Building in Si Bun Ruang, Isaan

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Building in Si Bun Ruang, Isaan

Postby Thaipom26 » Mon Sep 29, 2014 10:52 pm


I am yet another Aussie now married to a Thai wife who has decided to make Thailand home. I took early retirement from a vastly boring job in the Canberra public service having been offered a redundancy while I was spending seven months in Thailand to see if it would offer a longer term retirement option. My timescale brought forward I decided to rent here for 12 months, have a look around and decide where I would settle and build.

We have been based in Chiang Mai for the last 11 months but have also spent time in Chiang Rai, Phuket and my wife's small Isaan town of Si Bun Ruang midway between Udon Thani and Khon Kaen.

I have provided some more background in my "Introduce Yourself" post if anyone is interested.

Buying the Land

A 1,000 m2 block of land became unexpectedly available late last year in the Moo Baan, close to my wife's family home and farm and I decided to buy it for 300,000 THB to either build a holiday place or our home on it once I had worked out where home would be. It is a Chanote title, which is I believe the best you can get in Thailand, It is where the land has been officially surveyed and there are concrete markers with numbers in the corners of the land which match the boundary identification points on the title deed.

isaan land.jpg
Anybody worried about the closeness of our land to the family home should read my "Introduce Yourself" post.

So I now "owned" a small part of Thailand. Who would have thought? Strictly speaking I don't actually own land as foreigners can't but it’s a legal work-round where Gaun, my wife, has ownership and I have a lifetime usage contract.

The purchase was a pretty painless affair. Jan, the owner, Gaun, Yuan (Gaun’s younger sister) and myself turned up at the Land Office in Si Bun Ruang first thing in the morning and submitted the transfer papers. Note: If you are visiting the Land Office here do not buy the local coffee! A few signatures, one and a half hours later and 3,400 THB and the transfer was complete. We then drove 20 minutes to Nong Bua Lamphu, the next town where my Thai bank has a branch, to transfer the money from me to Jan. All done by 11.00 am.

The land hadn't been touched for a while so it was pretty overgrown and wild but it was all small stuff, which was easily cleared. However there are two large mango trees in the front, which I am told by villagers have beautiful sweet fruit in season. They will be staying :P

Looking from the back of the land towards the front. The trees in the distance define the front edge.

As you all know the first thing one does after buying land in Thailand is to raise the level above any possible flood levels, which is taken pretty seriously here. Of course raising the land level then results in the water flowing into the older blocks where they haven't brought in soil but I guess that’s the price of progress! I wanted to do this straight away to give it 12 months to settle through a wet season before we started our build late this year.

The excavation people turned up late Monday to look at the job, agreed to a price of 180 THB a truck and started work the next day. The project involved a digger on Gaun’s family farm providing the soil and creating new rice paddies at the same time.

The soil being excavated from Gaun’s family farm and loaded onto the trucks for delivery to the land.

Three small trucks worked to move the soil to the block where there was a tractor to spread and level it. The guy operating the tractor looked about 16 but his work was excellent. All the levels were done by sight and for a 20 x 50 meter sized piece of land it all looked pretty spot on to me. My supervising bit involved having to be on site and giving the truck driver a docket for each delivery they made. Not too taxing.

The tractor at work on the block distributing and levelling the soil.

In our case we ended up bringing in 183 truck loads of soil to add about a meter or more of height to the land raising it to the level of the block on the left that’s already gone through this process. You can get an idea of the extra height being added to the land in this photo. The base has already been raised a foot or more the previous day and this is additional soil on that base, so it’s a big effort.

The second stage of raising the land level.

The project brought out lots of villagers and we have always had company chatting away while the trucks arrived and unloaded. So different from the sterile suburban life of Canberra where neighbours are often never seen. The level of support from Gaun's family in organising things around the land over this period and the actual work they did on top of their huge workload on the farm during harvest time has been very humbling. All done with a huge amount of humour and good will.

