The better half of the year after our R2I was spent on installing necessary items we did not avail of from the builder, items the builder failed to complete before handover, and replacements to certain builder items due to shoddy workmanship. We also made several ‘optional home improvements’ in and around the house such as landscaping our yard space, closing balcony areas, and painting. From our perspective, the builder should have definitely provided/offered solutions for some of these items as an upgrade.
A minimal front-yard landscaping (lawn) was standard fare for all houses and the remaining yard is left bare. By the time we moved in, the yard had taken on a mini-forest appeal with full-grown weeds and several acacia trees. Parts of the front lawn were visible but the weeds outdid them easily. As the water situation was dire, we decided at the very onset to eliminate the lawn and laid an interlocked-tiles walkway for 4.5’ along the perimeter of the house. Barring a small vegetable patch, we spread river-stones over a very thick layer of crushed rocks (metal) to discourage weeds for the remainder area. A few spots were boxed to plant fruit trees as well. This met our purposes well – minimal maintenance while providing gratification for our well-concealed green-thumb. The interlocking work came to Rs 32K (~$650 – around a dollar per square feet in a total area of 640 sq ft) and the rest 700 sq ft was around Rs 25K (~$500) which included river-pebbles (Rs 14K - 70 sacks at Rs 200), metal, bricks, and labor. On hindsight, the wiser option would have been weather-proofed tiles in place of the standard ones as weather-proofing the tiles set us back an additional Rs 7K ($150) later on.
Open balconies are what came standard with the house. For certain floor plans, the builders did offer concrete roofs although that meant the balcony area would be added to the total square footage quoted. We had around 250 square feet of balcony space in the front and two separate balconies in the back covering around 75 square feet each. Keeping those balconies open in the long monsoon season was out of question. As the purpose we wished to derive from each of these balconies was dissimilar we did different things to each of them and the process was a real learning experience:
a) Front balcony: The roofing of this area was done using brick tiles and the remaining area was covered with aluminum fabricated glass sliding windows. The area was mosquito-proofed using false-roofing and mosquito-frames. Numerous options abound on fabrication frames as well as for the glass. Looks wise, brick tiles are the best but then they are very expensive and require maintenance during the monsoons – roofing came to ~Rs 75K ($1500). Quoted rate for the mid-range aluminum fabrication work with coffee brown glass windows came to Rs 150 per sq ft for a total of ~Rs 45K ($900). False roofing came to Rs 15K ($300) and mosquito proofing to ~Rs 25K ($500). All told, the front balcony was brought in with an outlay of ~Rs 160K ($3200).
b) Back balcony (adjacent to the main private road within the community): This was finished with aluminum fabricated privacy glass windows along with aluminum sheeting for the roof. False roofing and a minimal amount of mosquito proofing brought the grand total to Rs 42K (~$850).
c) Back balcony (with nary a view on the east): This area ended up as our laundry area. As electricity is dear, we opted for the air-dry option over a dryer. To serve the purpose the area, got cast-iron fabricated grills instead of glass-windows. Aluminum sheeting was still used for the roof and an opening was designed for roof access. Including plumbing the total for this area came to ~Rs 30K (~$600).
Shower doors were another item the builder did not offer. With no separation for the shower area it was impossible to keep the flooring of the bathroom dry. Shower doors come in different materials and the popular options are acrylic fabrication and toughened glass panels – toughened glass panels are more than twice as expensive. Our choice was acrylic fabrication for the two upstairs bathrooms and toughened glass for one of the downstairs one. One bathroom was left the way it was for disability access. The entire installation was done in 2 days and is less intrusive than some of the other works done inside the house. The total for the three panels came to ~Rs 37K (~$750) including installation.
A single coat of distemper (whitewash) was what came as standard from the builder. For the uninitiated, distemper is among the most economical paints available in India – the ingredients of this paint include lime, chalk, water, and color. Weathercoating the tiles was not part of the deal and at handover, the roof tiles were already showing signs of mould. We reused the color panels the color-consultant had suggested to paint the insides of our previous house. As for brand selection, we went with Berger and Asian paints. Berger Easy Clean was our choice for the inside – based on the feedback that Berger’s premium paints are wonderful although it attains less coverage compared to the competition. The living rooms used emulsion but we had to compromise and use exterior weathercoat for the kitchen and bathrooms. The distemper job in the bathrooms and kitchen are a disservice by the builder as one cannot go for enamel paint in those areas, once distemper is applied – the enamel coat will just peel off. For the wooden windows and grill-work, we used glossy enamel instead of satin and semi-gloss as the glossy one is supposed to resist dust and mold better. For the exterior walls, we went with Berger All Guard and for the roof tiles Asian Apex Ultima. Given our experience in having done a paint job in a couple of different houses, we highly recommend paying the extra premium for better quality paints. The total paint job came to just under Rs 140K ($2800).