Whether you want to refresh a dated design or completely remodel, map out your forever home with our expert guide to top to toe renovations
If you’ve just moved into your new home then putting your personal stamp on it probably tops the wish list, and it’s the ideal scenario to carry out any major works before you move in. We asked some local experts for their top tips.
Top to toe or no?
Julian Straube, founder, Algebra Contracting says: For most people, opting for a complete remodel is what makes a house their home. We strongly advise our clients to do everything at the same time. Of course there’ll always be a certain amount of discomfort and inconvenience from noise, dust etc., so it’s better to get everything done in one go. It also makes more sense in terms of the contractor having access to an empty apartment or villa, the fixed costs involved and for any permissions. Developer NOCs and government entity approvals come with a time limit, and it doesn’t make sense to go back and forth for multiple project approvals unless absolutely necessary.
Jason Kotecha, managing director, The Big Fitout says: It’s far less disruptive to have all your required renovations done at once and means some of the more invasive jobs such as powder coating of doors, tiling of staircases, replacing an entire kitchen and changing external doors can be done at the same time with no one in situ. When ordering materials you can also get bigger supplier discounts for a larger order. Also, if remodelling more than one bathroom, for example, then the tile wastage calculation will be lower as the remaining tiles from the first bathroom can be used in the next, which means a cost saving.
How long will it take?
Paul Philmore, managing director, Space3 says: For a full villa renovation, allow around 10 weeks for completion.
Julian: We factor in design and approvals as taking up the bulk of the first few weeks, so this could stretch even a moderately-sized apartment to two months. It’s imperative to work with a contractor that will provide a realistic timeframe, and one that takes into account fluid circumstances, such as expiring rental agreements and moving deadlines.
Jason: A bathroom reno can take as long as four weeks if there are a lot of walls to remove and plumbing to relocate. A kitchen takes on average four to five weeks. It’s far more efficient to tag team multiple room renovations. For example, with a bathroom project the shower glass can only be measured after the tiles are installed. This means there is a one-week gap where no work can take place. However, if there is more than one bathroom then the team can move onto the next one to keep the project moving.
Choose your contractor
Paul:It’s essential to do your due diligence when considering which contractor to go with. Ideally, you would get a reference from someone who has used the company before. Google reviews are a great source. I would also check whether the company has a portfolio as that paints a pretty good picture of what they can deliver, and you can always ask to view one of their completed projects. Lastly, the age of a company is another good indicator of reliability. We get a lot of enquiries from jobs that were stopped or halted midway, due to either the contractor closing down, disappearing or the work quality being well below basic standards. A company with market longevity gives a certain assurance that the project will be finished.
Jason: Check if they specialise. A lot of contractors are a Jack of all trades. So, they will take on commercial offices, apartments and villas but not specialise in any of these nor in any one area. If you find a contractor that does specialise, you will find that they are experts in working with a specific developer on approvals and also up to speed with the various rules and regulations. In addition, they will know a lot about the various villa types, their structures and ‘unique oddities’, such as the way they were wired, how the plumbing’s done, or how the walls are supported. That means a lot less risk in incurring hidden expenses later on.
From one-stop shop building materials providers like MIHhome.com, homegrown hardware and home improvement stores such as RAK Ceramics and Danube Home, to big box brands including ACE and IKEA, there’s no shortage of resources to suit every budget and aesthetic. Specialist retailers include MAS Paints for paint supplies, and Iconic Home, GROHE, Bagnodesign and Ideal Standard for high-end kitchen and bathroom solutions.
Do it yourself
Renovation by Harf Noon Studios
If you’re on a budget, handy with a hammer and paintbrush and your remodelling plans don’t involve structural work or a municipality permit, then a DIY solution may be just the ticket.
Step 1: Map out what you want to change, refresh or redesign and assess what you can realistically do yourself and where you need to hire expert resources.
Step 2: Visit Dubai’s numerous building materials suppliers and hardware stores to scope out what you need from kitchen cabinets to paint to door handles, in order to put together a reasonable budget.