A new entrance has since been built over this drainage pipe running down the Moo Baan road ditch. Six meters of concrete pipe delivered same day for about 1,000 THB.

Drainage pipes going in for the new driveway. Note the spectator seating on the left.

Almost the the final state. Looking towards the front. Quite a change from photo 2 above.

Total cost for three full day’s work involving five workers, a digger, three trucks and a tractor resulting in 183 deliveries of soil 33,000 THB. A good start to our building project.
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Re: Building in Si Bun Ruang, Isaan

Postby pipoz » Tue Sep 30, 2014 12:19 am

Good value for about 1000m3 if fill

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Re: Building in Si Bun Ruang, Isaan

Postby Mike Judd » Tue Sep 30, 2014 6:59 am

Thaipom 26. Welcome to C.T.H. You have started your journey. There are so many of us here who have already gone down the road you are on, with various degrees of success. As you don't seem to be in a great deal of hurry, you should have enough time to go through at least enough of the posts to get the drift of the many pitfalls you may or may not experience along the way. Avoiding as many as you can is usually a lot less expensive and frustrating than going through it yourself. That said you will be extremely lucky to avoid all of them. You have what I call a building block, plenty big enough for any size house that you choose, but as this is Thailand, you are going to need a decent fence or wall all around to at least not make it too easy to access. I have built not all that far from you (between Khon Kaen and Kosum Phisai) probably not more than an hour drive, depending of course on how much time you want to spend on researching the subject. My next visit is the 15th Nov for 30 days if you are interested, but you seem to be in the middle of other Expats anyway. There are loads of new building estates going up just N.W. of Khon Kaen where you can walk around seeing all the various stages of construction , mainly 2 storey houses on small building blocks, I got a couple of my contractors from there. Cheers Mike.
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Re: Building in Si Bun Ruang, Isaan

Postby Thaipom26 » Wed Oct 01, 2014 4:21 pm

Thanks for the reply Mike. I have spent a lot of time exploring the forum topics here to extract as much as I can from all those others who have or are currently battling the Thai building process. I have had some DIY building experience in Australia with home renovations on several houses and building a 50 m2 house extension myself from the ground up. However this doesn't help too much here where the process is different and the low labour skill levels and the language barriers add to the challenge in achieving a decent outcome.

I know that there will be lots of frustrations and a few sleepless nights ahead. The advantage I have is that I will be living a 5 minute walk from the land and my very first purchase is a nice sala to sit under the mango trees and that's where I will be stationed until this build is complete. The thought of trying to be an absent supervisor when building anywhere, but especially in Thailand, is slightly daunting to put it mildly.

As far as securing the block I am putting in a five strand barbed wire fence with concrete posts around three sides and planting a hedge, as has been discussed in another post on this site My wife and I are keen gardeners and the maintenance downside is overcome by the softer appearance a hedge provides and reasonable security in time. The side facing the road will have a wall and electric gate.

My House Plans

The planning of my house has been influenced by the shape of the block, which is 20 x 50 meters, and has resulted in a house that sits narrower and deeper than it would if the land was wider. What I want to achieve is the following:

    A simple design which is all useable space and no "show only" aspects. So many Thai houses I see are designed to impress the neighbours but have little relevance to comfortable or practical living. I have reached an age and confidence that I don't need or want to impress anyone. I am also lucky to have a Thai wife who is happy with whatever I build and doesn't care if I put a tin roof on it or tiles! She has given me a completely free hand to create our home although she follows along with how the plans are shaping. Her interest lies in the garden and her love of flowers and plants. I think the house is an optional extra :D

    Simple free flowing uncluttered areas, which I think suits a tropical climate. No corridors or wasted space.

    A strong connection from all rooms to outside living areas and then into the tropical gardens we will create.

    External living spaces under the roofline to maximise the cooling offered by insulated shade. I don't want to have a internally focussed house. To me part of the advantage of living in this climate is to be outside but at the same time I want to ensure that this is a comfortable experience.

