coolthaihouse.com blog

some thoughts from Dozer
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Feedback – Robin T – A builder shares specific advice.

feedback from Robin T

Firstly, an excellent site, really bares the soul

image image001.jpgIf a newbie (to thailand) asked my if he should try to build his own house, I would say definitely yes, go for it. You can have a lot of fun – and – design more or less whatever your dreams may be and the size of your budget allows. There are few artistic restrictions to hamper the creative mind but we are talking nuts and bolts on this site I believe.

As an aside – isnt it curious that very few sumptuous houses boast a swimming pool ? I lived in south africa – in the good old days – and virtually every house worthy of a bbq (braai vleis) had its own swimming pool. All half decent villas in spain have pools

Anyone any comments on that?

One thing you didn’t cover was getting competitive bids for materials. Its normal to do a material take off and produce a bill of quantities. This can be turned into a list in thai and then taken round to various suppliers. They will be unwilling to give itemised prices but can usually be persuaded to give a lump sum price (including delivery). Of course you need to know what you can accept on site and when and plan accordingly always thinking about theft of valuable materials but I think you can get a worthwhile discount. You might consider designing an attached garage which can then be built quickly and used as a lock up store.

here’s some comments on your pages as i read them, all a bit haphazard I.m afraid

Homepage

There are also so called tradesmen who will deliberately and surreptitiously sabotage an installation in the hope that it make bring further remedial work for some other thai (or just for plain spite and jealousy). For example a toilet sewer pipe which used 6 inch asbestos cement pipes and the joints were not grouted in on the underside. The result, after a few years, was that the soil under the shower room floor was gradually washed away and the floor and outside wall sank 3 inches with alarming cracks.

Planning czar

The environment development officer is called an aw baw tor (rhymes with more) ongan borihansuan tambon. I can only speak of the rural Khorat district where customs and manners are light years away from trashy Pattaya. Getting planning approval was trivial (but involved quite a few team building parties with beer Chang and lao khao) and our little red house was built by the local OBT anyway (an excellent foreman with a good team that I can thoroughly recommend – yes shock horror).

Yes, this area is more difficult than up country to get approval. Good englishizing of the Thai title also.

Drawings, well yeah

I trained as a professional engineer, so drawings are my life blood, so to speak. The first thing to remember is that thais cannot visualize, they cant see in 3D. Construction drawing must be simple, and even so the detail must be closely supervised. They can normally get the outside dimensions correct and level but you should check yourself before they start pouring.

Our redhouse was a peculiar construction (see my account of its birth). I overcame the problem of visualization by using a special 3D CAD program that could produce simple perspective views from any angle outside and from inside (mindblowing). This was a great help to the builders (details appended below)

So another computer program I have to learn?? Just kidding, it looks great.

I fully agree that you should get a qualified architect to draw professional plan. These guys are not expensive, you may even find a senior student or intern who would be glad of the opportunity to work with a falang customer (a polite one please).

Engineer rip off

I havent met any thai technicians or engineers who would be considered good enough to work overseas in the petrochem industry (contrast that with the Indian subcontinent where it has been my pleasure to work with some extremely talented and trustworthy engineers) The concept of a building inspector (QS) is rather alien as thai culture doesnt readily adapt to criticism. You really need to watch over it yourself or likely suffer the consequences. Your architect should be able to give you pointers to watch out for and the rest is mostly common sense.

Plumbing

As in the UK, plumbing fitting are poorly made, loose threads, wide tolerances, weak design etc. PVC fittings can be nasty. Watch out for fittings that seem loose on the tube. The solvent glue relies on a snug fit for the joint to be made securely. If its loose then the glue will not weld all round and you are likely to have a leaky joint, which is a real pain to cut out and replace. Check the fittings in the shop first. Sometimes the fittings are from one source and the tube , another, almost bound to fail.

There is a nasty repair you can try if desperate enough, but the result is unsightly.

Get hold of some cotton string (not plastic polythene stuff). wrap this around the offending joint whilst pasting solvent glue on at the same time. Note that the joint must be completely dry first and not leaking. Hopefully the whole lot will harden off over 24 hours. Its not suitable for high pressure systems.

Tee joints are notoriously difficult. If there is any out of axis stress on the joint it will likely fail. If its in an awkward corner, it can be very difficult to ensure a proper joint. One trick is to make up the joint with short lengths, say 150mm. You can then join into the system using straight connectors, much surer method. There are no screwed couplings or flanged joints available. Once your system is glued up you are stuck witrh it – literally. I am thinking of adapting a straight coupling to be fitted with O rings. The coupling can then be slid along the pipe to uncouple. Really handy for maintenance.

