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some thoughts from Dozer
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coolthaihouse project #2

feature wall jpegThis was a ‘dream project’ for us. It was a combination office space, extra living area, storage area, kitchen, guest area that would be right next to the current coolthaihouse, which we had somewhat outgrown. I will say, the coolthaihouse has been great over the years, except for some minor complaints (see coolthaihouse maintenance) and also that there was no internet except satillite, which is the worst product ever invented.

At the beginning of the project we had a very skilled electrician, tiler, ceiling man, wood worker, granite factory, granite layer, aluminum window and door people, painter or put another way ‘we had a team’. During the project we also encountered a good metal worker. So, starting with a ‘team’ it seemed that the main contractor that would do a ‘structure only’ bid didn’t have to be 100%. Also, the plans were very detailed.

You can see extensive pictures of the project at thecoolthaihouse project #2 gallery

We got the recommendation for a ‘structure’ builder from the ceiling guy. He had the foreman’s son working for him. Later, when it didn’t work out, Ms Dozer called the ceiling guy and said ‘We don’t want the foreman’s son anywhere near the project’. The reply ‘Oh yes, I already ran him off a month ago’.

Once we got the recommendation we had the builders come over and look at the building site and plans. They discussed it and a few days later gave us a $ bid, which seemed fair. The last thing to do was actually go look at some work they were doing, as they told us they were just finishing up a build within a housing project in Rayong. So finally we all agreed on a time and we drove over there. I have some pictures of the project, it looked OK. The tiling wasn’t 100%, but they wouldn’t be doing that anyway.

Actually for general builders it is just structure and since we had the ‘team’ already it seemed easy to do a contract without further due diligence. First off, come to find out later, the house we looked at wasn’t really built by them but was staged! They had worked in that project before but had been run off. I think one of the most common problems that people building houses (foreigners and Thais alike) run into is that all of the good people/companies are busy and the ones looking for work are the weak ones.

It was a level of deception that I have not encounter here before. Both Ms Dozer and I were unprepared for it. It became readily apparent that something was up when they didn’t know how to do a regular Thai plumbing scenario, in other words they were just going to ‘pour the floor’. I asked him how he had done other projects and he went through a contorted explanation that basically meant ‘I don’t know’.

Instead of stopping the entire project we decided that they should still be able to mix concrete and pour the columns, floor. We would do all the plumbing work ourselves. By the way, we had anticipated and explained to them initially about the venting appliances through the ceiling and using p traps, etc, which we were prepared to work with them on. But in this case they would not have been able to complete even the simpliest Thai house on their own.

Things got progressively worse culminating with the roofer. Since we were having the roof tiles put on by home mart and home mart has to approve the structure prior to roofing, that gave me some comfort that at least there was a quality control point. Since the contractor knew nothing about how to do a roof structure, which you can’t fake, he brought in a roofer that would be paid out of his budget.

The guy could walk the walk and talk the talk but was a flim flammer, similar to those guys in America that come by and want to re-asphalt the roof. The home mart engineer schedules a structure inspection, and then gives the roofer a list of things to ‘bring into compliance’. Later we discovered that he roofer had not fixed any of them. I told the homemart engineer, you need to give the list to the customer, otherwise how will you know if they have been fixed or not??? He said that he had never encountered this before.

The other thing was the roofer knew or suspected that I was not too keen on getting up on the roof. I am not afraid of heights, per se. And to boot we had a ‘bridge’ made in the attic to make for easy walking up there. That being the case I never got up there to examine the roof welds, and neither did ms Dozer. By the time out metal guy got up there we had already paid the roofer. In any event it was good out metal guy did in fact get up there and fix all of the problems, which we both later saw.

Running them off (or as it was later stated ‘paying them to go’) was the best day on the project. You know how if you have one group and they are leaving you have this feeling ‘is there something important that they know?’. Like the position of a PVC pipe or something, I don’t know could be anything. In this case there was nothing like that, no positive value to them as far as the project was concerned.

Since we are talking about problems the only other read problem was with the ceiling guy. He has always done the inside ceiling at 60 b per square meter with some extra charges for the steps and the outside at about the same cost. In this project he got going and finished the inside and then started on the outside. He installed most of the structure and then said instead of 70 b per square meter it would be 200!!! So then I went to find out what the normal and customary charge is. I got three prices, 90, 120 and 110. But the thing is it would have been nice for him to mention this prior to doing part of the job. At this point there was no way to price just what had been done and further it would be difficult to bring in someone new and get the normal project price. Finally negotiated a price above all of the standard pricing just to get it done. In no way a ‘pre planned’ thing, just him not thinking about how large the ceiling area was in this project, vs the others with a very small external ceiling which could be ‘thrown in’.

