Updated 6 July 2016:

I have just published a 750 page eBook that follows the challenges, frustrations and successes of building a house in Thailand from the very start of us buying the land through to moving in and beyond. You will be part of our building team for every day of construction and I will share many do’s and don’ts all designed to save you time, money, sleepless nights or all three. This book is a must have as part of your research on the subject of building in Thailand and you can find it HERE.

Updated 24 November 2015:

I have had an email from a reader asking a few building questions that I thought might be of interest to a wider audience so I have added the questions and my answers to the end of this post HERE. Thanks for the interest Anthony.


Original:

There is silence in the air – the builders have left. Well silence apart from the occasional passing motorbike, dogs barking, roosters, loud speakers from people selling things and any happenings such as funerals. At least there are no weddings or new monk celebrations happening during the three months of Buddhist lent. Come November add them to the list. I partly jest. In reality the village has it’s moments where the double glazing comes into its own but mostly is a very quiet place to be.

I thought I would chat with you now that we have finished a long list of minor extensions and additions to make what has worked out being a very liveable house design even better. I started on this topic in my post Isaan – the Small Stories 6 HERE, and will just work in my introduction from that story to this post because I am lazy.

I will also report back on anything else I can think of relating to the house in a separate post at some time and include an update to the garden progress too for those of you interested in following that aspect of our home.

DSC_0508

Having lived our home for six months now I can say that it is a wonderful, peaceful retreat from Isaan village life and the design has worked out really well. I always knew that there were some shortfalls when designing the house and others have become apparent since moving in. An addition to the overall accommodation available was always on the cards once the finances had settled down after the main build.

The missing aspects I wanted to rectify were:

  1. The only choice of toilets for visitors are those in the two ensuite bedrooms. Not ideal even though one bedroom is mostly unused;
  2. There is a lack of storage for all the stuff that would normally go into a garden shed plus things like luggage and leftover building materials. A lot of this is currently stored in the family home and some of it in a large wooden container used to ship some of my things from Australia sitting at the back of the carport;
  3. The current laundry is built Thai style, that is under the eaves at the back of the house. I bought a good quality washing machine and it would be better to have a more western traditional internal laundry;
  4. At some point there may be a need to have an extra bedroom available as the house only has two. I think this is unlikely but if we are extending then I wanted to have this as an option;
  5. The carport is open and Gaun’s motorbike can get wet during heavy storms;
  6. The outside living area at the front of the house has ended up being the place we spend most of our time. At 6 x 7 mtrs it is a good size but it feels a little cluttered with the large chairs we have there;
  7. The Easterly morning sun floods this living area in the morning and makes it very hot. A larger roof overhang would solve this problem; and
  8. My stepdaughter Peng, who has a three wheel motorbike because of some mobility issues, can’t get it safely up the gravel driveway. I want to concrete it both for her and also I always was going to do it when the time was right.
Gaun's early morning task was to raise the umbrella, which she did by standing on the base being a short Thai lady, to help shelter the outside lounge area.

Gaun’s early morning task was not to raise the flag but raise the umbrella to help shelter the outside lounge area. . Being a short Thai lady she did this by standing on the base .

The best umbrella stand? Fill an old paint pot with concrete. Stick a left over piece of platic drainage pipe in it. Give it a coat of paint and there you are.

The best umbrella stand? Fill an old paint pot with concrete. Stick a left over piece of platic drainage pipe in it. Give it a coat of paint and you’re done. Now you know what Gaun was standing on!

A nice area but it feels a little crowded with those chairs.

A nice area but it feels a little crowded with those chairs.

The sliding door to the left in the photo above is our most used entry to the house and there’s not a clear passageway to it from the front. You can see that the morning sunshine is reaching almost across to the house wall. Lovely on a cold winter’s morning in Canberra but not so useful here where the 7.00 am temperature is already 30 degrees.

