The Hacking has started

Hacking at the house has started 3 days ago on Friday. I went over to check the progress and was impressed at extent of the work already done. I'll try to upload the pictures in a few days. In the meantime, stay tuned.

The pre-reno pictures

It's been raining for the past few days so it was difficult to get shots with decent lighting. But then again, it also helped me find out that I need to catch the light for the dining area because it can get a little dim.

The ex-owners were very kind to have cleaned up the house after they moved out. On with the pictures.

How resistant is your countertop to bacteria?

Are you concerned about bacterial contamination of your kitchen countertop? With my toddler son, I know I certainly am.

Today, it is understood that many food items that we purchase are highly contaminated with pathogenic micro-organisms, and it is necessary for the home cook to make these foods safe. Often, the first step in food preparation is cutting and manipulating the food to get it ready. It is essential that the countertop be cleaned after raw food has touched the surface. Otherwise, there can be cross-contamination, and the people eating the food prepared on the cross-contaminated surface can become ill.

Laminate countertops

If the term laminate countertop doesn't ring a bell, the name Formica probably will. Formica is the brand name of the oldest makers of laminate countertop materials.

Laminate Composition and Grades

High Pressure Laminates (HPL) are made by bonding melamine, paper and plastic resin layers through a high heat and high pressure process. This manufacturing process produces the dark brown line at the edge of the HPL. Sometimes you might see a brown line along the seams of the joints of the countertop.

There are specialty HPLs that do away with the brown edge, and have a solid color running throughout the sheet. But these have a smaller range of colors and finishes.

HPLs come in different thickness depending on their intended use. For kitchen countertops, there are 2 basic grades used. Standard, General-purpose or Horizontal grade (0.05") is suitable for countertops, tabletops, shelving and desktops. It is the most resilient grade of HPL and can withstand the most impact. For postforming—the process of forming the decorative HPL into simple shapes—a slightly thinner grade (0.04") of HPL is used. Vertical grade (0.028 - 0.03") is the thinnest and is typically used for low-impact vertical installations, like backsplashes, and cabinets, doors and drawer faces. It can be used for horizontal applications if the surface is not expected to withstand heavy use.

To make a laminate countertop, the HPL is glued to a core/substrate with contact cement. In Singapore, solid-ply is commonly used as the substrate of countertops although particleboard and medium-density fibreboard (MDF) can also be used.
Is there such a thing as non-solid ply? Hollow-core assemblies are more commonly seen in hollow-core doors and areas where a solid core is not needed. A piece of non-solid ply panel is probably made out of 2 thin sheets of plywood sandwiching a skeletal frame of either hardwood or plywood, with a paper honeycomb infill. Of course there is nothing to stop the carpenter having just the frame and omitting the honeycomb infill. I think for the moment, no one has pulled a fast one in using hollow-core for kitchen countertops, but there is no harm in giving it a tap or two just to be sure.

Much ado about Kitchen Countertops

Finding a suitable countertop for the kitchen can be challenging. It needs to be durable, stain-resistant, easy to clean & maintain and aesthetically pleasing.

Because of cost, I began my reno planning believing I should go with Solid Surface. I thought to myself, its about mid-priced and so long as I'm careful to maintain it (i.e. wiping off spills quickly, diligently using trivets, etc) I should alright. But the more I read about experiences of home owners who chose Solid Surfaces, the more the negative voices bothered me. Before long, I started to doubt if it is the right choice after all.

So before I make my final decision, I wanted to take a closer look into the world of kitchen countertops. I'll be posting as I go along so things might get messy for a while until I can organized it more coherently. I'll start with the simplest (and cheapest) and move up to the most expensive.

Next up: Laminates
Oh before I forget, most contractors and ID are likely to quote for the countertop as a separate item from the kitchen cabinets (but I'm not too sure about laminate countertops though).

My Draft Kitchen Layout

One of the IDs that I'm evaluating just got back to me with their intial design. I kind of like where they are going. Because I haven't engaged them, I can't post the design up as yet.

What I did do, is used IKEA's kitchen planner to do up the kitchen layout as they have proposed.

Kitchen Layouts

The kitchen layout deals not only with the proper selection and placement of appliances and cabinetry, but also is the very foundation of the design of the kitchen. It will also determine how cook-friendly the kitchen is.