    Minimise the used of air conditioning. The house will have a white colorbond roof (a la Fredlk), silver foil, whirlybirds hot air extractors, insulation batts on the ceiling to retain the cool, large overhangs so that all windows are protected from direct sunshine and wall exposure is minimal. Double AAC blocks.

The result of this wish list is the following design:

The latest draft design.

Two bedrooms both with ensuites at the back. A small computer room/den/retreat leads off the main bedroom (in case the relatives get too intrusive Fredlk). Built-in wardrobes. A combined kitchen/dining/family room in the middle including a large walk-in pantry. The lounge room is the final space at the front. The laundry will be outside at the back to start with but will move into a utilities area/carport at the front once it is built. We have an under the eves laundry in our rental house in Chiang Mai and I have to say, leaving behind the "normal" Australian house design mindset, I can't see the point of an internal laundry especially in this climate. Each to their own.

All the rooms have doors that open into outside living spaces. All rooms have at least semi-opposing windows to maximise any breeze, although having lived here for 16 months breezes aren't an experience I have enjoyed very often. Isaan may be different but certainly Chiang Mai, apart from pre-storm, seems to live in a permanent breeze-free state.

The roof is a simple rectangular hip design with a 1 meter overhang and extends from the widest point at the back to the front. You can see that this creates two separate outdoor living areas. The one on the right connected to kitchen/dining/family room space will be an external dining area. A Thai kitchen will be built along the lounge room wall facing into this area and incorporate my Aussie BBQ (Roger). The outdoor area on the right will have a lounge chairs and overlook the front garden.

East is to the right of the plan and no windows face that way other than the central one, which is set back 4 meters under the roofline. A wall of greenery already exists on that side of the land which will also protect the house from the final setting sun. The sun protection at the front will include a full length pergola with flowering vines, for Gaun, which will also help to meld the house into the landscape.

In August this year I took my draft plans to the Tessaban in Si Bun Ruang and had them formally drawn up. Now for those of you who have done builds based on sketches this might seem a bit strange. However the family recommended a builder in Si Bun Ruang and in a totally non-Thai way he only builds if he has plans to follow! Who would have thought :shock: Being a methodical ex-government employee (but not ASIO Roger) I wanted plans anyway but I hadn't expected to find someone to build the house that knew what they were used for. This guy is a full time builder and has his own crew rather than being a rice farmer who builds in the off-season. He has already told me that he is happy for me to be on-site and check everything. If there is something I don't like he will change it. I know all of these things can go belly-up but at least if one starts off on an optimistic note that is better than having a builder with a protective attitude at the start.

I visited a build he is currently working on in the central part of Si Bun Runag. It's a 7 million THB plus multi-story business/home and had far more complex and detailed design elements in it than ours will have so I thought that was encouraging. He has also built for several faang in the area and I will talk to them before making a final decision.

The builder with plans being quizzed by the family as well as me.

The all inclusive labour quote for the build is 370,000 THB. This was given me in a brief meeting we had the day before we left Si Bun Ruang in August. We are heading back there this month and I will set up another meeting so I can work through just what exactly is included in that price. I will report back after this meeting with an update.

Nothing has been signed but he has booked us in to commence November if all is well with the quote.
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Re: Building in Si Bun Ruang, Isaan

Postby fredlk » Wed Oct 01, 2014 5:15 pm

Thaipom26 wrote:The house will have a white colorbond roof (a la Fredlk), silver foil, whirlybirds hot air extractors

I don't think those are necessary. The white Colorbond already reflects 92% of the heat and the insulation takes care of the rest so I think you might not have any hot air to extract.
Under my garage roof which has the foil attached, I can't feel any heat at all even on the sunniest days.
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Re: Building in Si Bun Ruang, Isaan

Postby Thaipom26 » Wed Oct 01, 2014 10:59 pm

Thanks Fred. Delete two whirlybirds from my "to buy" list.

