Top 3 Priorities When Renovating a 20-Year Old House

Updated: Apr 1, 2020

Many mature or established neighbourhood in Malaysia or at least in the Klang Valley are very desirable especially due to its proximity to amenities, public transportation and other infrastructure. And this is sentiment is even stronger now, as younger generation of home owners prefers convenience over a bigger property which requires more travelling. Some may even think that it's not considered a compromise, as a smaller home requires less cleaning and maintenance.

However, one aspect that I think most will agree on is the requirement to renovate and refresh homes in mature neighbourhoods as only older houses are available. Time and effort to go through the design and renovating phase, cost involved and uncertainties in physical condition of the house (lack of drawings, details) is definitely some of the major turn-offs.

While there seem to be thousands of things to consider, here are some of the top priorities of home owners whom we have worked with when renovating their older terrace houses (terrace house being the lowest entry points for a landed property).

1. Expansion of Entrance

Traditionally, only one half of the Carporch is used for cars, with a small garden reserved for the other half. With 20 feet of setback from the main gate to the Main Door, you could technically park 2 cars (length of 1 car parking spot is usually 8 feet). However, that would leave only 4 feet of leftover length. The implication is that:

  • both cars will have to be parked very close to one another

  • the second car would not get shelter from rain/ sun (unless Carporch roof/ awning is extended all the way to the front, which is technically not allowed)

  • not much space left from car to the Main Door

With dual income households now being a norm, allowing 2 cars to be parked side by side makes more practical sense than it being a purely aesthetic decision. While there's no inconvenience of moving one car to allow another to get out, there is less time now for working families to maintain the garden. The carporch now also becomes more luxurious and spacious, which is In line with the younger generation's tendencies for quality than quantity.

2. Refresh of Bathrooms

I think most bathrooms in older terrace houses are probably too compact for today's lifestyle, namely due to:

  • insufficient vanity counter width, resulting in clutter on the counter

  • usage of instant water heater

  • lack of space for shower screen/glass

We don't need room to do yoga in the bathroom, but we should have at least 80- 90cm of width at the shower and WC compartment. For vanity, I've always preferred having in at least 90cm in width or more if space permit.

Apart from it's practicality, having a longer vanity always gives the luxurious impression when entering a bathroom and it should always be the first thing you see when you open the bathroom door.

3. Managing Structural Elements

It was initially odd for me to find out that there were really large beams and especially columns in the middle of a terrace house in Malaysia. In neighbouring countries like Singapore (where I was a practicing architect for 5 years), columns are usually located on the parti (seperating) walls between houses. Perhaps it was a more conservative structural design. but it's something we have learnt to deal with.

The only way to cost-efficiently deal with this (short of redoing structure for the whole house) is to work on the space planning (spaces are aligned and positioned according to columns) and ceiling design (to conceal deep or low beams) by turning a constraints into a design element. This helps to shift the focus from our obsession with high ceilings.

With the current Cover-19 pandemic affecting our livelihood in one way or another, I can help but to think how this will influence change in how a house works. Perhaps I should explore that in the next post.


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