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? 

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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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. 

5 Renovation tips we wish someone had told us.

Some of these advice are those we have applied in our own home renovation, others are discovered along the way, after moving in for more than a few weeks (where the cleaning routine begins).

Even if you are someone who is pretty relaxed about ‘dirt’ at home, or if you have a helper, we hope that these tips would still benefit you in the long run. 🙂

Here are our 5 renovation tips!

  1. Choose larger tiles with less grout-lines/joints or rectified tiles that do not require much grout to keep them joined together. This saves you lots of time scrubbing the dirt that builds up in your grout (sadly, no one on earth is immune to this). We have mosaic tiles at our Genkan area and wish we had chosen larger tiles, so that cleaning is easier. It isn’t a huge regret but it is definitely something worth your consideration.

  1. Get as large a sink as you possibly can! I cannot stress how important this is. Larger sinks allow for more space to soap larger pots/pans, or soap/wash in big batches. Our sink is of a pretty average size for BTOs in Singapore, but we wish we had gotten a sink that’s at least 10cm wider (ours is 70cm-ish). We were initially worried about maximizing counter-top space, but we have more than enough counter space after we had inherited an IKEA movable island on wheels from a dear friend for our kitchen. However, this ‘small’ sink issue is solvable by washing as you go along or having a dishwasher (which isn’t common in Singapore). 
  2. Building on the point of sinks, this tip was given to us by another dear friend who is now living in the States. She told us not to get right-angled (90-degree) corner sinks as scrubbing the food/soap scum from these corners is a painful process. We took her advice and got ourselves a rounded-corner sink and we have no regrets!

  1. Select stainless steel over chrome finishing on your furniture or kitchenware. Chrome corrodes and rusts so quickly in our humid Singapore climate. You may be lured in because chrome usually costs a lot lesser (sometimes even 50% of the cost), but it will not last you for more than a few years without rusting. But may we caution you that stainless steel CAN BE STAINED (don’t be fooled by the name), so do still keep it away from chemicals as much as possible. Well, just keep everything as dry as possible if you live in Singapore, heh.

  1. Vinyl flooring is such a breeze to clean and maintain! Also, we’ve had two friends tell us that when their child falls down on vinyl, they do not cry (but they do cry on tiled flooring) – this is because vinyl is softer in nature. Our tip is to get your contractor or ID to use the thickest vinyl boards (8mm or 10mm I believe) that’s of the best quality. If not, the corners of the vinyl may fray as the years go buy. Anyhow, vinyl is generally a lot cheaper than marble or tiled flooring, so it’s a great ‘starter-flooring’ for young married couples, who are dealing with the real financial pressures of living/working in Singapore.

Hope this helps!

We may add more tips as we discover them along the way. Tell us what you think. 🙂

6 Tips to make home-cleaning easier (during the design phase).

A huge number one general tip is to reduce the number of cleaning surfaces that you have in your home!

Here’s breaking it down into some specifics for you:

  1. Avoid having overhead kitchen cabinets with exposed tops. Some of you may like exposed tops due to its design (with lights and all), but do note that you will have to stand on a step ladder at least 1-2 times a month to clear out cobwebs & dust. The same goes for any exposed shelving.
  2. Avoid elevated bed frames. We have lived with an elevated bedframe (without storage) for the past 4 years of our marriage and we promise you that there’s a dust monster living underneath our bed! 
  3. Avoid building fixtures that have tiny grooves or hard to reach spaces. Keep emphasizing to your interior designer or contractor the importance of easy cleaning. Don’t stop asking him or her, if the designs are practical to clean and maintain.
  4. Avoid carpets and mats that you have to vacuum often or that you can’t easily wash. In Singapore’s extremely humid climate, we tend not to NEED these to keep warm. We have it for a certain look & feel. It’s ok to want it, but do consider if it’s worth having you vacuum it & to sweep up its “shedding” when you reach home at night, or during your precious weekends.
  5. Install one-sheet vinyl window blinds, instead of curtains or venetian window blinds. Our vinyl blinds are so easy to clean & it blacks out the room very well. 
  6. Avoid building in fixtures that you’re unsure if you need or want yet. This will not only save you money, but time in cleaning these extra items.

If you are a minimalist and generally quite neat – you can still maintain a clean home without following our tips. And there are smart ways to clean the “harder-to-clean” items that we’ve mentioned above. 

However, for most people in Singapore, we go through long days (& sometimes evenings) at work. We come home hungry and tired, and we just want to relax. Therefore, any reduction in effort and time in cleaning is always welcomed at our home! 

Importantly, evaluate what’s practical for you and what would make you happy (knowing full well the consequence of cleaning that it entails). Apply what suits YOUR lifestyle and what would satisfy YOUR design dreams. 🙂

An unconventional closet space.

Here is a glimpse into our unconventional closet space. Why not stick to the status quo, do you ask? 

Let’s explain how is it unconventional:

  • It does not have any fixed shelving nor fixed poles for our clothing. Reason: We have portable poles and Muji drawers on wheels, so it keeps things flexible according to our changing needs, and it’s going go be easier to clean.
  • It comes with 2 transparent glass sliding doors. Reason: For light to shine through to sun our clothes, which also reduces humidity. 
  • We proceeded to install a normal swing door, which “eats” into our closet space. Reason: This closet/study/music room can be converted to something else in the future, should the need arise. So we chose not to seal the doorway.


This photo is viewed from the perspective of you standing in our master bedroom, looking through our hacked wall, into the closet room.

The two of us are going to share this space and honestly the wife is pretty excited to continue to have less clothing clutter but selected stuff that she loves and cannot wait to wear. 

This photo above sparks so much joy in us. 

In just a few weeks, we’ll be moving in and we can’t wait to share more photos with you!

So in love with our kitchen glass doors. 

Thank you Besglas for doing such an amazing job with our glass door installation. We love love love it. 

As you already know (if not hello there!), we have themed our house to a Japanese theme because of our love for Japan and Japanese culture. 

Therefore, having a feature Japanese sliding door (or likened to a shōji door) was integral to the design that we had in mind. Much like the one in this photo below.


Image source: Phaidon

So we custom-made something that’s white, glass & with less divides so it’s more practical for Singapore’s weather and easier to clean. We are huge on things that are easy to clean. Huge on it.

Here are the lovely doors waiting to be installed.

Here is our kitchen entrance before the doors were installed. It’s bright and beautiful, but who wants to deal with grease escaping into the living room? Also, our air conditioner is able to cool the dining and living space better if we had doors to close up the kitchen space.

Todah!

The three workers from Besglas were so professional, efficient and excellent. We are super impressed and thankful. They were even laughing and joking as they worked – which was very rare to see.

Anyway, do ignore the empty drawer spaces as our carpenter is doing some small adjustments for us so they took the drawers back. 

On top of a successful day of installations (there were other doors being installed), we got to meet our next-door neighbors. We gave them a tour of our home and they gave us a tour of theirs. It was lovely meeting them. 🙂

We also met our new Corgi neighbor and it greeted us by licking our toes and then swiftly running away!

What an amazing way to start the weekend.