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IntroThis first section includes views, a road story and the cool shot of the week, which is a summary of the building process.
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Views from the Land


Includes a shot of bare land (as seen on January 1, 2004) and other shots of the area. The land plot is 84 sq. wah and had already been leveld with dirt fill by the time this picture was taken!

12 files, last one added on Sep 28, 2011
Album viewed 65 times

Road Story


Something I never thought about when I bought the land was this -- 'Would I actually be able to drive all the way to the land, or not?' One of those things we take for granted that can turn into a nightmare.
This is one of those funny (but not at the time) stories! The lot for this house is in a small development which will eventually have 10 houses. There will be 5 houses on either side of an entry road which comes off the road in front. When buying the plot, during the dry season, the entry road looked sturdy enough. Only later did I find out that the road was made of the wrong type of dirt, sticky mud, and watched as it got progressively worse during the rainy season. Not being my job to get it fixed I just waited (and complained a little bit to which I was told patience!), and finally the primary developer had all of the mud taken out and replaced with hard pack. One other developer isn't happy because the road is actually above his property line - which brings me to one very important point. One of the worst mistakes anyone can ever make is to build a house 'too low'. It is one thing that cannot be later corrected.

20 files, last one added on Sep 27, 2011
Album viewed 57 times

Finished House


The finished house. The house was officially 'finished' on the 6th of July, 2004. There are still various things to get done, eg. entry gate, but the final contract milestone of the 'building the house' is complete. These shots show how it turned out, including a windows media player movie.

17 files, last one added on Sep 28, 2011
Album viewed 202 times

Shot of the Week


Digital cameras don't use film. That means photos are free right? Yes, but with this project there are about 750 photos, so if you want a quick and easy overview -- start here.
On this proto-type 'cool thai house' project I really made an effort to record the full and accurate history of the building of the house. I've come to the conclusion that recording a full history isn't really possible. There is so much detail that goes into it that the number of pictures is at times overwhelming. So for those of you who want the brief tour: this section displays highlights of the building with a shot of the week, giving a summary view of the project. Since I figure the entire project has a life span of about 26 weeks, I am aiming to display about that many pictures here -- give or take.

31 files, last one added on Sep 28, 2011
Album viewed 145 times

Project Hindsight


If I knew now what I knew then. These oh so common words with regards to building here. So what would I have done differently? Keeping in mind that the house turned out very well, yet even so these are things that if I was starting over I would consider...

12 files, last one added on Sep 28, 2011
Album viewed 119 times


5 albums on 1 page(s)

BasicsThe basics of building the house, including the foundation columns, concrete pour, walls, windows and the roof.
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Foundation columns


I'm not really sure what these are called in English, the Thai word is 'sauw', which I'm terming 'Foundation Columns'. There isn't the same kind of foundation done as in European building, but it is fairly simple and durable. The house is anchored with foundation columns which are set in concrete footings in deep square post holes. The process is as follows: 1.) Post holes are dug at 2.5 meter intervals 2.) A rebar frame is put in place for a base 'footing' 3.) The foundation column frame is attached to the footing. 4.) Concrete is poured over the footing. 5.) Lastly, the concrete is poured within wood frames around the post frame to create the foundation pillar.

14 files, last one added on Sep 27, 2011
Album viewed 110 times

Concrete Pour


The flooring in the cool thai house was done so dropping a bowling ball on it wouldn't do much damage! After seeing the job done on a patio with razor thin layer of concrete and the rebar metal sitting below in sand, I paid particular attention to the progress here.

14 files, last one added on Sep 27, 2011
Album viewed 53 times



Concrete block walls are formed by stacking blocks in rows to form the wall. A string, normally clear nylon, is used as a 'straight-line' to aid in the row being laid down straight. Between the blocks (on all sides) cement is used to keep them in place and add strength. Rebar is laid horizontally at the intersection with a foundation column to add strength. A hole is drilled in the foundation post and the rebar strand, about 30 centimeters in length, is inserted in the hole. It is then laid on top of a row of blocks and cemented in place.

The 'chap' or stucco layer is applied next. The cement for this stage is mixed with less sand than for other applications. Here we used a thick coat of about 1 centimeter in depth. The 'chap' is what gives walls the real strength.