Since writing this list from my previous post I added some new things because I thought we should get it all out of the way rather than drag out the building chaos:

  1. I wanted to install some floodlights to the garden. This space is so beautiful that it seems a shame not to enjoy it when we are outside at night-time as well as during the day;
  2. An extractor fan for the inside kitchen made its way to the list. We tend to split our cooking inside/outside. Inside will be used more often once it gets cooler November – January and also when the insects are very active we retreat inside;
  3. The front of the house is a bit flat and uninteresting as a look. Combined with this the entry to the front door gets very wet when it is raining and in summer the large front windows catch the early morning sun, and in Thailand you NEVER want sunshine flooding your house. Shade is good; and
  4. I wanted to concrete the path from the the carport to the front door, which is currently gravelled.

So it ended up being quite a long list Let’s see how far we got in achieving all of this.

For points 1 – 5 above the cheapest solution was to enclose a 5 x 4 meter section of the carport and extend the car cover four meters to maintain its current 6 meters.

The carport extension.

The carport extension.

Part 1 – the carport roof extension

The new car coverage is comprised of two meters of the existing carport and an additional four meters added giving a total of 6 metres even in Thai arithmetic.

You can see the four metre extension to the carport roof.

You can see the four metre extension happening to the carport roof on the left.

Here we go again. The ability to turn a tidy area into chaos is on a builder's job description.

Here we go again. The ability to turn a tidy area into chaos must be on a builder’s job description. Septic tank on the right for our third toilet.

From front to back.

From front to back.

The roofing on.

The roofing on.

The aluminium for this roof was from a local shop in Si Bun Ruang not BlueScope who supplied the Colorbond for our main house. The local roofing is a lot cheaper (less than half) but only 3mm thick compared to Colorbond 5mm.

Part 2 – The Shed and wet areas

The rear area to be enclosed in the plan above is 5 meters wide and 4 deep.  The space is split into two separate areas. The open space on the right will be storage and also a place to put my gym equipment. It is this area that could be converted into a bedroom if required. This is accessed by a door in the right hand wall, which leads to the front door of the house. A two metre sliding glass door (not DeKu for regular readers) gives a wider opening to store push-bikes etc inside and provide light if being used as a living area.

The space on the left is made up of a toilet at the back, a potential shower (it has the floor waste and shower tap installed but nothing else) and a laundry at the front. This area is accessed either via a door facing into the carport, which gives separate access to the laundry/bathroom space if the area on the right is being used as a bedroom or from the storage/bedroom area.

Footings go in for the walls to the extension.

Footings go in for the walls to the extension.

Plumbing all installed. From front to back - laundry tub, washing machine, shower, toilet waste and toilet.

Plumbing all installed. From front to back – laundry tub, washing machine, shower, toilet floor waste and toilet.

Septic tank installed. This hole was dug by hand.

Septic tank installed. This hole was dug by hand and you can see the size of the tank from a previous photo. This is a 1,000 litre tank. The main house has 1,600 litres.

Gray water from the shower and laundry runs to the village drainage at the front of the land. Sounds fancy but this is actually just an interconnected open ditch that runs around the village. The main house has it’s gray water taken to two concrete seepage tanks – same concept different method.

Reinforcing installed.

Reinforcing installed.

The concrete pour started.

The concrete pour started. The wet areas at a slightly lower level on the left.

Reinforcing made by hand. Ready for the new concrete driveway.

Reinforcing made by hand. Ready for the new concrete driveway.

All concrete mixed the hard way.

I thought they were going to get a truck in but it was all done the hard way. Two members of what I call the “A Team”, the guys who have done most of my building work. The head guy Tam on the left and Wood on the right.

Driveway done.

Driveway done.

The end result.

The end result looking the other way.

Entry door frame up

Entry door frame up

Wall going in.

Walls going in.

All the walls on the West side of the extension were built from leftover AAC blocks from our main build for their improved insulation qualities. They were supplemented by the normal concrete blocks bought locally on the Eastern side and for some of the internal walls.

The toilet wall going in.

The toilet wall going in. AAC on the right and normal blocks on the left.

Electrical wiring being cut into the walls.

Electrical wiring being cut into the walls. Note the regulation footwear.

