24 – 30 January, a week of more rendering or more plastering for you UK types. My apologies for this week’s update being very late. A moment of slackness on my part combined with being on the road most days looking for supplies. I have made up for it by writing a long post.
The building progress part of the story will be the same as the last couple of weeks in that I will skip to the end result rather than bore you with daily photos of more walls being covered up. Seen one seen them all.
I will start this post with some observations that aren’t directly linked to the week’s build but I hope you’ll find interesting and useful, especially if you are thinking of or are building in Thailand. If you just want an update of our house build then give this bit a miss and head to the end.
Before that however, a minor complaint. I don’t know if I share this with others who have built in Thailand but I have reached the stage that if I never seen another bag of cement in my life I will be a happy man. From day one the progression of the house has been mostly the addition of concrete to previous layers of concrete. If not concrete then steel. I now look back with fond memories of building in Australia with more characterful clay bricks and the smell of freshly cut timber. Somehow it was a process with a “softer” feel than the construction of my concrete bunker. Having got that out of my system we’ll get into the post finally.
I have been on the hunt for two main items in Week 13, a kitchen and some decent insulation. I’ll start with the latter, Now you’d think that in a country as hot as Thailand with increasing awareness of the building standards used elsewhere that something like insulation would be dead easy to find. Well it is, although it is rare to see a Thai house using it, but only the very thin foil “packets”. Any of the hardware stores, and I will list those in Udon Thani shortly, stock them but with very low Rt ratings.
I don’t know how the rest of the western world operates but in Australia we grade our insulation with a “R” rating, the thermal resistance to heat gain or loss that applies to the insulation product itself. The higher the rating the better and more expensive the insulation. Don’t be fooled into comparing the R rating you used back “home” with the Rt rating they use in Thailand.
Rt is described as “The Total R-value (RT) and is the total resistance of a building element such as a roof, wall, floor or ceiling. It takes into account resistance provided by each given construction material, internal air spaces, and the air film adjacent to solid materials. This allows architects and consultants to assess the overall thermal resistance of the complete component (such as roofing system)”. To my way of thinking this is a less useful form of grading unless every manufacturer used the same criteria for the non-direct insulation aspects of the building to reach a total, which is doubtful.
More general insulation information HERE.
Now there have been some very heated 🙂 debates on building forums such as coolthaihouse.com about the pluses and minuses of using insulation in Thailand. Some support the Thai “system”, which is to use minimal if any insulation. Sure it gets hot during the day but then the heat is quickly dissipated at night because there’s nothing “holding” it in. Maybe this works in a traditional Thai environment where people are out working during the day from sun-up to sun-down but for a retired farang like myself using the house during the day it doesn’t seem a viable proposition. It also presumes that temperatures do cool down to an extent that makes the nighttime comfortable, which is also debatable in the hot season.
I am currently living my wife’s family home, which is a two level building the upper storey with wood walls and a tin roof, totally uninsulated of course. Our bedroom is upstairs and on a sunny day, even in the cooler season like now, the heat makes it impossible to use comfortably. Everything you touch is warm from the reflected roof heat. In the hot season it would be unusable.
Insulating the ceilings also raises a debate in the forums about trapping heat within the house negating the beneficial effect of the cooler evenings. Some people argue that one should insulate the roof, install venting in the gable ends, if you have them, to allow heat within the roof cavity to escape and leave the ceilings uninsulated. This is certainly a more realistic option in my opinion than no insulation. It does raise the question about why the excessive roof heat is a problem of course. At the risk of upsetting the concrete tile brigade I do question our obsession with dark coloured, heat retaining concrete roof tiles – see “Red Clay Tiles” below or indeed the dark coloured steel roofs. The plus for the steel is of course that the tiles will continue to radiate heat in the evenings well after the steel has cooled down.
Let me quickly add that I am pushing no particular barrow. I have made my decisions and it’s a free building world, in some aspects anyway, and people can construct the house that works for them.
I have written about my choices for a cool house before so if you have been reading the blog religiously you can give this bit a miss too. I have to confess that my original inclination was for a darker coloured roof. However after experiencing living in a hot Thai designed house with tiles and no insulation in Chiang Mai, and reading coolthaihouse.com extensively I rather reluctantly decided to opt for white roof. Colorbond was always the material I was going to use not tiles whatever the other decisions on roofing.
Having installed the white roof I am now a convert. I was worried that the roof would look totally out of place and clash with it’s surroundings. The reality is that it is a bit of a chameleon and changes colour with whatever the sky is doing, even reflecting the blues on those clear days.
The main benefit of a highly reflective roof is of course to reduce roof space temperatures and the rooms underneath. As we are in the cool season here I can’t report on the effectiveness of this strategy with any authority yet. All I can say is that the internal rendering is taking ages to dry off because it is so cool inside the house.