Cheers Tony.
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Re: Building in Si Bun Ruang, Isaan

Postby Mike Judd » Thu Oct 02, 2014 6:24 am

That all look good, whirly birds are something that can easily be installed at any time if you find necessary. Only inspection on completion of your particular build will confirm what it is like in the roof space at the latter half of the day. I tend to go on experience a lot more in my long life, the first house that I built for myself in OZ had foil under the battens , fibre glass 50m.m. thick batts double sided foil all over the ceilings , all the timber frame walls with a brick veneer had the same 50m.m. batts in them , but it was still hotter inside in the evening once the sun went down. In one particular heat wave period, I was hosing the walls and roof trying to cool the house down. Then I got up into the roof one afternoon and it was like a blast furnace up there, that was when I cut big holes in the two gable ends and put in vents that opened and closed so that in the winter I would close them up. I also used to turn on the exhaust fans in the kit and bathroom to help shift the air. It worked for me there so I have gone for the same thing in Khon Kaen without having to worry about any winter. :wink: :wink:
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Re: Building in Si Bun Ruang, Isaan

Postby Thaipom26 » Thu Oct 02, 2014 10:32 am

Thanks for that Mike. A wait and see sounds like a good strategy. It is a nice change to be only worried about one aspect of temperature. In Canberra we got down to -8 at night in winter sometimes and up to 40+ in summer. Good design involved sighting the house so that the rooms got sun in winter but not in summer etc. Here I just need to keep the sun and heat out all year.

In reading this blog it brings home some of the building differences between the Aussies and our Northern friends. Colorbond roofs, "bungalow" style houses and Sisalation seem like new concepts for some. Mind you in Australia things like double glazing and alternatives to pink batts are a mystery to many. The TV show Grand Designs show building ideas that we can only dream about especially concepts developed and used in the Scandinavian countries and Germany. Like the Thais our building practices seem to have stopped at a point in time. The brick veneer house is as far as we got.

I want to put double glazing into the two bedrooms, mainly for its sound reduction properties. The early morning announcements from the Moo Baan chief, plus of course rural life gets going three hours before my first coffee of the day, came as a bit of a shock to this light sleeping farang.

The Thai version of reading the newspaper over breakfast.

Double glazing is going to be a challenge here I believe. There has already been a bit of discussion on the downside of Chinese offerings and the mention of a German company Suhuco. Maybe other members will come up with more suggestions as that thread develops.

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Re: Building in Si Bun Ruang, Isaan

Postby Ians » Thu Oct 02, 2014 1:36 pm

Thaipom26, welcome from another escapee from the land of Oz. Looks like you're off to a good start with plenty of local support, just love the chairs arranged in the shade to follow play - excellent.

From my perspective there are 4 things that need close attention and thought when building in Thailand, 1 you have already addressed and that's considering the sun effect on walls, windows and roof. The other 3 don't always have enough thought put in and you end up with problems down the track which can be near impossible to rectify.
2. electrics, ensure you run sufficient light and power circuits and enough power outlets in the right places, all correctly sized with earth and appropriate overload protection and preferably earth leakage protection on all power circuits (RCBO's).
3. water supply, sufficient storage close to the house with a good pump system and well sized pipe work, use the heavy duty pipe not the cheaper one usually used to save a few Baht per metre.
4. Waste water, number 1 is sewage handling from the house to however / wherever you are going to treat it, to a lesser extent is the grey water. It is important that you use "P" traps or similar on all you grey water lines, (sinks, shower recesses / bath, laundry etc. otherwise you will have the smell of sewage wafting thru' the house all day (not a pleasant odour with the high Thai temp).

It is important you don't skimp on the above item, money spent now will save you heart ache and problems further down the track.

If in doubt on anything - just ask, there is plenty of experience in here to point you in the right direction.
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Re: Building in Si Bun Ruang, Isaan

Postby Roger Ramjet » Thu Oct 02, 2014 4:06 pm

Thaipom26 wrote:I want to put double glazing into the two bedrooms, mainly for its sound reduction properties. The early morning announcements from the Moo Baan chief, plus of course rural life gets going three hours before my first coffee of the day, came as a bit of a shock to this light sleeping farang.

