Home renovation woes: Interior design firm says 'we face challenges too' during Covid-19

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When actress Joanne Peh made an Instagram post alluding that she had been conned by contractors, many netizens came forward in the comments, sharing similar stories which sparked debate. 

But, are all contractors bad eggs? As the saying goes, there are always two sides to a story. 

For interior design firm Goodman Interior, they told AsiaOne on Wednesday (Nov 24) that things haven't exactly been smooth-sailing for the industry.

They shared the struggles they continue to face while managing an interior design company in the middle of a pandemic — but also acknowledged stories of 'black sheep' in this industry.

The firm stressed that interior designers are in charge of managing entire renovation projects, which include design work and project coordination with various contractors. Meanwhile, the latter are more focused on specific areas, such as tiling and electrical work. 

Shortage of workers

Since the onset of Covid-19, the industry has had to grapple with a shortage of workers due to border restrictions, and deal with flak from homeowners when projects get delayed, Goodman Interior business development director Dawn Tan said.

Also, the 47-year-old added that some materials would take slightly longer to arrive and would result in delays at some job sites.

"Last month, a major material supplier in Singapore had 20 workers who contracted Covid-19 in the dormitory, resulting in delayed installation at many job sites.

"These are the frustrations and challenges faced by us and homeowners currently," she told AsiaOne.

Lack of trust between homeowners and contractors

One major issue is the lack of trust between contractors and homeowners that leads to miscommunication when both parties are conveying their expectations, according to Tan. 

"Homeowners' expectations about workmanship is often the [main issue].

"For instance, some methods of fabrication and installation are carried out based on market practices, but some homeowners may have different perspectives and expectations as design concepts differ from person to person," she said.  

PHOTO: Unsplash

Sometimes, the lack of trust between homeowners and interior designers can be a stumbling block as well. 

"We once had a delayed shipment of some materials because of the pandemic, which caused our schedule to be delayed. Although we tried to explain the situation to the homeowners, they felt that we were using the pandemic as an excuse," she added.

To mediate such conflicts, the company tries its best to be as transparent as possible about work schedules, and pre-empts homeowners about any possible delays. 

'Black sheep' in the industry

Addressing the elephant in the room, Tan said, "We do hear stories of 'black sheep' in this industry who may not be carrying out their duties with due diligence.

"In such cases we advise homeowners to go with trustworthy contractors and interior designers, such as those recommended by their friends and family," she added. 

Shady contractors aside, Peh also mentioned in a comment on her original post that she wished there was some form of regulation, so that there would be "more transparency to protect homeowners". 

“It is our home, a place that gives us peace and protection but it is just another project for them," the actress lamented. 

Echoing this view, Tan said, "It would be good if there was a regulatory framework set up in this industry to foster a more disciplined profession. However, transforming this industry is not easy, due to the nature of the work. There are simply too many complex factors to take into consideration." 

Although there isn't any in place currently, a possible way for homeowners to ensure that their contractor is reliable is to look for contractors that have been awarded the CaseTrust Accreditation for Renovation Businesses

Another tip is to sign a contract with the renovation contractor, and read the terms and conditions thoroughly to understand your rights and obligations

Homeowners who find themselves in dispute with contractors can look to mediation bodies or organisations, such as the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) and the Real Estate Developers' Association of Singapore to settle these disputes. 

Tan reiterated that their purpose for speaking up was not to add fuel to the fire, but simply to raise awareness that they don't have it easy too.

She said: "We hope the public [will] be informed of the challenges that we in the renovation industry face too. There are good and professional ones out there." 

claudiatan@asiaone.com