Electrical

Interesting comments. As far as I know, all materials are specified using the metric system, so wire diameters are 1mm^2, 1.5, 2.5, 6, 10 and so on. The size of main circuit breaker (which normally contains and integral wired fuse) is set by the size of the meter, 30, 45 or 60 amp (after that its 3 phase). I have seen some terrible wiring, quite lethal and an earth rod is essential. It seems common to use an 80cm copper coated steel rod made for purpose. It should be placed in damp ground and it is often convenient to place it near the septic tank.
My advice, don’t place it near a steel television mast. Any incidental lightning charges will raise the ground potential with damaging results (I fried my washing machine that way following a lightning strike) I would like to get hold of the thai electrical code, its likely similar to the japanese code , will investigate at my local technical college. Although a 3 wire system is desirable, most appliances are 2 wire, so it wont help you. I recommend the use of an earth leakage trip (ELCB) system. These are around 500Baht. I know of one case of a child being electrocuted when she tried to pick up the aluminum bowl of a rice cooker. She was bare footed and there was sufficient shock to cause heart failure, so never use electrical appliances in bare feet or wet shoes.

I suggest also that you distribute your ELCBs, ie don’t just put a single unit on the switchboard. Leakages may cause annoyance trips all the time. You need to place them where accidental shock is likely, in a kitchen, outside in the Jacuzzi, in the garage/workshop and of course near the shower room (even if the shower heater has its own trip) and so on. Lighting circuits should not normally need a trip (unless you are plugging appliances into the circuit.

A good way to design your system is to sketch out a single line diagram where you only draw in the live wire and location of socket outlets, fuse protection and earth. Then get a qualified electrician to do a licensed drawing and sign it!!

You mention the grounding of the neutral supply wire. I have never seen this done (it isn’t done in the UK, the neutral is grounded at the transformer). It is possible to get substantial currents from an unbalanced 3 phase load if you ground the neutral in the house and I don’t know how you design for this? If you have ever experienced the situation where the neutral link blows back at the transformer, you will know what I mean.

Flooring

Flooring is often constructed on top of a raised infill of earth. This must be properly wetted and tamped down (not with a whacker, use a vibrating tray). I have never seen any damp proof membrane used? I guess its not too important if you are having the floor tiled, but its a nuisance is you want to lay mats or pvc lino as the damp will collect underneath and go musty and rot anything degradable (like a cardboard box.) I think a layer of cheap pvc floor covering would do the job.

Another observation, local practice often uses bamboo strips lashed into a lattice like rebar mats. I looked into this on the net. It seems quite common practice but experts don’t know why it works so well for flooring because the mortar rots away the bamboo quickly and you are left with a void. The guess is that is provides channels to relieve stress in the slab, so you get micro cracking instead of big cracks. Of course this type of flooring is not suitable for a workshop with heavy loads, but ok for domestic use.

Warning As the flooring sets and dries out it will shrink. This may leave gaps at the wall edges (or even small cracks). These must be filled in thoroughly with grout or you may invite the visit of termites which are everywhere (as I know to my cost)

Termites!!!!!!!!!!!!

Be very aware of the future dangers, these tiny ants can devastate an unoccupied place in the space of a year. I recommend that all possible entry points must be clearly visible. They will make pencil sized mud tunnels up the outside walls for example. The will tunnel inside the wood frame of a doorway. You must make sure there are no possible tiny entry points inside the house. They can get in through tiny cracks 1-2mm dia and go unnoticed. I only found out about my infestation when the cleaner said she could hear them inside the wood partitions (yes you can hear the little blighters chewing away). Sure enough, tapping at the walls, my finger went through one part, and we had to replace the whole lot. My neighbor found his in the roof void. He had to pull down the whole ceiling and have a specialist (aussie) firm in to spray the place. Moral, don’t use wooden roof timbers, steel is best. btw you cant completely eradicate termites, only keep them at bay.

Contractors

I think one should ask what building work has been done before and then go and inspect the job. I have found (upcountry) that owners are quite happy to discuss their new houses, good and bad points. Once you have checked 3 or 4 sources you can get a good idea of competence. There are good ones who may have special skills, such as tiling, blockwork, plastering, carpentry. I advise you try to do lump sum work where possible. Tiling for example comes in at a fixed labor cost (50b/m2 for 9inch tiles and 70b/m for 6inch tiles). Make sure, of course that the man really is a specialist (you can often judge this by the quality of his tools, but double check anyway) I have seen amateur tile laying, it a horrible sight to live with. Block work and plastering are also lumpable – its called gnan mow (as in cow) You mention using a relative – well you were lucky to have had one with good skills. If they turn out to be rank amateurs then you get a lot of long lasting grief from firing them. Its tempting to think you will get a cheap quality job from relatives but its a big risk. A well known and respected professional is worth the extra cost particularly for an amateur customer.

btw another tip, make it clear that the contractor is responsible for his own victuals. Don’t (you or more likely your wife) get conned into providing the customary lao khao party at the end of the day. It can become quite expensive – and tiresome. Negotiate the proper rate for the job and finish, no extras. Don’t squeeze the price too much but don’t be too generous as either way you loose respect. Keep careful accounts and get signed receipts for money paid, then there’s no room for argument. I have often found that if you negotiate a straight deal up front and pay on time, everyone is happy. I think it’s a good idea to use specialists where possible, perhaps not cheaper but quicker and better quality in the long run.

