Your reno & decor questions answered

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

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

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


If the ceiling in my bathroom is damaged due to a leak from the flat upstairs, who pays for the repairs?

For Housing Board (HDB) flats, both the owners of the upper and lower floor units have to bear the repair cost, which is split equally. Through a referral from their grassroots leaders, they can benefit from HDB’s Goodwill Repair Assistance Scheme, which will pay for half of the repair cost; the other half will be equally split between the two homeowners.

When the upper floor neighbours are uncooperative, grassroots leaders may be called in to mediate and, as a last resort, the HDB may start legal action. Responding to news reports of neighbours refusing to allow contractors to enter their flat to carry out repairs, Minister Khaw Boon Wan, in 2014, called for more power to be given to the HDB to carry out investigations and repairs quickly.

If you live on the top floor, and the leakage is from the roof of the block, contact your Town Council for repairs. Residents of non-landed private property will have to adhere to the Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act, which places the responsibility for the leak on the upper floor, and makes them liable for the repair cost, unless they can prove otherwise. The homeowners of the upper and lower floor units have to jointly investigate to determine the cause of the leak and have the repairs done. If there is a dispute which cannot be resolved, the case has to be referred to the Strata Titles Board.

How can I boost my water pressure to allow for a rain shower? What if I live in a landed property?

According to the Public Utilities Board (PUB), “the water pressure available at different parts of the island varies depending on the elevation of the land and the time of day”. In general, the water pressure is highest when the consumption is at a minimum, and lowest when consumption is at a peak. So, different types of homes across Singapore receive different water pressures. “The PUB has set a standard to deliver a minimum pressure bar of between 1.2 to 2 for HDB homes, condominiums and landed homes”, says Ng Chai Fong from Grohe Singapore.

If you feel your water pressure getting weak, it could be a sign of a leak. Over time, fixtures might get loose, pipes can corrode, and lime deposits may build up. Read about how you can check for leaks and rectify them at

To enjoy a rain shower, your current water pressure might suffice. Rain showers from Grohe are the soft rain type (not hard spray), says Chai Fong. For those who dream of a rain shower from a showerhead with minimum hacking, she recommends Grohe shower systems with showerhead sizes of 160mm or 180mm. For hand-shower systems, you can consider the 130mm Power & Soul hand shower.

Photography VEE CHIN
Photography VEE CHIN

I’ve heard renovation horror stories of contractors and interior design firms who provide shoddy work, or worse, no work at all. How can I avoid getting cheated?

Unfortunately, the renovation industry here is unregulated, and it is hard to tell who you should trust with your renovation. Do the usual homework, such as checking the company’s track record, and speaking to other clients who have used their services before. Even then, there have been cases of renovators who go rogue even if they have a good track record.

There is an existing renovation accreditation scheme under Case (Consumers Association of Singapore) Trust, the consumer watchdog’s accreditation arm, which calls for the renovation company to adhere to a strict set of criteria relating to pricing transparency, service standards, delivery of work, and so on. Case will also provide mediation in the case of disputes.

The good news is that more is being done – a new accreditation scheme by Case and the Singapore Renovation Contractors and Material Suppliers Association (RCMA) announced last August calls for accredited contractors to buy a $50,000 performance insurance bond for their customers. Customers can claim compensation or deposit refunds from insurance companies if a contractor does not deliver the work as promised. The scheme also specifies that the business must adopt the Case Trust Standard Renovation Contract. Again, Case will provide mediation, if neccessary.

Accredited businesses can display the Case Trust logo on their shopfronts and marketing materials, which is a signal of good business practices.

Should I opt for fabric or leather furniture? What are the benefits of each option? Do they suit a particular theme?

To answer your last question first, fabrics come in more colours and patterns than leather does, so if you’re going for a more decorative look, choose fabrics. But make sure you have plain as well as patterned pieces for a good balance.

Otherwise, you can make your decision based on price, maintenance, durability and feel. Leather furniture is generally more expensive than fabricupholstered pieces, but they tend to last longer – as they say, leather wears in but fabric wears out.

Leather is also easier to clean; spills can be easily wiped off. Spills on fabric furniture have to be washed out, although you can photography VEE CHIN apply a fabric protector to prevent liquids from settling in quickly.

In terms of general maintenance, leather needs to be conditioned about every six months, but fabric needs to be vacuumed more frequently to remove dust and dust mites.

In our humid weather, some may feel warm when they sit on leather furniture, but that is not a problem if your environment is cool. In any case, don’t expose leather or fabric furniture to direct sunlight, as that will cause the material to deteriorate.

Whatever the material, try sitting on the piece for about 10 minutes in the shop to see if you are comfortable with it. Leather is a natural material which is porous and breathable, so it might be a fallacy, after all, to say that sitting on leather furniture makes you warm.