Another factor when trying to get noise reduction is the thickness of the glass. Two panes of 3 mm is the same as one pane. The vibration is the same because the frequency is the same. The thicker the glass the more noise reduction. The better the seal the more noise reduction. Tinting also helps. Finding the glass people who are willing to do a small house in Thailand is the problem. I know they have the technology to do double glazing using at least 6mm glass, the problem appears to be getting them to do small orders, along with finding the expertise to have the windows installed. All that's without the cost. Smaller profile windows help, but it's that double glazing with gas filled gap that counts.
I think the Americans donated those "nuclear warning speakers" after the end of the Cold War. It was their way of getting even with Thailand for choosing the wrong side during WW2, or JUSMAG denotated them after the Viet Nam War ended because Thailand started buying their armaments from the Chinese and other lower source suppliers. Whatever the reason the Tannoy speakers in villages starting as early as 0430hrs can be alarming and annoying, especially when the announcements are totally trivial, which most of the announcements are.
I wonder how they can justify the sound as it breaks the Noise Pollution Act. They have been banned in most areas in Bangkok.
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Re: Building in Si Bun Ruang, Isaan

Postby Mike Judd » Thu Oct 02, 2014 6:16 pm

That's one thing I don't have to worry about as my block is 230 mts deep, so I just kept walking backwards from the road until I couldn't hear the cane trucks going by, and said this will do, 150mts back. I know what it's like with those bloody speakers in the village, my partners house has roads back and front plus a few houses away on the sides, so they circle us like Indians on Sat and Sun mornings at an unearthly hour, blasting their nonsense out. One of the negatives of Freedom.?
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Re: Building in Si Bun Ruang, Isaan

Postby Thaipom26 » Sat Oct 04, 2014 10:51 am

Thanks for the replies and helpful information.


I totally agree with putting in more rather than less in the way of powerpoints etc at the start. So cheap at that stage. My rental house in Chiang Mai has some of the weirdest powerpoint arrangements - one single on one side of a double bed etc even though it is an upmarket house. I have met a farang in Si Bun Ruang who is an electrical engineer and he has offered to have a look over the electrical plans and keep an eye on things at the installation stage. The building company I am planning to use has recently done some work on the family house and used electrical junction boxes, which I thought was a hopeful sign.

A bore and power are the two things that will be organised first up. I have lived in the village using the Moo Baan water supply and it's OK to trickle feed a water tank and then pump from there for household uses but useless for keeping a garden going. The family have organised a bore drilling company for me. Their neighbour got one done 40 meters, with pump and 1,000 tank for 20,000 THB, which seems very good value. That will be a cheapie system and I expect to pay more for the full monty. I plan to buy a 800 watt Saxon submersible pump with a 2,000 liter holding tank. Someone suggested on this site having the ability to pump directly from the bore for high capacity garden watering and then switch the feed back to the house supply, and that seems like a good option.

Plumbing is a new field for me so any advice is welcome. I had already marked P Traps as a necessity - it was covered in I think Max&Bee's story and others I am sure. I have been in a couple of places here where the plumbing hadn't been properly installed and that is a great motivator to get it right in my build!


I presume the thickness of the glass can help if double glazing is a bridge too far. I read of a guy on this forum who was installing 9 mm industrial glass to the front windows of his build. They would have to be ordered rather than a Thai Wasadu standard, but these are only for the bedroom areas. After the first couple of mornings "sleeping" in the village I was considering moving the build to my wife's farm in the paddies, well away from the speakers. Maybe I will build daytime living place in the village and the bedrooms on the farm! Mind you the frogs get you out there.

Help Please:

1. What is people's thinking on using black plastic under the concrete slab as a water barrier. In Australia it is pretty standard, and may be a building regulation, but I have seen many builds illustrated on this forum where there's no sign of it being used. I did come across a thread, that I now can't find, where a member was recommending both black plastic AND painting the tops of the concrete floor beams in a waterproof substance. I would have though isolating the slab from water would be a sensible thing to do in this climate.