A kitchen layout should be designed around a work triangle. From the smallest kitchen to one on a grand scale, all kitchens are equipped with the same basic appliances. The significance of a kitchen layout is to arrange everything within a functional kitchen plan.

Regardless of the perimeter shape of the room, most kitchens are organized around one of several basic kitchen layouts, each with its own type of triangle: One-Wall, Galley/Corridor, L-Shape, U-Shape, G/Peninsula Shape and Island.

However, in today's modern homes that embrace the open-concept by removing walls and eliminating door ways, new arrangement styles may be necessary. The traditional idea of lining the perimeter of a kitchen with base and wall cabinets may not work in a modern kitchen.

Kitchen Work Triangle

The kitchen work triangle is an imaginary triangle that connects the sink, refridgerator and hob. This work triangle is functional centre of any kitchen. The goal is to place the 3 most common workareas or zones in the most efficient distance apart, and to minimize unnecessary traffic through this work zone.

The 3 traditional zones are: Hob - Cooking/Hot Zone, Sink - Preparation Zone and Refridgerator - Consumables Zone. It might be different for you if you use the kitchen differently. These represent the 3 points of the work triangle.

Efficiency of the kitchen is the main goal of the kitchen work triangle, as it keeps all the major work areas near to the cook but not so close that the kitchen becomes cramped. The kitchen work triangle is also used to minimize traffic within the kitchen. If the work stations are too far away from each other, it probably means that you'll be taking a few extra steps each time you prepare something in the kitchen. On the other hand, if they are too close it means you might have a cramped kitchen with little place to work.

Kitchen Zones

Popularized by the modular kitchen, the concept of zoning the kitchen is based on the idea of setting up the work area to accomodate the function performed there. While we may or may not actually buy kitchen modules, I think knowing the design principles will still help us when we model our own kitchens.

Image courtesy of Dynamic Space by Blum

There are 5 common distinct work areas identified for a kitchen: Cooking/Hot Zone, Prep Zone, Cleaning/Wet Zone, Non-Consumables Zone, and Consumables Zone.

My motivation for this blog

For sure there are lots of reno blogs out there, and in them are many gems of information for those who would spend the time to read through all the posts. And then, there are the various forums where people meet to share about their experiences. Again, there are tons of information to be had but one have to have the patience to swim through the countless topics and postings to glean them. Finally there is the portals with articles on renovation design tips and ideas. But I found these to relate more to people living in the Americas, Europe and ANZ.

What I needed and hoped for is an online resource where I can find all of these information in one convenient location, but more importantly, which is relevant to me. I looked but I haven't found any with a local context.

So in response my needs, I decided I'd create one for myself.

Here in this blog, I'll be putting up all the information that I came across while doing research for my renovation. And for fun, I'll organize it tongue-in-cheek magazine style and group the posts into the following categories:
  • Küchen Essentials
  • Simply Living
  • Bedroom Basics
  • Bath and Beyond
I'm not claiming to be trying to create the "be all end all" online resource for all things reno in Singapore. That would be too conceited. What I hope to do is do something useful with the information that I've collected for myself and hope that it will be useful to those also embarking on the renovation trail.

The blog is still in its infancy so bear with me while I flesh it out. Post in comments if there is something you wish to contribute. I'll add it into the main post with due credits.

Woah! This is so going to the "About this blog" link... once I get around to doing it.

My Floorplan

Rollover your mouse pointer on the image to see the changes (shown in red) from the default HDB layout.

This is the floorplan to my new house. The current owner made some modifications which I liked. Basically he relocated the entrance to the 2 bedrooms. As a result, I have more contiguous space instead of having one of the bedroom door interrupting the flow of the living room.
Other changes I am considering:
  • Hack away the storeroom for a bigger contiguous space to play with in the kitchen. Since it is not a CD shelther I think this will not be an issue.
  • Relocate the common toilet entrance to face the service balcony. Again this is to give me a more contiguous kitchen space.