11 files, last one added on Sep 27, 2011
Album viewed 60 times



The tiling done on this job turned out especially nice. All tiles used on this project are grade A (tiles come in grade A, B and C). The main floor area has a tile with a pink hue and natural pattern (each tile has the identical pattern). Because the pattern is so hard to see, several tiles were inadvertently laid in the wrong way and needed to be chipped out and reset. All areas that needed to be sloped were correctly sloped during the laying of the tiles. This is especially important in the bathrooms, where the level of the floor must slope correctly to allow the water to exit via the floor drain. Also, in the patio this is important so that if water comes in contact with the floor it will flow away from the entry door.

There are many different patterns of tiles used as indicated below.

kitchen: natural stone design 30 centimeter square size for the floor, natural dark green granite 40 * 25 centimeter for the outside of the kitchen cabinets, 20 * 20 brownish hue for the kitchen walls and an eye level row of decorative small design tiles.

patio: natural stone design 30 centimeter square tiles (same as the kitchen floor).

bathrooms: natural stone design 20 centimeter square size for the floors, natural stone tan 20 * 25 centimeters for the bathroom walls, white 20 * 25 pattern for the sink cabinet, and an eye level row of decorative small design tiles.

15 files, last one added on Sep 27, 2011
Album viewed 43 times



The roof is of course a major part of the house. And now even more so with the popularity of the tile roofs. Heavy tile is a good durable roofing material and not only that: it is very attractive. Its popularity (tile) is due to demand from foreigners building (or buying) houses here. Now, practically every house built for foreign buyers uses the heavy tile. However, it is not the most practical roofing material. First off, it is real heavy. Each tile weighs about 4 kilograms, the roof on this house uses about 3000 tiles, which comes to about 12 metric tons. The weight requires the support structure to use a lot of heavy duty metal. Any problems in the support structure will cause the steel supports to bend. Secondly, the material is brittle. If you walk on it a lot it will chip and crack. Also it is not the most secure material, someone wanting access to your house can get on the roof and remove some tiles to gain entry. That all being said if you ever want to sell your house, it will need to have a tile roof. For more information on roofing materials, please check out the roof info page here!

One thing about this project is that I got to see plenty of development going on and was able to observe many house builders. One thing I can say is that the cool thai house builders did a very exceptional job and really put in a lot of effort to get the job done right. That being said, the roof was really a struggle. This time I went the 'one contract price for all labor to build the house' route (although extra contracts were made to cover electric, some plumbing and other add ons -- which are not a part of the house proper). In further jobs, I will use specialists for specific jobs, especially the roof. I was able to observe a company who specializes in roofs come in and do an neighbors roof and I was very impressed. Back to this house, there were two problem areas with the roof. The first was evaluating how much supporting metal was needed. Observing some metal bending due to stress from the weight of the roof sent me scurrying off to find and engineer (see engineer rip-off). As it turned out the problem was corrected by straightening the metal and adding some supplemental metal supports. The second area was two roof valleys. Under the roof valley there is aluminum gutter drainage. In our case we used inadequate (in size) aluminum drainage which caused countless days of repair work to eventually get it fixed.

One other note about the roof, is be careful when choosing a architect. As my friend Nick noted in the article on the Planning Czar, you can run into problems when getting plans drawn up. As for my experience here, basically the pitch on the roof is steeper than anticipated, but it looks real nice and gives the house and air of superiority. That being said, if I was designing this house again I would lower the roof height (in the middle of the house) from 2.75 meters to maybe 2.25 meters. The additional height caused a lot of extra materials to be used and the added height doesn't add that much.

40 files, last one added on Sep 27, 2011
Album viewed 73 times

Windows and Doors


There were a few different groups involved with the windows and doors. The regular crew did the framing. A skilled window and door craftsman installed the windows and doors. A metal company did the glass, security metal and screens. Another metal company did the front screen door. And finally, a curtain company installed the curtains.

39 files, last one added on Sep 27, 2011
Album viewed 51 times

6 albums on 1 page(s)

DetailsThe details of the house, including ceiling layouts, roof eves, the kitchen, bathrooms, and electrical.
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The ceiling is a full 3.2 meters from the floor. It is nice to have high ceilings, but 3 meters or less is sufficient. At 3.2 meters, the ceiling fans are little too high to get the air circulating and changing a light bulb can be challenging. The drywall sheets come in various grades with one grade suitable for damp areas. In this house, a good grade is used, but not the one for damp areas.

