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.


22 – 28 November 2014. I thought this week was going to be a shorter post but having just finished writing it not so. The main stories are sort of supplementary to the build with the actual construction almost taking second place. I think that even the most talented of writers, which I’m not claiming to be, would struggle to develop an enthralling story around concrete formwork being made and then concrete poured so I won’t even try.

Having said that the week was actually a great one from my point of view because what we ended up with was the entire house design outlined in concrete so for the first time we could see each room, its size and relationship to other rooms and the garden.

Day 22 Saturday, I left you in Week 3 with the rebar that forms the basis for the beam footings completed and the timber formwork starting to be constructed around the rebar frame. The building of formwork continued today.

New formwork.

New formwork being built around the Week 3 rebar. This is the ensuite end of the house at the back.

The final result was a mish mash of timber planking with the whole thing held together by a collection of pieces of wood nailed across or driven into the ground. Technical is wasn’t but did the job.

You end up with this haphazard result.

You end up with this incredible mix of timbers.

Day 23 Sunday, The first pour of concrete into the rear of the house, which contains the ensuites and my small computer room.  Concrete was mixed on-site and two barrows delivered it to where it was needed. A slow process that resulted in the footings being poured over a number of days.  We also had an electricity outage so work had to pack up early for the day.

Concrete on its way.

Concrete on its way.

Delivery of concrete, which is then bucketed across to formwork inside the outer walls.

Delivery of concrete, which is then bucketed across to formwork inside the outer walls.

I came across my first major challenge with the build today. In getting the formwork ready for the concrete pour Ming was adding some extra reinforcing steel to what will be our bedroom sliding door and asked me via Gaun if that was OK for the step down. Now this was news to me as in my mind and what I thought I had asked the draftsman to draw was the slab extending from inside to outside inclusive of everything under the roofline all at the same level. No step down involved!

An examination of the plans showed that in the some of the drawings what I wanted was shown while in the more technical ones that the builder was quite correctly using the slab was in two parts. Based on these drawings the internal concrete for the slab would be poured 10 cm thick on top of the current 40 cm high beam footings giving a 50 cm variation from the inside floor to natural ground level. A 10 cm slab would then be poured for all the external areas under the roofline but at ground level. That meant there was a 40 cm drop from inside to outside and the concept I wanted to achieve of a clean flow between the inside and outside living areas would not be happening. This 40 cm drop was why Ming was enquiring about where I wanted the steps to be – thank goodness for the heads up.

A natural flow between inside and outside areas like this.

A natural flow between inside and outside areas like this, although my outdoor living areas will all be under the roofline.

This was not Ming’s fault. I should have understood that how the footings were being constructed weren’t in a way that supported the vision I had. I should also have picked up on the variation in the plans. It isn’t entirely the draftsman’s fault because he was applying a Thai solution to what I was telling him through Gaun that I wanted. A Thai house tends to end with the walls dropping to the dirt, which is never covered with concrete, and there is no incorporation of outside living areas in the way we would think of doing in the West.

The benefit of having a good relationship with one’s builder came to play here because we worked through the various options to come up with a way to achieve what I thought I was originally getting.  The end result is that we are adding 40 cm of new soil to the entire half of the land where the house currently sits, sloping down to the current level towards the front. The effect is to bury the concrete beam footings so they sit almost at ground level rather than being 40 cm above ground level. Once the new soil is compacted the 10 cm concrete slab can be extended from inside to include the total area under roofline in the one pour all at the same level.

For those worried about the flooding risks to this strategy the land on which my house will sit will be the highest in the village! My Thai family have come to the rescue and organised someone to provide the trucks and tractor to move the soil and will provide it free from their farm.

Day 24 Monday, I had to order another 50 bags of cement to complete this stage of the build. Same price at 125 THB a bag but saved 100 THB on delivery this time – bonus! Delivered within the hour.

New supplies.

New supplies.

Good progress made today. The team seemed to be keen to get on with the job. I was told they are getting paid 160 THB a meter, which is an interesting way of doing it. The last of the completed formwork at the rear bedroom end of the house filled with concrete by the end of the day.

The first formwork comes off. This is our ensuite.

The first formwork comes off. This is our ensuite.

DSC_0744

End of day 24. More formwork being taken off.

Ming is keeping the water up to the competed concrete including the plastic wrapped column.

Out one and only completed column.

Our one and only completed column being watered.

Day 25 Tuesday, today the remaining formwork was completed for the front section of the house. More electricity problems so no concrete poured.

Everything ready for a big day tomorrow - electricity willing.

Everything ready for a big day tomorrow – electricity willing. This is towards the front of the house.

DSC_0760

More concrete beams revealed. From left to right ensuite 1, a small homework area for my stepdaughter Peng, my blog room and the second ensuite. Spot Gaun!

