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What Do You Wish You had Done Differently? 8 Insider Tips for Home Renovation in Dubai

  • We collected over three pages of tips and advice from homeowners and experts through forums in Dubai.
  • Most of them had ‘interesting’ experiences with contractors in Dubai, reflected on their experience and shared their ‘what I wish I knew’ advice.
  • We consolidated and summed them up to 8 best insider tips to help keep unwelcome surprises low.  

If you are about to embark on your home renovation journey, heed these advice from those who’ve already been through it. They can help you set terms that will keep you and your contractor accountable and happy.

1. What’s the Work Scope? BE DETAILED!  

Put in as much details in your BOQ (Bill of Quantities) and additional work when initiating work scope.

This will help you determine if you can actually afford your dream home, and minimize any hidden fees and surprises.

Contractors also tend to give better pricing upfront to close the contract.

Do ask about the ‘what-if’s’. If you want a wall niche but it can’t be done due to structural reasons and need to constructed in another way, this will be a variation at extra cost.


Make decision early.

Have all your design decisions done as early as possible to avoid delays in getting the items. And, keep things flexible. Materials do go out of stock quickly in Dubai, and you may need a Plan B (or C..) if you can’t find what you want.

  • Paint color?
  • Tile size?
  • WC freestanding or concealed?
  • Mixers concealed or counter fixed?
  • Additional spot lights? Light in the niches?
  • Extra electrical points that needs chipping in concrete?
  • Appliances that will be built into your kitchen?
  • Smart devices require installation before they close up the walls?

2. Be Clear with Deadlines

Make sure all deliverables are in the contract, and ask for a penalty clause for delays. Only a handful of contractors in Dubai will be confident enough to commit to a hard line completion date.

“As a fit out company, we include several clauses in contract to safeguard our client.

Check if your contract has a penalty clause which makes the contractor liable to pay a penalty in case he delays the completion of works.

We normally give a security check to our clients at the very outset to assure them of our commitment to finish the project as stipulated, which of course is returned once the project is completed to the satisfaction of the client.”

– Contractor

3. Payment Strategies

The best type of contract would be a lump sum fixed price, have staged payments based on work done and materials ordered, and specific completion time with penalties for delays in handover.

“If you’re doing a multi-room project, split the invoice into multiple invoices so you can try the contractor in one room and see how it goes before you pay a big deposit.”

– Homeowner

Leave as much of the payment until the end so that the contractors are motivated to finish quickly. Don’t pay the final payment instalment until they finish all work.

4. Shop Drawings is Mandatory

Detailed shop drawings and work flow are immensely helpful, and it can come either from a contractor or a designer.

There will be a time (or many) where a ‘you said I said’ session comes up, and these drawings will help clarify any miscommunication and prevent finger pointing.

Make sure to document every meeting, every key points, every change, and put everything in an email. You will eventually need to go back to those emails at some point.

5. Do We Really Need a Project Manager?

Absolutely. Make sure there is a good project manager overseeing the work daily from your side, even if the contractor has his own. You will need someone on your side to discuss technical points and manage the work flow.

It’s also common to hire an interior designer as a project manager to oversee the contractor. As a project manager, the interior designer will be responsible for shop drawings and materials approval provided by the contractor, managing the team onsite, and doing all snagging work before project completion.

I feel it’s harder to manage a full shell and core renovation. You will eventually have to compromise somewhere because you will be overwhelmed and fed up. I would split up the work as ‘kitchen’, ‘bathrooms’, ‘rest of the house’, and do one room at a time so it’s easier for you to move around your house. We did floor at a time and was chaotic.

“Overseeing” all works and managing the team onsite is pretty old school project management, but definitely a necessity and must do!

– Homeowner

6. Get your NOC in place

Make sure you get all the NOCs (No Objection Certificate) in place. It takes time to get them approved, and you may need to take a few trips to ‘talk to someone’ about the approval, so account time for that.

Get friendly with your building’s technical team, management and security team. Let them know you are about to renovate so they can help support you with approvals.

7. Be on Site EVERYDAY

Despite having a designer, contractor and a project manager, you should still be there daily to minimize mistakes and delays. It may seem like a no brainer but standards can be different.

A lot of the times you will have to actually SHOW contractors what you want rather than just explain over a text or a call.

Some examples:

  • You will to see the tiling layout before they lay the tiles and check for the neatness of the grouting.
  • Same with wood flooring.
  • You will need to make sure items (i.e. mixers, door handles, matching angle valves, spot light, etc) are looked after properly as most of the items may just be left around with no concerns if they get damaged or lost.
  • Establish guideline for how to leave a worksite clean and tidy at every stage. This is especially important if there are multiple contractors on site.
  • Be clear on which bathroom can be used.
  • Even simple things like making sure paint are put away properly with the lid back on to prevent spills on your new flooring!

8. Ask for a Warranty

What are contractors responsible for, and for how long?

When it comes to contractor’s workmanship, ask for a warranty on work done in case of any future leaks or defects.

In Dubai, we have seen warranty in contracts from 3 months up to 1 year. It really depends on the contractor, and those who want to retain client goodwill will honor a warranty for longer.

It will be all worth it.

When it comes to delivery, nothing will go your way. There will be delays, there will be mistakes, contractor will rectify, then there will be more surprises.

Renovation is without a doubt a stressful journey, but in reality, each day brings you closer to the dream home you’ve always wanted, and that’s something to look forward to.

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