Our house at Wat Sing

Any story related to building in the LOS, whether everything turned out hunky dory or not!

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Our house at Wat Sing

Postby planemad » Tue May 14, 2013 2:50 pm

Hi everyone, I have been contemplating documenting our build for some time, I don't know if I have any major tips or advice to share but it has been an interesting 18 months with all the associated up's and down's though I have to say not too many downs!

First I would like to set the scene regarding the why's and wherefores regarding location and type of build. I have called Thailand my "home base" since I decided to settle here about 12 years ago. Although not actually living here, I work in Oman and get back for about a month at a time with a 3 month work break in between. After more than 12 years in Oman and with my 60th birthday looming, we decided it was time to get off the merry-go-round and settle down, but where? I already have a nice condo in Bangkok, but the thought of spending the rest of my days in an elevated shoebox (OK 64 Sq M) did not enchant me greatly. Another consideration was that the budget was not huge, we did not want to stray much beyond about 1.6 Mill.

We looked around at ready built places, Pattaya, for the price was small and did not provide me with the chance to have some land. I have been a tropical bird keeper for many years and would like to return to that. Koi are something I have an interest in, but reasonably limited experience of. I would like a have a dog again, walks might help me keep a bit fitter than I am and I just love orchids, so land was an important element.

Chiang Mai was probably a better choice, but too far from 'er indoors family. In the end, the family got the vote as they gave us what turner out to be 1.3 Rai of land, that was a huge factor as land that size would have been expensive and my retirement plans would have had to be put on hold!

18 months ago when MIL first suggested we use the land in front of her house, all I could see was a large banana plantation. Totally un-managed and completely wild, it was very difficult to see what was beyond all the leaves. Not a problem says MIL, do you have 2000 baht in cash? We did. Off she trotted and came back 5 minutes later with a man in a very large JCB. An hour later, most of the land had been cleared leaving a usable plot of around 175 X 35 M, other parts had established mango trees and it was felt they should stay. I did not have a camera at the time, so I had to wait till they raised the land with 90 trucks of soil @ 300 baht a load, not a bad deal I thought.
The house you can see is at the bottom of our land, nothing to do with us (There is a similar amount of land in the opposite direction).

After that, it was all about choices, what was the house going to look like? How big etc, but that is another part of the journey.

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Re: Our house at Wat Sing

Postby pattayapope » Tue May 14, 2013 3:16 pm

Keep it comming We all love pictures[*] :D
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Re: Our house at Wat Sing

Postby BKKBILL » Tue May 14, 2013 3:58 pm

Indeed we do and it looks like you are off to a great start.
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Re: Our house at Wat Sing

Postby planemad » Wed May 15, 2013 12:06 pm

So, we have the land, or at least the promise of it (sound of distant alarm bells ringing!), now we have to decide what to build on it. Of course we had talked about what we wanted, which was a single storey building (preparing for my dotage), 2 bedrooms and a decent sized kitchen, a large lounge was also a necessity. Too many Thai places seem to have a lounge no larger than a decent sized corridor and finally a shaded area outside where we could blow the froth off a cold one and survey our realm, what could be simpler?

Having been an avid follower of Crossys build (Who will play Crossy when they make a movie of his exploits?), I was aware that I needed a set of plans to take to the local building department in order to get approval to build. Fortunately, Crossy had thought of that as well and provided a number of sites where accepted plans had been offered for general use. I probably spent weeks trying to find one that fitted our budget as well as suited our basic requirements. I had already drafted a set of plans using Chief Architect, but I was not confident they would pass inspection so when I found a set of drawings that was almost identical to what I had drawn (with a few alterations of course), I was over the moon and could not print them off quickly enough.

The next thing was to find a builder to transform the plans into a solid structure. Having noted the advice given here, I was ready to consult as many builders as possible, check their work and issue the contract as I see fit. Good plan.............but this is Thailand (I hate that saying, but it is appropriate). The family had just used a local builder for an extension and were very pleased with his costs and work, so an appointment was set up to meet this guy. We showed him the drawings and he started making some comments and suggestions, all of which were very sensible. He then took us to look at a couple of houses that he had build in the local area, were we impressed???? You bet, they looked a million dollars, so was this our man? That would depend upon the price............3000 baht per Sq M and we supply all the materials. He would not negotiate the price, which, after reading here I felt was more than reasonable. So, Rule 1. Check out as many builders as poss etc......binned!

So, back to the drawings. Whilst all in Thai, the room layout was in English, confusing or what? so I supplied a basic room layout of what I wanted and how the original plans needed to be altered.

Original drawing with most symbols removed for clarity.