DSC_0083

Inside the storage/bedroom area. The ceiling is being left open. If I ever make this a bedroom I will install a ceiling and insulation.

My chief assistant.

My chief assistant or is that the other way around?

Gaun, my Thai wife, basically ran this construction. She knew the process and terminology from our main build and it all flowed very smoothly. All I had to do was pay out money and drive the car to collect things! If you want a very competent and good looking building contractor Gaun is your lady at a cost 🙂

While this part of the project was happening the A Team were also working on the roof extension to our outside lounge area.

Precast concrete columns go in.

Precast concrete columns go in to support the extended roof.

From front to back.

From front to back. This will give us an additional 2 x 7 metres of undercover space.

Roof supports up and reinforcing down.

Roof supports up and reinforcing down. The gray water overflow tank from the septic system waiting to go in.

DSC_0071

You can see what a big difference this will make to the living space.

Roof on.

Roof on ready for the slab pour.

DSC_0068

Concrete wheelbarrowed in.

Concrete wheelbarrowed in.

By the end of the day.

By the end of the pour. The tiling is to be carried on from the main area so that’s why the different levels.

A free pointer for anyone planning on building here or anywhere else. Think tile size not floor size. In my original house build I specified a one metre tiled walkway under the eaves right around the house. Why one metre? Because it is a nice round number. However when it came to floor tiles what size do they come in? 30 cm, 40 cm and 60 cm. Do any of those sizes relate to one metre? NO. I had to have the tiler cut over 60 metres of tiles so that I could cover that pesky 10 cm my three 30 cm tiles width left me. If I hadn’t learnt my lesson I would have extended the concrete slab by 2 metres, a nice round number. However this slab is 2.1 metres or exactly seven tiles wide – ha!

The ceiling was also to look like the original and this is it going in.

The ceiling was also to look like the original and this is it going in.

Part 3 – The front entry and pergola

The final construction aspect was adding an entry roofline and next to it a large pergola, which will be planted up with climbing plants to give a lovely green enclosure in time.

The new roof extension in the front and the pergola at the back running the full length of the house.

The new roof extension in the front and the pergola at the back running the full length of the house.

I wanted the roofline to follow the slope of the main house and two columns to give more of an impressive feel to the entry across the pond.

Making progress.

Making progress. This is Ming haelping out. He was my builder for the original house.

Detailed steelwork. The extra steel is to ensure the ceiling will exactly match the original ceiling under the eaves.

Detailed steelwork. The extra steel is to ensure the new ceiling will exactly match the original levels under the eaves.

The new entry mostly finished.

The new entry mostly finished.

The new concrete pathway started from carport to front door.

The new concrete pathway started from carport to front door. Curves being added here to soften the look. This path also goes to the entry of the new carport extension.

Slate added to break up the concrete look and give interest. 5 THB a kilo!

Slate added to break up the concrete look and give interest. 5 THB a kilo!

The steel frame of the original carport being covered over to fully enclose the new areas.

The steel frame of the original carport being covered over to fully enclose the new areas. The ugly pond filter doesn’t normally live there!

Part 4 – kitchen

A very fancy rangehood was bought from HomePro in Udon Thani and installed by Tam. All fitting including externally venting it through the wall and connection to power for an “up to you” price. I gave him 500 THB or A$20.00 but he would have been happy with less.

From the Starship Enterprise.

From the Starship Enterprise.

External venting at the top. I designed the house to have the inside kitchen gas bottle stored outside.

External venting at the top. I designed the house to have the inside kitchen gas bottle stored outside.

The kitchen is now complete apart from some decorating touches.

The kitchen is now complete apart from some decorating touches. Gaun and my stepdaughter Peng in cooking action – well Peng for the camera only 🙂

And the end result of all of this:

Part 5 – the conclusion

An expanded beautiful garden-connected lounge area under the roofline. Note the reduced impact of the sun.

An expanded beautiful garden-connected lounge area under the roofline.

DSC_0436

This has allowed us to centre the seating and give clear access to the sliding door on the right. Note the way the A Team have exactly matched the levels of the new ceiling to the old so it flows really well.