Walls

This is a real paradox. Originally thai houses were made of wood laths, no windows and built on stilts. A very practical solution.

Stilts – yes to avoid flooding but more importantly to get above the mosquito layer which is close to the ground, also away from the dust and dirt, also a security feature when bandits roamed the place 200 years ago. Wood is a cool material, it doesnt store heat (neither does corrugated iron)

Cement blocks, by comparison are cheap and nasty and turn your house into a storage heater at night. The heat retention can be phenomenal, enough to roast a chicken – I know.

So whats the solution?

Well I have seen the cavity wall construction proposed, but I don’t know of a house yet done like that – anyone seen one? You double the thermal mass of the wall so the benefits may not be as mush as expected. A standard wall seems to take 2 hours after sundown to cool off

The main thing is the direct sun shining on the outside wall. This can really heat up the block so its too hot to touch. Any kind of cladding that prevents direct impingement would help considerably. You might consider the cement laths made to resemble the traditional wooden laths used in village houses. You could save on plastering the outside wall to offset the cost. Of course the blocks will still heat up to ambient temperature

Another suggestion is to use dry wall lining inside. This is a layer of whatever, supported on laths attached to the wall. You could use cement sheeting (GRC) for example which is cheap enough or decorative plywood (treated against termites first). It would be a good idea to leave a gap at skirting board level and have the sheeting project into the roof void. This will allow natural ventilation to carry the hot air away – it all helps.

Of course if you want to keep you air con running costs down then the superblocks are essential.

Another tip is the use of insulating blankets in the roof void. These are made from fibreglass sandwiched between aluminium foil. I have seen these used in a minimarket to great effect, stop the radiated heat from the roof coming through. I have never seen any polystyrene slabs available?

I like the use of insulating blankets and double wall construction. Could someone write up there experience with superblocks? How does it compare to double wall?

btw I have a little potboiler experiment i want to try out using a standard single block plastered wall, during construction poke a hole in the bottom of each block as it is laid, so that series of drains connects the whole of the blcoks (incidentaly, it is not necessary to laid blocks offset as in traditional brickwork. They can be placed in line on top of each other with some 3mm rebar laid horizontally every 3 courses. Its quicker. The idea is then to have a small perforated hose at the top of the wall, to trickle water inside the blocks. This will cause the wall to be damp and become cooled through evaporation. It does have a significant effect and is almost free. I noticed this when i tried it in the bedroom of a shop house we rented. This would get stinking hot in the day, so i got a hose to spray a fine mist on the hot wall and it lowered the room temp 10 degrees within an hour. Was it clammy? not as bad as being a broiled chicken, but this is thailand – so experiment

Cement/concrete

I worked in the middle east for many years. The practice there is as follows

no structural concrete shall be allowed to cure at temperatures over 25C, it goes off too quickly. Iced water is used when it get too hot. Concrete is poured at night/early morning. My builder friends have never heard of that requirement in thailand – thought they knew of it in saudi. I think there are also commercial retardents but have never seen them used, some research needed here?

I also notice that the concrete mix is often very very sloppy wet. I thought that the dryer the mix the stronger the result? I also note a lot of mixing done by hand where they put the water in first then throw in the sand and tip on the cement last. then stir it up with a big paddle.

Cement must be best quality for structural work. I have heard that cement in a store actually goes off if it remains unsold in the store for too long. So you can get bargains like 60 baht per bag but only suitable for rough work

Sand must be clean and not contain dust. You may often see sand being sieved in a net first particularly for plastering work. It must also be free from salt contamination. This may be a problem in pattaya?

Do not use muddy water

I have heard of wash up detergent being added to the mix as a plasticiser. I dont know if this is correct? Weak concrete in structural columns and beams is surely a disaster?

I would recommend a cement mixer to ensure a homogenous mix every time. Of course you will need a petrol driven one as there may not be electric on site Anyone any comments?

Good pointers on cement. Yes, I’ve heard this also, that cement should be mixed before full sun, but this doesn’t seem to be practiced here.