The good parts, the electrician was excellent as always. When there was a question on the plan he would wait and ask, if a certain part was needed he would tell me. Actually this became a rather funny point. When a part was missing I would head off to the store to get said part. Then as soon as I got back he would ask, do you have any screws like this that are 2″ and not an 1.5″. So I would head out again to the store. Then upon return, do you have any red electrical tape? (We used it to color code CCTV cables). That being said I much prefer this to ‘just using whatever is available’.

After dicey experiences with the CCTV people (oh my) the electrician ended up doing all the work. After laying all the electrical to go to a switching station we later pulled it all out and put in a heavier electrical. Remember first off normal CCTV installers only know ‘what everyone uses’. They do not understand/recommend going with a heavier gauge wire because ‘nobody else does that’. Then when the camera starts having horizontal lines in the evening when the infa red is running, they will tell you, oh the electric line is too thin. Gee, would have been nice to know at the beginning of the project.

Time is money in building. When anyone hits the project, if they don’t have a screwdriver they will use a hammer. Things get done fast. That is the way it works all over. Like with the initial CCTV installers, I wanted the line in conduit. Instead of cutting the line to size however, they just used whatever was initially cut, say 3 meters vs 1 meter necessary. It goes on and on. That makes me very grateful to the electrician that he understood how I wanted everything and would not ‘sweat’ 5 minutes of idle time.

The tiler also was a great workman. After a few projects with him I can see why we needed to schedule 2 months ahead of time. The guy is always working and in demand. That also made me and Ms Dozer happier to ‘beef up’ the tiling side of the project. If there will ever be a CTH P3 it would be a house with a raised floor accessible plumbing and ‘warehouse’ look (exposed electrical, etc). This handles first of all various problems. On this house I made sure the LAN ETHERNET cable was what was used for computer networking. I bought cable from two sources, one original CCTV guy (he, if anyone ever reminds me I will do a write up on the CCTV story, it is a funny one) and another from the electric center. The one from the electric center was rated for underground (even though it would be in water proof conduit), since it would be run from one house to another.

Now, the cable is run from the entry point (originally Satellite, now cable) underground to another house into a server room, then up in the ceiling down a wall and in the floor to a floor junction box. I never thought to ask if the cable was CAT 5 or CAT 5E or CAT 6. I mean why would you buy the slower CAT 5 cable if you only knew? The cable from the first CCTV guy said CAT 5 right on the box, so I knew that part was wrong. For the other heavy duty cable could I have lucked out? Back to the electric people and research, she tells me it is CAT 5. Sad face.

This is deviating a bit, but somewhat explanatory as to why I like the warehouse ‘concept’, which is everything can be accessed and changed out, tested for leaks, etc. If you look at some places like California Fitness for example, the warehouse finish can be quite nice. Since it is not normally done though it would take work to figure it all out and in any event on this project we were going ‘normal’, there was no budget for a raised floor, and besides on a warehouse look project it would be 2 story.

This brings me back to the tiler. I am not one for fancy finishes and ‘feature walls’, or for that matter using small patterned tiles on the driveway and patio. But because the tiler was ‘really really really’ good it made me want to design some nice stuff where the end product would turn out nice. Which is what we did. Like on the mural to go in the feature wall, there was a price for the 3 piece version of 7500 b, the one piece was 9500 b and weighed 75kg, we went with the one piece.

If I had to say one thing that went bad with the tiler is that we applied an acid to clean the surface of the small paving tiles to remove any traces of cement grout. After washing it down a silicone sealant was applied. Because the surface had not dried completely the sealant discolored a bit. Like a very minor point.

With the electrician all was perfect. All of the other workers basically rated ‘perfect’. I always especially like working with the aluminum factory. Their work is always perfect and I quite like the way the 1.5 mm white aluminum looks.

With the granite the factory initially cut the wrong type of opening for the sink. Undermount sinks are a lot more difficult that surface mounts. It was just a mistake. For an undermount, the sink must be at the factory during the cutting and is used as a mold. The cut and finish must be exact because that is what will show. On a surface mount sink, it doesn’t matter as the surface mount covers the whole. In this case the first sink was for some reason cut wrong, but I happened by the factory for something else and looked at it (progress check). Lucky, as it didn’t need to be transported back and forth, they just cut a new one! The original slab is lost and cannot be used again.

The final on the house is that all turned out well. Pricing on budget, 264 sq meter under roof at 1.95 m (but note only 1/2 that living space).

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