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.
I thought that I would write a separate post on the subject of windows for those heavy duty readers who are following this part of the blog to get ideas for their own build in Thailand at some stage. Windows have been and continue to be the hardest aspect of the build to date. I have complicated matters by sticking to a decision I made very early after moving to noisy early morning Isaan that the bedrooms would have double glazing no matter what the cost. Well the “no matter what the cost” has come back to haunt me and the double glazing route has made my life a lot more difficult than selecting a single glazed option.
There are a number of issues surrounding double glazing (DG) in Isaan. Firstly getting double glazing is not something you can ask the local village window guy to throw together. Done correctly DG is a complex thing and it seems for anything approaching cost effectiveness is best done using uPVC, which just to remind you stands for unplasticised polyvinyl chloride. All the suppliers for DG I have found only provide it in this format. The benefits are listed as follows:
Low maintenance – White or coloured uPVC window frames don’t need painting or sealing, significantly reducing maintenance over their life time. They are easily cleaned with water and detergent.
Tough and durable – uPVC is a very durable material used in water and sewer pipes for at least 100 years. Vinyl windows are so durable that the vast majority of them installed over the past 25 years are still in use. Good quality uPVC windows and doors are tested for ultra violet resistance to ensure they won’t fade in the harsh sun.
Rot resistant – uPVC does not rot, and is resistant to corrosion.
Thermal comfort – Unlike metals, uPVC is non-conductive, meaning its use in window frames does not transfer heat and therefore contributes to a more consistent internal temperature in a building. The combination of uPVC frames and double glazing makes for highly energy efficient windows.
Acoustic insulation – Double-glazed uPVC windows and doors are able to cut down noise by as much as 70%.
Resistant to salt erosion – uPVC is resistant to corrosion caused by salt-laden air making them ideal for coastal properties.
High security – uPVC windows incorporate multi locking systems providing a high level of security for homes or businesses. Most uPVC window locking systems lock at multiple points all around the sash and frame.
Recyclable – uPVC can be recycled as often as 10 times. Where they have been commonly used for the past 30 years, such as in Europe, uPVC windows and doors can be, and are, recycled at the end of life.
Provided by a rather biased source the Vinyl Council of Australia – website HERE.
Now if living in Pattaya, Phuket or Bangkok a local supplier of uPVC double glazed windows/doors is no problem. Thailand has enough farang living in these areas probably from Europe, as double glazing is still largely a mystery to most Australian as well as Thai builds, that there are a good number of purchasing options these days.
Living in Isaan, a largely rural and less sophisticated region, the demand for double glazing and in some cases even for glass windows, is pretty limited! What this means is that to get a range of quotes I had to source companies in the South and get them to include delivery costs to the North East.
The result of my research so far looks like this:
NOTE: Global House is for single glass throughout the house as they don’t stock DG and doesn’t include install. EK Decorate = Windsor Windows in Udon Thani and doesn’t include screens – still to be costed. Add say 20,000 THB.
You will note the costs for both double and single glazing is fairly consistent across the suppliers except for PSD, which when you add the VAT into the cost, which the others didn’t list separately, is more expensive. However the glass/spacer mix wasn’t as consistent. PSD, website HERE, offered a 6-9-5 combination, that is 6mm glass, 9mm gap and 5 mm glass as did Deku, website HERE. I believe the mix in glass thickness is a good idea when the object is to reduce noise. EuroPVC, website HERE, offered a 6-9-6, which missed the brief on reducing noise while EK Decorate, Thai website HERE, a 5-6-5, which is down on spec compared to the others.
The other major problem is that Ming, my builder, doesn’t do window installs. He tells me most people buy locally and the installation comes with the windows and that’s the way he likes it. In my case if I order from the South installation is a larger extra cost, if available, to bring the supplier’s labour here with the window delivery. I have read horror stories of installs where even the “expert” labour was used and the end job was rubbish. The risk is higher using someone this end especially when talking expensive DG units. I saw a local install the other day where ordinary galvanized self tapping screws were just drilled through the sides of the windows to attach them to the window opening! Not the best look.
In an Australian brick veneer build – timber frame and brick cladding – the timber frame is built the windows fitted into the frame and then the external brickwork fitted around the windows. In Thai builds the window openings are formed from the concrete walls and the windows have to fit into the space. It is an operation I would prefer to see done locally where the opening is measured by the supplier and the windows built to fit rather than hoping the two match at install.
The follow-on cost problem is that having been “forced” to select a uPVC supplier for the bedroom DG windows/sliding doors it is best if I match the rest of the house windows. I would have been quite happy with powder coated aluminium frames or cheaper uPVC from Global but the uPVC profile from the Southern companies look pretty chunky and I am not willing to compromise with a split-personality windowed house!
This is all before you get into the whole area of where the window “profiles” are sourced from, China, Thailand, Europe or designed to “German standards”!
My preference is a local supplier, who can work with the builder to get the window openings right and then install. Any future problems are then easier to fix, maybe. However this limits me to Windsor and they are expensive for the lower spec option they quoted for. I am returning to Udon Thani tomorrow to explore a couple of further options.
I will report back on my final decision as soon as I have made one!
Here is some useful information on using windows for sound reduction thanks to www.stegbar.com.au. The section on STC and how the ear perceives a reduction in noise is especially interesting. The paragraph on double glazing or IGU sort of questions the usefulness of the 6mm glass/ mm gap and 5mm glass window profile, which is what I have been offered.
Noise reduction refers to the amount of sound which is removed as it passes through a closed window or a wall.
However no matter how good the window is at keeping noise out, if it is not installed and sealed properly during construction, noise will still penetrate the home – all air gaps must be sealed off to ensure that a window will achieve the best noise reduction it can.
The Sound Transmission Class (STC) reflects the amount of noise that is reduced when sound passes through the window. So if the noise outside is 70dB and inside it is 40dB, the window is said to have an STC rating of 30. Normally the human ear cannot detect a 1-2dB change in sound. However a 10dB decrease in the sound is subjectively heard by the human ear as a halving of the sound – e.g. a 40dB noise seems half as loud as a 50dB noise. The average spoken conversation makes a 50dB noise, while common street traffic and neighbourhood sounds make about 70dB noise.
Sound waves are what carry noise into a home. To achieve noise reduction you must disrupt the sound waves as they travel through the windows. Using standard glass and window options you will be able to disrupt a sound wave.
Thicker glass – the further the sound wave has to travel through the density of the glass, the more likely it is to drop some of the sound waves. Thicker glass is often the best solution to reduce low frequency sounds like common traffic and neighbourhood noise.
Laminated glass – the vinyl interlayer will impact on the sound waves, but as laminated glass usually comprises two panels of equal thickness glass, the sound waves do not have to alter and therefore travel through relatively unscathed. Laminated glass will perform only slightly better than single glazing of equal thickness.
Insulated glass units – the key to achieving significant sound wave disruption in an IGU is to have as large an air gap as possible (less than 12mm air gap will provide an STC no better than thick glass); and to have the two panels of glass vary in thickness by at least 50% (so a 10mm panel on one side and a 5mm on the other).
Secondary window – for heavy traffic and aircraft noise a second window with an air space of at least 100mm is the only viable solution to significantly reduce the noise. The use of different thickness glass is recommended, with one of the windows glazed with 10mm glass is ideal.
Thanks for reading.