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Feedback – Building Story and Water Tanks

feedback from Malcolm L

Hi – saw your website in the Bangkok Post Database of Wed 22.09.04. Great read ! (I’ll have to go back and read it more thoroughly again.)

I’ve been there too – or almost. Our house will be finished and ready for occupation in another 6 weeks or so.

My approach was slightly different from yours. We have a brother-in-law who is a “charng/builder” and has had some years of overseas working experience. He is now a rice farmer from Isarn (Amnart) and and also has a successful separate occupation in his own company of raising wooden houses above the flood line by jacking them up and cutting the existing and then inserting longer support columns (sows). Our house is in the Chiangmai environs about 20 kilometres to the east. He turned down our suggestion of being the main contractor because he said he has no contacts in the area. Fair comment I thought. However, he offered to “oversee” the project and help and/or get involved with the building in the off-farming season and the wet season when the house jacking up business is slow. After we found a reliable local builder (that’s another story !), we agreed to have him do just that.

Our agreement with the builder is that he will provide all the labor to build the house for a fixed fee except for the ceiling work where he could recommend a specialist which we would have to pay for ourselves – or find and pay for our own specialist. (I haven’t figured out why yet ?)

Normally they will recommend you use a specialist for things they are not strong in. And it makes good sense, since the ceiling company you get only installs ceilings.

He estimated that the house could be completed within 6 months and payment was agreed in 6 equal monthly tranches starting 1 month after he turned the first sod for the foundations. (He would not budge 1 satang on his first quote which I thought was unusual enough for a Thai trader). And we would buy all the materials.

In the contracts I have seen, you fill in the milestones. Normally, the milestones ‘tranches’ are based on completion points in the house, such as foundation posts, roof, etc. I also found Thais don’t budge much on the quote, even if they give a quote twice as high as the previous one.

The first sod was turned in early June 2004 after all the land sale documentation was completed. Ours is a gated but UNwalled estate (moo baan) with 24 hour security – which begs the question I know ! Up to now, we’ve only heard of one resident complaining about suspected night prowlers – which could just as well have been stray dogs. We also have Thai friends in walled gated communities who’ve been burglarized more than once ! Who knows ?

Normally if you have any kind of security the criminals will just move on to the next easier target.

To date, there have been a few hiccups but no major problems. Our MO seems to work well. The house will be ready in less than (ahead of) the 6 months he estimated. There have been times when he has moved faster than we could buy materials. I also think we’ve been lucky. If you’re interested, I’m prepared to go into more details about our progress to date.

This is what this site is all about. YES, we’re interested.

I would also like to ask you about one clear difference between the methods and materials of construction between your house and mine. Yours has concrete block walls whereas my builder used red bricks. I’ve been to his own house (and that of others he has built to discuss with the owners) and seen that he used the same method and materials. I’ve also seen houses he is in the process of building – again the same method/materials – and no complaints or problems. The bricks or blocks are fillers and do not add to the strength of the structure much as far as I can see.

Are you aware of any disadvantages of brick walls versus concrete block walls ? I certainly hope not – at this stage – but I would rather know now than later !

As far as red brick vs. cement block. Red brick is a step above the cement block, similar pricing but slightly better than the cement block. There are no real downsides, the only minor one worth noting is the cement block has some air pockets which has an insulating property. Given the choice brick is the way to go – so you’re on the right track here. The thing that gives the wall strength is the stucco applied to the outside, be it cement block or red brick, everyone doing a house should make sure that a adequate stucco layer is applied. You are in a good position since you are buying materials, the experienced builders really will have no motivation to do a ‘paper thin’ stucco application. I did note some neat building ideas using double walled construction (whether the wall is cement block or brick) in the site under the info section (good ideas). In future projects I would tend to do a double external wall with a gap in between, which add an automatic insulating factor. However, this would increase the cost and isn’t the norm.

You’ve also cleared up several points for me which would have saved me a lot of head scratching and debate. One of these concerns the use of stainless water tanks. I want to bury the ugly things out of sight but everyone has strongly recommended against this – but never gave what I thought was a satisfactory explanation – or to build a concrete lined pit ie don’t just dig a hole, drop in the S/S tank and cover it with dirt. They all said the stainless would “rust” away but I couldn’t accept that. Whereas the explanation given in your site of low grade welding rod being the subject of early corrosion has answered my queries. So thanks – I’ll go for the “plastic” Cotto type of “Pure Water Container” or their “New” so-called “stone” “Pure & Clean” water tanks -which can be buried I’m told.

Just one more question on these plastic tanks – what do you know about the plastics used – and the possibility of it imparting taste and/or toxins into the water itself ?

I’m told that the green plastic tanks have problems with moss growth. Today if I were buying a new tank I would still go stainless, but look forward to you letting me know how it works with you. As far as underground water tanks, the only way I have seen it done is by basically building a ‘chamber’ underground. The chamber was built out of heavy duty cement blocks.

Best Malcolm L

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