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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ming is keeping the water up to the competed concrete including the plastic wrapped column.
Day 25 Tuesday, today the remaining formwork was completed for the front section of the house. More electricity problems so no concrete poured.
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.