enter and exit our home, dirt naturally builds up in the grout lines.

By total coincidence, we discovered a product line specific for grout cleaning and protection – sold by Grout Shield Singapore. We bought a couple bottles of their Grout Shield and Deep Cleaner and gave it a shot on our Genkan.

[Note: This is NOT a paid post – we are just sharing what we found that might help other home owners out]

Grout is usually a porous surface, hence it traps dirt and other materials which get on to it. Grout Shield essentially forms a layer on top of your existing grout and seals the pores, making it easier to clean off future stains as they don’t get deep into the pores.

It’s not a cheap solution, but it does save you quite a lot more potential headaches in cleaning or maintaining your grout areas in the long run. This one application should last 3-5 years.

Here we did the vertical grout lines first and you can see the difference between that and the horizontal lines which we cleaned but still couldn’t get everything out. (Recommendation is to do this before you move in or just after renovation for best effect. )


Application of the Grout Shield is pretty easy. You can do it yourself (and save some $$$) or you could get the company to do it for you. It’s a good work out too (seriously, our arms and thighs are aching from scrubbing, standing, squatting and cleaning) 😛

Here’s a quick overview of how we did it (after cleaning it with the Deep Cleaner solution):

So far the application on our grout at the Genkan area has reaped good results. We will also be using this on our bathroom shower area tiles as well.

Hope this helps some of you guys – wished we discovered this before we moved in!

See the difference between the section we haven’t worked on and what we did? 

Do you need a home-inspection / defect-checking company for your BTO?

After that exciting process of getting the keys to your BTO and immediately heading to your new home before sunsets (okay maybe that’s just us) to have a peek, checking out the view, opening and closing doors, etc…adulthood sets in as we needed to decide if we should hire a home-inspection / defect-checking company, or not.

Here’s a little brief for new (or soon-to-be…congrats!) BTO-owners. 

Timeline:

  1. Collect keys.
  2. Do defect-checking (by yourselves or by hiring a company).
  3. Report the defects (or anything suspected to be one) to your HDB’s contractor – who would have a temporary office set up at the void-deck area.
  4. Defects are rectified (may require multiple checks) and your ID/contractor can come in to start their work. 
  5. Renovations are done and time to clean up! 
  6. Move in. 😍

Firstly just let me state that a defect-checking company in Singapore for a 4-room BTO costs around $500 and onwards, depending on the package that you decide to go for. 

It is expensive and this money could go towards your brand new oven or even pay for a part of your dining set. BUT, there may be scenarios where it is wise to hire one.

Personally for us, we did not engage in one but for some people, it could be absolutely necessary to do so.

Here are several reasons that should lead you to HIRE a home-inspection / defect-checking company:

  • The floors feel uneven and there are many holes in the grout area. 
  • The walls look unfinished and the paint job isn’t done well.
  • The ceiling has holes and isn’t patched up properly.
  • The doors and windows creek and do not close properly.
  • The electricity power points do not all work.
  • The carpentry is substantially bad in quality (you need not focus too much on this if you are planning to overhaul/hack these parts of your home during your renovations).
  • You notice numerous sub-par work/materials such as rusting, leakages, mold build-up and ponding (when your “flooded” bathroom or kitchen water does not flow naturally into the provided drainage).
  • You are extremely particular and have no time/energy to do your own defect-checking. 
  • You would rather part with money, in exchange for a peace of mind.
  • You have noticed many defect-complaints online, regarding your HDB property.

Here are several clues to show that you NEED NOT HIRE a home-inspection / defect-checking company:

  • There are only about 1-3% of minor defects in your HDB-provided flooring.
  • The paint is generally well done and quite even (it is likely you would get your ID to do another coat of anti-mold/washable paint – please do consider this).
  • The ceiling does not need much rectification work.
  • The doors and windows close properly and have minimal creeking sounds.
  • All your electricity points are working.
  • The carpentry is of average-good quality (sad fact: we should not expect a 100% job well done for most contractors in Singapore).
  • There is hardly any ponding occurring when you flood your kitchen and bathroom floors.
  • You would rather take personal responsibility in checking every nook and cranny yourself. 
  • You have a tight budget and would rather spend the money on other parts of the house.
  • You don’t hear of many huge complaints online, or from your neighbors regarding your HDB property.
  • You have a general sense of peace about inspecting your house yourself. 

