7 common reasons why your renovation may be delayed and how you can avoid them

How to avoid renovation delays.
PHOTO: Stackedhomes

There's no doubt about it — this is officially the worst time to be renovating your home. 

From rising material costs, to supply chain issues, it's a torrid time for everyone involved in a renovation project.

It's made an already much-maligned industry face even more scrutiny, with renovation horror stories popping out as frequently as the number of times we've flipped flopped on Covid-19 rules in Singapore.

Here's the thing, the best way to keep your sanity in any renovation project is really to manage your expectations.

Now, most people assume the best in a renovation timeline — that all parties will be able to religiously follow it and everything will be done on time.

Unfortunately, many out-of-control things are more common than you might think in renovation projects.

Even something like a seemingly unrelated ship stuck in the Suez Canal could indirectly mess up the schedule because materials may not arrive on time.

And if you consider the effects of the global pandemic (even though things are opening up), it's even more likely for a renovation today to get delayed.

Focusing on the things you can control will save you from many headaches (you'd also want to have a plan B should things get out of control). To help you with this, I have shortlisted the usual causes of reno delays and some tips on how you can cope with them.

A break in the chain of tasks

One of the first things you should know is how a renovation project timeline works.

Some parts may depend on the previous job to be completed, while others can be done independently.

To give you a better picture, here's how a typical renovation sequence goes:

  1. Hacking
  2. Masonry
  3. Tiling
  4. Plumbing
  5. Electrical points
  6. Air-conditioning
  7. Painting
  8. Carpentry

As an example, certain tasks like painting can only be done after the air-conditioning systems are installed. Purchasing an AC system doesn't mean you can install it straight away as most of the time there will be a certain lead time before the installation can happen.

Typically you'd need to get the AC piping done before any painting can be performed. As such, you'd want to ensure your AC system is bought beforehand so that the installation can be done on time.

Think of it like a chain reaction. No painting done means carpentry can't be done, pushing back on carpentry may mean that you don't get to schedule the carpenters exactly when the painting is finished as they will work on other jobs first — it's a headache to reschedule everything.

A good ID will know what to schedule first and can help micromanage the tasks. That's why it's still vital to hire an experienced ID to help oversee a reno project, especially for those homeowners who are doing this the first time.

Scarcity in labour

Limited labour is one of the biggest effects that the pandemic brought to the home renovation world. As the crisis starts to clear up, it doesn't mean that availability of labour will immediately follow suit.

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

Even with Malaysia opening its borders, it could still take some time for existing projects to clear up. And as these projects start to clear up, there will definitely be more new projects that will get piled up as the demand rises.

Again, an experienced ID will have more than one party of trusted subcontractors they can rely on should there be delays in the first appointed party.

If you're managing the subcontractors yourself, you could end up facing gaps in your schedule if you don't book them in advance.

Again, this is another reason to get good IDs/contractors who have the experience to schedule everything well.

Delays in acquisition of materials

The global supply chain issue caused by the pandemic hit a lot of industries worldwide. Car manufacturers experienced chip shortages which prevented them from hitting their manufacturing quotas.

Retail stores, both online and offline, also had to take some of the blow as it hampered the continuous delivery of goods.

However, the effects of the supply chain issue do not stop at the commercial level. People renovating their homes with unique materials or furnishings sourced from overseas are more likely to face more delays. I've heard of some people waiting a year for some of their furniture to get sent over.

And this takes us back to the sequential process of renovation.

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

Let's say you sourced a special type of tile for your bathroom flooring. You'll need to wait for them to arrive first before you do anything else.

If you don't want to face delays due to the supply chain complication, it would be best to source locally instead of shopping overseas.

While it may even end up being more expensive (or a lack of unique choices), at the very least, you won't have to deal with significant reno delays.

A waiting game on permit processing

For those renovating their HDB, you will need to apply for a permit by HDB before carrying out any renovation — this can take up to three weeks.

If you are going to hack certain walls, or are doing stuff that is uncommon, this could take even longer.

Unfortunately, there's no way to skip this step, even if you only need to change your home's layout for the slightest bit. Without doing so, HDB will force you to revert any changes you've done to your flat to their original state since they'll consider your reno project as unauthorised.

Read Also
3 key steps to prepare for before renovating
3 key steps to prepare for before renovating

For private property, this can depend on the type of work you are doing (you can check out the BCA site for more) as not everything will need approval.

You will also need to get a renovation permit from the MCST of your condo before proceeding with works, although this shouldn't be very complicated at all.

Waiting for your HDB permit is the most obvious example of how sequential a renovation work is. You can't start anything at all until you receive it. And while some people think that the sequence ends here, you know better now.

