Holiday House in Khon Kaen - Thomas

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Holiday House in Khon Kaen - Thomas

Postby thomas.fontaine » Mon Sep 29, 2008 8:17 pm

Hello to everybody: registered users on the Coolthaihouse website and all guests passing by. For the first category, I don't have to introduce myself. For the second category, in brief:

My name is Thomas, still in my thirties , not for too long unfortunately. I am french but have been working from Kuala Lumpur for the last 15 months or so. 2 kids, 9 and 6, and a thai wife (what a surprise), also in her thirties. My assignment to KL was the perfect opportunity to start thinking about building a house in Thailand. We therefore decided to go for it. Khon Kaen, or closer to the beach? Well, my wife had already some land in Khon Kaen, so although I would have preferred having something on the beach, we decided for Khon Kaen. This is not to live in, but rather a place where we could feel at home when going on holidays there.

I have been visiting this web site a number of time, trying to get the basic knowledge before starting the project, asking a lot of questions, sometime stupid, but you usually realise how stupid they are after some time only. I got more than I gave but thought that it was time for me to share my building story.

Like most of the people using this web site, I have been through different phases during the first few months: wondering where to start, browsing the internet, making my own drawings, putting those drawings in the bin, planning something bigger, then smaller, then higher until...you are tired and believe it is time to move to the next step.

I don't really know how much time I will have to feed this post, but I will try to focus on the cost of building, since it is probably where people spend most of their time, at least at the beginning, except for people who don't have any budget issue and can afford to choose whatever they like. I will also try to answer all questions with my limited knowledge in construction.
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Re: Holiday House in Khon Kaen - Thomas

Postby thomas.fontaine » Mon Sep 29, 2008 8:37 pm

So, here is my (future) house
Front elevation - resized.jpg

Plan - resized.jpg


This is roughly a 200 m2 house, including approx. 80 m2 of terrace. The house is made of 3 small buildings, approx. 40m2 each:

- 1 building for the living room and kitchen
- 1 building for 2 bedrooms separated by a bathroom
- 1 building for the master bedroom, including an en-suite bathroom

The 3 building are connected by this 80m2 terrace. House is built on a 1.4m high crawler space, that in my view was unnecessary and costly but that my wife insisted to have for some reasons. A baluster is planned all around the terrace to add "privacy", with a unique access to the house via short stairs at the front.

Let me check that pictures are correctly attached to this post before moving forward...
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Re: Holiday House in Khon Kaen - Thomas

Postby thomas.fontaine » Mon Sep 29, 2008 9:02 pm

...Yes, pictures attached with success.

The whole idea is to have a simple house with no extensive western comfort, although I am still planning to have the minimum usual things (hot water, small western like kitchen, fans...). However, I want to feel like I am living in a nice traditional thai (remember we will go there on holidays only). I am therefore planning to be as close as budget permitted when it comes to finishing and details. Terrace will have terra cotta tiles, bedrooms flooring will be parquet. Roof tiles will be flat (Ayara for those who know), color will be orange or dark red, not decided yet, wooden baluster, wooden doors and windows, wooden roof edges, probably a small water feature in the terrace...No air con is planned for now.

House is built on a 1500 m2 land (1 rai roughly), almost rectangular, 10km south west of Khon Kaen. Neighboring is not particularly beautiful, although not ugly, thus this concept of inside terrace for the common area which will be cosy and open, on its eastern side, on a forest where no construction is planned...yet.

The only place where I intend to be more luxurious is the en-suite bathroom, where I will probably choose high standard material and finishing.

I have already decided few changes to the drawings prepared by the local engineer, but nothing structural: sliding doors to access bathroom from the 2 attached bedrooms, en-suite bathroom slightly reduced, and surely more to come. All those minor modifications are directly discussed with the builder.

Contractual arrangement with the Builder and budget are for the next post
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Re: Holiday House in Khon Kaen - Thomas

Postby thomas.fontaine » Tue Sep 30, 2008 10:14 pm

Everything on this forum has been already said regarding the different contractual ways to handle the construction, no need to list them again here.