Septic tanks

Don’t place them near to supporting columns in walls. The earth around the tank becomes naturally damp and soft and the column may subside in wet soil – i know. They should be at least 3 m away from the house and accessible to the sump cleaning vehicle should you need it. btw never use toilet cleaner (harpic or the like). This can spoil your septic tank bacteria and then you will have a nasty smell on your hands (a healthy tank has almost no smell) Another point is, don’t place you tank in a hollow, it should be on a high point preferably for good drainage and no flooding. I wouldn’t use asbestos cement piping, its thin and brittle, easily crushed in the soil. 4 inch pvc works ok. Don’t forget a 3/4 inch vent pipe taken up above the eaves. Use a brass access cover rather than a pvc one (they seem to stick and get broken) If you have a washing machine, dont let this drain into the septic tank. Instead you need to dig a large pit at least 10m from the house and fill it with small gravel. Then you can drain the huge quantities of machine water into the pit but be aware of any water wells nearby. Detergent is normally biodegradeable but does turn the soil alkaline. I have heard of someone making a pond with water hyacinths to eat up the phosphates??

Corner cutters

Something I am puzzled about is the reference to materials. When you hire builders you are usually paying for labour only. You, the owner are responsible for supplying materials?? So the only corner cutting available is in labour time? Perhaps I have misunderstood. You do need to ensure that the builder/specialist has proper tools for the job – including his own power tools drills, saws etc. NEVER be tempted into provide your own tools (especially power tools) to assist. They will certainly be abused and probably broken or you might be held liable for any accident. Make that quite clear at the outset.

Corner cutters. This generally only applies if you’re buying a pre-finished house, or if you contract for contractor to supply both labor and materials. If you’re the one buying materials the motivation to cut corners to save on material cost goes by the wayside.

Toilet bowls

Well no falang wants to squat on the ground! but thais tend to squat on top of a western crapper. This breaks the fragile seat and you are left with an ugly john, or they slip off and you are left with a damaged relationship. I havent found a source of really strong toilet seats – up country anyway. My solution was a compromise. I used a raised squatter. These are a porcelain jobbie with a skirt about 250mm high. I can cope with this and theres nothing to break.

The water cistern. A simple tank with water for flushing. Dont use the white concrete ones. They may look attractive in the show room, but water seeps through them and after 6 months you have a very unsightly muddy tank to look at.

Hot shower unit

Go for the simple 2.5kw one. Don’t try the ones with the fancy controls. They dont seem to work very well. The simple ones have a power switch with 4 levels which is quite sufficient. You have a simple water valve to turn on and adjust water flow if necessary. It also acts as a stopcock is you have to take the unit out for repair. The electrician should install a breaker switch outside the shower room for easy access. You may need this if the water flow switch inside the unit fails to turn off when you finish showering. Your unit will start to cook very quickly. Don’t forget the earth leakage circuit break as well and make sure the shower unit has its own earth wire properly connected.

Eurobaths

I’ve never attempted to install a European style bathroom in Thailand but have done many back in the UK. They require considerable skill to fit properly. I shudder at the thought of a semi-skilled plumber let loose but it must be possible. I would advise that your installation must allow for easy access and maintenance. Give this serious thought – for example a bath fully tiled in would be impossible to service if you had a faulty drain or taps to change. You should create a good sized panel to allow full access to the underbelly (even consider a small door through the outside wall for example)

Surface mounted pvc plumbing is not a pretty sight. It needs to be recessed into the wall. I take water pipes upwards into the roof void. This may also be a justification for a cavity wall.

Hot water plumbing for a bath is a problem. Thick walled galvanized tube will work but the plumber needs a proper pipe threading tool. PVC is a nono. It softens over 50C and long term will become brittle as the plasticiser evaporates. One possibility might be the black Polythene tubing of the type used for irrigations (but what are the fittings made of?). I haven’t tried it but it would be worth a go.

Ive never seen copper tube in the province. I expect its hugely expensive but it is the standard method in europe.

Yes, plumbing service can be difficult since many things are inaccessible. On bath plumbing I haven’t seen them do any kind of access panel but it wouldn’t be a bad idea. Copper around here isn’t all that expensive.

PVC doors

Love em and hate em. They really are essential as rotted wooden ones are an eyesore, but they are a swine to fit. Ive had 3 installed and none is right. The problem lies in the pvc frame. It buckles and bends out of true at the slightest excuse

My advice would be to assemble the door/hinges and door catch first on the floor. Screw a dozen 2inch screws through the frame to provide purchase for grouting. Then get some wedges (I used beer mats) and place these firmly in the door jam. Then position the door in the wall using props. Then carefully pour in the grout around the frame and leave 24 overnight to set.

