Building in Si Bun Ruang, Isaan

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

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Re: Building in Si Bun Ruang, Isaan

Postby Thaipom26 » Tue Dec 30, 2014 6:52 pm

Week 8 December 20 - 26

A week of not much happening because, as I told you in Week 7 progress on the build had outstripped supply. The two main items we are waiting for are Colorbond for the roof and the AAC blocks to build walls. Both ordered but waiting for them to arrive.

However hang in there because there is exciting news on the septic and grey water tanks front! We bought the septic tank from Global House in Week 7 and this week the crew dug it into the ground. It was a 2,000 litre version, although I think smaller would have been fine. It’s hard to get guidance on size based on the number of people expected to be using the house.

The forum on coolthaihouse has a lively debate on the subject with one contributor quoting the figures for America, which require a small swimming pool sized septic. From my reading this is because the seasonally cool climate in a large area of the US requires a longer holding time before solids break down. Our tropical climate speeds the whole process up and therefore smaller septic tanks are very workable. Ming, the builder, suggested 2,000 litres and as I had nothing better to offer that’s what we went with.

This is one serious hole for the septic.

The system I was replicating was illustrated on coolthaihouse as follows:

Septic plan photos.jpg
The plumbing system.

Toilets on one line going to the septic and then a grey water soaker tank with the grey water from showers, basins and kitchen flowing into a separate pipe leading to a second grey water tank. The only variation to the photo above is that I didn’t install a grease trap.

One of the grey water soaker tanks.

These are just two concrete rings sitting on top of each other with holes drilled into the sides to let the water out. They cost all of 120 THB each ring and another 120 THB for the lid. Surrounded with gravel and covered over with soil. A venting pipe was run horizontally from the side of the tank to the edge of our land.

The septic tank was pumped full of water and is shown here being watered into it’s hole to settle the soil around it.

The finished system, septic – still to get its lid, and two grey water tanks now buried. You can see the venting pipes where they are situated running out to the left and the edge of the land.

If the soaker tanks are overwhelmed with water I will add a pipe from one to the other and then across the land in a soil covered gravel ditch to spread the water over a larger area.

With the team cut back to Ming and his two regular workers I next asked them to put up a fence around three sides of the land as my first attempt to stop the endless visits by dogs and chickens! The final victory will only happen once the front wall goes in with the gate and possibly a shotgun. The other benefit of the fence is that for the first time it would properly define the boundaries of the land.

Ming charged me 250 THB a post, 9,750 THB in total, which I thought was a bit steep. However it took them 3 1/2 days to do the job partly because they are meticulous with levels and getting the fence straight, so I think I got value for money. The corner posts were concreted in the the others just dug and backfilled.

From back to front the finished job.

For those of you thinking that this is a bloody ugly fence to be running around one’s property not to worry. We are planting a double width hedge on our side, which will eventually submerge the fence in greenery and hopefully look something like this at some stage thanks to a coolthaihouse topic here:

And on Friday, my birthday, after lots of phone calls to Thai Watsadu our first load of 800 AAC blocks turned up.

My birthday present.

No mortar mind you even though we ordered 56 bags so we had to make a rush trip to Thai Watsadu in Nong Bua Lamphu to get 16 bags so the wall building crew could get started the next day.

Week 9 will be a little more interesting with the walls starting to take shape and a run to Khon Kaen yesterday to pick up 128,000 THB of Colorbond. However we will be hit by the New Year shut-down from today and I don't think we'll see workers back on site until Week 10.

A bit more detail and a few more photos go here:
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Re: Building in Si Bun Ruang, Isaan

Postby Sometimewoodworker » Wed Dec 31, 2014 8:05 am

You mentioned you didn't install a grease trap. Why not?

You can still retrofit one and you can make one on site quite easily. It is only really neded on the kitchen outflow "

Food Solids along with fats, oils, and grease are trapped and stored in these devices." If you dont install one you will have a floating scum layer. This scum layer is very slowly digested and broken down by microorganisms in the anaerobic digestion process.

