Tuesday, October 22, 2013

DIY- Decorating Boy's Room (HDB common room)

While teaching the boys to read the clock, we realized that their bedroom wall was a little plain, especially after doing up their baby sister's bedroom.

We first bought the decals for the vehicles and clouds but found it a little plain. So we bought some roads and added more to the wall. See the results below.
HDB common room decoration with wall decal for Boys
See the link to purchase the decal online from amazon.
Decal for vehicles

Decal for clouds

Decal for roads

Comments are welcome!

Also see

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Guest Blogger: Holiday Surprises For The Family

Holiday Surprises for the Family

In order to bring richer content to our readers, we have tied up with other bloggers to post as a guest.
Please welcome today's guest blogger Bob from

I look forward to the holidays because they remind me of wonderful childhood memories. I'm a pretty sentimental guy so when I get the chance to think back to those memories, I take advantage of the opportunity.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are the two big holidays I spend the most time preparing for. I enjoy spending time with my family and I make sure that my home has a few memorable surprises every time they visit. I've taken the liberty of jotting down some of the projects I've worked on in the past. These projects provided the right amount of excitement. I love the look on their faces when they come over!

1. Paint Job
Painting was probably the easiest and cheapest holiday project I worked on. I didn't paint my entire house green and red, but that was one of my initial plans. It was going to cost more than I thought to wrap my home in paper and bow. Instead I decided to paint my bathroom. It's the smallest room in the house and I knew that if I got sick of it, repainting the room would not be a huge problem. I sketched a few branches on large brown paper and taped them to a freshly painted white wall. I then painted over the paper with red paint. The result was a winter landscape against a bright red Christmas background.

2. Light Fixtures
In the past I've changed light bulbs in the kid's rooms to reflect the Christmas mood. I know it sounds corny, but green and red lights shining through the bedroom door made me laugh uncontrollably. A simple green tinted bulb can supply all the Christmas cheer you need. I also heard of a great DIY project involving wine bottles. These bottles are usually ornately designed so adding a few inches of LED lights inside a few of them can provide some interesting decoration. I'm stilling thinking whether or not I want wine bottles sitting around on my table. I saw an article about changing a light fixture so I've given thought to installing a special light fixture in the dining room. Maybe it will give our dinners a fancy feeling.

3. Kitchen
The kitchen is probably the most important room in your house for the holidays. It’s where everyone will gather. It’s where the kids will roll out sugar cookie dough, where your uncle will go for Thanksgiving Day game beers and where your mother will say the gravy is too lumpy. Don’t give anyone anything to criticize by giving your kitchen a quick update. Fresh paint on the walls can breathe new life into the kitchen. Or, if the cabinets are in good condition but about as stylish as big ’80s bangs, fresh paint and hardware on the cabinets can make them look as good as new. White is always a classic, or consider painting the upper and lower cabinets different colors for a contemporary look. New hardware – silver or matte black are very “au courant” – will finish the look.

4. Bathroom
I spent a few years as a plumber so the bathroom is my favorite place to make changes. One of the first projects I worked on was actually turned into a gift for my daughter. I placed steel fittings around a mirror and surrounded it with LED lights.For me the bathroom is probably the the most important room for the holidays. My family sometimes stays over for entire weekends so I know the bathroom will be a busy place. I already mentioned the paint job idea I implemented before. Alternatively I thought about simply coordinating towel bars, wastebaskets, toothbrush and even toilet paper holders with holiday themes. I've also considered making general changes such as adding a new vanity and sink which can cost as little as $100. I'm most familiar with the shower and sink but I've never been able to think of anything fancy for the holiday. I saw an article about channel drain showers and thought about how amazing the looked. Maybe one of the models from Quick Drain USA. They make the bathroom look incredibly modern. That's not really my style but I know my family would be so excited about it.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

HDB Ceiling fan installation (Part 2)

Caught this comic strip on the Straits Times last week.
Advises consumer on the basic checklist on ceiling fan installation.
HDB ceiling fan installation from the Straits Times

Also see

Monday, September 23, 2013

HDB Energy Saving: West facing Apartment? Beat the Heat!