BTW there is a neat plastic door handle/lock available specially for these doors. It contains the usual press button lock inside but can be opened from the outside with a screw driver (not a key, nothing to lose when the kids play around)

Aluminum hinges of course!!

Columns

I am surprised at a 60cm square column, perhaps you are referring to the outside dimension of the formwork ? The ones I have seen are either 100mm or 150mm square for a small building.

The post holes in my estimation should be 100mm * 100mm. The form would be 60cm at the base.

From what I have observed, the standard thai way for a house structure is

dig foundation 0.5m below surface (I disagree here and insist on 1m which brings much grumbling until I tell them that I am twice as heavy)

pour is a base 75mm thick and place the rebar mat

set the column rebar and formwork and pour

(I always insist on short lengths of rebar every 3 block courses so that the wall can be tied in properly)

cast a simple footing at grade level for the skirt wall

Construct the ground beam form work 50 – 80 cms above grade

Fill in the skirt wall, usually done with red bricks

After a week fill in the floor void with suitable earth (its also a good place to dump building rubble. It must then be wetted thoroughly. I would caution against a large whacker, a small vibrating tray seems ok _ you might damage the skirt wall.

An alternative to soil infill is to use precast concrete floor slabs but you must have your ground beam expertly design for the extra weight

Then the final floor is floated on top

Notice that this method transfers all the building weight to the column footings, so any surface ground heave caused by periodic heavy rain does not affect the structure.

Perimeter walls

Proper intruder proof fencing around your property is quite important to deter a casual miscreant. In my area we have to be wary of itinerant farm labourers who have no scruples about opportunistic theft or worse. I believe I am right in saying that thai law takes a dim view of anyone deliberately climbing into your property. You can shoot at them (something like the threshold law in some states of the US). So its important to define your no go area. So bear this in mind if you opt for a cheap barbed wire fence. In government installations like a pump house, they use a full 2m chainlink fence with barbed wire top strand.

Block perimeter walls

This can be a significant cost. If your property is say 2 gnan (800m^2) say 40 by 20m, thats a perimiter of 120m say 1.8m high around 2700 blocks.

Some savings Lay the blocks inline vertically, they dont need to be offset like brickwork Make the posts 2.5m apart as measured from the sides of the posts, ie the wall panel is exactly 2.5m wide which means you don’t have to cut any blocks (wastes time and material) Use a thin skim for plastering (its quick and helps when painting) Use a length of horizontal rebar every 3 course projected into the columns Use a simple top beam for strength

Casting the column around the blocks is a sound idea but I’ve never seen this done??

If you are going to require the wall to retain more than 0.5m infill earth, this needs to be designed properly or the weight will push the wall over in time.

Tiling

A professional tiler can do a very good job, most pleasing to the eye. He will have all his own tools, power angle cutter with diamond blade, proper trowels, floats and leveling edge. If in doubt don’t ever use an amateur. What always surprises me is the huge amount of cement they use for placing the tiles. Ive seen a bed nearly 50cms thick, which is a big expense (which your contract tiler doesn’t have to pay for.

I wouldn’t use shiny tiles on a floor but thais like than kind of thing. The slightest surface water make them as slippery as ice. There are proper matt finish floor tiles available, much safer.

Water

I haven’t seen aluminum water tanks (do you mean stainless steel? as shown in your photos)

Yes, SS.

With careful design it is possible to incorporate a water storage tank in a roof void and avoid the expense of an ugly water tower I think a combination of ground level concrete storage jars and an emergency roof tank would be efficient. I would also use one of those pressurizing pumps to provide water pressure to the house system (about 5000 baht)

You don’t mention anything about rainwater harvesting from the roof. This is common practice and provides safe drinking water (well I’m still here after 20 years). The water is stored in those large cement water jars. Empirically 6 of them will save a years rainwater from an average house roof (they are about 5-600 baht each delivered. A lorry will carry 6 at a time. Make sure to get the ones with a built in drain tapping at the base. They must also have a lid. You can pipe your rain water from the gutter into one of the tanks and then interconnect all the drain tappings.

Agree a great idea. The best setup I saw was an underground storage system where the water was harvested and from the roof.

Try and get some plastic netting to help filter out any leaves. You dont want dead leaves in your drinking water. I would also construct the gutter downpipe so that it had a tee at the bottom making a dead leg. I would then fit a pvc ball valve on the end to drain off any leaves periodically

Be careful how you place the jars. They must be on a flat fully supporting surface. If using a concrete base then I would make a simple formwork and bed the tanks in a 50mms of grout. If placing them on bare earth, the practice is to dig a pit around 200mms deep and bed the tanks in. This way the soil wont wash away from under them

BTW, you might consider some sort of overflow system when the tanks get full, because the water streams over the side and will wash away soil around the base. If the base becomes unstable the tank can explode apart without warning – I know!