Much better for smell and free flow from the grey water to put one in.
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Re: Building in Si Bun Ruang, Isaan

Postby Thaipom26 » Mon Jan 12, 2015 7:58 pm

Thanks for that. I was still thinking of life in the world where all of that stuff was coped with by some authority down the line. I will retro-fit.
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Re: Building in Si Bun Ruang, Isaan

Postby Thaipom26 » Mon Jan 12, 2015 8:28 pm

My apologies for the late publishing of this post.

27 December – 2 January 2014, a short working week as the workers headed off to celebrate New Year on Tuesday and are not due back until the 3rd. However there was some progress made that makes this week worth a post.

Day 56 Saturday, I wrote in my post for Week 8 that the AAC blocks had turned up finally on the Friday and we had collected some mortar from Thai Watsadu so the team could get started first thing Saturday. Well this happened and when we arrived that morning the wall building was underway.

The wall of what will be Peng’s bedroom, my step-daughter, going up.

These blocks are great to watch being put in place as they are a quick method of building and for the people doing the work, lightweight to use. They are being cemented into place with a thin mortar base rather than the glue type option used in some cases you will read about on building forums. Better or worse I can’t say.

With the first fix of electrical linked in with the walls going up we headed off on what is now a very familiar route to Global House at Nong Bua Lamphu to buy conduit, junction boxes and that flexible silver tubing stuff that I think goes in the ceiling.

We also purchased 32 ceiling downlights as an alternative to the handful of fluorescence tube mood lighting thoughtfully included by the draughtsman to light the place.

Gaun continued to chase Thai Watsadu to get the rest of our AAC blocks delivered as the wall crew seem to be getting through about 400 blocks a day, which only gives us a couple days supply based on the one delivery we have received so far. Building here is SO much easier with an active Thai partner. I have said it before but doing a build on your own without any Thai language would be such a pain and the guys that do it successfully are heros in my book.

Day 57 Sunday, Ming’s two permanent guys turned up after a day off fishing, which gave us a full team of six plus Ming. Good progress was made and the rear of the house started to take shape.

Our bedroom wall with the space for the double glazed sliding door starting to take shape. Kitchen the next wall down.

Gaun and I made another of our daily trips to Global House and bought the fuse box, 14 fuse spaces, plus door frames and two vanities. We are lucky in being able to borrow my brother-in-laws pickup for these trips otherwise we’d have to have larger items delivered. 25,700 THB out of the bank account.

In the afternoon another load of 800 AAC blocks turned up this time delivered by Thai Watsadu’s own truck, not the contractor that hasn't been showing up.

Day 58 Monday, a big one because we were to collect the Colorbond roofing from the other side of Khon Kaen a one a half hour’s drive, something I have been looking forward to doing. Ming and his son provided the transport as Bluescope wanted 5,000THB to deliver, which in a Thai sense seemed a bit excessive and also I preferred to give money to Ming.

I have to say that as a customer dealing with Bluescope it is a pretty ordinary experience. I wrote before that I don’t think they do much business with small time jobs like mine and they just aren't set up to deal with retail customers. We turned up a bit after 2.00 pm and the truck was backed into their loading area, we sat in the waiting area and waited and waited.

No sign of the sales manager or anyone else. The place is plastered with signs and slogans all about worker safety but I didn’t see one that mentioned customer service. At 3.00 pm a siren sounded and the workforce, such as it is, all headed outside for a smoke. At 3.15 the siren went again and the half-dozen guys trooped back in again. This time the hoists were fired up and 10 minutes later the loading was complete and we were ready to be signed out. I can only think that no work was done before 3.00 pm in case it interfered with the tea break!

Now an hour’s wait is no big deal, especially in a Thai environment, but I had expected a more satisfying customer experience from a company from my home country. I would have had much better service from the local Thai roofing place.

My whinging session over I would still buy Colorbond having now seen it back on site. It is a heavy duty product with a great deep finish to the paintwork and I love the slightly off-white colour. The workers have already commented at how much harder it is to cut to shape that the Thai equivalent.

Colorbond safely offloaded at the build with guard dog.

