Interior renovations of an old home

Our place hasn’t been renovated in decades. We’ll need to basically gut out the interior (change the plumbing), redesign the whole place, get new furnishings, etc.

Who here has experience with this? Who to approach for the construction/design? Any general advice or suggestions?

1 Like

Find two or three interior designers whose works appeal to you. Get a quote from each of them. Hire the one whose quote is within your budget, but be sure he’s someone you can easily communicate with. If you’re gutting out the whole place, you should give it 6 months for the whole project (from signing the contract to moving into your newly renovated place). Good luck!

Expect the shittiest imaginable third-world work ethic and craftsmanship, because that’s exactly what you are going to get.

And any quality appliances or fixtures (especially posh imported ones) that you want to be installed will be installed as above.

It’s guaranteed.

You get what you pay for. Don’t go with the absolute cheapest quote you get.

By the way not everyone here have absolute shit third world work ethic. I just had my jointer knives professionally sharpened. Cost was 180nt but the quality was so impressive that it was actually sharper than new. I could tell it was professionally ground on a machine and not some guy with a bench grinder. But you really need to find the right people for the work. Some people can be unscrupulous and therefore you won’t get the best quality of work but others who are more honest may give you a quote (compared to the quality of furnishings and materials) that is a bit high, and even out of your budget. I would say go with someone who is a little expensive simply because he probably isn’t cutting corners so he can get work from unsuspecting clients.

Although I would probably unlearn what you learn about woodworking and renovations that you learned from the likes of Bob Vila and others because they do not work in the same way. So when you ask for methods it may seem unsafe, the wrong way, etc. but that’s how people here work and it works for them. Just make sure the cabinets, if any are square and plumb. Yes they do have tools to check them and they should know how to use them. Just that some people are very “chabuduo” so watch out for that.

1 Like

For me, you or your wife/husband/partner need to remain on site as much as possible and look and act as the Laban/laobanyang. At the beginning of the process find something minor you are not happy with, make them change it. In the end, they will think it is less hassle to do it properly in the first place.

Like any industry, there will be a range of prices and quality. If you want a specific recommendation, my boyfriend works for his uncle’s interior design company here in Taipei. They’ve been in business for about 25 years, and were featured in the Design magazine’s 25th anniversary issue last year. They do a whole range of design… anything from apartment remodelling to designing the exterior of buildings and vehicles. You can PM me if you want their info. Good luck with your reno’s!

1 Like

If I had the money, I would hire this guy.

[quote=“Taiwan Luthiers”]

So when you ask for methods it may seem unsafe, the wrong way, etc. but that’s how people here work and it works for them. Just make sure the cabinets, if any are square and plumb. Yes they do have tools to check them and they should know how to use them. Just that some people are very “chabuduo” so watch out for that.[/quote]

From what I have seen from the work done by Taiwanese on such things as house renovations, car repairs, or whatever, is that everything looks okay on the surface.

What you can’t see are the fundamental, dangerous things like stressed plastic water pipes hidden in walls that are (just waiting to crack), the electric connections held together by sticky tape in the bathroom ceiling crawlspace (just waiting to start a fire), or the bolt that the mechanic stripped while putting the head back on your newly rebuilt engine.

By the way, I remember an article some time ago by a reporter who went back to visit some of the places featured on those god-awful “heavenly home” TV shows. What he found was pretty shocking, with most of the places basically having fallen apart with stuff broken, doors hanging off hinges, water leaks, etc etc. Just because the design looks pretty on TV doesn’t mean the build quality is good.

I don’t know. You might need to find the same people who makes quality “Made in Taiwan” items from factories, and perhaps they are a totally different breed of workers compared to people who does house renovations. As far as I know all it takes to do house renovations is a truck and some tools. There doesn’t seem to be any sort of industry regulation and clients seeking to cut costs just want things to look good on the surface.

The jointer knives I had sharpened doesn’t just look good on the surface, it’s sharp and flat as well, just as good as it would have been done by an American sharpener who charges much more. You really have to find the right people and see how things are done, and pay attention to things that aren’t immediately obvious such as electrical wiring. You definitely want it done by someone certified to do electrical wiring, not just any random home renovators. Electrical certification does exist and ask if they have them. The reason they aren’t done right is probably because they were done by the same people who tore down walls, did the tiles, etc. who probably do not know all that much about proper electrical wiring.

Just be prepared to pay for actual quality, though it won’t be as much as what they charge in America.

[quote=“gnaij”]Our place hasn’t been renovated in decades. We’ll need to basically gut out the interior (change the plumbing), redesign the whole place, get new furnishings, etc.

Who here has experience with this? Who to approach for the construction/design? Any general advice or suggestions?[/quote]

I have undertaken three major (50萬+) renovations.

The first time, I found a builder by simply walking onto construction sites around the neighbourhood and looking at the quality of the work and speaking directly to the laoban. Eventually, I found a guy who seemed competent and whose price seemed reasonable, but in the end the quality of the work was only fair.

Second time, I went on the recommendation of the friend of a friend. I was very pleased with the results and contracted the same builder again for the third property that I renovated. Apart for the quality of the work, the thing I liked about him was that he wasn’t interested in doing unnecessary renovations just to create more work for himself (and hence more money). Actually, because he was good, he was also in demand, so his interest was in saving his time and my money so that he could move onto his next job.