Ceilings

I think by sheetrock you must be referring to what we call plasterboard?

I’m not sure. I’ve always called it sheetrock.

My observations I like suspended ceilings for roof voids. The precast ceiling tiles come in attractive patterns and are very easy to maintain. Access to the roof void is simple and convenient

We all know that heat rises. A typical ceiling is 3m high, yet I have never seen any vent system to release the accumulated heat. I did an experiment which I removed one of the tiles to allow heat to release into the roof void. It made a significant difference after about an hour. Of course the gable ends of the roof are normally fitted with ventilating windows. This is essential to equalize wind pressure in sudden squalls (like mini tornados that we get up country, otherwise you may lose your roof – it happens with flat roofs sometimes.

So I think perforated ceiling tiles would be helpful

On the subject of heat – I am always surprised at the paradox of putting the ac fan unit up at ceiling level. I would put them at ground level blowing downwards so that the room gradually fill with cool air and hot air is vented upwards requiring less cooling power – that’s the theory?

Roofing

You make a very valid point, cement roof tiles are most definitely not secure against burglary. This is well known in the Village development along third road (one of the first large bungalow developments). Home owners regularly discover on returning from a trip that intruders have gain easy entrance by lifting off the tiles. Of course on a 2 storey building this may not be an issue but on a bungalow is just too easy. Perhaps some additional steelwork like the rebar matting used for flooring could be welded in place?

Outside eves

I don’t think you mean gypsum sheeting (its not waterproof), but normally use grc sheeting (glass reinforced cement)

Yes, correct.

Coconut wood is not good as it delaminates with age. The standard is Rubber tree wood (that dark red stuff called afromosa i think). Be careful when handling it as the wood splinters are poisonous a can make a septic wound.

Gates and fences

Fences are essentially used on the frontage facing the road and selection is generally a matter of tatse. I do agree that the very ornate and tall stainless jobs do look gaudy and pretentious particularly against a neighbor’s cheap and simple affair.

As for gates, the sliding type should, where convenient, contain a small pedestrian gate, much easier to operate. Large gates can be heavy to move, particularly for children and there a danger of getting crushed. I have used 3 inch rubber trolley wheels (100 baht each) which are quiet and trouble free. You have to use a u shaped channel which must be swept clean periodically.

I would recommend a spring buffer to receive the door on closing, I have seen a stout gate post destroyed by the butting of the gate.

I would recommend that the gate is sprayed rather than hand painted. Use red lead primer then a good quality enamel such as Hammerite. Of course the steel should not be rusty to start with, but if using slightly rusted cheap offerings, they should be dipped in a phosphoric acid bath to remove the rust

What about gate locks? For security purposes you must lock your gate or an itinerant may claim that your gate was open inviting him in. A stout brass padlock and chain is what I have resorted to as I have not seen a suitable mortise lock. A pedestrian gate really needs a neat solution – Any ideas?

As for hinged gates, I have used these on our village house. I have 2 large coconut tree trunks dug into the ground to make gate posts. I then have a set of tubular/wire mesh gates 2m x 2m each hinged onto the posts. Its worked well for 5 years and originally cost 6000 baht inc labor. I used 2 staples welded on to form a link through which a padlock was used. as the gates settle they came out of line and its now impossible to loop through (I use a chain). I would recommend make them as a bolt on clip which is adjustable.

Kitchens

As you rightly point out, you could spend a fortune on a euro kitchen. IMHO a waste of money and of little value to your thai cook.

I like the tiled counter, very practical. Make sure that the underneath height is tall enough to accommodate a standard 16kg gas bottle.

FYI, another idea is to set the gas bottle outside (for safety) and run the hose in through a PVC pipe set under the counter.

I designed my kitchen with a knee height water tap and hose, together with a slight slope (like a shower room) so that the entire area can be hosed down.

Your cupboard doors look attractive .

I have not yet solved the eye level storage cupboard thing. OK for the average falang but a pita for the half sized thai. I think I would opt for a walk in pantry with generous wall shelves

As for the cooking area, I believe a proper canopy with sides and back are necessary for the kind of volcanic stir frying that can go on. I dont know if a fan is needed (gets clogged up) but certainly a screened outlet chimney will suffice. For appearance the canopy should be made out of stainless steel. I recommend using 2 stainless steel thai gas stoves, set side by side. Some come with a cupboard base to hide the gas bottle. They are cheap 1000 baht and easy to maintain. Also make provision for an overhead striplight within the canopy so you can see what you are burning.