Simplified floor plan (I have replaced Thai with English so you can see what I want to build).More of this later!
floor plan Eng.jpg

As you can see, I have removed the parking area, extended the living room wall to make an enclosed room where the bar was to be. I have also made the lounge a little wider by moving the outer wall outward by 1 Metre. We felt the alterations better suited our purposes and the wife would have a decent area where she could cook all her smelly food (her words!).

So, what of all the planning permission etc before we could get started? I was concerned that our modifications would not meet with approval, actually, there was a million things running around my mind, mostly unfounded, but I was dealing with something well outside my experience. Don't know now why I worried, the planner spoke to FIL, asked where we proposed to build, FIL basically said "In the sticks", planner said "too far from town to worry" (or something like that), just do it! That's it????? nothing to sign, no paperwork OR MONEY, nothing! I felt sure this would come back to bite us in the future, but for now, all the family were very happy and the builder said he would start the project towards the end of the year (2012). But that's another story.
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Re: Our house at Wat Sing

Postby BKKBILL » Wed May 15, 2013 3:02 pm

I like your moxie two posts and I’m already hooked.

It really is interesting how the best laid plans change at a drop of the hat here in the land of smiles. Think it’s the heat or drinking from copper cups :roll:
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Re: Our house at Wat Sing

Postby planemad » Sun May 19, 2013 1:10 pm

OK, it's Sunday and back to work (Oman weekends are Friday and Saturday, to start with, it throws you weekly compass into a real spin). I don't have time to bash out another part of the build over the weekend as I am either strapped to the back end of a shopping trolley or supporting the messes I am able to frequent here!

So, where were we? We think we have permission to build a house on land which does not at this time belong to us and we are employing the services of the first builder who comes along. Pretty straight forward really, what can possibly go wrong?

Mid November, the ground has dried out enough to get the pile driving machine into place and within 2 days all 20 piles had been planted. At this point I must explain where we started to deviate from the existing plans. The originals called for the house to be built on the ground, however, as our area had been very wet (not flooded) the previous year, it was considered a smart move to build above ground. The builder simply asked "5 steps or 7", the wife went for 7 which meant the floor was to be about 1.2 M above ground, all of which seemed to be a good move. You might recall that the set of plans I gave the builder had showed the room layout in English, builder no understand, so I made the simplified drawing which I have already posted. I later learned that the 16 or so pages of technical drawings had been suitably filed away, and the whole build was now based upon the "cig packet" drawing!

Plant this lot where the sun don't shine.
arg Nov 28.JPG

To ensure accuracy, maximum supervision is called for!
arf Nov 28.JPG

A job well done......I hope!
arc Nov 28.JPG

With the piles firmly planted, the builders men (and women) set about digging the heads out and laying the concrete rafts upon which the upright columns were to be placed. Once this had been done, the process of deciding when was the best time to start building the house required our full attention. So FIL went off to the local monk, scattered a few bamboo spills to determine EXACTLY when the house can start to leap majestically out of the ground! As we were not due back into Thailand until December 20th, the number of "lucky" days were considerably reduced. It was subsequently decided that the 22nd of December was "the" day and we should start promptly at 10 minutes past 9 (AM of course), Ohhh, and the holes around the heads of the piles were each to have 9 X 1 baht coin placed in them (180 Baht! which I had not budgeted for) :lol: . With this amount of luck planted, our future was assured!

Our aircraft arrived, we took a day off to recover then first thing (stupid o'clock) in the morning we set off for Wat Sing. It was a nice day (once the sun arrived), and we were both quite excited to see the building process begin.

But not today!
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Re: Our house at Wat Sing

Postby fredlk » Sun May 19, 2013 1:21 pm

planemad wrote:I later learned that the 16 or so pages of technical drawings had been suitably filed away, and the whole build was now based upon the "cig packet" drawing!

That is standard practice in the Thai building trade. I've distributed I-don't-know-how-many 49-page books of blueprints to all concerned and everyone who asked, but not once have I seen it being used. They depend on me to draw a detail sketch of the section being built and I don't even smoke. :roll:
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Re: Our house at Wat Sing

Postby planemad » Sun May 19, 2013 2:16 pm

It did rather make all the hard work of finding the drawings, printing them into A3 and making sure all the details were crystal clear seem like a total waste of time.....which it was, however, the build is now within a few days complete, most (not quite all) has come out the way we wanted so I am not in a position to complain.
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Re: Our house at Wat Sing

Postby Makmak456 » Sun May 19, 2013 4:13 pm

great story, keep it going
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Re: Our house at Wat Sing

Postby Shastadad » Mon May 20, 2013 9:20 am

Same here, except they did their sketches on the walls :lol:
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Re: Our house at Wat Sing

Postby planemad » Mon May 20, 2013 12:37 pm

I would like to thank those of you who have posted comments, for me, this thread is about reviewing the build.....warts an' all! I cannot undo what has been done, and in the main, I have no wish to. There are however things to learn which I hope will at least assist those who are in the contemplation or planning stage.

