Starting a home renovation project in Malaysia is a big undertaking. Follow these tips to make sure you hire a reliable and trusted renovation contractor.
When you hire a renovation contractor, you are essentially entering into a long-term relationship. Your contractor will be entering your home for the next few weeks or even months. You will also expect to keep in touch with them for several months after the job is done.
To make sure your renovation project goes smoothly, research is essential. Find out all you can about your renovation contractor’s portfolio, quality of work, and feedback from customers. Gather enough data to give you the confidence to hire them.
With that in mind, here are 10 steps everyone needs to follow when renovating your home in Malaysia.
1. Compile a shortlist of renovation contractor companies
There are close to 20,000 registered renovation contractors in the CIDB database (Malaysian Construction Industry and Development Board) for Selangor and Wilayah Persekutuan alone. With so many contractors out there, it can be very difficult to come up with a shortlist.
This is what most people would do:
- Do a search on Google. This could include searches like “renovation contractor” or “kitchen renovation” or “cabinet contractor”. However, you may be overwhelmed by too many results. And, you still won’t know whether these contractors are any good.
- Ask friends and family. This method can get you one or two good suggestions, but if those recommendations turn out to be busy or unavailable, you’re right back where you started.
- Check the online forums. This method will take a huge amount of time. Forums like lowyat have active discussions on renovation, but you will also have to sift through many pages of long discussions. Many of these discussions show the day-by-day progress of a job, or how to calculate the right size of air-conditioner.
- Get the contact from a neighbour or developer. Since your neighbour’s house is likely to have the same dimensions as yours, you can ask for their contractor’s contact. In a new housing development, there will also be lots of renovation works being carried out, so you can just visit these work sites, and ask for the contractor’s number.
All the methods above can be quite time consuming, and results may vary. You either get too many results, or too few.
Another way to get a shortlist of recommended renovation contractors would be to post your requirements in an online portal such as Recommend.my. Based on your scope of work, you will get several quotes, complete with reviews and portfolio, saving time and hassle of approaching them one by one.
2. Get a few quotes against the same scope (tendering process)
Once you have a shortlist of contractors you want to approach, you can email them your requirements. But it means keeping track of many email exchanges. And, if the contractors on your shortlist are unavailable, or don’t reply, you won’t get your quotes in time.
Alternatively, you can create your detailed requirements once, and send the same details to a larger group of contractors.
Don’t limit yourself to just one contractor. Get several quotes from different contractors against the same scope of work. This will make it easier for you to compare later on.
Recommend.my allows you to do this. When you send your requirements, it goes out to a larger pool of recommended contractors. Those that are interested and available to take on your job will respond, thus giving you a selection of contractors and estimated costs to choose from.
However, looking at cost alone is not the best way to hire, which leads us to…
3. Check for reviews
Contractors will always show you their best side. So it’s up to you to get more honest reviews. When you get responses from renovators, you should ideally be able to read their customer feedback, good or bad, with just one click.
Another way is to Google the names of your potential contractors and see if any positive or negative reviews turn up. You may also want to check the discussions at local forums too to see if any of these contractors have become the subject of a heated discussion or glowing recommendation.
4. Check if they use subcontractors, or everything’s in-house (preferred)
Whenever possible, hire a renovation contractor that has his/her own in-house team of workers. This shows that the contractor is well-established, and also keeps costs under control, since many levels of sub-contractors can increase the bottom line.
Another added benefit of going with a contractor with their own team is that you can have one point of contact, and that person will oversee a dedicated group of workers, as opposed to communicating with multiple subcontractors, each one juggling 20 other jobs.
If your contractor can’t avoid bringing in a few subcontractors to do the specialised work, make sure he/she will be around to supervise.
5. Visit one of their current sites that is close to completion
If you have time (and if your project is big enough), request your contractor to give you a site visit of one of their current projects. Scout the project to gauge their capabilities and workmanship.
Taking this extra step could give you a clearer picture of what kind of contractor you will be hiring.
6. Go for a licensed renovation contractor company
Compared to other countries like Australia or Singapore, there is are less established regulations or accreditation standards for contractors in Malaysia.
However, at the minimum, any contractor needs to be registered with the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB). The CIDB is a statutory body under the Malaysian Ministry of Works. They provide a searchable directory where you can do a search for your contractor’s name.
Unfortunately, the CIDB search form requires you to know the “grade” of the registered contractor, and the state where they made their registration, BEFORE it lets you do a search. So we built a different form for you.
7. Don’t just pick the cheapest price
The cheapest or most expensive quote is not always the best one. The contractors may have made some assumptions to arrive at a cost estimate.
Instead of immediately dismissing their proposal based on price alone, find out the actual reason behind their numbers. They might have assumed a certain type of material, or overestimated the work based on your description.
As long as you are comfortable with their response, portfolio and reviews, it’s best to book them for an on-site visit so that they get the chance to work out a more accurate quote.
8. Ask the contractor to provide references
Nothing speaks more about a contractor’s capabilities than an honest testimonial from a previous customer.
Apart from reading a contractor’s reviews on Recommend.my, you can ask your contractor to give you the contact of one of their previous customers. Give the customer a call and find out:
- Whether the contractor was punctual in their project delivery
- Their opinion on the contractor’s quality of work
- (Important) Whether the contractor was easily reachable during the project
9. Never pay in full up front
Always make your payment according to the percentage of work done at regular intervals. Different contractors will have a different payment scheme, but they will usually require a deposit before they begin work.
Discuss with your contractor and agree (in writing) on a payment schedule based on certain milestones.
A sample schedule could be something like this:
- Deposit payment up front = 10%
- Hacking and demolition complete = 15%
- Masonry, concrete complete = 15%
- Carpentry complete = 15%
- Electrical wiring and plumbing complete = 15%
- Painting, cleanup = 15%
- Final customer acceptance = 15%
10. Get a plan and timeline in writing
Make sure your contractor gives you an official quote and timeline in writing. This makes it absolutely clear what works will be included (or out of scope), and when it is expected to be delivered.
Larger jobs will also require an architect’s plan to apply for permits. Make sure all details are clearly laid out, even down to the location of plug points and lights. Now is not the time to get creative 🙂