2. An anti-termite system under the slab also seems to be one many people's list. Is this installed under the slab fill - that is after when the slab beams are poured but before the soil is replaced to raise the ground to the slab height.

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Re: Building in Si Bun Ruang, Isaan

Postby Roger Ramjet » Sat Oct 04, 2014 11:39 am

Thaipom26 wrote:What is people's thinking on using black plastic under the concrete slab as a water barrier.

I used it when I poured the slab for my garage/workshop even though gravel and sand (both compacted) were the base. I also used rebar chairs to raised the trench mesh and rebar to a standard height and to keep it there when the workers walked on it. The whole of the area was sprayed prior to the slab being layed.
As my house is raised of the ground I have a spray system installed under the ground floor that is recharged every 6 months.
Don't forget to have the power points installed at a reasonable height. Crawling around under desks, behind TV's etc at our age becomes annoying; well over knee to chest height is the key. I had 9 power outlets installed where my computers go, but it still wasn't enough.
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Re: Building in Si Bun Ruang, Isaan

Postby sirineou » Sat Oct 04, 2014 6:09 pm

The black plastic under the slab has two functions, one is that it acts a vapor barrier, and the other is that it prevent the concrete from loosing moisture to the ground while the concrete sets. Depending on your situation it might or it might not be necessary IMO . If you do not have a dampness problem if your slab is elevated or the ground is dry you might not need it as a vapor barrier, and if you spray and soak the ground with water before the pour, then the ground is saturated and the concrete will nor loose as much moisture to the ground, if any.
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Re: Building in Si Bun Ruang, Isaan

Postby Thaipom26 » Sun Nov 09, 2014 6:45 pm

After 12 months living in Chiang Mai the time finally came to make the move to Isaan and settle into building our house and establishing a life in the North East of Thailand. After an uneventful nine hour drive, a trip I have done many times, we arrived in Si Bun Ruang on the evening of the 31st October.

Week 1 November 1 - 7

This is the first of what I plan to be mostly weekly updates on building our house in Si Bun Ruang.

I am incredibly lucky to have the full support of my wife's family in this build. I am never required to battle translations or fill out Thai forms. I travel with a building support committee made up of Gaun my wife, who translates to English, her younger sister Yuan, who is the negotiator and has the local business experience and often a niece called Apple, who is better with reading and filling out the paperwork. I am in awe of those guys who do the whole thing on their own with limited Thai language skills.

Day One - Saturday, had us starting working through the list I had prepared for a quick start on the building project. The builder himself, a guy called Ming, came over to make sure we were still good to go as we hadn't signed anything at this point. The calendar was consulted to work out an auspicious day to start the build. Luckily the 6th had a full moon so we had a date to kick things off! The "full" ceremony is planned for the 16th, but it was agreed that groundworks and getting the first couple of columns up could be done in the meantime without upsetting the spirits too much.

I am lucky to get Ming, my builder, as this is his last building project before he retires to grow sugar. He's 64 but looks 80. Probably a damn sight fitter than me though. He is actually a professional builder unlike many who will take on construction in-between harvests to earn some extra income.

Electricity and water were the two priorities for me. My sister-in-law called her bore digger and negotiated his normal 15,000 THB fee, which I thought was pretty reasonable anyway, down to 13,000 THB. No water no charge. He agreed to start the next day.

We also purchased a sala, which would eventually be located on the land under the two mango trees at the front as my "site office"! We had seen a good solid example of sala for sale on the way to Udon Thani, the closest major city to us, last time we were here. A return visit had us selecting a large sala 2 x 2 meters, big enough to hold small parties, and it was delivered that evening. 10,000 THB.

Day 2 - Sunday, the morning had us clearing the land ready for the build. In the 12 months since we bought the land a lot of rubbish vegetation had taken it over especially with vigorous growth during the wet season. Very kindly Yuan and Lud, my sister and brother-in-laws, has got in there before we arrived with heavy duty cutters and taken it all down to ground level again. Now the dead growth needed to be collected up and burnt - there is no recycling of vegetation in Thailand that I have seen.