In our original village house, the kitchen was a kind of back addition room and the ceiling was lower 2.5 m. This led to a stuffy hot atmosphere building up at nose level. In hind sight I would have made the suspended ceiling sloping against the rafters. This would have provided means to have an exhaust fan in the gable end – great improvement.

You don’t mention anything on water purifiers, maybe other readers will have experiences. I do know that the 3 cartridge system is quite expensive 4-5000 baht and the replacement filters are costly. IMHO they should only be used for drinking water. Harvested rainwater is quite good enough for cooking (even drinking if you are not squeemish).

The water in our village comes from a large pond with its own water tower, pump and filter unfortunately. The money for replacement filter granules has been used for essential lao khao supplies for the poo yai and his cronies. (FYI = white whiskey for the village leader) The water comes out quite muddy after heavy rain. I was looking into constructing a simple sand filter using cess pit concrete rings – a very cheap project and would at least allow the washing machine to turn out clothes cleaner than when they went in.

Road

You are absolutely right, an access road is vital and lorry loads of dirt don’t come cheap (it has to be the right kind) As you point out, thais have a mania for raising their own property level, which often means flooding next door. Always build your house at least half a meter above the highest expected level. You also show the nightmare of shared amenities in a development. The too low house man could resort to making his own collection area and sump and then pump the water out to – Where? Yes you need to be very sure about drainage and area flooding.

Windows

Your comments on the value of aluminum windows are valid. My only concern is that some design have very poor quality locking systems, easy to break. Also its possible to lift up the windows out of their frames, so not secure at all. Security grills are necessary. With a little though such grills can be made a window feature rather than an ugly afterthought. Have a look at the design of spanish style villas. The downside of security grills is that you can’t escape in the event of a fire. Some thought needed here.

Gutters

Village wisdom says that galvanized roofing and gutter will usually give service for 20 years where the air is clean (not the same in smoggy bkk with acid rain) When your gutter man is soldering his gutters together, make sure that the acid flux is properly brushed off with clean water and preferably neutralized with caustic soda. I have seen many places where the joints have rusted through because the flux was not removed. Don’t forget to insist on the water pouring test to ensure proper sloping before your hand over cash.

Ownership

The only legal way to control your investment is by leasing. Your thai partner can own the land and then lease it back to you for 30 years. You can also have a clause allowing 2 subsequent 30 year renewals (you should live so long). The lease ahs to be registered with the land office and is noted on the title deed (chenote).You have to set a realistic ground rent (say 1000 baht/rai/year maybe more in pattaya). Then you have to pay tax on the rental for the whole 30 year period up front. I think it was 5% so that works out at 1500 baht plus legal fees. I have never heard this option promoted by any pattaya realtors – or lawyers. Of course this may affect the resale value of your house, I don’t know. My legal friend told me categorically that thai companies set up solely for land ownership are bogus and can be revoked at any time by the land registry. So far it hasn’t happened but TIT. I know which option I prefer. If it ever became possible for foreigners to own land legally, house prices would go through the roof – which is why they don’t allow it and why we can still afford it.

image image001.jpgThis is my own little potboiler “ban daeng”. It started life in the middle of a pond as a kind of pavilion on water. It became unstable and threatened to fall over so I had it disassembled and reconstructed down on the farm (note the swimming pool in front!). It has a large bedroom up stairs, a hong nam underneath the stairs and a kitchen under the bedroom

image image003.jpgThe is my wife’s 2b village house, spanish villa style that has become popular locally. Lots of building problems Ive inherited, nothing too serious. It was built originally for 200k. the main problem is the sweatbox it becomes in the hot season. It doesn’t cool down untill 2 hours after sunset. The heat radiates fiercely from the inside walls.

image image005.jpgI found an easy to use 3D cad app called sketchup. I have been playing around with various designs for the completion of “Ban Daeng”. I did this 6 months ago while I was still learning the package. You can of course rotate to any angle and even go inside and look through a window! My builder loves the idea and can see the concepts much better than on a conventional drawing. I have changed my ideas considerably and will do a new design soon but I think you can get the idea of the pavilion style with the master bedroom survey a wonderful lofty view of the virgin country side. I have to incorporate a carport/workshop and a walled courtyard to hold the outdoor jacuzzi of course, and 2 further bedrooms built like rondavels, circular – all in good time.

Thanks for the writeup!

3 Comments

  1. Jeez ! How I wish I had seen this site a year ago ! Great stuff – most of it confirms what we’ve had to work out for ourselves flying solo. TG we got it right even though a lot was based on previous experience overseas and common sense – with perhaps some engineer training kicking in at times.