We left the builders to it and drove to Udon Thani, about an hour away to visit Global House in search of the elusive P-Trap, a shy little critter as we couldn’t spot any sign of one in Nong Bua Lamphu. A complete mystery to Thai Watsadu. It ended up being a complete mystery to Global House too who I guess is mainly catering to Thais and P-Traps obviously aren’t a design inclusion to many houses here. This accounts for the terrible odors one occasionally comes across in accommodation here. Thais still have some catching up to do in certain areas.

At a loss of where to next I just happened to stop at a small hardware chain outlet almost directly opposite Global on the ringroad in Udon, the name of which I wanted to share but unfortunately the receipt is all in Thai and I have forgotten. Next time I go to Global I will update this post. Showing the guy a photo of what I wanted he immediately took me to a bin full of them. I felt like Christmas had come early. 2″ at 200 THB each.

We also called into a place called EK Decorate & Design to enquire about double glazing. Since Week 3 I have received another quote from a Southern based company called DeKu, website HERE, who also produce German designed double glazed windows/sliding doors. I have read previously about people having problems sourcing double glazing. Maybe they don’t use the internet because I’ve had no problems finding places and getting quotes. DeKu’s quote came in slightly cheaper than the other two I wrote about previously but also included installation, something the other two couldn’t offer. It is a separate cost but I would prefer the people who build the windows to install them rather than rely on the local “talent”.

Our visit to EK was to try and get a final quote, so I can make a decision and order, from a quality local supplier who can also fit. EK are agents for Windsor windows and the display products were impressively solid and well made. I have asked them to quote for the full house, both double and non-double glazed. I suspect the result will be more expensive than the 170,000 THB I currently have budgeted for all windows and sliding doors but it’s worth a try.

You can read about EK Decorate & Design HERE. The main guy there speak NO English so getting the detail across is a bit of a challenge even with Gaun, my wife, with me. Hopefully I can report back on the final outcome next week.

Well set-up with a complete range of their products on display - except double glazing.

Well set-up with a complete range of their products on display – except double glazing.

Our final task for the day was to order 150 m2 of tiling for inside the house. Although tiles will be the very last thing to happen, and this has been agreed with the builder, we liked the design and I am sure that if I came back when they were needed on-site they would be sold out. Just under 40,000 THB or around A$9.20 per m2, which is pretty good considering they are an Australian tile!

Day 26 Wednesday, the team was all go and the remaining formwork filled with concrete.

A team of 5

A team of 5 – 3 blokes doing the heavy stuff and 2 women putting in a big effort. Ming, in red, is always on site supervising.

Nothing much new to show you in photos, just formwork filled with concrete, so I won’t bother 🙂

Day 27 Thursday, the team showed up to remove the formwork and then took off to cut sugar! It’s a Thai thing – what can you do? Ming was worried that I would be angry. It’s a shame that’s the first thought he had of dealing with a farang in this situation, presumably based on previous experience. It wasn’t his fault so why would I be angry? Ming was working the phones to get workers back on site ASAP so that’s the best outcome I could expect.

A large truck showed up in the morning with our 152 boxes of tiles on board. They had driven from just outside Bangkok the previous day arriving our area at midnight. Ours was their only delivery and this must be an eight hour trip each way so how the economics of that works out I’m not sure. Delivery was included in the price we paid for the tiles.

Gaun and I got involved in unloading. Hot heavy work.

Gaun and I got involved in unloading. Hot heavy work.

All done thank goodness.

All done thank goodness

A little piece of Sydney in our home.

A little piece of Sydney in our home.

The site at the end of Week 4.

The site at the end of Day 27.

From the back left to right – Ensuite 1, Peng’s little homework desk area, my blog room and finally ensuite 2. The next section back – the two bedrooms with built in wardrobes. The next section from left to right – the outside under-roof dining area enclosed on three sides, the inside dining/family area and a U-shaped kitchen far right. Where Gaun is standing – on the left the entry and lounge and on the right an outside under-roof sitting area. You can compare it with the design below. I have since made a couple of minor changes but it is pretty close.

House-design-final

Day 28 Friday, Ming is our only worker and he plus my brother-in-law Lud were busy cleaning up the site and moving he storage shed ready for the next stage and the delivery of soil.

Me helping to move concrete. I'm a team player!

Me helping to move concrete. I’m a team player in small doses!

Everything being moved out of the way and a new storage shed to be built here.

Everything being moved out of the way and a new storage shed to be built here.

Another satisfying week’s progress with lots achieved or in progress. I won’t spoil my post for next week but I can hear hammers at work on the site as I type!

The costs for the four weeks below. A bit over A$14,000:

Actual costs Week 4

Actual costs Week 4

Thanks for reading.