Updated 6 July 2016:
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14 – 20 February, a mixed week of soffits or eaves, whichever term you use, plus a touch of paint, electrical and tiling.
Soffit (from French: soffite, formed as a ceiling; directly from suffictus for suffixus, Latin: suffigere, to fix underneath), in architecture, describes the underside of any construction element.
Day 106 – The build seems to have entered a slower stage. I think that Ming, the builder, is worried about the amount of money he has been paying out to subcontractors for doing the major work and is now trying to contain costs by keeping some of the final aspects of the build within his own little team. Unfortunately one of his two off-siders is still away cutting sugar cane on his land, which reduces the workforce to Ming plus Jack.
Some additional hands ended up being included as the guy who will be doing the tiling and his mate had just finished a job and turned up looking for work. I am not sure Ming was that keen to offer it but one needs to be careful with relationships in a small community.
The longer term priority is to get the outside tiling down so that the final measurements for the sliding doors can be taken and the windows/doors ordered. I can’t finish the fitout on the inside unless I can lock the house at night. We haven’t had any items go missing as far as I know but with a lot of money going into electrical, the kitchen, bathrooms and doors I don’t want to take the chance. One of my brother-in-laws has offered to sleep in the house at night and that may still be something I take up as we progress.
To get the tiling down we need to finish the soffits and get the first coat of paint on everything. With the soffit framework finished in Week 15 HERE, attention turned to getting the 100 m2 of soffit boards screwed into place using these fasteners. I have added these photos for those readers who are building in Thailand – not of great interest to anyone else!
Of the four workers three ended up working on the soffit boards and the other guy started painting whatever was available.
Having pondered on paint colour for the inside walls we decided on just using the same as the outside, a Dulux colour called Pearl White Ref 8575, which I really like. It is a paint that changes colour depending on the light it is exposed to. In sunlight it turns almost white and in shade will go a more cream colour and at some angles it has a touch of green.
Day 107 – Slow progress being made on the ceiling. Because the design is two triangles pointing into a central rectangle it involves a lot of measuring and cutting. A straight fix of boards from the outside facia to the walls would have been a lot easier but less interesting.
Inside a second coat of primer was being applied where the first looked a bit thin.
Day 108 – The outside lounge area ceiling was finished and some more painting mostly inside happening. I am a little frustrated with progress. There is another big ceiling to be done in the outside dining area plus all the external soffit around the whole house and at this rate it will take well over a week. Apart from my self inflicted progress delayer by complicating the design, the soffit frame was specified with over-thick steel for some reason which makes screwing into it a super effort.
Day 109 – I have to admit that I had a restless night worrying about progress on the build. It is not so much the slowness of the soffit build in itself but the cascading effect it has – soffit, tiling outside, windows, fitout. What really had me going was that today it seemed as if Ming would be the only worker on site. His regular, Jack, had to take his son to hospital for a check-up and the two tilers were off to build a wall for one of their family members. Ming has problems with finding the strength to apply the pressure needed to get the soffit screws in. He’s 64 and maybe has arthritis in his wrists like I do – thanks Mum. So it looked like a stalled day ahead.
However I needn’t have worried and should have trusted on the goodwill generated by the house blessing ceremony in Week 3 HERE. Ming was equally as worried as me evidently and was up early to try and round up help. Wood, a guy who worked on many aspects of the build, received a very early morning visit from Ming and agreed to help out. He’s part of what I call the “A Team”, four guys who did the concrete slab, the Colorbond roof, built the walls and are doing the electrical. They subcontract out to Ming as a group.
The good news didn’t end there because it has started to rain in Isaan. I thought we were in the dry season and wouldn’t see rain until April but since early February it has rained most days. Only short thunderstorms but good for the new sugar cane and mango trees I am told. I am sitting in my sala typing this entry as it rains.