In sunny Singapore, the west facing apartments will always face the brunt of the setting sun. Our HDB apartment happen to be one of those.
HDB Flats in Sunny Singapore

In our experience, the late afternoon sun approximately 4pm to 5pm has the biggest influence on the residents' thermal comfort. The discomfort and inconvenience is 2 tiered.

Firstly, the indoor ambient temperature 4-5pm can sometimes can be unbearable and be as high as 35 Deg Celcius. 

Secondly, at about 5-8pm, the wet facing wall would have absorbed sufficient radiation from the sun and starts to emit heat into the room. This is also known as a "hot wall" effect. Air-conditioning cost will increase to cool the "hot wall" down.

What can we do about this?

Creative Passive Solutions:
1.  If you are lucky to have the laundry drying area facing the west, dry your laundry on the west facing side. Although I was told by many seniors citizens that it is better to dry wet clothes in the morning sun. I wonder why this is so... Please share if you happen to know.
HDB Laundry scene

2.  Beat the 4-5pm heat by going to the National Library to enjoy free air conditioning.
National Library of Singapore, Courtesy of nlb

3.  Chill out in a swimming pool 4-5pm for less than 2 dollars at the neighborhood SSC swimming pool.
Chilll out at the Swimming Pool, courtesy of SDSC

4.  Stay on the rooms on the east side.
Now that you have loosened up..... here is the real stuff.

Active Solutions:

1.  On the west facing wall, close all windows, day curtains, curtains to provide maximum insulation against radiation penetration. This was the first thing we did, unfortunately, our curtains were not thick enough to black out the evening sun. The indoor temperature was could be as high as 33 Deg Celcius. Looks like we need to spend some moola to get some comfort. 

2.  Convince HDB to use "cool paint" to repel radiation. 
There are products available in the market to help improve our lives. Can we use it? Are developers looking into this or they are just considering mass production? Check our solacoat, a water based acrylic coating with membrane additive which helps to reflect solar rays. This option is a long shot.... I can't do it alone.

3.  Hang blinds on the west facing windows.
I would have pushed for this if we are allowed to hand the blinds outside the window pane. The blind gets in the way of the curtains which also serves a value aesthetically. 

4.  Apply Solar films on the west facing windows.
High reflective solar films was initially my favorite choice. Until I learnt that HDB has a 20% cap on the reflectance for solar films that can be applied on HDBs. If so, what is the point of applying the solar film??
An associate who applied the solar films on her windows advised us against the solar film as she claims that the film will deteriorate after 2-5 years, turning the window into an unsightly bubble pop. In turn, it was a nightmare to remove the "melted" film which has bonded tightly to the window pane under extreme temperatures.

5.  Apply Black-out curtains on west facing windows.
Surprisingly, these are not common in Singapore, given the all year round summer. This was our eventual solution. The details are coming up in the next posting!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Choosing Ceiling LED Lighting (How to check and ask for quality)

With the emergence of a large variety of products from the "emerging" economies, (no pun intended) it is sometimes difficult to tell good value for money.

In my context,
Good value for money = fair price + good quality
Fair value for money = high price + high quality OR fair price + fair quality OR cheap price + cheap quality
Poor value for money = fair price + poor quality OR high price + fair quality
In short, you pay for what you get.

After some investigation, we would like to share our 2 cents worth with all the readers.
HDB renovation 2009- Ceiling Light before installation

1. Look for thick plastic

HDB renovation 2009- Ceiling Light, thicker plastic is better

2. Look for Metal hinges (plastic ones will crack after 2 years when you try to remove cover for bulb changing)

HDB renovation 2009- Ceiling Light- ask for metal hinges
3. LED ( aka Light emitting Diodes) are the latest trend in the market. They are energy efficient, requires lasts much longer but are more expensive. We will not cover the details of LED here. But in short, the LED must work with a driver (which converts Singapore Power's AC current to Direct current) The drivers usually fails before the LEDs.