A local architect/engineer prepared the blueprint for us for 10,000 bahts. He worked from a model I gave to him (Government model no 30) and some sketches I prepared for the dimensions of the envelop, the location of doors and windows and few details. He produced the drawings in one week and I didn't have any comments on this first shot. The booklet is made of 25 pages.

We already had met with 5 builders back in May this year, from very local to much bigger organisation like Piman Group in Khon Kaen and selected 2. We met again those 2 in July and everything went very quickly, even too quickly in my view, but my wife don't necessarily have the same focus than me on making sure that the Builder understand exactly what you want and how it shall be done. One of the Builder was actually making a house in the same village for a good friend of my wife. Construction was good quality, the friend and her husband didn't have any complaint and the Builder had a good track record of building houses for farang.
We spent few hours with the guy, I was just watching and listening, a bit anxious, since I don't speak well Thai and even less well Isaan dialect, and wife talking, smiling and drinking beers. I believe everybody knows what I am talking about. Builder had the booklet with him, used to work with the same architect/engineer. Price given in 1 minute, phone call to the engineer to clear few technical questions and that's it. The think here is that I had spent enough time on Coolthaihouse forum to have good idea and prices and I had my estimate with me. So I knew that his Price was not too far off what I expected.
Brief discussion with him on what we were ready to buy ourselves, not necessarily to reduce the overall budget but more to keep full control on what will make the house look beautiful or not. Builder had to think about how much his price should be reduced. So discussion ended here, with a kind of verbal commitment, or willingness I should say, from both parties.

I went back to Kuala Lumpur the day after but my wife stayed to finalyse all that after having carefully listen my 'wise' advise on how much it was important to have a good contract in place, with clear scope split, liquidated damages and all that...Yeah yeah was her answer.

A couple of phone call later, agreement on milestone payments and other contractual clauses and deal was signed by my wife for 1,540,000 bahts. Slightly above my target but with the nice feeling of putting our project in good hands.

Day after, phone call again. My wife said that she was going to pay the Builder the first 3 milestones before leaving Thailand. WHAT! YOU MUST BE JOKING! So why did we discuss and sign this contract if after only one day we deviate from it. "The guy needs some money to secure the material before prices escalate again and I want to make things easy" she said. This is when I realised the dimension of these cultural differences that have been discussed in many occasion on this forum.

So, we have a Contract, I believe a reasonably good one but we will never follow it. It will probably not be used in case of conflict, but at least we have one, which help me finding my peace of mind.
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Re: Holiday House in Khon Kaen - Thomas

Postby thomas.fontaine » Tue Sep 30, 2008 10:39 pm

The Builder price includes everything, except what we will buy ourselves:

1. Roof tiles and accessories (Ayara): 200k
2. Roof finishings (wooden edges, decoration on the top...): 140k
3. Wooden doors and windows: 100k
4. Floorings (tiles in the living room, bathrooms and parquet in bedrooms + terra cotta for the terrace): 100k
5. Wooden balusters for the terrace and the stairs + few architectural details on the facade): 50k
6. Water supply (water heating tank, storage tanks...): 90k
7. Bathrooms: 60k
8. Kitchen appliances: 50k
9. Other misc. (Blueprint, fans, usufruct fee...): 50k

Total = 840k

Added to the 1,540k from the Builder, the overall budget is 2,380k

I will post updates on the material budget as I progress. First step is next week for the roof and the doors/windows

These are the first pictures from the construction I received yesterday
126-2627_IMG-resized.JPG
View from the front of the house

126-2633_IMG-resized.JPG
Looking West


This is the early stage of the construction, preparing the formwork of the concrete beams for the crawler space
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Re: Holiday House in Khon Kaen - Thomas