OK, so now it's back to Dec 22, 2012. It's dark as we set off from BKK in our tame taxi, and I remember little about the journey as I quickly returned to the crack and corrosion check on the inside of my eyelids! This probably annoyed the other incumbents as I am not the quietest of sleepers :lol: . Anyway, we arrived well before 9 o'clock and just in time for a well deserved coffee before a quick trip around the site (bomb site would be more appropriate). There were about 20 holes over a metre deep with a concrete base which were of course the caps to the piles.

'er indoors inspecting the lunar landscape!
aw Dec 22.JPG

A better view of the bomb site.
ax Dec 22.JPG

So, that was it, just wait for the monk to arrive. In the meantime, the 9 baht coins were scattered on each cap while FIL looked after the pigs head and other arrangements.
be Dec 22.JPG

About 8:45, the monk arrives in a wagon that the Queen of England would be happy to travel in, it was all tricked out with a lovely interior......a donation from a happy member of the community no doubt making merit for his (or her) next existence. I must say, the monk was a very entertaining chap, he sat cross legged on the table and produced his cigs from somewhere within his robes and whilst puffing away chatted (in broken English) about all sorts of things, I took to him immediately, he was like everyone's favorite uncle...... but more about him a little later.
ba Dec 22.JPG

As the 09:10 kick-off approached, I was invited to tie some ribbons around one of the uprights which was to be the main focus of the ceremony. Whilst this was happening, the re-bar bases were dropped into place on the pile caps and the strange drawing shapes made by the monk on gold, silver and bronze foil were also put into the holes. The wife was given some small pegs which she was to push/hammer into the ground around the piles.
bp Dec 22.JPG

Promptly at 09:10, the upright column was placed into the ground and bamboo posts were rigged to hold it straight (ish), at this point the monk came along casting water into all the holes and blessing all the people who were to do the building as well as a few locals who also wished to be included. I am not a deeply religious person, but I was quite touched by all the proceedings, and I was very glad to have been a part of it.

The guy in the hole has a wonderful bamboo hat!
bz Dec 22.JPG

At this point, I am going to take a detour from the building plot (sorry, pun intended). FIL is something of a bird lover, so a couple of years ago, we found him a rather nice Sun Conure which never leaves FIL's side. The bird is completely spoiled and rules the household totally! Should anyone come along who the bird does not recognise, he will disappear inside the old mans shirt....if he is wearing one. It is very funny and quite charming.

The monk was quite enthralled with this little bird and asked if we could get him one. Of course the family all said yes (good merit here), so before we returned to Wat Sing a few days later, we had to find a bird......I am sure you will all be quite suprised to learn that the topic of money for the purchase never arose......5000 baht later, another un-budgied (sorry, budgeted) expense :).

Look at the monks face, money well spent!
da Jan 5.JPG

I understand that the monk and the bird are now quite inseparable. It's a nice feeling.

So, that was the ceremony over and the building was about to begin in earnest. I would like however to reflect upon what had just gone on, this was a typically Thai occasion which I was glad to be apart of, that does not mean that I understand it entirely, but for my family it was about as important as thing get and if I ever get to become a "real" family member then I have to accept their customs. I can understand fellow foreigners "farangs" questioning these festivals, but I am not so happy about the way they try to demean the events as some sort of pagan rite. I try very hard to leave my Western mentality at the airport, not always easy, but if you do wish to integrate into the Thai community, then some of your Western ideals might need to be re-examined. OK moralizing over, I promise not to do it again.

Now, onto the build proper, but that's the next chapter.
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Re: Our house at Wat Sing

Postby Mike Judd » Mon May 20, 2013 1:47 pm

What ever makes one happy, is what life is all about, but you have to admire their religion,so tolerant and full of Peace ! is what I like about it all. You can't knock that ,can you. ?
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Re: Our house at Wat Sing

Postby Tommy » Mon May 20, 2013 7:25 pm

Nice read! Much more interesting then mine :p

And I agree with you on that. It's so much easier to get along with the locals when I try to integrate myself with their customs / local practices.