The significance of some wet is that the A Team are working on the early stages of a Swedish guy’s house in Si Bun Ruang and it doesn’t have a roof yet, unlike mine. What a shame :-). So a loss to the Swedes is a win for the Aussies and the A Team turned up in bulk for a day’s work. The two tilers couldn’t build their wall so they arrived as well! So we went from a possible one worker to seven. Both Ming and I were happy men.
We ended up with two groups working on the soffit, one team filling in the sides and the other starting on the outside dining area ceiling. Existing soffit was being filled with putty where needed and primer being applied.
We made such great progress with the extra workers that at the end of the day, over a few drinks which I gratefully provided, I offered the A Team via Gaun an incentive to return the next day. I told them that I would pay them each the same as Ming was, which is 350 THB or A$12.00 for the day, if they came and worked again the next day and finished the soffit. Once they caught on that they were to be paid two days for one day’s work we quickly had an agreement. Ah the power of money.
Day 110 – We had the A Team happening, Jack returned as did one of the tilers, so we still had seven workers on site. By the end of the day all the soffit was finished, filled and mostly painted. The house was swept and cleaned ready for tiling to start. It was 1,400 THB well spent.
Day 111 – With no rain we were back to Ming, Jack and one tiler. The good news continues though because I thought that we would have to do most of the tiling before being able to call in DeKu, the window people. Ming and the tiler had got together and arranged that he would only do enough of the outside tiling initially to get the levels and fill in the sliding door spaces so that we could get DeKu in asap. An unexpected bonus.
The levels were determined with a water/plastic pipe system and what it showed was just how unlevel the concrete slab was. There is quite a drop from right to left which means that in order to get enough mortar down to form a base for the tiles at the higher side the lower side needs quite a lift to match the height. It is a problem with the unsophisticated way slabs are laid here relying on the final level being achieve at tiling stage rather than getting a level slab to start with. Oh well. More bloody concrete!
I do have to say that whatever the process involved I wanted 210 cm high spaces for the sliding doors and I have precisely 210 cms from the top of these tiles. Well done Ming. I had Peter, the CEO of DeKu German Windows, out to look at the house a while back and he wanted to sit the sliding doors on top of the outside tiles, which is why the tiling has been so important. The inside tiles will then step up again and butt onto the frame of the sliding door to give additional protection from any water trying to get in during our many tropical storms. So the concrete base on the inside will be higher again from what you see here.
The tiling in the outside lounge area was completed plus across the front and started down the right hand side.
Tam, the main electrical guy and head of the A Team, turned up and installed our outside fuse box for the submersible bore pump and house pump. He also coupled up the electronic water level system I wrote about in Week 15. Our bore is now automatically filling the house water tank according to need.
A step towards the final water system which is actually quite detailed. It involves the bore, the submersible pump, the holding tank, an initial water filter and water softening system, the house pressure pump and a five stage internal drinking water filter.
Day 112 – We headed to Udon Thani as I was due to make my 90 day visa report to Thai immigration. You can read everything you need to know about the Retirement Visa and more HERE.
On the way back we bought 20 more palms to fill in the perimeter fence across the back of the house plus some left over. We have been keeping an eye out for them and were lucky to spot some good sized ones at one of the nurseries we use between Udon Thani and Nong Bua Lamphu.
We got all 20 of these into the boot and back seat of a Mazda 2, which is a statement about the excellent carrying space of this little car. Gaun was over the moon and even though it was now raining immediately planted 13 of them! Rain and mud to an ex-Isaan farmer is part of life.
Shortly after we got back and because it was raining the A Team turned up and started to clean out all the powerpoint and light switch boxes of any stray render. Sweden loses again! A couple of them also working on cutting holes into the ceiling for our 42 recessed lights.
Meanwhile the tilers had completed the bulk of the dining area as it was just as easy to set up both sliding doors this way than just run the single row around the edge.
Having got the house to window measurement stage the two tilers are heading off to finish that wall for the first couple of days of Week 17. Some steady progress planned to happen, which I will report on next week.
Please note that Garden is included in costs, which is really outside the scope of “building”.
Thanks for reading.