Your Reno & Decor Questions Answered

We answer your renovation and decorating questions with help from industry experts. E-mail questions to

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

We answer your renovation and decorating questions with help from industry experts. E-mail questions to

<b>Design</b> JOEY KHU.
<b>Design</b> JOEY KHU.

I informed the management at my condo that I was experiencing a leak in my ceiling and they notified the upper-floor neighbour. He was advised to replace his water supply pipes in his master bathroom. However, a month after he replaced the pipes, the leak still remains. What should I do?

You should inform your neighbour that the leak has not stopped. “Your neighbour should engage a licensed plumber to investigate the source of water leakage, so as to identify the origin before doing any repairs,” advises Doreen Low from water-leak specialist Global Technical. You can contact PUB to make a request for licensed plumbers who do leak detection work. Leak detection work is important because without locating the source, the repair cost will be high due to unnecessary hacking to find the leak. Specialist equipment can be used to detect leakage in walls or false ceilings non-destructively.

According to Doreen, common sources of leakage include sewage pipes (under the purview of your condo management), air-con condensate pipes and basin discharge. While you’re at it, give the ceiling moulding a good clean, too. If you don’t own a duster, use a dry mop, but cover the mop head with a microfibre cloth or an old T-shirt. 

My home is dim and needs some large mirrors, but they can look clinical. Any suggestions?

Nothing beats mirrors for their ability to brighten up a space, but if you find regular mirrors “cold”, try tinted ones.

This trending material provides subtle hues and warmth and can create a special ambience. Keep in mind that dark tinted mirrors don’t reflect as much light as a normal mirror, says Mark Yong of PIU Design. Other options would be gold-tint mirrors, bronze-tint mirrors, and untinted antique-finished mirrors. Mark recommends the last option if light reflection is a priority, as it is clear like a regular mirror, but “tarnished or with mercury run-offs”.

Don’t limit mirrors to walls; you can apply them to tabletops, cabinet fronts and even ceilings. 

Does using aromatherapy burners in an air-conditioned room cause mould to build up in the coils of the air-con unit?

Yes, says a spokesman for LG Electronics Singapore. As your essential oils diffuse, oil particles in the air get absorbed into the air-conditioner where, over time, they accumulate dust. “The air-con blowers will also get wet from condensation and the moisture becomes a catalyst for mould growth,” says the spokesman. “This is the perfect condition for mould to multiply quickly, especially during periods when the air-con is turned off and the temperature rises in the room. This causes jelly-like substances to form that will clog up the fan coil and reduce wind flow, leading to further clogging of the water pipe that results in water dripping.”

Engage an air-con specialist to conduct a chemical cleaning, which will remove accumulation from every part of the unit, including the filter and evaporator. Expect the entire fan coil to be removed for dismantling, cleaning and disinfecting.

<b>Design</b> FREE SPACE INTENT / <b>Photography</b> DARREN CHANG.
<b>Design</b> FREE SPACE INTENT / <b>Photography</b> DARREN CHANG.

I would like to start growing herbs in my apartment, but my window don’t have ledges. Where can I place my herbs so they get the right amount of sunlight?

Cynthea Lam of Super Farmers grows basil, mint and spring onion inside her home, near a window that receives two hours of the east-facing sun, and they are thriving. She says it’s important they find a spot with at least two to four hours of filtered sunlight (which comes through a shade).

When caring for herbs, consider her ‘Big Four’ tips:

Transplant herbs; do not leave them in their original pots as “the roots may have become overcrowded and are seeking for new space to grow. With every root fighting for nutrients, the plant will turn yellow or wilt”.

As soon as possible, transplant the herbs to a bigger pot (with drainage holes) using good soil.

Next, watering. “There is a science to watering. Try to coincide with the plant’s time to make food once it receives sunlight. So, either wake up at dawn to water your plants, or water them the night before,” she says. Overwatering causes roots to rot, and water twice a day if hot or windy conditions dry up the soil.

All plants need to be fed nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, as normal soil does not provide enough of these resources. There are chemical and organic fertilisers available, but Cynthea goes all-organic by using her three-year-old’s urine. “He still pees into a potty, so I collect his urine, which is sterile when freshly collected, and dilute it with 10 parts of water. This is one of the most balanced fertilisers Mother Earth has to offer,” she says.

Lastly, pinch your herbs. “My favourite quote is ‘pinch to grow an inch’,” shares Cynthea. “This is especially true for growing herbs, because we want more of those beautiful leaves for cooking. Pinching (also known as topping) encourages the plant to double its growth by developing new growth at the pinched site and keeps the plant bushy.”

You can also pinch off the flowers to flavour honey or tea. Pinch 10 to 15cm off the top of each stem and no more than one third of the plant in total, using shears or your fingernails.

Herbs that are easy to grow in our local climate are basil, mint, Indian borage, spring onion, coriander, curry, and pandan. 

<b>Design</b> LIFE INTERIOR DESIGN / <b>Photography</b> VEE CHIN.
<b>Design</b> LIFE INTERIOR DESIGN / <b>Photography</b> VEE CHIN.