As much as I complain about home renovation I really do enjoy it. Over the years I’ve slowly become the prototype middle-aged guy – happy to spend hours on end wandering the aisles of D-I-Y stores, debating over tiles, faucets, paint swatches, and the like, that would basically all do the trick at the end of the day – yet the endless selections available make the decisions that much more arduous.
Dipping your toe into renovations can be a daunting task – something I’m sure I’ve touch upon years ago in my writings. But, having taken some years off from writing and having renovated a few properties of my own since, I think I have a fresh perspective.
Having bought and sold several homes since being in Thailand I’ve yet to find one that fits the bill on all fronts. Perhaps it’s born from having parents who have taken the task of renovating every home they’ve ever lived in, top to bottom, trying to make it ‘their own’ – only to get itchy feet once it’s completed and moved on to the next project, having sworn each would be ‘the last one’.
Everyone has their own style (which, of course, changes over time) and it’s been tough finding a home that fits for me. Even after we’ve finished I’ll end up strolling my house late at night with a glass of wine in hand questioning my own design decisions. Call it OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder). Call it alcoholism. Whatever.
From my fairly vast experience I can honestly say, for those of us without endless funds at least, the three most important factors to settle on when starting a project are purpose, budget and theme.
Why are you renovating this place? Is it for yourself, for resale or for rental?
Firstly, if you’re renovated for yourself – most of us don’t have the luxury to not think of having to resell down the road. Renovating a place to your very own spec without a thought to what others many think if you decide to resell later on is a bold move. I’ve seen some pretty freaky places where the owner must have taken this mindset onboard. Unless you’re planning on dying in the place, you must always keep resale appeal in the back of your mind.
Therefore, in all aspects of renovations, hopefully you have a broad idea of what most people are after in today’s market. Be sure to include at least a few elements you know most people would want that may be a little outside the scope of a typical home in your price-point – small things such as an oven or dishwasher in the kitchen of a cheaper home – elements that will make your place a bit more memorable, no matter how small or inexpensive they may seem in the grand scheme of things.
A feature wall (wallpaper, tile or even just a different colour paint) which sounds very trivial but can really change the feel of a room. Small things like dimmer switches, rope-lighting – things that will set your home apart from others in that price-point.
Choosing nice tiles is probably the cheapest and easiest thing you can do to make your property look a step above.
There are some beautiful tile choices out there for under Bt500 per sq m that can set your place apart from the rest that will cost you nothing compared to the extra appeal your property will offer compared to bargain shopping for clearance Bt200 sq m crap.
In a 150 sq m house this represents a cost differential of about Bt50k including bathrooms and will make your place look so much better. Stick with 60 x 60 tiles in main living areas and these days try and stay away from super glossy tiles – semi-glazed or flat-finished tiles are much easier to keep clean, show fewer defects and just look generally tidier. They look great in bathrooms too, though 30 x 60 tiles can also look very nice, particularly laid in a brick style pattern. A feature tile wall in the bathroom is also a nice touch. Again, this costs you almost nothing other than a bit of planning and thought.
With regards to kitchens, whatever the purpose – spend the extra money.
Cheap kitchens peel, fade, fall the pieces and don’t handle wear and tear – something that all kitchens always experience.
A good quality kitchen should last 10-20 years – something that cheap drop-in kitchens will never do. Better to spend the money now and not go through the cost and hassle down the road. Whether for yourself, resale or rental, a nice kitchen will always make a place, even if it’s not used frequently.
Most of us know how much we have to spend, or at least how much we’ve got allotted to this particular project.
You have to be able to look at a project and know – okay, this is going to cost me about half a million or two million Baht, or whatever the size may be. But this must be derived from something.
A shot in the dark won’t work. At this point you really need to be honest with yourself as to what you can afford and what level of quality you’re expecting and will be happy with. There are plenty of contractors and suppliers out there that will fit a lower budget, but don’t expect a high quality of finish if you’re paying peanuts.
I’ll pause here to give an example. You can buy single-glazed, aluminium pre-sized, ready to-fit windows at Thaiwatsadu that will fit a whole standard 200 sq m house for Bt100,000 that your guy can fit himself.
Or you can buy made-to-order, double-glazed laminated glass uPVC windows fitted by professional installers from a reputable company for Bt700,000. Obviously a huge difference. And think about why you want the high-end quality.
Is it for you? Is it for resale purposes down the road? Is it based on what you can afford? Does it make your house easier to resell? Is it a cost that you’ll be able to recoup later?
This is quite possibly the hardest thing to stick to. You’ll see lots of different tiles, colours and accents that you like.
Try to stick to one idea. Don’t make your place too boring by sticking to one colour pallet, but do stay to one general idea of how you want your home to look.
Don’t have different tiles in every room or bathroom or different coloured walls in every room.
Mix it up a bit but try to have a general them that runs through the place. Don’t try and hit every note. Think about a general theme and tone and run with it – and make sure every room complements the last.
So don’t be put off the prospect of renovating here. Sure there are horror stories around and no matter your contractor, there will be some stress involved, but if you’re like me and want to leave your impression on your place, the end result can pay great dividends both personally and financially.
By Stu Sutton
Stu Sutton is managing director of Jomtien Property and has worked exclusively in the Pattaya/Jomtien real estate market for 16 years.
Please feel free to contact him with any queries, compliments or good jokes at
086 108 6575, [email protected]
or visit Jomtien Property’s website at www.jomtien-property.com