Ultimately, go with your gut feel and if you’ve purchased the home with your significant other, be sure to come to an agreement with him or her. It is important to collaborate and have a stress-less process, no matter what your final decision might be. 🙂 Relationships are more important than insisting on having your way. 

For those of you who are going to do the defect checking yourselves, we will be doing a post soon on how-to tips and a summarized checklist that we’ve put together (after researching all over the Internet)! 

Hope this helps and let us know what you think. ✌🏻

    Our Japanese-themed home: An interview with our interior designer.

    Would you like a little peek into our Japanese-themed home?

    Would you like to virtually meet our interior designer (ID)?

    This video below marries both of the above. 🙂

    You can say it’s a little ‘collaboration’ between our ID Raemond and us. On his side, he’d styled our home and taken some photos of the interiors (once that’s up on his company’s Facebook page, we’ll let you know). And on our side, we did a little video interview with him – since many of you have been asking about who our ID was.

    We hope you enjoy this video:

    And here’s a photo we took of him. 😛

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    Home renovation details you may have overlooked.

    The home renovation process can be a daunting one but it can be fun too! As long as you’re patient and focused. 

    In order to make it less stressful for you our friends and readers, we want to share some additional tips that we’ve gathered from our own journey and from the online community. 

    You can see more tips from our previous post here


    Oh wow, our home looked like this just months ago! – This is what you could be saying just months from now too! 

    Home renovation details you may have overlooked (& could rectify):

    • For BTO HDB flats, do ensure that your defects are all rectified, before getting your ID or contractor in. 

    This will save you a lot of possible issues in the renovation process, especially if an ID refuses to solve certain “HDB” issues such as water ponding at the toilets – which technically isn’t wrong. Also, a stingy HDB contractor may not want to rectify further problems, which he or she can say is caused by your ID’s workers. If you have the time to finish your defect checking process, before getting your ID to start the renovation, we’d strongly recommend you to do so.

    • Electrical sockets, cable and telephone points – picture how you would go about day to day and where you might need your sockets and the likes of it. 

    Thankfully for us, we had added enough additional sockets and at the right places too. Phew. Just note that usually HDB sockets are nicely depressed into the walls (no it’s not emo) and when you add additional new sockets, these may stick out a bit more. 

    Here’s our hygrometer sitting on an additional (less depressed) electrical socket. Our dehumidifier is working hard to get it down to this humidity by the way. 🙂 

    • Get your appliances and furniture delivered closer to the end of your renovations. 

    Especially for a BTO flat, where it’s common to see many contractors and workers walking in and out of units that have their doors wide open, it is so easy for people to simply walk in, claim to be someone and just disappear with your expensive items. We had a police notice at our lifts, telling us to beware. Do try to work out a schedule (a good ID will help you with this) for when delivery should happen.

    • To hack or not to hack?

    If you’re newly married, think carefully if you’d really need to hack down one room to enlarge the living area. Or, if you’d need to combine two rooms into one to build a full size walk in wardrobe. Or, if it’s practical to have an open concept kitchen, should you do a lot of stir fry or deep frying for your meals. 

    I’ve had friends telling me that they’ve regretted hacking that wall, because now that their family has grown, they do not have enough rooms to accommodate everyone (and hence they have to find a new home). 

    For some friends who aren’t expecting to have kids so soon, had them accidentally too (which can be a surprise blessing), and suddenly – boom! There needs to be a baby room. 

    • If your ID is a creative (meaning that he or she really designs) and is someone you can mostly trust, do not micromanage him or her.

    As “creatives” ourselves, we fully understand how it is like when other creatives put their foot down on their ideas, because of good reason. Of course, there needs to be a fine balance of give and take between the client and the ID. This is where you are the best judge of this; if you can be comfortable enough to leave it to your ID, and bring things up when it makes it uncomfortable. 

    Trust, integrity, a sense of peace, apologizing when needed, being honest, being open…these are important qualities when hiring your ID. 🙂

    So now, there’s no reason for you to overlook these details when renovating your home! ✌🏻

      A guide to a 4 room BTO’s renovation and furnishing costs. 

      Many of you have asked for information on this or a blogpost on this topic – you have been kept waiting!