So the trick is to ask for 2 sets of LED with their independent Drivers. If 1 driver fails pre-maturely, the other set is running, so you will not experience a total blackout.
This is of course on top of the warranty!

HDB renovation 2009- In 1 Ceiling light fixture, 2 independent sets of LED (Small squares arranged in a circular fashion) and drivers (the white boxes)

Also read:
Shopping for Lights
Problems with False Ceiling and Lightings
Lighting- cost savings
Lighting Concept

Ceiling Fan Installation (Part 1)

We have shared the benefits of having a ceiling fan in a HDB flat and the choice of ceiling fans was also explained for the readers' benefit. To complete the story on this topic, this post covers the ceiling fan installation process.

1. Preparation and Delivery
a.   Clear a working area below the designated ceiling fan area.
b.   If there is an existing installation to be displaced or removed, plan in advance.
c.   Standby a home ladder if you have one
d.  On the arrival of the fan installer, explain what needs to be done.
e.  Check the delivered items against your order form.
HDB renovation- Ceiling Fan and Ceiling Light delivery

HDB renovation- Check the delivery item to your order document

f.   Prepare some refreshment for the installer. Helps increase the quality of work!

2. Removal of existing installation (if any)
a. Plan beforehand if this installation (eg lighting or old ceiling fan) is going to be used else where or to be disposed of.
HDB renovation- Removal of Existing Lighting

b. By briefing the installer when he arrives, he can plan his sequence of works effectively. You can also negotiate for disposal into your purchase.

HDB renovation- Preparing the Lighting for disposal

3. Anchor Bolt
a.   Check the instruction manual for the recommended number of bolts required
b.   Most ceiling fans will recommended at least 3 to 4 secure bolts per fan. Note that the bolt is only considered secured if the bolt-nut can be tightened with increasing resistance.
HDB renovation- Installing the Anchor Bolts for the Ceiling Fan

c.   There is also a minimum spacing between all bolts, including those from the previous installation.
d.   Most experienced installers will know how to reduce dust using paper and plastic bags. However, it cannot be 100%.

4. Assembly and installation (Ceiling fan and Ceiling lights)
a.   Take the chance to check that the parts are new and in good condition.

HDB renovation- Ceiling Fan Assembly

HDB renovation- Ceiling Fan Assembly, LED light kit add-on

b.   Most fans would include a safety lock mechanism that would prevent the fan from falling in case of failure and would stop the motor spinning.
HDB renovation- Ceiling Fan mounting onto the bracket (in black)

5. Testing
a.   Try out all the fan speeds, light kits and remote controls.
b.   Go through and clarify the warranty card as required.
c.   Ask the technician for his name and direct contact number. In case of any troubleshooting, at least you will be talking to the same guy.

In case anyone is interested, we bought our ceiling fan and ceiling lights from, drop me an email.
Service was good and prompt.

Also read:
How to Choose a Ceiling Fan
Ceiling Fan Comparison Chart
Advantages of a Ceiling Fan
Shopping for Lightings

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Decorating Baby Girl's Room Wall

Having conditioned the baby to sleep through, we managed to find time to decorate her room, but was on a tight budget. My wife was keen to make the room more lively and "girlish".

She found an elegant and economical way to create a theme wall for our girl's infant room, DIY decal style. It is a quiet forest theme with an owl, porcupine and squirrel.

Take a look at the finished product here. Stickers are reusable and of surprisingly high quality. So there was no worry about adjusting the picture arrangements to your preference.
Decorating Baby Girl's Bedroom economical DIY

There are other 2 choices which we found to be pleasant and suitable for baby girls, but without being too pinky

Also see
DIY- Changing cabinet knob
DIY- Decorating Glass Door with Decals
DIY- Decorating a boy's room

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Changing Toilet Bowl Seat Cover- Baron W303 (part 2 of 2)

This is a continuation of Part 1.

Insert Square headed bolt through bolt and slide catch into seat base assembly.

