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.
6 – 12 December 2014. This is my 150th blog post since June 2013 and I am so pleased it coincided with a weekly report on the house project, which is the most significant thing I have done in Thailand next to retiring here and represents the next phase of my life in this wonderful country.
Another post I thought would be brief but has ended up quite extensive. Week 6 was all about the roof and getting the beams that will support the roof structure in place and welded on the concrete columns.
For those of you following progress you might remember that because we couldn’t start the build proper until after the house blessing ceremony on 16 November, all covered in Week 3 HERE, Ming the builder concentrated on constructing some of the roof structure at the family home, which is where the steel was being stored. The main components were the base beams, three of them at 18 mtrs running the full length of the house and two 11 meter beams running the width of the house.
The challenge was now to transport these large beams to the land and get them on top of the columns, which stand more than 3 meters high. Now at over 6 kilos per meter, and we had two lengths of 18 meters welded together so around 220 kgs or 485 lbs for you non-metric people, and with only three workers on site at this time one of them being 64 year old Ming this ended up being a bit of a challenge.
Day 36 Saturday, the first beam was moved using Ming’s son’s truck but getting the beam from ground level onto the tray and above the cabin was a real effort.
Having got it to site the next problem was a system to get it onto the columns. Luckily Ming, who is a professional builder, had all the equipment and this pulley arrangement was put in place.
Unfortunately the first attempt failed as the two stack scaffolding didn’t give the height needed to winch the beam above the level of the column and they found out that manually lifting it the extra height was out of the question. Phone calls were made and a guy who had borrowed some scaffolding from Ming was instructed to give it back quicktime!
Height now achieved the beam was manouvered into place. This was a one day operation and I was a bit worried as there were another eleven beams to do. Of course in most western countries a crane would have been hired and the whole thing done in half a day.
Full marks to Thai ingenuity in this case though. Instead of repeating the same process Ming’s final action for the day was to remove the wheels from the two wheelbarrows previously used to shift concrete and nail a few bits of wood onto them ending up with this:
Day 37 Sunday, the next day saw this transport solution on the road.
In this photo above the family house is on the right out of view and the land is through that junction and halfway down the street on the left. It has been wonderful to be this close to the site. On the site Ming had now set it up with two winches on two scaffold towers. The lifting operation all went much quicker.
Once again you can just see the timber nailed to the top of each beam at the correct level. The column closest to us in the photo was the one built on its own very early in the piece, as it didn’t need to tie into any footings. The height is quite out as a result because the other column formwork wasn’t in place to provide a comparison.
Ming is meticulous with his measurements and levels.
The next few days is really just more of the same. Steel beams either being moved from the family home or being constructed on-site and being winched into place using the same method. I won’t bore you with lots of photos showing aspects of what I have already shown you but rather touch on some other building related things you might find more interesting.
Dealing with a Thai builder who has NO English presents some problems. Gaun, my wife, does a superb job at picking up the building language in both Thai and English, but often the best form of communication is to print out a photo of what you want. No translation needed. For example this is the photo I gave Ming of how I wanted the preparation for the concrete slab to look, complete with black plastic. The next thing I see is the photo nailed to the site shed to show the workers what is required. Nice touch.
I spoke very early on in the build about the need to get a decent bore drilled so as not to rely on the village water supply. When you see the Moo Baan water supply infrastructure you now understand my decision to give the provision of water some priority.
The things we would buy from a hardware store, and subsequently do our bit for the Chinese economy, is often homemade in Thailand. If you have been here you will be familiar with the bamboo scaffolding, often attached to high rise buildings:
Well Ming knocked these two ladders together from local supplies cut to the right height for our build! Love it.
In week 1 of the build HERE, I spoke about getting temporary power to the site. At the time I hadn’t realised that it was just temporary and that I all I needed to calculate was the power required for the build NOT what the house would need to operate. I ended up paying for a large 30/100 amp supply when a smaller version might have been fine. No problems because the extra money paid for the meter is refunded when the permanent supply is installed once the house is complete.
However the good news is that Ming has two welding machines and has been able to operate both at the same time as a result of the larger power supply. He felt that the 15/45 might not have done the job. The experts out there can advise. If true, it is then a useful tip to ask the builder what equipment he/his contractors intends to use, especially welders which consume heaps of juice, and select your temporary power supply accordingly.
I have been watching the welding process both for those following the build for more technical reasons and for my own peace of mind. Attaching a roof to the house rates pretty highly in my list of essential things to achieve in a build! I have to report that in my case this has been a slightly haphazard process, in that each attachment of column rebar to steel beam has been done differently according to how the available attachment points presented themselves. I suspect that in a western build the process would be more engineered into the design phase. I am happy with the end result though and don’t believe the roof will end up next door anytime soon. Others may have a different opinion.
I have used that “short” column as an example because the process is best shown here, as the rebar is exposed, and it was replicated with all the other connection points across the house. In my mind the beams would have been best placed to slip between the column rebar and this rebar would then be welded to the sides of the beam. However the double C beams were pretty thick and maybe this was an accuracy unattainable in a Thai build.
The approach in my case was to access the rebar wherever it touch UNDER the beam, which sometimes involved cutting away a little of the top of the beam to expose the rebar. These points would then be welded to the beam. All beam to beam joins were welded along the full seam, not spot welded. This included the top of the join, an effort I was pleased to see happen automatically without me asking for it.
Any rebar that didn’t need to be cut to allow for the positioning of the beam and extended next to the beam was then welded as shown below:
The end result is a clumsy but effective connection of the beams to the column rebar and I think will do the job.
I have read on other forums like the excellent coolthaihouse.com of the problems some farang have in getting Thais to keep a clean work site. Certainly the Thais have a pretty casual attitude to letting rubbish drop wherever but luckily Ming has supported both my and Gaun’s request to keep things neat. I suspect it is part of his own attitude but we provided a large bag at the front of the land and Ming does a regular sweep through as shown by the following photo:
Day 41 Thursday, a group of four guys turned up and evidently they are the concrete slab crew and ready to start work. I thought we were finishing the roof first and then the slab but according to Ming there will now be his workers completing the roof and the external gang preparing for and organising the concrete pour planned for next Tuesday.
This stopped further work on the roof as attention was turned to fitting the plumbing that would eventually sit under the slab.
Day 42 Friday, I had a vivid example of the benefits of being on-site regularly when we arrived back from a Thai Watsadu run to find that my precious P-Traps hadn’t been fitted to the floor wastes! It was only a miscommunication mixing instruction relating to P-Traps and the venting pipe and easily corrected but shows how easily things can go wrong. The people who try to supervise from overseas have their work cut out. Not something I would like to do.
I had previously stated that the steel ordered included the rebar for the slab – wrong. Another order was required from Gaun’s sister in Udon. Ordered in the morning delivered afternoon as it would be needed over the weekend for the slab reinforcement. The order also included some extra steel for what will become the eves. The problem with designing a 13 meter house using 6 meter steel beams!
Ming has been worried that steel like this left on site might disappear overnight. So far he has spent three nights sleeping in his truck to make sure this doesn’t happen. As he is only providing labour and any loss would be my problem and cost I think this is a pretty decent thing to do. I have been very lucky with my choice of builder.
The final activity for the week was to get the soil levelled ready for the concrete gang who would start Saturday.
Costs to date are shown below.
Hang in for Week 7 when all going well the roof will have taken shape and we will have a concrete slab poured. Fingers crossed.
For those of you following this section of the blog for information about your own possible build in Thailand have added another post on the topic of windows that you might find useful. You can find it HERE.
Thanks for reading.