There was a specialty company that came by to tape the ceiling. In the meantime I did have a chance to observe an specialty company that does nothing but ceilings. Their prices were quite low and they did really nice work quickly. For example, on one house I looked at they did a multi-level ceiling which looked very nice. On future projects I would look to use a specialty company for the ceiling.

14 files, last one added on Sep 28, 2011
Album viewed 37 times



GRC (glass reinforced cement) sheeting is applied to a wood foundation to form the underside of the roof overhang (eves). The wood is 1 1/2" by 3". This section covers the grc sheeting throughout the outside of the house, including the carport ceiling.

14 files, last one added on Sep 28, 2011
Album viewed 27 times



The approach for the kitchen was to build a nice comfortable kitchen inexpensively. This kitchen measures 3 meters square. Upon entry to the left is an open area in which the wall mount water heater is installed. Then there is the sink area. In the middle portion there is an open area in the counter to allow a stove to be inserted. The counter goes all the way around to the right and on the right hand wall facing the sink the counter ends prior to the wall to allow a space for a refrigerator. There is an exhaust fan and ceiling fan.

Aside from a few minor glitches the kitchen construction progressed smoothly. Towards the end of the project a specialist tiler was hired who did the tiling and plumbing in the kitchen. The materials cost for the kitchen, not including the hot water heater, would be around 17,000 Baht as follows, ceiling fan = 1,000, exhaust fan = 1,000, tile = 4,000, sink = 3,000, cement = 1,000, hot/cold faucet = 2,000, plumbing = 1,000, cabinet doors = 4,000

24 files, last one added on Sep 28, 2011
Album viewed 51 times



One of the early problems with the bathroom is that the foundation base which is poured around the outside should be about 10 centimeters lower than the base of the house. In this case it was poured about equal, to give extra strength. This led to the necessity to reengineer a bit on the inside. That led to the floors being only a few centimeters below the floor level of the house, where the normal difference is 10 centimeters. As it turned out I like the small difference better, 3 centimeters is fine. The only other misstep is the sink in the large bathroom is fitted in the cabinet a little too close to the wall and this necessitates bending over a bit when using it.

Central water heaters are a little new around here and it was a learning curve to get this one installed. Normally houses use a small water heater for each shower, but in the end this turned out really nice. The electrician did the copper pipe work, which is fitted within plastic PVC to carry the hot water. The water heater is a 75 liter wall mount unit.

Another thing which you don't see all that often are shower enclosures. These are gaining in popularity here. This one is made with safety glass which is easier to clean than the acrylic types.

44 files, last one added on Sep 28, 2011
Album viewed 48 times



The original guy doing the electric wasn't too knowledgeable about electric. Finally we found a electrician within the neighborhood who turned out to be a great help. For a small project like this there is a lot of electric components.

First off, the house uses grounded electrical throughout. This isn't the standard yet, by in large part due to the fact that most electric appliances don't come with the ground plug. However, now they are starting to require that all new houses install grounded electric. When the electric department inspector came to inspect the electric to give the OK to switch on the permanent city power, the inspector was asking questions about the ground. He wanted to know the size of the ground wire, the size of the metal with is to earth and how deep the metal runs in the ground. In this case; the metal rod runs into the ground 1.8 meters, it is 4 hun, the ground wire (grounding electrode conductor) is size 16. In any event he approved the electrical, and then went to do other houses which I know for sure were done without grounded electrical. These got passed also, but who knows if payola was involved. In the last rental house I was in, if I wanted to plug in a USB cable to the back of my computer I would switch off the computer and then turn off the power. Sometimes I would still get a shock which always puzzled me. In any event, here the computer can be touched at will and there is no shock!

There are 35 recessed lighting receptacles and 5 ceiling fans on the ceiling. Each ceiling fan is controlled by its own control box which has separate off/on and rotate switches. In the main entry area the lighting is controlled by 2 dimmer switches. There is a wall mounted reading light in the entry area that is controlled by its own switch. There are two three way switches, one controls the patio lighting and the other controls the lighting in the back of the house. These switches work in combination with an inside and outside switch, and I can say this is a really nice feature. For example, when you come home at night you can switch on the outside light from the outside, but they can also be switched on or off from the inside. There is lighting on the front and the sides of the house all controlled by separate switches. There is also a security light in the front of the house, controlled at the main switchbox upon entry to the house. The perimeter wall lighting is controlled by a switch at the main switch box.