Things usually move along easier and with less hassles too once I know when to close an eye and just follow along.
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Re: Our house at Wat Sing

Postby planemad » Thu May 23, 2013 2:25 pm

Thanks Tommy, I try to have a look at as many build's as possible. Initially it was to gain information (not that it seems to have done me much good :D ). These days however, I am simply curious to see what people are doing which is not necessarily a good thing as I see so many good ideas that I wish I had incorporated during my build. Bit like the Ex, she would spend hours or even days looking for new shoes, then, when she bought them, she would still look to see if she might have found them cheaper elsewhere, she got seriously peeved if she ever found a such a shop (Moral, buy it then stop looking) .

Now I can better empathize with all the "builders" as I can understand the heartache and euphoria you are going through. Also, I am writing with full hind sight and I can afford to be more anecdotal whereas your build is happening right now and every day poses new problems for which this site is an excellent platform from where to glean knowledge.

So back to the lunar landing site at Wat Sing where our dream house is about to raise itself gloriously into the Thai sunshine! Once the celebrations had been completed, the monk had left and all the food and drink had disappeared, the serious task of house building began. Within an hour, all the re-bar baskets had been dropped onto the pile tops (strangely, there was no sign of the 9, 1 baht coins :lol: ), and the upright columns attached. Whilst this was going on, the guy with the bamboo hat got the cement mixer going at full tilt. The ladies were loading their wicker type baskets with sand on one pile and stone chips on another. Bamboo hat was throwing about 6 baskets of both sand and chips plus a good bucket of water before repeating the process again. By this time, the wheelbarrows were at the ready, and once the process of covering the baskets had begun, it did not stop until the task was completed. I have to say they worked their tails off (nearly said bollox, but some were not so equipped in the first place).

ce Dec 22.jpg
All the columns have been erected

ck Dec 22.jpg
Pile heads and columns now firmly connected

bz Dec 22.jpg
No hard hats but safety flip flops where everywhere.

bs Dec 22.jpg
The Health & Safety Exec's are welcome on site at any time!!!!

Once the uprights had been cemented into place, marking out for the floor began. As I have said, the house was to be raised off the ground to offset the chance of future flooding, but when the builder started marking where the floor was to be set, I rather thought it looked quite high. To be fair, the holes around the piles and uprights made visualizing the final level quite difficult to imagine. Whatever, it looked awfully high even though I was told only 1.5 metres, so I (through the wife) got the builder to drop to 1.2 M which still looked quite high but we accepted that it was still a good safeguard.

It might have become quite clear that I am not a house builder! I am an aircraft engineer and I can build you one of those if you want, but in my trade accuracy to minute proportions are the norm, so watching these guys setting the height of the floor with a length of pipe filled with water was a real education. The uprights, as soon as they were touched, swayed like a sapling in a storm, but once the first measurement had been made, the pipe went around all the other uprights to make a felt tipped mark on them. I had heard about this method but never seen it in action. Whilst I was impressed with the method, those of you who are frequent air travelers will no doubt be pleased to hear we will NOT be incorporating this measuring system into our working practices anytime soon.

cd Dec 22.jpg
Marking out the level of the floor (was that the top or the bottom)?

cm Jan 5.jpg
A rather coy, but hardly demure lady worker.

One of the things which impressed me very quickly was how all the workers had a continual smile on their faces. As soon as they arrived, they became like an extension to the family, it was quite wonderful really. Of course as the farang, I was something of a celebrity (or cuckoo), but they all wanted to try to chat or wave, yet once they got to work, they really got on with it. Apart from a break for a quick drink of water they never stopped till lunchtime which lasted about an hour, then back to it until about 6 pm. Whatever they earn, it was not enough, but that is my good fortune and why Thailand is still a cheap place to live. I was not about to negotiate the costs UP (what a hypocrite!).

Whilst the form work was being started, the girls, all armed with huge machete's took off into the wood, I didnt ask why. They returned after about an hour carting huge bundles of wooden poles hewn from the trees which were to become supports for all the uprights, talk about making use of natural resources. Anyway by the end of the day, the form work for the uprights was about 50% complete and the outline for the base platform was being marked out. At this point we decided to return to the relative calm and safety (and A/C of course) of Bangkok. No matter how inviting the family pile, it was not to this softy Westerner's taste.
Chez inlaws

We would not be back for a week or so as the Christmas and New Year festivities in town had already been decided.
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Re: Our house at Wat Sing

Postby Roger Ramjet » Thu May 23, 2013 5:01 pm

Just a suggestion; I found that redbull drinks, ice cream and coke (as well as fruit) kept everyone really happy during my build. I didn't buy beer because a number of the workers were alcoholics, which didn't stop them buying Mekong after work. If I ever do another build I'll make sure I do that again.
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