DSC_0415

These chairs now have their own spot undercover.

DSC_0416

Tam built me two metal frames for the leftover granite from the kitchen benchtop.

Tam built me two metal frames for the granite leftover from the kitchen benchtop. I now have two classy side tables.

DSC_0408

I am very happy with this new entry across the pond. Three floodlights have been added to the garden. Two light up the mango trees at the front and the other the coconut tree. They have transformed the garden at night bringing it alive with colour and interest.

DSC_0410

The pond has become almost part of an internal courtyard with a glimpse of the garden since the front entry roof has gone in.

The entry now from the carport as you approach the house.

The entry now from the carport as you approach the house.

DSC_0367

Gaun has already started to plant creepers which will eventually cover that entire open lattice area with flowering plants. Can’t wait. This will protect those big windows from the early morning sun in the hot season.

The carport extension. I asked the A Team to build an overhang to both protect the entry door from rain and to give interest to what would otherwise be a blank wall.

The carport extension. I asked the A Team to build an overhang to both protect the entry door from rain and to give interest to what would otherwise be a featureless wall. You can see the split path here. One leg going to the entry door and the other to the carport.

Another entry view.

Another entry view.

My car has been living at the family home for the last three weeks. Nice to have it back.

My car has been living at the family home for the last three weeks. Nice to have it back.

The wall on the left side has been extended 2 mtrs beyond the end of the laundry to give protection to the motorbike once we get rid of the last of the building materials.

DSC_0520

Gaun’s bike will live in that corner.

Inside the storeroom.

Inside the storeroom. My treadmill on the right, laundry on the left. All floors are tiled, the storeroom with excess tiles from the main house build.

Looking through the sliding door.

Looking through the sliding door to the driveway and front gate. Note the electric lawnmower. Very farang.

DSC_0429

Give me time and I will make a mess.

Laundry.

Laundry. A door through to the shower and toilet.

Shower and toilet. Ready to tile but in the meantime to be painted.

Shower and toilet. Ready to tile but in the meantime to be painted.

DSC_0428

Peng’s motorcycle at the back. An extra tap provided so we can wash the car and water the front garden.

DSC_0505

The new look.

DSC_0507

I would like to extend the concrete paving throughout the garden so that I can walk everywhere barefoot. Not a problem for Isaan natives of course. Enough is enough this time.

The ice cream man arrives with a couple of local kids.

Our home from the outside. The ice cream man arrives daily along with a couple of local kids in this case.  He always slows at our place because I buy water-ices ten at a time and Cornettos at 28 THB or A$1.10 are a must have too.

Decisions to be made - seen the world over.

Important decisions to be made – seen the world over.

Through the gates. I can't tell you how blessed I feel to have a home like this.

Through the gates. I can’t tell you how blessed I am to have a home like this. Pretty close to perfect in my eyes anyway after the latest improvements.

Well there you have it. The last of my building posts. I won’t provide a breakdown of costs because this was a very personal construction and of not much relevance to anyone thinking of building here. If you want a very comprehensive report on building a house in Isaan then go to my weekly posts on the topic, which you can find HERE.

I can tell you that everything you have read about in this post cost me a total of 172,000 THB or a bit under A$7,000 labour and materials. Labour costs were 38,000 THB for the lounge roof extension, the 4 metre carport roof extension and everything involved in the new storage/wet area including plumbing and electrical, concreting the driveway, the floodlights and a powerpoint to the sala (all underground wiring and wall mounted junction boxes) and the installation of the extractor fan in the kitchen.

The front roof extension, the pergola across the front of the house, pathway, the two metal frames for the granite tables and curved roof over the entry to the storage area cost 5,000 THB labour or $200.00. Beer and lao khao (Thai white whisky) extra.

24 November 2015 Questions and answers:

Q – How is that well setup working?
A – The well (we Aussies call them bores) system works as intended. The submersible pump in the well is turned on by an electronic water gauge when the 2,000 litre holding tank is about 2/3rds empty. The sub runs continuously until the tank is full and then turns off. No turning a big submersible on and off each time you flush the toilet!