If you want to somehow get the odds in your favour and receive your permit earlier than three weeks, it's better to work with an ID or contractor with extensive experience in this task.

Don't know where to start? Make sure that the contractor you're hiring is listed in the Directory of Renovation Contractors.

Unforeseen circumstances

Studies show that humans are generally optimists for most of life.

As such, most wouldn't think of unexpected circumstances that could crop up during the course of the renovation.

Here are a few to think about:

It could be a failing waterproofing on the roof that suddenly needs a prompt solution. Or it could be a termite infestation under the wood flooring you originally wanted to keep.

Homeowners who buy resale condos sometimes end up adding to the reno project while it's already ongoing. For instance, they may not plan to renovate the bathrooms because they are in seemingly good condition.

But it was found out halfway through the renovation that it's leaking and needs immediate fixing.

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There have also been cases during the renovation that whatever works you do end up impacting your neighbours a floor below (water leakage is probably the most common).

This could end up in a variety of ways, from having to look into the issue to solve it first before proceeding with more work, or it could be the start of a major repair that throws a huge spanner in the works.

If you're unaware of these issues beforehand, you might need to repair them first or look at a revamp of the design, which takes additional time.

With more thorough planning, your ID can detect early on whether the state of the roof's waterproofing needs fixing or if there is a termite infestation.

While it's never a good thing to ignore them, at least they'll be able to include these repairs in the reno timeline.

Fussy neighbours

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It's not unusual for a neighbour or two to get irritated by reno work near their flat. However, even those without the tendency to be fussy before can become more finicky because of the pandemic. It is understandable as those working at home will be less tolerant of the noise and activity.

Some neighbours could be at their wit's end too as you may just be the 3rd consecutive renovation in a row. So they may just complain to HDB if you possibly overstep the stipulated timing of 6pm by just a little bit — which then sometimes you may be hit by stricter than usual measures.

Here's what you should do.

Introduce yourself to the neighbours and explain the timeline of the renovation. You could even share your number so the neighbour can contact you if there's an issue.

And to top it all off, no harm in giving them a gift as a gesture of appreciation.

This helps foster better relationships from the beginning and seek their understanding as you get your home renovated.

Correcting renovation mistakes

Renovation horror story.
PHOTO: Stackedhomes

Remember the renovation horror story we shared recently (the one where the wrong wall was hacked). That's a terrible mistake that goes beyond delays in the schedule.

It's usually because of the lack of coordination between subcontractors. If the job was done by a previous party, and subsequent works have been done on top of it, it could result in a long chain of works that must be unbundled and redone.

Additionally, most homeowners who choose the DIY route are more susceptible to renovation mistakes, especially if they have no prior experience.

If you don't have the luxury of time for delays related to correcting renovation mistakes, I recommend those who are thinking of DIY-ing to still appoint at least an experienced contractor with a dedicated construction manager assigned to your project right from the start.

It may cost a little more than to sub-con each trait out, but you will lower the risk of losing time and money from mistakes.

More additional work

Did you know that an unintended pause in renovation can lead to additional intentional delay? 

With the reno project stuck, it gives you more time to think about the progress. There's nothing wrong with it unless you end up changing your mind. 

Halfway through renovation, you may suddenly decide that you don't like a certain colour, or the floor and cabinetry don't match.

Adding more work to the scope will obviously take additional time — whether you're waiting for new material to get delivered or scheduling more workers to complete the task.

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

When homeowners start second-guessing their design, it might seem like a logical decision. The contractors are already sprucing up the place, so it's best to make the changes now rather than later.

But here's the reality, the changes can be harder to implement and will be more expensive. Changing even something seemingly small may have a domino effect that most would not anticipate.

Thus, putting everything you want on the table during the design phase is essential. Be meticulous and specific.

Because once the actual work starts, you need to consider your design to be set in stone if you are working on a strict timeline.

A realistic view on renovation timelines

Ultimately, expecting a renovation to happen without delays is like expecting your flight to be on schedule all the time — it's bound to happen.

You should think of your renovation timeline as a roadmap or a sort of guide that helps ensure all tasks required for the project are completed.

And even if delays happen, it's not the end of the world — or of the project. Don't let the possibility of these delays overwhelm or discourage you.

ALSO READ: 3 key steps to prepare for before renovating

With so many moving parts in a renovation, it's impossible to control all the variables. Even your ID and contractors can't promise a smooth sailing project all the way (try as they may).

Having realistic expectations on your renovation timelines are important, both for better peace of mind for you, and all the parties involved in the project.

It also allows you to plan your time beforehand more efficiently, especially if you need to rent a home in the meantime.

This article was first published in Stackedhomes.