We parted company from Ming’s truck to head into Khon Kaen to browse HomePro, an up-market home decorating store, less straight building product oriented than say Global House. They were having an end of year sale, which brought their prices down to the same as everyone else. It was also an opportunity to call into Central Plaza the huge farang friendly shopping mall for a much needed steak! We ended up at an eating place called Santa Fe and had a very good Aussie T bone with chips and salad for 250 THB. I love Thai food but the urge to have a decent beef steak becomes irresistible from time to time.

Day 60 Tuesday, the last day of work before the team pack up for New Year. In our absence on Monday the Thai Watsadu guys lived up to their word and delivered the remaining blocks, a total of 3,860 and the final 20 bags of mortar. Having had a week of workers and no building materials I was now going to be in the situation of having all the building supplies but no workers :-(

By the end of the day we had some window spaces to look through and the second layer of blocks had been built for Peng’s bedroom wall.

Progress with the walls and Colorbond ready for the roof next week.

From the front looking to the bedrooms and ensuites at the back. The lounge room wall started on the immediate right.

With the wall building going along pretty well without my supervision :-) we decided to head to HomePro in Udon Thani, a bit over one hour’s drive, and pick up a Samsung fridge that was on special and also a Stiebel Eltron 80 litre storage hot water system as part of my strategy of ending up with a decent shower in the new house. We also called into Global House to pick up 6 of the required 10 external wall lights walking away with their entire stock.

Looking more like a house.

The working day over our building team got stuck into the Thai whisky and beer before taking off for three days holiday of doing more of the same.

Week 10 is full of progress as work recommences on Saturday 3 January and I will have some real progress to report at the end of next week so look out for that.

More photos and expense spreadsheet here
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Re: Building in Si Bun Ruang, Isaan

Postby Thaipom26 » Mon Jan 12, 2015 8:55 pm

3 – 9 January, a week of excellent progress after a couple of weeks of not much happening due to a lack of building materials and then the New Year shutdown.

Day 64 Saturday, the crew of six plus Ming the builder were back on site Saturday. Some of them a little worse for wear after three days of New Year drinking but mostly engaged if sometimes a little slowly.

The Colorbond sheeting collected from Bluescope in Khon Kaen Week 9, was to be transferred from ground to roof something I have been hanging out to see. The central panels down the longer “backbone” of the house, all of which were the same size, went up quickly with a 5mm foam and silver foil backing to reduce noise and heat.

The sides mostly done.

You can see why the Thai build A frame style roofs are popular because fitting Colorbond to the ends of our hip roof was a bit of a jigsaw puzzle. Each piece of sheeting had been cut to a different size x 4 to allow for the steadily decreasing length of each section of roof once it started to head into the corners and round to the ends. Ming had done a good job though and we only ended up with four very small leftovers.

Drinks all round bought by Ming.

Day 65 Sunday, more of the same and even though they had to cope with more complex sizing issues the roof was mostly on by the end of the day.

Looking from the front through the kitchen/family area to the bedrooms at the back. Space between the two columns on the right will be the outdoors/undercover area.

Day 66 Monday, the crew splits with two guys continuing on the detailed roof work, fitting the ridge caps and cutting them to match the Colorbond sheeting profile. They were using tin cutters and struggled a bit with the thickness of the Colorbond when compared with the normal stuff they deal with. The other four guys moved onto getting ready to start building walls now that we had a full supply of AAC blocks and mortar. The door frames were set in place and levelled and building the outside walls continued on from where they stopped pre-New Year.

I finalised the decision on the buying the windows deciding to get both double and single glazed units through a company called DeKu in Chonburi. This has been a real struggle for me and I hope it has ended with a good decision. Deku have been efficient to deal with so far and Peter the CEO is heading our way on the 16th to check the site out, take some measurements and chat to Ming the builder. The price includes fitting with a team coming up with the windows. It’s a huge leap in cost from buying from Global or Thai Watsadu, but I am hoping that the investment in double AAC, the double glazing for the bedrooms, the 6mm single glass elsewhere and heavy duty uPVC frames will make for a quiet house. Living here otherwise would become a total pain.