      We hope this is useful, especially for those of you who are going to start your home renovation journey soon. 

      These costs are based on our personal tastes, decisions and where we live in Singapore. You don’t have to follow it all. In fact, we have not done many “usual” things like buying a TV, doing up false ceilings, getting a sofa at this point, etc. 

      Our home is a 4-room BTO and all prices are quoted in Singapore dollars. 



      List from our Interior Designer: (please note that if you do ask him for a quote, the prices of these items will vary according to the quality, size of your home and your design preferences.)

      Total damage: ~$25,000

      Find Raemond here

      Included: 

      • Design and consultancy – Raemond is more of a designer than a contractor, which is exactly what we are looking for.
      • Demolition, haulage and debris clearing works.
      • Tiling works.
      • Plumbing works.
      • Painting works.
      • Glass works – 2 bath shower screens. 
      • Floor works – vinyl flooring. 
      • Door works – bedroom doors. 
      • Carpentry works – shoe cabinet, kitchen cabinets, bedroom raised platform, and bathroom sink-tops.
      • Electrical works.
      • Miscellaneous works, cleaning and acid wash. 

      As most of you know by now, our home is pretty minimal, so we have kept certain items low on costs, but we did pay a little more for our custom-made frosted bedroom doors – which we love so much till today. It allows light through and it makes the space feel larger and airier. 


      Raemond is design-focused and patient – we would definitely recommend him. 🙂

      We also had to top up around $800 for a HBD contractor to even out our cement screed on our floors, as we had opted out from HBD’s default flooring. Thereafter, Raemond’s guys laid out the vinyl over the dried screed. This is entirely optional. 


      List from Besglas: 

      Total damage: $4505.60

      Find them here

      Included:

      • Kitchen sliding doors (custom 3 panels, top hanging) – $1954.13
      • Toilet acrylic bifold doors (x2) – $328 x2
      • Closet sliding doors (custom 2 panels, soft closing) – $1730.94 
      • The above included installation as well.

      Overall, Besglas was very professional. Everything was installed in less than 2 hours! The workers were also happy working, singing and laughing while completing their tasks. 👍🏻

      List from Aik Leong:

      Find them here

      Total damage: $4315

      • Electrolux washing machine – $899
      • Electrolux induction hob – $829
      • Electrolux glass chimney hood – $859
      • Electrolux built-in oven – $729
      • Ryker fridge (white!) – $999

      Aik Leong is a reputable and long-standing company dealing with appliances. So far, I’ve had no major issues with my appliances and the lady boss is pretty responsive in replying us. 



      List from Dream Lights:

      Find them here.

      Total damage: $1555.

      Included:

      • All the LED ceiling lights in our home!
      • Living room area’s fan with light.
      • Water storage heater tank. 
      • The above includes delivery and installation costs.

      Other lists:

      • 4 Mitsubishi air-conditioners: $3880
      • Sink, taps and toilet bowl: $1605 (We would not recommend this contact as we found out that they are pretty expensive and service wasn’t very good.)
      • Vinyl blinds: $850 – We would highly recommend Carol from Plus Furnishings (Tel: 62702925)
      • 4-tier flexible clothes rack: $229 – We bought ours from Hipvan but we think it’s no longer available. You guys could check out HomeFix or online sources.
      • Service yard windows and invisible grille – $1330 (Service from LeGate wasn’t fantastic but whatever mistakes they’d made, they promptly rectified it at some point)
      • LeGate invisible grille for the living room and bedrooms – $1200 (After discount because of the point above)
      • New queen-sized mattress and beddings: $1958.90 (Courts was having a sale!)
      • Hyflux water filter: $249
      • MUJI dining table and bench: $799 + $309
      • FortyTwo.sg chairs: $98
      • MUJI roller drawers: ~$250 (it’s all over our rooms and part of our closet)
      • IKEA full length mirror with hooks: $69
      • 3 floor fans: ~$200
      • MUJI study table: $418
      • Store room shelf on wheels: ~$150
      • Study room shelf on wheels: $352
      • 2 new large dehumidifiers: ~$1000
      • Miscellaneous items like pails, ladder, cleaning accessories, doorbell, padlock, laundry basket, laundry bags, etc: ~$300
      • Pre-move-in cleaning service: ~$450

      Grand total: ~$51,872.50

      Guys, don’t freak out. We did not pay this amount all at one go. It was paid off gradually over the months, and of course with savings and blessings from our family. By God’s grace, we are debt-free and it is awesome (for our pockets and marriage). Our advice is to buy things gradually and as you need them – this really helps in saving money and buying only what you love.