Air Conditioning

I'm considering either Diakin, Panasonic or Sanyo air-con systems.
My current StarMex Easy Clean, which I have had for a little over 2 years, has been a big disappointment. I've also been told by people who does air-con servicing that StarMex is known to problematic. I was skeptical at first, putting it down to either a bad installation job or just my luck that I got a bad unit.
That was until a week ago when my air-con went bonkers. It first happened to my room. On and off the air-flow wasn't cooled. It was just regular humid warm air being pushed out. Soon it was happening in the other rooms.

An Adventure Begins

2nd appointment with HDB is on the 11th Nov 2009. That is also when I'll be getting the keys to my new house.

That doesn't leave me with a lot of time for the renovation since CNY is just round the corner. From my past experience, most of the workers in the renovation industry is from across the straits and they typically return home about a week before CNY. Thing is they don't return until the 7th day or the 15th. Which means unless I want to have a 2 - 3 week gap in the renovation schedule, I need to aim for completion 1 week before CNY. That gives me roughly 3 months max for the renovation itself.

I'll need to select a good and reliable ID, confirm the design and finalize the scope of work by the 11th Nov to maximise the renovation time.

Let the adventure begin!

Home & Furnishing Events

Extracted from Singapore Expo website.
August 2009
Home Ideas
Home Ideas 2009
Date: 08 Aug - 16 Aug
Time: 12 noon - 10 pm
Admission: Public - Free Admission
Venue: Hall 6A

General Home Consumer Fair. Interior Designer, Furniture, Furnishing, Home Appliances
September 2009
Gracious Homes 09
Gracious Home 2009
Date: 05 Sept - 13 Sept
Time: 12 noon - 10 pm
Admission: Public - Free Admission
Venue: Hall 6A

Gracious Home 2009 is a show that caters to all homeowners. With a combination of new products, services and expert advice, this show will give you countless ideas on enhancing your home's comfort and functionality.
October 2009
Singapore Home and Design 2009
Singapore Home & Design 2009
Date: 03 Oct - 11 Oct
Time: 12 noon - 10 pm
Admission: Public - Free Admission
Venue: Hall 6A

Showcasing Celebrity Dreamhome. The Most Anticipated Home Exhibition of The Year.
Gracious Living 2009
Gracious Living 2009
Date:: 24 Oct - 01 Nov
Time: 12 noon - 10 pm
Admission: Public - Free Admission
Venue: Hall 6A

Gracious Living 2009 is a lifestyle home interiors exhibition. With increasing demand for the full range of home furnishings, interiors and out-door lifestyle products, this exhibition is the ideal place to keeping homeowners aware of exhibitor's latest offerings.
November 2009
Perfect Living 2009
Perfect Living 2009
Date: 14 Nov - 22 Nov
Time: 12 noon - 10 pm
Admission: Public - Free Admission
Venue: Hall 6A

Features the latest Furnitures, Furnishings, Interior Design, Home Appliances and other up market products.
December 2009
Dream Home 2009
Dream Home @ Expo
Date: 05 Dec - 13 Dec
Time: 12 noon - 10 pm
Admission: Public - Free Admission
Venue: Hall 6A

Dream Homes @ Expo, the only homeshow that showcase top furniture manufacturer, interior designers and latest home furnishing products and home electrical appliances for 2010. Planning for a home of your Dream.Don't wait, a different home show never to be miss.

Living Tomorrow 2010
Living Tomorrow 2010
Date: 05 Dec - 13 Dec
Time: 12 noon - 10 pm
Admission: Public - Free Admission
Venue: Hall 6A

Living Tomorrow 2010 is the ONLY place for you to experience what's new in Home, Home Decor, and More! You'll have the opportunity to meet over hundred experts and experience thousands of products and services.

Do you think there are good deals to be had at these shows?


Before I forget, the disclaimer.

This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of the people, institutions or organizations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

Also, my thoughts and opinions change from time to time as I come to learn more and develop my understanding about the things and issues that I am blogging about. This blog just provides a snapshot of the knowledge, views, and opinions that I hold at a particular point of time and these might probably change over a period of time. I reserve the right to evolve my knowledge, thoughts, and viewpoints over time and to change them without assigning any reason.

My blog includes links to other sites/blogs operated by third parties. These are provided as a means of convenient access to you to the information/opinion contained therein. I am in no way responsible for the content of any other sites or any products or services that may be offered through other sites.