In the afternoon the bore drilling equipment arrived on site and set up.

A small drill rig and a pick-up for water delivery.

The drill head uses water to lubricate and cool plus the residue from the drilling is pumped up to the surface keeping the hole clean. The water is provided from a trench dug into the earth at the side of the rig and a constant supply is required for the system to work. Although what’s pumped down comes to the surface again in a constant cycle, water is lost in porous levels of the dig and a surprising amount is needed. This is a bit of a catch 22 situation as what you are looking for is water but need water to look for it!

The solution in this case was to truck it in using four plastic barrels on the back of a ute. The water is being sourced from the farm pond of one of Gaun’s nieces about a ten minute drive away.

We had ordered a 5 inch bore hole, which is bigger than the standard village option, dictated by our future gardening requirements more than what we need for house use. A smaller drill bit is used for the initial dig and then the larger bit widens the hole to the full size.

Day 3 - Monday, the first task of the day was a thirty minute drive to the nearest larger town, a place called Nong Bua Lamphu, with a list of things to do. With the bore being dug I needed to have the submersible pump ready to be installed once we had the required water flow. I also wanted to arrange for broadband to be connected at the family home through TOT. Finally I also wanted to visit Thai Watsadu to get some information on windows and an order time for our kitchen.

I ended up choosing a DAB submersible pump on the recommendation of a local dealer. Right or wrong who knows. I am the eternal optimist and chose to pay for a supposedly quality product rather than the cheap Chinese alternative a lot of the locals use. Time will tell. Cost 13,800 THB or A$490.00.

While we were in Thai Watsadu the guy who was “drawing” our new plans at the Tessaban phoned to confirm they were ready and we arranged to collect them early afternoon on our return to Si Bun Ruang. They ended up costing 7,000 THB.

Arriving back to the land the builder turned up and we were able to give him the updated plans to cost for the labour component. A demonstration of how lucky we are to have him then took place as he took the plans aside and then read them to understand the build and come back with a cost! Now this is a pretty unusual skill I believe in the rural Thai building “profession”. The deal is that he provides labour and I pay for all the materials, which is the best of both worlds.

A Thai builder who reads plans - how unusual.

Ming came back with a contract labour price of 381,800 THB or around A$13,500 to build the house to the specifications in the building plans. By Australian standards this is what you'd pay to contractors in the first month! I don't know how it rates by Thai standards but it is an amount that falls within my budget so I agreed to it. I know there will be additional costs involved as we bring the house up to western standards. The two fluorescent tubes in each of the rooms shown in the plans aren't quite my idea of mood lighting. The 40 double power points I want is around the same number installed in the whole village :-)

Day 4 – Tuesday, First thing we headed out early to the PEA local electricity company office to arrange for temporary power to be provided to the site.

For those of you thinking of building here one of the questions you need to be able to answer at this stage is the size of the meter for power to the house either 15/45 or 30/100 amp - is that the correct terminology?

Now this was a question I hadn't researched so was slightly thrown and went for the safe answer, which was bigger is better. Because this is a temporary installation at this time, obviously converting to a permanent one when the house is finished, you have to “buy” the meter box, or effectively put a deposit on it, for the duration of the build. For a 30/100 this was 10,000 THB with an additional non-refundable 605 THB. I think the 15/45 was a 6,000 deposit. Return the meter undamaged at the end and you get your 10,000 back, or maybe a credit on your account. Installing a meter for the permanent connection is not charged out. I think the unit rate is higher for a temporary connection and presume this is why the meter is changed at the end, but could be wrong about that. Maybe someone can enlighten me how this works.