Postby Tomissan » Wed Oct 01, 2008 7:57 am

Thomas, I think it's great that you are sharing your building experience here for many to read and learn, although, I don't understand why you chose the worst time to begin !!! It appears from your photos that the site is a muddy mess so it's assumed the steel re-bar has mud/clay stuck to it as well as rust, California building codes strictly prohibit placing concrete around rusty steel; why? because there is no adhesion of concrete to steel and the rust will continue to live and grow. Anyway, don't want to scare you as this is quite common in Thailand except for large commercial/industrial projects where Inspector's are present and must sign-off before placing concrete. (in case you're wondering how to 'clean' the rust off, normally; sandblasting or wire brush)...
...and, based on your photos and description you are raising the main floor area with open/crawl space below. My question: why build the grade beams on top of the existing ground instead of digging out the areas saving the cost of wood forms, which by the way is usually quite expensive due to the high cost of wood. If it's because you didn't want to pour concrete below grade because of all the water from the rain then I understand. anyway, keep up the good work and don't let my words discourage you, this is part of my job.
note: Maybe I should change my forum name to: "Devil's Advocate:
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Re: Holiday House in Khon Kaen - Thomas

Postby thomas.fontaine » Wed Oct 01, 2008 8:43 am

Tom, you can carry on to make comments, that's no problem.

Regarding the foundation, beams, digging and all that, this is one of the first question I raised on this forum, to find out that there are different methods, all of them with their pros and cons. Different people can recommend different solution. In my case, I let the Builder choose the solution he is comfortable with since his price is a lump sum.

Regarding rust on the rebar, I understand your point. However, I don't think it can be avoided in Thailand and I believe that a heavy rain does not make big difference for the rust compare to 95% humidity in the air without rain.
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Re: Holiday House in Khon Kaen - Thomas

Postby Tomissan » Wed Oct 01, 2008 10:03 am

It appears you're fine with the way things are going so I'll not give my 2 bahts worth. Just one last thought.
You say you left it up to the builder to decide what type of foundation to make and when to pour, etc. :roll: Basically, he chose the easiest and most profitable way....
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Re: Holiday House in Khon Kaen - Thomas

Postby thomas.fontaine » Wed Oct 01, 2008 10:25 am

Yes. For me there is nothing wrong with that, everybody would do the same, even in America or Europe. I just need to make sure that his choices do not jeopardize the integrity of the structure. This is where it is more tricky and I will have to be careful since they don't provide formal and reliable 10 years guarantee on what they are doing here. However, I believe, may be wrongly, that some Builders are providing 'moral' guarantee to their work and cake about their reputation on the market place.
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Re: Holiday House in Khon Kaen - Thomas

Postby Tomissan » Wed Oct 01, 2008 10:33 am

thomas.fontaine wrote:Yes. For me there is nothing wrong with that, everybody would do the same, even in America or Europe..


If this were true there would be absolutely no need for Building Inspector's, Construction/Project Manager's, Supervisors, Building Codes, etc...and to help clarify your statement about rust, humidity, etc., Normally, end of November through early February is without rain and very low humidity and cool weather....best time for foundation, structure & roof and most guarantees in Thailand aren't worth the paper they're written on although a retention fee is quite common, and as for "moral guarantees" :lol: .
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Re: Holiday House in Khon Kaen - Thomas

Postby thaifly » Wed Oct 01, 2008 11:35 am

gidday thomas..its the thai fly from mae rim...whilst you are flirting with danger by not being able to be on site....i understand your situation... and to engage a person to oversee your project is probably not affordable... i feel that you are taking a gamble going down this street..but in saying that i know that you have taken this into consideration and you have thrown THAT DICE....i do know of a aussie not far where i live...who went down your street...and apart from a few problems here and there he successfully built a modest nice house ...he said to me before he started.... WHAT YOU DONT SEE WONT HURT YOU... ..as i said in a post on my building story..that it takes GUTS...HARD WORK....AND LUCK... .. and from all your posts you are made of that...and i sincerely hope that this following saying...works in your favour.....LUCK FOLLOWS THE BRAVE.... you are certainly the latter.. ITS A GO AND GET THEM GIDDAY TO ALL its the thai fly from mae rim
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Re: Holiday House in Khon Kaen - Thomas

Postby thomas.fontaine » Wed Oct 01, 2008 11:54 am

All is said in your post. Perfectly explained. This is exactly my situation right now. I know a british guy close to where we are building our house, who was living just opposite the street of his construction site to 'supervise' the work. This guy is now upset from morning to evening, can't stop complaining about eveything the Builder is doing and also explained to me that they didn't care about his comments and instructions anyway.
So, in the end, he will probably have a OK house but would not be able to erase all his bad moments and disapointements from his memory.