So my advice would be to ask around and seek recommendations from people who have had their homes renovated.

As far as renovating old homes is concerned, I know you said that you want tips on interior renovations, but IMHO the most important thing is you have to make the house waterproof. Water kills houses in Taiwan.
If you have a tiled roof, you may have to replace it with a sheet metal one.
If it’s a wooden structure, you’d better call some specialists to exterminate white ants. You may need to replace some beams and supports.
Gutters and drains will probably need to be replaced.
If you have a concrete slab roof, you can use a paint-on waterproof coating. You’ll need three coats.
Rather that new masonry on the external walls, you can use PVC cladding, which is cheaper and will keep the water out longer than painted cement. On the other hand, you may not like the appearance, so perhaps just limit it to the sides and back of the house.
On the inside, you’ll most likely have to replace all wiring and plumbing.
You may want to consider a new floor, in which case you can put the wiring in the floor (which I did in this property … 0#p1463984 after removing the internal walls).
Rather than a tiled floor, you might go for plain cement, which can be polished, stained (see … 5&t=116451) or covered with vinyl or carpet. There are also some epoxies that look nice, but I haven’t tried them.
Windows will probably need to be replaced, too. Go for thick glass, which makes a noticeable difference in terms of sound-proofing.
Hot water heater - if you don’t need large capacity, you can install an electric one in the false ceiling of the bathroom to save space. Besides, they’re not particularly beautiful things, so better to keep it out of sight.
Kitchen - go for quality. Some are just crap.
Air-conditioning - if you’re not a big user, consider a reconditioned system. You can save a lot.
Ceiling fans are much more sensible that standing fans.

That’s all I can think of right now.

1 Like

I am doing a full remodel now. Moving A/C, full paint, lights, baths, etc. I have numbers if you want them

I am renting, and the biggest remodeling I have done here is a coat of paint.

Quality, I guess that you get what you pay for. I live in a rather old but fairly good house in Taipei, no water leaks or anything.

The interior design job done there was done 20 years ago - at least. having lived there nearly a year, I have to admit that whatever they did, it worked. Everything looks good, all doors close and stay on, the surfaces look great, every detail was taken well and truly care of. I am impressed with the workmanship of the place. It is a little worn in places, however overall it has stood up well.

The flip side - it must have cost a pretty penny to have done back then, however quality is expensive, I guess.

A few things to keep in mind before investing in an expensive interior including new tiles.

You are responsible for maintaining the pipes and plumbings leaving your apartment on the floor below.

It’s a good idea to ask the downstairs neighbor if they are planing to renovate in the near future. The same goes for the neighbor above.
If possible, change all the pipes below your apartment, which your floor has to pay for. At least change the connections passing through your floor down into the pipes running under the ceiling below.
Check all the pipes under your ceiling and if necessary, ask your neighbor living above to change them, which he has to pay for.

Our upstairs neighbor just did a complete renovation. He bought that house recently and before putting in his new tile floor, he asked the house management if he should bother us with that kind of question.
Even though, they knew that we had a number of dripping problems over the past five years, they told him that we are most likely not interested having some fixing going on in our apartment.
They were so wrong and I am quite (A.E. pissed) right now. After the earthquake in Taipei last week, the connection going through his floor burst and he ended up taking all the tiles in his kitchen and bathroom area out.
We haven’t been sleeping since the earthquake cause the water kept dripping and sometimes even running faster than I could change the buckets.

It’s fixed now and he can put a new floor again.

Also, it doesn’t really matter how much money you invest. You will have to supervise your workers. Another thing is your liability. If they work for example, at the windows, this is your construction site and you should make sure that they take the full responsibility (written in text) or you better watch out and make sure that nobody gets hit by a stone.

1 Like

double post

I work in a family owned real estate development co in TW and an a licensed architect from the States. I would recommend you look for a qualified inspector or architect to check your “old home” before proceeding on any major renovations. I say this because a majority of old buildings show signs of moderate structural damage or water leakage within 30 years due to typhoons and earthquakes. I would hate to spend a bunch of money on a gut renovation when your structure or walls are already showing signs of failure. You may need to get that fixed before undergoing a renovation.

A lot of interior designers will insist on removing or relocating walls in your house. I have seen interior designers hammer down a reinforced concrete wall for the sake of their design. I don’t think they knew it was reinforced concrete until they began demolition. Needless to say this is extremely dangerous as some of these walls are necessary to support the weight of the building.

I have seen a lot of construction (new and old) in taiwan. Like what one of the previous posters said, everything looks great on the surface, but can be very dangerous on the inside. The industry has a lot of fakes and cheaters with the promise to do everything you want for cheap. I would supervise the construction personally to see if they are cutting corners on anything. Many times they will switch to cheaper products when you are not looking. Oh! and I would also make sure you leave a bathroom available for the construction workers to use, because if it is not convenient enough for them and they are unsupervised, some will just pee in a corner of your house.

Just use common sense and it doesn’t hurt to consult a licensed individual to help you through the process. Good luck on your renovation!