Which is Cheaper in Singapore, Contractor or Interior Designer?

September 14, 2023
Credit: DCarson Construction

When embarking on a home renovation journey in Singapore, one of the most critical decisions you'll face is whether to hire a contractor or an interior designer. Both play pivotal roles in transforming your living space, but the financial aspects of your choice can significantly impact your project's budget. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the age-old dilemma: Which is cheaper in Singapore, a contractor or an interior designer?

Understanding the Roles

Before diving into cost considerations, it's essential to understand the fundamental roles these professionals play in your renovation project.


Contractors are responsible for executing the construction work. They handle tasks like carpentry, masonry, plumbing, and electrical work. Contractors bring the architectural plans to life, making structural changes to your home.

Interior Designers

Interior Designers, on the other hand, focus on the aesthetics and functionality of your space. They conceptualise the design, and choose furnishings, colour schemes, and decor elements. Interior designers create the visual appeal and ambiance that resonate with your lifestyle.

Intrigued to find out which path is the most cost-effective? Let's break down the expenses associated with each option.

Factors Influencing Cost

Credit: iProperty

To determine whether hiring a contractor or an interior designer is more cost-effective in Singapore, it's crucial to consider several factors that influence the overall expenses of your renovation project. Let's explore these factors in detail:

Scope of Work

The scope of your renovation plays a significant role in cost determination. Contractors typically handle larger projects that involve structural changes, such as home extensions, knocking down walls, or roof repairs. These projects often come with higher material and labour costs due to their complexity.

Interior designers, on the other hand, focus primarily on the aesthetics and layout of your space. If your renovation project primarily involves enhancing the visual appeal of your home, an interior designer might be more suitable. However, for extensive structural changes, a contractor is often necessary.

Design Complexity

The intricacy of your renovation design can substantially impact costs. If you have a clear vision of your desired interior design, an interior designer can help you bring it to life efficiently. However, highly intricate or customised designs may require more time and specialised materials, which can drive up costs.

Contractors are adept at handling technical aspects of a renovation, but they might not be equipped to offer design services. For complex design projects, working with both a contractor and an interior designer might be necessary, which can add to your overall expenses.

Material Selection

The choice of materials can significantly affect your renovation budget. High-end, custom, or imported materials tend to be more expensive. An interior designer can assist you in selecting materials that align with your design vision while considering your budget.

Contractors often have preferred suppliers and may recommend cost-effective materials suitable for the job. However, it's essential to balance cost savings with your desired aesthetic and quality standards.

Project Timeline

The timeline for your renovation project can impact costs in several ways. Contractors typically work more efficiently on structural changes and can complete them relatively quickly. Interior designers might require more time for detailed design work, procurement of furnishings, and decor setup.

A more extended renovation period might lead to additional expenses, such as temporary accommodation costs or storage fees for your belongings.

Professional Fees

Both contractors and interior designers charge professional fees for their services. Contractors usually provide a detailed quotation that includes labour, materials, and project management fees. Interior designers often charge a design fee, which can be a flat rate or a percentage of the project's total cost. Comparing these fees and what they include is essential to understand the overall cost structure.

Look Beyond Cost

Credit: Livspace

While we get that cost may be a concern when it comes to deciding which professional to hire, it’s important to look at the issue holistically and make a decision.

Pros of Hiring a Contractor

Expertise in Construction: Contractors are skilled in handling the technical aspects of renovation, making them well-suited for projects involving structural changes, such as room additions, roofing, or plumbing installations.

Efficiency: Contractors are known for their ability to complete projects efficiently. They have experience managing construction teams and schedules, ensuring that your project stays on track.

Cost Savings: Contractors often have established relationships with suppliers and can source construction materials at competitive prices. They can also provide accurate cost estimates upfront.

Project Management: Contractors typically handle project management, ensuring that the renovation progresses smoothly. They coordinate various tasks, including scheduling subcontractors, obtaining permits, and overseeing inspections.

Structural Integrity: Contractors prioritise the structural integrity of your home. They ensure that all renovations comply with building codes and safety standards.

Cons of Hiring a Contractor:

Limited Design Expertise: Contractors primarily focus on construction and may not offer design services. If you have a specific design vision, you might need to hire an interior designer separately.

Less Attention to Aesthetics: While contractors ensure structural soundness, they might not prioritise aesthetic details. This can be a drawback if you're looking for a visually stunning renovation.

Limited Customization: Contractors might offer limited customization options compared to interior designers. If you desire a highly personalised interior, you may need to work with an interior designer in tandem.

Pros of Hiring an Interior Designer:

Design Expertise: Interior designers specialise in creating aesthetically pleasing and functional spaces. They can bring your design vision to life while considering your lifestyle and preferences.

Personalization: Interior designers can offer highly customised design solutions, tailoring every aspect of your home to your liking. This level of personalization can result in a unique and beautiful living space.

Attention to Detail: Interior designers pay meticulous attention to design details, ensuring that every element of your home complements the overall theme and style.

Access to Resources: Designers have access to a vast network of suppliers and can help you select quality materials and furnishings within your budget.

Project Coordination: Interior designers can oversee the entire renovation process, from design conceptualization to project execution, making it a seamless experience for you.

Cons of Hiring an Interior Designer:

Design Fees: Interior designers charge design fees, which can add to the overall cost of your renovation. It's essential to discuss these fees upfront and ensure they align with your budget.

Extended Timeline: Customised designs and attention to detail can lengthen the renovation timeline. If you're in a hurry to complete the project, this might not be ideal.

Potential for Higher Material Costs: Interior designers might recommend premium or custom materials, which can increase material costs. It's crucial to strike a balance between quality and budget.

Making a Cost-Effective Choice

Credit: HipCouch

As you weigh the options of hiring a contractor or an interior designer for your renovation project in Singapore, one question remains at the forefront of your decision: Which is Cheaper? Let's delve into this critical aspect before concluding.

Cost Comparison

When it comes to cost-effectiveness, contractors often shine in terms of the initial budget. They are well-equipped to handle structural work efficiently and can be a smart choice for projects primarily focused on functionality. If you're looking to make essential structural changes without extensive customization, a contractor may be the more budget-friendly option.

On the other hand, interior designers bring their artistic flair and design expertise to the table. While their services typically come with additional design fees, they can help you create a visually stunning space tailored to your tastes. If design and aesthetics are your top priorities, investing in an interior designer can lead to a more aesthetically pleasing home.

Beware of Renovation Scams

Before you embark on your renovation journey, it's crucial to be aware of a common concern in the industry: renovation scams. Unfortunately, Singapore has seen its share of unscrupulous contractors and interior designers who take advantage of unsuspecting homeowners. These scams can range from shoddy workmanship to contractors disappearing with deposits.

Regardless of your choice, safeguarding your investment should be a top priority. As an escrow payment provider dedicated to ensuring reliability for consumers and trustworthiness for contractors and interior designers, HomePay's secure payment platform protects your money and mitigates the risk of falling victim to renovation scams. It provides a transparent and secure way to handle payments throughout your renovation project, giving you peace of mind.