The actual installation is done by a separate contractor and he turned up that evening to have a look at the site and give us a quote. He recommended we end up with a 15/45 which he said was ample for what we needed. Another thing you should know is that you have to pay for and provide the electrical cable from meter to site as well as the power breaker. It’s not provided by PEA. In our case we needed 140 meters of cable, which ended up costing 7,400 THB, the breaker 580 THB and the installation cost 1,700 THB.

The other activity on site was that three old and dying mango trees were being removed by my two brother-in-laws, Lud and Tham, as the trees were beyond their use-by date and were too close to the house. One of them was designated to become a temporary power pole and the other two were to be cut down.

Day 5 – Wednesday, In the morning the electrical contractor turned up with two others and connected up the power. The cables now run from the meter and pole on the opposite side of the road to the land, across the road to a tree and then onto the land finishing up at the old mango tree trunk.

Job done. A old plastic container has been added since to waterproof the electrics.

Ming had previously ordered a truckload of sand and another of gravel and these were delivered from Nong Khai, on the Mekong River, in the morning. This was a three hour drive for the truck but Ming had used them before and felt that they were better value than buying locally, who probably sourced it from the same place. My house is being built with sand dredged from the Mekong River. How extraordinary! The reason we are having these deliveries is that Ming wants to make the concrete for the columns and footings himself to ensure the quality. Sand 10,000 THB and gravel 11,000.

Sand and gravel delivery

The end of the day had our new DAB pump fitted to the bore to check its capacity to deliver water. They had only got down around 28 meters of an estimated 40 and were being beaten by the quantity of water the bore was consuming in being constructed. They could only drill for a short time before having to refill the tanks from the pond a round trip of around 45 minutes. The drill rig was sitting idle more than working.

The test of a successful drill for this guy anyway is to have the bore deliver water continuously for three hours. Unfortunately we failed this criteria as the pump kept running out of water to pump although when pumping it was an excellent result. Without any questions the guy offered to move location and start a new dig on the other side of the land. The good news for him was that the first bore was producing enough water to support the drilling of the second bore. No more time consuming trips to the pond.

Day 6 – Thursday, In another example of the incredible support I am receiving from my wife's family Yurt, her older sister who Gaun calls sister number 2, works for a Chinese/Thai family who own a building supply business in Udon Thani, a small city about an hour’s drive from us. She has arranged for us to get whatever building materials they can provide at family rates. As an example one of the items on the final invoice was 30% cheaper than if I had bought it elsewhere.

Ming had already worked out a list of the steel we needed for the whole build based on the plans covering our 13 concrete columns, the slab reinforcement and roof trusses. it doesn't include the Colorbond sheeting for the roof itself. So Gaun, Yuan, Ming and I headed off to Udon to place the order.

Having Ming with us made the whole thing easy because there was a lot of technical discussion in particular about the roof construction, which Gaun had trouble following in Thai let alone me had I been on my own.

The final cost for all steel plus things like welding rods, nails, anti-rust paint and steel cutting disks came to 133,110 THB or A$4,700. An initial delivery to be made the next day with the balance on the Monday.

Day 7 – Friday, Our first task of the day was to finalise the location of the house with Ming. He had previously set out an initial position but we wanted it moved a meter away from one of the boundaries. This agreed Ming was straight into laying everything out so that they could start on the groundworks doing it all very professionally with string lines and squaring it all up.


By early afternoon a team of three guys were working away digging the holes.

No mechanical assistance here. I believe they get 150 THB a hole or A$5.00.

While this was happening Lud, Ming and another worker were building the site hut. This is a construction made out of tree branches, old timber and rusting iron sheeting donated by the family. It will initially be used for the 50 bags on cement I am buying on Monday but then will become a general storage place plus a shelter from the rain and sun for the site workers.

The final event for the afternoon was the arrival of our first batch of steel, which is being stored undercover at the family home.

Most of the roof steel to arrive Monday.

A good positive first week of activities.

I have added a much longer version of this post with heaps of photos on my blog for anyone who is interested in reading more.
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Joined: Sun Dec 29, 2013 9:24 am
Location: Si Bun Ruang, Nong Bua Lamphu, Isaan


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