Changing Toilet Bowl Seat Cover- Baron W303- Bolt + catch on seat base (viewed inverted)

Changing Toilet Bowl Seat Cover- Baron W303- Bolt + catch on seat base slide in (viewed inverted)
 Repeat for other side.
Changing Toilet Bowl Seat Cover- Baron W303- Bolt + catch on seat base 2 sides (viewed inverted)

Changing Toilet Bowl Seat Cover- Baron W303- Bowl without seat and cover
 Insert 2 x transparent rubber spacers.

Changing Toilet Bowl Seat Cover- Baron W303- Insert 2 transparent spacers into 2 anchor holes on toilet bowl.
 Align bolts and insert into bowl anchor holes
Changing Toilet Bowl Seat Cover- Baron W303- align seat assembly's bolt to bowl's anchor holes
 The bolt needs to be secured with nuts from underneath. See below pics for a thousand words.
Changing Toilet Bowl Seat Cover- Baron W303- bowl without seat and cover elevation
Changing Toilet Bowl Seat Cover- Baron W303- nut and washer to secure inserted bolt from under the bowl.

Changing Toilet Bowl Seat Cover- Baron W303- nut and washer to secure inserted bolt from under the bowl.

Repeat for other bolt.

Also see:
Feedback of water cabinet baron w303

Other Maintenance Postings:
Changing chair fabric
DIY home repair cabinet knob
Does a refrigator need plinth
Wet floor toilet design

Changing Toilet Bowl Seat Cover- Baron W303 (part 1 of 2)

After 4 years of use, we decided to replace the toilet seat in the master bedroom with a standard oval shaped cover-seat (aka non-original) which was commonly available costing SGD26.

It proved to be an unwise choice as
1. The seat and bowl shapes did not match. I guess it still works well, but we started questioning why the decision to get a designer toilet bowl in the first place.
2. Due to the incompatible dimensions between the bowl and our purchased seat, the sitting position became awkward, which required the user to lean forward. In short it did not work.

Without much options, we searched for original seats and had 3 quotes, ranging from SGD40 to SGD55 all before GST. Naturally the cheapest one was picked from Klisss.

HDB renovation DIY- change toilet seat cover Baron W303 invoice

It came in a rather plan box for a designer product.
HDB renovation DIY- change toilet seat cover Baron W303- simple box
 However, the box was clearly labelled as "SLOWLYFALL". See the video here to know what it means.
HDB renovation DIY- change toilet seat cover Baron W303- Labelling

Supplied components included (clockwise in picture below) assembled cover-seat, 2 rectangular catch, 2 sets of plastic bolt + nut + washer and 2 transparent spacers.
HDB renovation DIY- change toilet seat cover Baron W303- Supply components
 Plastic rectangular catch.
HDB renovation DIY- change toilet seat cover Baron W303- Catch
 Complete assembly of the Catch + washer + nut + Bolt  assembly
HDB renovation DIY- change toilet seat cover Baron W303- Catch+ washer+nut+bolt assembly
See Part 2 here

Feedback of Water Cabinet Baron W303- 4 years

Initially, we provided a feedback after several weeks of usage and are not sure if we should be providing a 4-year feedback as it seemed like a pretty "unhygienic" topic to dig into so much detail. Since we have done the dirty job, we might as well save the readers the trouble of the same journey.

After 4 years of use, we observed the following:

1. The Baron W303 was the most economical designer bowl we could find in 2009. It added to the hotel-like toilet look we were after.

2. As a designer toilet bowl, the seat came with a "Slow fall" or silent falling function, which started to show that it is wearing out after approximately 2 years. At 4 years the cover was behaving like any normal cover, ie when released, you can hear the contact sound. Ironically, this made life easier as the new cover took more than 20 seconds to "fall slowly".

2. In addition, the toilet seat was less child friendly when compared to a standard oval shaped bowl, specifically:
a. The built-in resistance for the "fall slowly" cover poses a slight challenge for our 3 year old boy learning to pass urine on his own.
b. Baron W303 had a non-standard seat shape and curvature that was not compatible to some child-potty seats.

