Experts Say

How to avoid being cheated by contractors and other tips for homeowners

You can go for the best of both worlds and opt for both leather and fabric furniture.
You can go for the best of both worlds and opt for both leather and fabric furniture.PHOTOS: HOME AND DECOR

Low water pressure? Check for leaks

How can I boost my water pressure to allow for a rainshower? 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.


If the water pressure in your bathroom is not ideal, it could be caused by a leak in the pipes.

"The PUB has set a standard to deliver a minimum pressure bar of between 1.2 and 2 for HDB homes, condominiums and landed homes", says Grohe Singapore's marketing manager Ng Chai Fong.

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 how you can check for leaks and rectify them at www.tinyurl.com/checkleaks.


Fabric or leather furniture?

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, so if you are going for a more decorative look, choose fabrics.

But make sure you have plain as well as patterned pieces for a good balance.

Or you could make your decision based on price, maintenance needs, durability and feel.

Leather furniture is generally more expensive than fabric- upholstered pieces, but they tend to last longer. 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 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 Singapore's humid weather, some may feel warm when they sit on leather furniture, but that is not a problem if your environment is cool.

Do not 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.

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.


Who pays for repair of ceiling leaks?

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 home owners.

When the upper-floor neighbours are uncooperative, grassroots leaders may be called in to mediate and, as a last resort, the HDB may take legal action.

Responding to news reports of neighbours refusing to allow contractors to enter their flat to carry out repairs, former Minister for National Development 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 home owners 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.


Contractor accreditation gives peace of mind

I have heard renovation horror stories of contractors and interior design firms which 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 homework, such as checking the company's track record and speaking to clients who have used its services.

Even then, there have been cases of renovators with a good track record going rogue.

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 issues such as pricing transparency, service standards and delivery of work. Case will 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 customers.

Customers can claim compensation or deposit refunds from insurance companies if a contractor does not deliver the work.

The scheme also specifies that the business must adopt the Case Trust Standard Renovation Contract. Case will provide mediation if necessary.

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


Home & Decor magazine's editor Rebeckka Wong and experts in the renovation and home decoration answer queries from readers in this series. These questions first appeared in the January issue of Home & Decor, published by SPH Magazines.

Got a decorating or home renovation issue? Write to Experts Say, Home & Decor, 82 Genting Lane, Media Centre, Level 7, Singapore 349567 or e-mail maghomedecor@sph.com.sg. Photos and layouts are non-returnable.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 09, 2016, with the headline 'Home and Garden: Low water pressure? Check for leaks'. Print Edition | Subscribe