I will let you know about DeKu’s performance in all aspects of delivering their product and if I think they are worth adding to your list of potential suppliers I will provide you with all the contact details. I hope to have nothing but good news to report.

You can find DeKu’s quote on the blog listed below, although it isn’t final until the measurements are made next week.

Day 67 Tuesday, with the roof totally finished we had six guys working on walls making good steady progress. We headed to Immigration in Udon Thani and motor registry in Nong Bua Lamphu to get my 5 year Thai driver’s licence so missed out on the detailed progress so took these photos at the end of the day.

The front door makes an appearance. Lounge on the right.

The rest of the week is more of the same and there’s a limit to how interesting AAC blocks can be to photograph so I will skip to the end of week 10 late Friday.

How we started the week.

Seven days later.

The outside undercover lounge area at the front. The Kitchen wall starting from the column on the left. The lounge room on the right. Bedrooms at the back.

Showing the progress of a build is such a visual thing that it is impossible to do it with seven photos per post although I understand why coolthaihouse can't open it up to unlimited uploads so not complaining . You will find a heap more detail here plus the usual spreadsheet of expenses.
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Re: Building in Si Bun Ruang, Isaan

Postby olavhome » Tue Jan 13, 2015 12:38 am

Very interesting german flexible system for hot water. Surely alternative to the regular blue pipes or other options. :)
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Re: Building in Si Bun Ruang, Isaan

Postby pipoz » Tue Jan 13, 2015 8:39 pm

Pretty good progress for just over two months work

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Re: Building in Si Bun Ruang, Isaan

Postby schuimpge » Tue Jan 13, 2015 10:04 pm

Had a quote from deluxe as well, about a year and a half ago.. Expensive, at least for my build. But if they deliver according to what they charge then it should be real good stuff.
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Re: Building in Si Bun Ruang, Isaan

Postby kiwimartin » Wed Jan 14, 2015 9:38 am

Great build and beautifully documented. By contrast our Colorbond supplier, Intertech Bangkok, have been incredible. The GM has personally assisted - even as far as helping design a full length ridge vent. He is genuinely interested and really helpful.
Our own roof is delivered Jan 15, and like you, I cant wait to see the lid put on.
Cheers and thanks for your story.
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Re: Building in Si Bun Ruang, Isaan

Postby Sometimewoodworker » Wed Jan 14, 2015 1:53 pm

kiwimartin wrote:Great build and beautifully documented. By contrast our Colorbond supplier, Intertech Bangkok, have been incredible. The GM has personally assisted - even as far as helping design a full length ridge vent. He is genuinely interested and really helpful.
Our own roof is delivered Jan 15, and like you, I cant wait to see the lid put on.
Cheers and thanks for your story.

Would you care to share the design of the full length ridge vent?
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Re: Building in Si Bun Ruang, Isaan

Postby kiwimartin » Wed Jan 14, 2015 2:43 pm

Sure - I will post the design drawings and finished vent on my own page page soon.
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Re: Building in Si Bun Ruang, Isaan

Postby Thaipom26 » Thu Jan 22, 2015 11:25 am

Thanks for your kind comments kiwimartin. I suspect Intertech in Bangkok is more used to dealing with smaller projects. I got the impression Khon Kaen is much more for the big commercial buildings. All good in the end.

10 – 16 January, a big week of building walls all of which were completed by Thursday afternoon. In celebration of this event the crew has taken off to hunt rats in the hills outside Loei for a couple of days. It sort of reminds me of the tradespeople working close to the sea in Australia who would disappear whenever there was a good surf happening.

The other major event in a very farang way was the hot water plumbing was finished and tested for pressure. Both hot and cold pipes leaked, which really emphasises the importance of insisting on this being done before the pipes are hidden away, in a cavity created by double AAC blocks in my case.

I have to say that for something so simple in theory the addition of a hot water system and associated pipework has been a real pain. Getting the pipes to fit the mixer taps, a few failures in the German push fitting system and annoying leaks had me wishing I had just opted for a simple wall instant system. My nightmare is that the hot water connections fail when we actually run it for real and we have to tear down walls to fix it. However if all goes well I will have the best showers in Si Bun Ruang, which in reality isn’t much of a boast to be making!