The two water pumps have an outside switch box, but both feed into one station on the circuit breaker. The circuit breaker has eight stations as follows; kitchen, hot water heater, small bathroom (along with the outside lighting and dining area), office, bedroom, large bathroom, pumps and finally the entry room.

26 files, last one added on Sep 28, 2011
Album viewed 53 times


5 albums on 1 page(s)

OtherThe details of the perimeter wall, water system and gate.
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Perimeter Wall


Walls that are built from concrete blocks are durable and sturdy. An added bonus is that they also help hold in the fill dirt. Fill dirt is often on of the most critical aspects of a house, for if the house is constructed 'too low' -- there is no repair after the fact. With this house we did a partial fill at the beginning to level the land. Then the wall was partially completed, and more fill dirt was brought in the raise the land level another 20 or so centimeters.

The important steps in the process, which are illustrated below are: 1.) Post holes are dug every 2.5 meters. 2.) Support rebar structures are hand made by cutting, bending and wiring together cut rebar metal strands. 3.) These support structures are set in a concrete footing in the post hole. 4.) A large can is used to form the cement up to ground level after the base structure is dry. 5.) A strip footing is created, formed using form wood, which is about 10 inches tall and connects the support rebar structures. 6.) The cement blocks are cemented in place in rows. 7.) A form is made so that a concrete post can be poured around the cement blocks and rebar structure. 8.) Stucco is applied and other decorative options, such as affixing red brick blocks around the entry posts.

One other important note is that during the stage when the blocks are being laid, at the end of each row as piece of rebar is extended into the metal framework. This adds strength when the post is poured.

20 files, last one added on Sep 28, 2011
Album viewed 42 times



One of the first orders of business in preparation of building is establishing a water source, since water is used extensively in construction. There are various water sources (see infowater) the one used in this house was the hand dug surface well.

20 files, last one added on Sep 28, 2011
Album viewed 37 times

Gate and Security Metal


Normally the gate and metal fencing would be something you would contract out to a metal company, of which there must be 100's in Pattaya. I did get a bid for doing the metal work, but in the end decided to use the daily labor which was helping to finish off the house, as they had metal working experience. I did end up needing to purchase some metal working tools, but the savings in going this way more than offset the tool investment. The metal fencing is welded on top of small squares of metal which are secured to the wall by a special kind of bolt that is driven into the concrete wall.

17 files, last one added on Sep 28, 2011
Album viewed 31 times

Planter Boxes


This is an add-on that really finishes the house off. Along one side of the patio there is a thin set of planter boxes which double as wall between the patio and the carport. Then in front there are two lower level planter boxes to form a natural plant wall.

6 files, last one added on Sep 28, 2011
Album viewed 19 times



A specialty metal company came and installed a 6" galvanized gutter system around the house. The gutters are supported by brackets which are attached to the siding on the eves. The gutters are sloped so the water runs down to the associated drain spout.

7 files, last one added on Sep 28, 2011
Album viewed 20 times

Paving Stones


Paving stones like these come in various shapes and colors. In this case we use sand to level the area in front of the patio that was for the entry path. Then the paving stones were placed on top of the sand to complete the walkway.

3 files, last one added on Sep 28, 2011
Album viewed 24 times

6 albums on 1 page(s)

Last additions - Original Coolthaihouse Build
This is the land plot after some fill dirt has been brought in (to the left of the truck). It is 84 square wah. (01-Jan-04) dozerSep 28, 2011
The resulting paving stone walkway. (12-Aug-04)dozerSep 28, 2011
The paving stones are set in place.dozerSep 28, 2011
Fine sand is leveled. (31-Jul-04)dozerSep 28, 2011

Random files - Original Coolthaihouse Build
A completed but unpainted section on the back part of the house. (05-May-04)dozer
Affixing grout to the kitchen floor tiles. (27-May-04)dozer
Heavy duty hinge on an indoor door. (23-Jun-04)dozer
Metal supports are spaced at about 2/3 meter square.dozer
Can you see who is coming for dinner? (22-May-04)dozer
Valve: This electric value is mounted on the top of the water tank. The electric wire is run through the yellow pvc conduit. (06-Jul-04)

There is an electric water valve used here (instead of a manual ball float one), which allows the water level to be set. This is one feature I really like, in that with the normal floater valve the pump must turn on after almost every use. With this type of valve the pump doesn't need to be used that often, which allows the water to settle and is easier on the pump it
Partial wall tile completed. dozer
A view of the entry room looking towards the kitchen.dozer