      We are still looking to buy/customize our dream (practical for humid Singapore/need to spark joy in us):

      • Sofa
      • Portable projector (we prefer not to have a TV)
      • Study room chair


      So this is where we are at now and feel free to ask us any questions in the comments section! 

      You may also visit a blogpost we did here on tips to save money during the renovation process. 

      Does minimalism mean depriving yourself of things?

      What do you think our answer is to that? 

      Heck no of course!

      For us, keeping and maintaining ONLY what sparks joy is what that matters. It is far from depriving yourself of things you truely love and treasure.

      The wife is definitely reinspired again, after reading Marie Kondo’s book

      It has been almost 6 months since we have moved into our new Japanese-themed and what we would call a minimalist home – and we feel that we definitely do not make use of every single item that we have (need to KonMari the home again). 

      Also, we do not yet have everything we want that would spark joy. But! In that is a journey called life. 🙂 In life, we discover, we grow, we evolve in terms of the stuff we need, we find value in, and of course, the people we choose to have close to us (so important). 

      Therefore, minimalism means that we aspire to love/need every single item in our home! A home is a sanctuary to come home to, and we want every single sight that we catch in our home, to spark that little happiness and excitement.

      For the wife, it is fake plants. Yes fake, because it provides the green she likes but yet there is no need to water it nor throw it away after it wilts.

       

      And the wife indulges in her decadent Aēsop products that she cannot get enough of. It’s quality, smell and price(!), is unmatchable (to her). 

      Do you have items in your home that spark joy? It could be anything and don’t be ashamed of it (old band tee shirt, notebook of sketches, wedding album, an old mug, anything). 

      Join us on this journey to have only things that spark joy our homes! 

      Airing out your mattress and wet kitchen items.

      There’re quite a few good home habits that we are trying our best to adhere to, for the sake of our health and the longevity of our belongings.

      One of them is airing out your mattress!

      There is a detailed write-up here if you’d like to know more. 

      We usually air it out on the weekends, when we change our bedsheets (we can’t do that weekly at the moment…it’s too tiring heh). 

      Benefits of airing out your mattress:

      • A cleaner mattress (but of course).
      • Reduced chances of falling ill/aggravating allergies.
      • Less chances of bedbugs or other critters making your mattress their home.
      • A longer lasting mattress. It’s a pretty expensive piece of furniture so good care put towards it is worth it.

      Our step-by-step process summarized:

      (Try to do this in the morning when the sun is out)

      1. Prepare large laundry bags (we got ours from IKEA).
      2. Remove beddings and put it inside the laundry bags.
      3. Lift up the mattress and air pillows/bolsters on a rack. 
      4. Vacuum the mattress or use a sticky-roll to roll away dust/hair.
      5. Spray a dust mite prevention/killer-spray all over the mattress.
      6. Air out the mattress and air pillows/bolsters on a rack, near the window/sun. (Great opportunity to clean the bed frame, or for us, the platform area of the floor where our bed rests.)
      7. Turn on the dehumidifier and face it towards the abovementioned items.
      8. Head to the laundrymat! This includes heat-drying the beddings as well. 
      9. Head home. Air the washed/dry bedding for a while and keep it. 
      10. Take out clean set #2 of beddings and replace.
      11. Sleep on a clean bed. ✌🏻

      The air in Singapore gets even more humid once the sun goes down, so try to get everything done before evening falls – especially if you’re keeping the windows open while airing the mattress. 

      We have kept our pillows and the likes of it as compact as possible. We have also changed our mattress from a King-sized to a Queen-sized (the wife is petite anyway). This makes changing our beddings and airing stuff out SO MUCH easier. Our old King-sized mattress was so heavy and so hard to lift up, but don’t be pressured by us and do what works for you – we have just chosen to be as practical as we can.

      Also, do remember to air out your kitchen items such as dishes, drying racks and bottles. This helps to reduce the growth of mold. See more of our post on fighting mold here

      We hope this inspires you!