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.
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.
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:
- The only choice of toilets for visitors are those in the two ensuite bedrooms. Not ideal even though one bedroom is mostly unused;
- 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;
- 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;
- 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;
- The carport is open and Gaun’s motorbike can get wet during heavy storms;
- 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;
- 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
- 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.
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:
- 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;
- 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;
- 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
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
And the end result of all of this:
Part 5 – the conclusion
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.
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.
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.