Step 3: Get quotes from local handyman services or qualified technical experts required for the bigger jobs and put an achievable project timeline in place.
Home renovation do and don’ts
- Negotiate a discount with your contractor for a larger full villa project, as opposed to a smaller space project like a bathroom remodel.
- Think carefully about committing to a top to toe renovation. Unless the contractor can provide 3D visualisations and direct you to a select number of recommended suppliers, as well as being there for support all the way, then a full renovation can be extremely stressful and daunting.
- Use a more neutral colour palette if you are thinking about longer term resale opportunity. With such a diverse nationality mix in Dubai, everyone’s décor taste is different; so neutral is a safe bet.
- Expect the process to be the same as in your home country. Different rules, regulations and timelines apply depending on project scope.
- Just opt for the cheapest quote. Do your due your diligence in order to find a company that you feel comfortable with.
- Go for natural wooden flooring. It doesn’t last well in the humidity and is subject to damage from leaking A/C units, daily mopping etc.
Top renovation requests
Julian:In older properties, kitchens are usually the first areas that require renovation, especially those of mediocre quality originally. Plus, they tend to date very quickly. The modern trend for open-plan kitchens is also a reason why clients want to remodel. Bathrooms are next on the list, largely due to the fact that the standard specifications that came with the original build is often fairly basic. As an intimate personal space, many people want to make a strong style statement. The majority of new builds comes with a standard finish so there’s no individuality or character, plus there are often issues with layout functionality. We have worked on countless upgrades and layout changes to vastly improve usability.
Jason:As far as bathrooms go, the powder room is often a top priority, as this is what your guests use. Apart from the big projects, installing new flooring and painting doors and walls are in-demand services.
Paul: More and more clients are also requesting extensions and bi-fold style doors to open up spaces to let in more light and air.
Jason: Rather than concentrating on simply making your apartment or villa fit a future buyer’s profile, invest in designing a tasteful home that suits your needs. To appeal to a broader market demographic when it comes to resale appeal, stick to a neutral colour palette, particularly in terms of tiles and kitchen cabinets. A lot of clients we work with have stretched themselves financially in buying a property and don’t have the budget to commission a full renovation. So, they tend to buy villas with a neutral colour scheme that they can live with while saving up to renovate to their personal taste.
Paul: You want your home to be comfortable, but it’s important that any modifications are not too personal when it comes to taste levels. You also want to ensure that you have all the right approvals so as to not jeopardise future sale potential. Banks and lenders are becoming increasingly insistent on having the correct paperwork in place.
Julian: Common sense must prevail when investing in a full renovation. For example, if you renovate your home to a five-star luxury standard but it is located in a two-star building, it doesn’t make financial sense. In general, however, renovations do increase property value and boost potential rental incomes.
Getting the green light on your renovation
Dubai’s residential communities and developers may have different requirements when it comes to applying for permits from the various government entities involved, says Paul Philmore of Space3. Check out his checklist…
- Your contractor will start the ball rolling by drawing up detailed plans and getting the correct insurance in place to submit to the relevant government authorities
- Factor in administrative/NOC fees – from Dhs1,500-5,000 per application, depending on project scope and documentation urgency
- A refundable deposit is usually required before a No Objection Certificate (NOC) is issued. This is refunded upon completion of works and following a full health and safety, environmental and community compliance check.
- Dubai Municipality approvals (including architectural/structural drawings, affection plan and permitted area schedule) is the next step, but only once you have the NOC
- You’ll also need a contractor entry permit. This can be applied for once the NOC is issued.
- The project NOC must be displayed and ready for inspection outside the property while works are being carried out. Your contractor will also need to provide a skip for any project refuse/discarded materials
- External alterations and structural changes are usually strictly prohibited (so ditch the idea of adding a conservatory).
Contractors we rate
- Space3, 04 456 2212
- Algebra Contracting, 04 883 7300
- The Big Fitout, 058 5050200
- Another Level Technical Services, 055 340 0959
- Interact Group, 04 442 6886
Before you make the move have a read over our moving in checklist and brush up your home maintenance task list for all those jobs to be completed throughout the year in a UAE home.