3. The dual flushing power was decent so far. There was no significant loss of flushing power over the period of use.

4. Seat cover surface started to deteriorate after 4 years of use by 2 adults. However, we have to admit that it is still functioning well except with a slight loss of contact comfort. Baron's original seat replacement was not commonly available and the cheapest quote was SGD40 before GST. In contrast, a conventional oval shaped seat-cover is readily available island wide for SGD 10 to SGD 26. See posting replacing the Baron W303 seat cover.

In conclusion for the above feedback, while the Baron W303 provided high aesthetic value at a decent price, the maintenance cost expectation should be kept at that of a designer bowl. Recommended for the Master Bedrooms but not for common toilets with heavy wear/tear and toddler use.

Also see:
Feedback on Baron W303 after 2 weeks of use

Concerned about maintenance cost: also see:
Advantages of installing ceiling fan
Lighting concept cost savings
Compare LED vs energy saving lighting

Friday, June 14, 2013

Compare LED vs Energy saving lighting

What are the benefits of using LED lights at home?

There is much hype about LED lights claiming to save significant wattage over the compact Flourescent Lights (CFL) and replacement cost. Is it really worth considering this for HDB dwellers?

Before that, lets start by some definition.
LED = Light Emitting Diode
It is a solid-state lighting technology that has been around for decades. The technology has only picked sufficiently for LED to be increasing reliable.

To be continued...

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Ceiling Fan comparison Chart

This is a follow through article after research on the general considerations in choosing a ceiling fan. If you have not read it, the link is here (coming soon)

Unique to our needs, we have summarized our requirements as follows:
1. Size of fan in accordance to the room size.
2. Ceiling height about 2.3m. We cannot afford a low hanging fan.
3. High Aesthetics is important to satisfy my better half's requirement
4. Light kit is a must!

Guided by the above requirements we visited 7 showrooms over 2 weekends and shortlisted 5 options as follows:
1. Crestar Rainlite
2. Crestar Skylite
3. Fanco FF707
4. Acron Ventieulator 218
5. Vento Mela distributed by Amasco

You can probably guess our final choice from the photos below. For the benefit of the readers, we still want to share the selection process. Our 2 weeks of fact finding and comparison has been summarized into the following comparison chart.
Note that the Fanco FF707 specs are from our living room ceiling fan purchased in 2009. Read the review here (coming soon!)
Comparison Discussions with the sellers:

1. Crestar Fans offer great value with their Aluminium cased motors. Aluminium releases heat well and does not rust. One seller explained that Crestar used German Technology, built in Taiwan. I loved their functional appeal. Unfortunately, its aesthetics did not appeal to my better half.
HDB Renovation Ceiling Fan- Crestar Rainlite

HDB Renovation Ceiling Fan- Crestar Skylite

2. Fanco has a competitive price (at least in 2009 when we bought it)  This is a good choice for something decent looking but on a tight budget. The have very similar design to Amasco. Read our review on our Fanco FF707 here (coming soon)

HDB Renovation Ceiling Fan- Fanco FF707 WH
3. Although we have never heard of the Acorn brand, but we asked extensively about it as we found the unit on display elegant. The motor body is largely hidden by the light kit.  The seller explained that Taiwan makes the "best" ceiling fans. He explained that several ceiling fan marketing companies that have their products OEMed by the same few Taiwanese factory. Thus they have the same quality despite the different brands. Acorn is one of them.

HDB Renovation Ceiling Fan- Acorn Ventilateur 218

4. Vento's Mela really caught our hearts. See here to understand why. It remained our 1st choice until the last minute when we realized the price tag was sufficient to purchase 3 standard ceiling fans. There was also an unfounded doubt on the ease of maintenance and lifespan of the  blade rotation bearings.

HDB Renovation Ceiling Fan- Vento Amasco Mela
5. KDK is a household brand I grew up with. However we did not consider KDK as they did not provide much options with lighting kits. Perhaps another reason is our choice of showrooms did not promote KDK aggressively.

The most balanced choice was the Acorn.

Also see
Advantages of installing a Ceiling Fan
How to choose a Ceiling Fan
Installing a ceiling fan