    Comments ? Well, starting at the end and working forwards – thanks for clrifying the baan daeng – there’s one in our estate and it’s been something of a mystery and talking point. Roofs, gutters, ongs and harvested rain water – mother-in-law suffers with recurring kidney stones – doc finally put it down to roof rain water. M-i-l now drinks only the best bottled water ! Asian versus Western kitchen – Madame likes to cook in both styles so we now have two separate rooms to cater to her needs. From the previous experience of our combo Asian/Western kitchen in a condo, it was decided essential to separate out the pla kem frying area and to have a turbo hood. The one boosted strongly by most kitchen equipment suppliers was the Meo or Hooth brands for Asian cooking – one supplier did not recommend them at all and promoted their own brands of much more expensive imported hoods. We’ll see ! Kitchen cabinets – we are going for a combination of fully fitted and concrete with our own selection of doors and counter tops. Again, we’ll see. Fences, walls, window grilles, liftable roof tiles – my concern is to discourage the amateurs, inepts, vamndals, drunks – the real professional burglars will get in anyway no matter what you have in place – and to rely on my two watchdogs – Rolex and Timex ! Eaves – at my builder’s house, I saw he had used very nice wood laths so I asked for the same never thinking the price would be so expensive. The best wood for this job is mai daeng I’m told and you need to double your mortgage for this material – buyer beware. Ceilings – ours is a suspended ceiling with gypsum panels – well, they say “jip sum” so I take it to be gypsum. Just as a window friction hinge is a “wee koh” from Whitco the Australian makers – what else ? Perforated ceiling tiles and aircon blowing upwards or downwards ? We have both upwards and downwards blowing aircons in different rooms in the condo – both seem to work well. The ceilings are solid as you would expect in a condo – so no venting upwards through perforated ceiling tiles – I’m not sure about that one ? Tiling – use “a professional tiler” – yes ! But how do you know ? Our man was brought in by the builder. His first efforts were substandard – I can do better myself. So we talked very politely to him while pointing out that we wanted tile gaps to be even, tiles surfaces to be flat, whatever …… and hey presto ! His standard improved beyond all recognition. Bathroom doors – we didn’t see any OVC doors that we really liked. So we’ve chosen plydoors and will paint them with enamel – lotsa coats. This has worked well in the condo for 20 years.

    Euro bathrooms – again, this has worked well in the condo so no big problems expected – other than equipment failure of the jaccuzzis. I insisted on “no iron or galvanised pipe and/or fittings” anywhere in the water supply system. All cold systems are PVC with brass inserts at wall outlets to connect to taps and showers etc. Insulated copper with solder joints for hot water – in Chaingmai, it’s not cheap per metre run but there isn’t that much of it anyway so the total outlay is not enormous. Squatters versus crappers – maybe we need to have a cartoon notice in the guest toilet ! Bugs & microbes – thanks for the heads up about harpic and termites …………. Electrical supply – hhmmmmm ! Ours is 30 amp which I’m told has a safety factor of 100 amps overload ??? And 3 phase ??? This is much less than our maximum anticipated load if we have a full house of visitors – kids and grandkids – according to three knowledgeable advisors. The aircon charng went to discuss this with the electric supply company and was told we’re on the maximum already – and if we really wanted to upgrade, we would have to pay for a new transformer at Baht 100K ourselves. They said this is their new customer policy !!! We’ll see. Electrical grounding – this reminds me to go check where ours was put down. The electric charng highly recommended we buy only 3-pin socket outlets as legislation is going through and grounding (earths) will be standard next year. As I happen to like the idea of earthing, I agreed. Three pin wall sockets are now readily available in Chiangmai at a higher, but reasonable, price but the problem is to find 3-pin plugs that are not “industrial” looking. Plumbing – one of our friendly advisors who is familiar with all manner of standards worldwide recommends a “pressure test” after the water system is finished involving pumps, gauges, stopcocks and a 3-hour test ! Of course, our water charng knows nothing about this. He does a visual check and gives a guarantee ……. Drawings, engineer ripoffs, planning czars – we didn’t have any of these. I just hope there’s nothinbg waiting to bite us in the backside around the next corner …… Would we do it again ? Well – no – I hope not to – not by preference – the idea was that this house is to be our last move – but if we had to – why not ? And with our new experiences – and ALL the help from this site – it should be a doddle ! Haha !

    MalcolmL

  2. Great information but just for comment on the walls section, I understood double block construction was for creating a dead air space to serve as insulation keeping the house cooler.This kind of thing was done here in the states many years ago in homes constructed from bricks, also in New England coastal areas these cavities would be stuffed with seaweed again to act as an insulator.Nowadays of course fiber glass is used. But it seems from what I am reading here wall insulation is not a common practice in Thailand. Philip

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