Under the Colorbond went a silver foil with a foam backing. The anti-metal roof people always refer to the noise aspect during the Thai rainy season. Having been in an uninsulated tin roofed house during a tropical downpour I am here to let you know that it is a conversation stopper. The silver foil, a building regulation in Australia, was a given and the foam is there as the first defence against the rain noise.
I have gone for ceiling insulation because I am planning for a “mildly” air conditioned house. The two living spaces and both bedrooms will have Mitsubishi Electric inverter air conditioners, a 9,000 BTU in each of the bedrooms, a 12,000 BTU in the kitchen/family area and an 18,000 BTU in the lounge room. Having done my research ME are highly rated although quite a bit more expensive than some of the other brands. I have had inverter units in Australia and they are so much quieter than the on/off alternatives, especially in a bedroom environment, and are supposed to be a bit cheaper to run as well.
You can find a useful guide to calculating the size of air con required HERE – use Perth, or a very similar one HERE use Darwin. I will report back how accurate they were once we get through a hot season.
The reason I raise the air conditioning is that I have added Bt37 ceiling insulation, bought from Thai Watsadu for 428 THB a roll, each roll covering 2.4 m2. The high grade insulation, by Thai standards, is partly to reduce the Isaan village early morning noise, the basis for a lot of my house design, rain noise and to exclude any roof heat transfer and retain the cool from the air conditioners when working. I am not relying on an expectation that relief from the heat will be available just by opening the windows in the evenings.
I used to live in Canberra where the temperatures ranged from -8 degrees Celsius in winter to 40 degrees plus in summer so I know a bit about hot climates. Once the air temperatures gets up to these levels it is way beyond the capacity of fans to maintain a comfortable living environment. Even with double AAC block walls, windows protected from the sun and good insulation I believe the internal air temperature will increase during the day to reach a level that requires some assisted cooling. Time will tell.
I am minded to hold back on buying the air conditioners for the two living areas and see how we survive the heat this season, which will hit us anytime from March. Lots to share with you later in the year.
A category breakdown of the expenses so far including Week 14. This is a new addition so may change as I refine it further.
Thanks for reading.
The most comprehensive reference manual on building a house in Thailand. An e-book of 120,000 words arranged in a number of sections including the initial planning stages, a daily report on the construction process, later updates after we move in, a few summaries and a section on more general background topics such as land titles, Usufruct contracts, utility expenses and the daily cost of my building project.
So, what will you find here?
Firstly, I am a retired government employee not a builder so you won’t find a very specific how-to building book full of technical details. However, what you have bought is a very detailed 884-page coverage of how an enthusiastic amateur like me survived the Thai building challenges and ended up with a wonderful home that I still find hard to believe I have achieved.
Although the house we built is unique to us and may not be anything like the style of dwelling you plan to build, you will find many of the processes, frustrations and hints I share very relevant to almost any domestic construction project in Thailand. Topics covered such as creating a cool house, planning and design tips and specific topics like septic and water solutions are mostly likely generic to your situation, or parts of them will be, so will be a useful addition to your research material.
I have tried to make the book a good read and not just a dry list of dos and don’ts. It is written in a casual style as though I was chatting with you and I hope that makes it more engaging. In each chapter you will live every individual day of the build with us plus some of other events and activities and share our excitements and frustrations. Even if you aren’t about to build in Thailand, I believe the book includes enough interesting material of one farang’s story to hold your attention.
I am loving your book – just on my second read at the moment, to make sure that I didn’t miss anything first time around (which actually it turns out I did!).
Just a note of thanks at this point ……. I am a fairly methodical sort of bloke, but there are many issues which your book highlights which I just wouldn’t have thought about – or if I had, I may well have assumed they were “standard” building practice [U-bends, drain positioning, barge-board alignment] – if it hadn’t been for your excellent descriptions!! I will probably still “miss” something – that’s the nature of building/design – but thanks to you, it shouldn’t be anything too mission-critical. Mike
Undoubtedly, we would not have the quality home we now have without the book, we had no idea even where to start until we found Building in Thailand eBook. We did manage to avoid most of the traps that we could have fallen into, we are extremally thankful for the authors attention to detail and common-sense approach. Chris
I have had the good fortune to have used the first edition as part of Yuri and my plans to build our home here in Surin. To say it is a good reference book is an understatement. The practical advice and your self deprecating style make it a great read. The anecdotes and asides all add to its appeal as both a “how to manual” and a fascinating insight into what lies ahead for people like me who have only just commenced a similar journey. Far better armed for what’s to be encountered. Greg
The income from my eBook pays for the upkeep of this blog, which is otherwise commercially free unlike so many others.