I also know a dutch guy, visited the site only once, just completed his house with the same Builder than me and is very happy
Each story has its lesson learn and I don't think there are 2 identical experiences.

I do have a retention, 5%, which is not a lot in case of major issue.
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Re: Holiday House in Khon Kaen - Thomas

Postby jazzman » Wed Oct 01, 2008 1:02 pm

thomas.fontaine wrote:... most guarantees in Thailand aren't worth the paper they're written on although a retention fee is quite common, and as for "moral guarantees" :lol: .


Partly true, Thomas, but they usually have their eye on the value of the contract, and don't give two hoots for the conseauences of any sub-standard work and their reputation. There is a lot of truth in Thai culture about not losing face, but this is person-oriented. Corporate structures don't give a damn.
Nevertheless, I and everyone else here wish you every success with your project and congratulations on your near perfect English - c'est rare parmi les français :D
How to build a $20,000 / £14,000 house and a $???? MOTEL Updated 21 March 09 - with BOQ and costs
Don't let this happen in YOUR house.
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Re: Holiday House in Khon Kaen - Thomas

Postby chiangmaiexpat » Thu Oct 02, 2008 11:03 am

Hi Thomas, nice house you're building there. Pretty big for a holiday house. As you can probably judge from my contributions here, I do like the traditional Thai form quite a bit. The central terrace creates a very lovely space. It doesn't just connect the units but allows all-year-round outdoor living, provided that the space is covered. Kitchen/dining/living is connected space, I suppose!? Did you plan the interior for that unit yet?

What concerns building contracts in Thailand... it's complex... for practical purposes one should probably consider them non-enforceable, although in theory they are. I tend to think of a building contract as a document of mutual understanding between the builder and the client. As for risk management, you need to consider other options. Small continuous installment are usually best. For a labour-only agreement you would probably have to be on site to manage the material purchases yourself, otherwise it's worthless. Under no circumstances would I pay three installments in advance, because that leaves you at great risk. I know that Thais like to make it easy if the personal relationship is good. But he who pays makes the rules, right?

The rust on the rebar would probably not pass inspection (...if there were any). In Europe they remove the rust and paint the bars with epoxy paint. We had a bit of rust on the column rebars, too, but not in the foundation. Usually corrosion stops once the iron is inside the concrete, because there's no more oxygen. It gets problematic when you have cracks later through which oxygen can enter, even in the form of CO2.

The price for the house seems okay if they use decent materials. Did you get a list of materials to see what's included (and what's not)? Your calculations for the "extras" is tight, but not impossible. For example, we will end up paying 300k on windows alone for our build, hence, it's always good have a financial buffer zone planned. :D Good luck with your project!

Cheers, CMX
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Re: Holiday House in Khon Kaen - Thomas

Postby thaifly » Thu Oct 02, 2008 12:23 pm

chiangmaiexpat wrote: For a labour-only agreement you would probably have to be on site to manage the material purchases yourself, otherwise it's worthless.
.....GIDDAY TO c.n.x. and all ...its the thaifly from mae rim... as for the above quote ...LABOUR ONLY AGREEMENT.... with respect..nothing could be further from the truth...we managed the material purchases without being on the site .....and far as being worthless.... with respect again..thats A PIE IN THE SKY.........we have been on both sides of the fence.....pay labour only and purchase materials ourselfs...and everything went accordingly....until our builder shelia had a bad debt as she is gambled heavily and he had to bail her out...and HE ENDED UP WITH NO PANTS ON.... so after 6 months on the above agreement...we had no other alternative but to pay labour and materials contract. for the duration of the project which was another 4 months...and put the builder on new contract so he would not do a runner on us...and in other words we tied him up nicely that he had to finished the project to our satisfaction...which was done...with out being on the site every day....in fact we came out in front on the whole deal..but it was a very scary situation to say the least...... ITS A BEEN THERE DONE THAT GIDDAY TO ALL..its the thaifly from mae rim
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