Week 11 is a bit along the same lines as Week 10. I don't think anyone wants to follow a day by day photographic history of walls being built so we'll pretty well skip to the end result. Speaking of walls Ming, the builder, had one that was half built taken down because he wasn’t happy with it’s construction.

A huge amount of conduit is going in as the walls progress. The first fix of electrical was almost complete at the same time as the walls on the Thursday.

We seem to be making almost daily trips to the nearest larger town Nong Bua Lamphu 30 km away for one thing or another. To test the plumbing we had to do a quick trip to get what we needed to set up the house water system so we could attach the pressure pump. The end result looks like this:

Not the final configuration… on. That blue container on the right isn’t part of the system.

The bore is on the far left, a pipe from there is split with one line going to the house tank and the other will run into the garden and feed two taps on opposite sides of the land about halfway down. The black box on the left of the water tank is a filtration system specifically set up for bore water.

The filter is at the back while the front box adds a water softener before depositing the result into the tank. A pressure pump sits on the other side of the tank and supplies the house only, not garden. I followed the instructions supplied with the filter for this configuration and it doesn’t work!

The problem, which makes total sense after the event, is that the pipe from the bore is a 1 1/2 inch. The filter takes a 1 inch and is processing the water so slows down the transfer to the tank. With a high powered bore pump there seems to be too much pressure in the system on this side of the tank. I suspect many Thai bore systems have a smaller water outlet pipe to match lower powered submersible pumps. A 1 inch is more likely to be standard.

We will change it to have the bore pump directly to the tank using it’s larger pipe and then filter the water on the other side using the pressure pump to pull the water through filtration and send it to the house. In the meantime we have bypassed the filter, which isn’t needed now anyway, and the build has advanced to having an outside tap – very exciting! We will also be fitting a separate drinking water filter to the kitchen and this will be covered in Week 12.

So we'll skip now to Thursday day 76 of the build after the site had been cleaned and washed down and the guys headed home after finishing the walls. Followers of this build will have seen this plan before but I include it for any newbies. This is what we are working to achieve. The photos below show how that Excel design has worked out in real life.

Just for the very visual readers. The master bedroom design has changed to allow for a sliding door on what was the bed wall. The configuration of the room has altered as a result.

From front door/entry hall to the rear. Hall table to sit on the right with a light that will shine through coloured glass in that window and be seen in the lounge room.

From the outside dining area looking through at the inside dining area and the kitchen at the back. Bedrooms and pantry on the right.

Master bedroom from front to back. Double glazed windows. East facing sliding door to be shaded by the newly planted shrubs you can see outside once grown. Blog room at the back and ensuite on the left.

The outside sitting area.

There were signs that although we have finished one phase another is about to start, as soon as the rat hunt finishes. I bought 21,000 THB of mostly wiring plus electrical top-ups from Global House.

Just a warning about shopping at Global. I have found that a number of times especially in the more specialised areas – taps, shower heads, cooktops, what they have on display is the only one or they may have one when you wanted two. You have to order in and for us that’s a 15 day exercise. Don’t do what we did with say the shower mixer tap, which was to buy one to try out and then expect the second one to be in stock. It required a separate trip into Udon to find in a hurry and then we got it at HomePro as Global didn’t stock them there either. Our cooktop is on order but there’s no hurry for that. Plan in advance.

To finish off the week Peter the CEO of Deku windows turned having driven from Chonburi to have a look at the build. He left us with some samples of the windows and door profiles and instructions on how to organise the tiling to work in with the window installation. Ming wants the windows to sit on top of the tiles so this will be right at the end of the build. Once the tiling is finished Peter will drive back to measure up, which shows a very professional attitude to his side of the build. The windows will take 2 - 4 weeks to build. Peter will bring a team up to install them when finished.

Ming is due a 100,000 THB payment at this stage but only wanted 60,000 THB to pay the wall guys as he thinks his wife would grab the balance if I gave it to him! A universal problem :-)

End of the week.