A second pump pulls water from the big tank and either sends it unfiltered to the garden (we have 5 taps) or pushes it through the water filter into a second holding tank of 1,000 litres. The level here is currently operated by an old fashioned float system, which DOES have the pump continuously operating for small time demands. I am in the process of converting this to an electronic unit but it requires a solenoid valve so that the pump can continue to operate to water the garden if the filtered water holding tank is full. Finding such a creature in Isaan is proving a challenge and may have to be shipped from Bangkok. A third pump pressures the house system and feeds it with filtered water. I also have a drinking water filtration system in the kitchen.

Q – Is there one circuit going to all those pumps or more?
A – Yes one circuit from the switchboard. We have a separate mini-switchboard at the water tank/pump area that looks after the three pumps and the electronic gauge that controls the water level in the main tank fed from the bore. I can send you a photo if you are technical in this area, which I’m not.

Q – I really like your home design very nice lay out. I think I would want a half bath so family, etc wouldn’t have to go in the bedroom.
A – . I agree on the bathroom idea. I added one as part of the extension recently but it is at the back of the carport (is that what you call open car accommodation?). I find that as 90% of entertaining is outside having the toilet accessible from the garden works well. Inside as part of the original plan would be equally good.

Q – Any other window guys you like or are those Deku really nice. Windows are a rough subject in Thailand.
A – Windsor windows were a cheaper option in Udon Thani. If I had been just getting single glazed I might have ended up with them but I wanted some quality double glazed units and Deku’s specifications were better. I ended up just getting the lot from the same place rather than split the order. If you want more info let me know as there are two outlets in Udon but one is better hidden than the other!

Although by Thai standards at over 200,000 THB the windows were extravagant when compared to Australian costs it was very minor. I was heavily motivated to build a quiet house, especially the bedrooms, having lived in Isaan in an unprotected environment. If living in a Moo Baan the announcement speakers start at 5.30am, the roosters all the time, the dogs have their own choir and come party season and funerals the music can be heard back in my hometown of Canberra. The house has ended up beautifully quiet and worth every baht spent.

Q – I didn’t think the roof would cost that much in Thailand. But that steel is a lot of work.
A – . If you use Thai roofing it is half the price of Colorbond. Thai roofing is 3mm while Colorbond is 5mm. I used Thai on the carport and it felt really flimsy. I am pleased to have paid the extra for Colorbond but it isn’t a necessity if the budget is tight as both options keep the rain out 🙂

You could probably spec the roof steel frame down as ours looked pretty heavy duty. However we were covering some unsupported spans up to 7 meters so the design needed to be beefed up. If you are building to the normal Thai 4 metre grid pattern then you can be a lot less demanding on the roof structure.

Q – What type of electric power you have coming into your property? 60 amp?
A – Gaun reminds me it is 30 amp – she knows more about the construction than I do. We don’t run any heavy duty electricals here and from my research could probably have got away with less. The air conditioners are all inverters, the three water pumps aren’t anything special and the house is set up on LED lights.

Q – Double wall Super Block? What thickness columns did you use?
A – 24mm columns. The AAC blocks are 7.5mm and have a 5mm gap. The columns have to be hand poured as you can’t buy the readymade ones at this size that I know.

Q – How is your grey water tanks done? Those Black Septic tanks are the way to go.
A – Black septic for the sewerage definitely but the concrete rings are fine for the grey water which only seeps into the soil so don’t need anything too technical. The rings are 120 THB each so will hardly break the budget. We have two separate grey water tanks for the house – one for the bathrooms (shower and basin) and the other for the kitchen. Two rings each.

The carport shower and laundry just runs straight to the front street to seep into the open soil drain that runs around the moo baan. Most of the Thai house work this way. Most local houses also use the grey rings for septic but they are obviously a closed system and are pumped out on a regular basis. The trucks come around every day and beep their horn looking for work! Many people recommend a grease trap for the grey water especially from the kitchen but we didn’t have one installed. Check the forums.

Thanks for reading.