I suspect next week will be render and more render so not a photo treat either. I will see what other things we can throw in to spice the post up.

If you want to see more photos of the finished product to this stage then please drop into my blog here Choosing the seven photos for coolthaihouse is always a challenge. You will find Week 11 expenses here too.
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Re: Building in Si Bun Ruang, Isaan

Postby Thaipom26 » Thu Feb 05, 2015 8:28 pm

A double post covering Week's 12 and 13 due to slackness on my part!

Week 12

17 – 23 January, a slow week so this will be a short post. The rat hunt I told you about in Week 11, which robbed the build of workers, ended on Sunday taking three days rather than the expected two. Only a moderate result in terms of rats collected in case you were interested, which is good news for the rats!

Ming had wanted a particular guy to work on the render and, in typical Thai multi-skilling, also on the tiling once we get to that stage. He is supposed to be very good but more expensive. Remember that I have a fixed price labour contract with Ming the builder. A deal must have been reached because he turned up Monday and started what would end up being a couple week’s work laying out the levels for render everywhere where there is a corner in the building both inside and out.

I was surprised at the amount of render being applied. I was under the impression that one of the benefits of the AAC blocks is that because the surface is pretty smooth, in comparison say to the rough concrete blocks or the red bricks so loved by Thais, that a skim coat of render was all that would be required. Not so evidently. Can't say I am particularly bothered. The render is cheap and the more bulk to the walls of the house the better from both an insulation perspective and sound reduction.

With not much exciting happening inside we have continued work on the garden by planted up the South and Western side of the house with shrubs that will eventually grow high enough to cut out the setting sun from the windows at the bedroom end of the house and also the outside dining area at the very end of the day.

These will quickly provide shade to the South and West of the house. 150 THB each or A$5.50.

We also bought 1,000 hedging plants to plant around the perimeter of the land to hide the fence and also provide security in the longer term. A A$100.00 investment.

1,000 small plants waiting for a home.

A trip to Global also gave us our kitchen drinking water filter, a rather fancy 5 stage model that will give us cleaner water than rainwater! We got the Camarcio RO002 model. It looks something like this RO003 version and will sit under the sink with an access tap on the benchtop.

Water filter.jpg
Bought from Global 6,000 THB.
Water filter.jpg (21.22 KiB) Viewed 1099 times

On Thursday enough pre-work had been done to allow the full rendering team to turn up and start working.

Two rendering, Ming a sometimes helper, one guy keeping them supplied with cement and the main guy still working on levels elsewhere. Dog an observer only. Our bedroom door on the left, pantry in the middle and Peng’s/guest bedroom door on the right.

Good news on the rendering but, for those who have been through this process, doesn't it reduce the perceived size of the rooms. Going from the white AAC block to a deep grey has halved the size in my eyes. All good once we paint of course as we’ll be opting for an off white throughout with colours being provided by the furnishings and artwork.

The end result. This is the kitchen/family room wall to the bedrooms and pantry.

The master bedroom started. Ming at rest.

Detailing around the doors.

We are off to Udon Thani tomorrow to investigate kitchens from ToolPro and a couple of other places as an alternative to the modular option available from Global, which is adding around 140,000 THB to the build cost. I am hoping to save some baht to keep things somewhere close to the budget. I will report back next week on this aspect as I think we've really covered all that I can say about rendering inside.

For more information and photos have a look at the building post on my blog
Last edited by Thaipom26 on Thu Feb 05, 2015 8:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Building in Si Bun Ruang, Isaan

Postby Thaipom26 » Thu Feb 05, 2015 8:54 pm

Week 13

24 – 30 January, a week of more rendering or more plastering for you UK types.

The building progress part of the story will be the same as the last couple of weeks in that I will skip to the end result rather than bore you with daily photos of more walls being covered up. Seen one seen them all.

I will start this post with some observations that aren’t directly linked to the week’s build but I hope you’ll find interesting and useful, especially if you are thinking of or are building in Thailand. If you just want an update of our house build then give this bit a miss and head to the end.

Before that however, a minor complaint. I don’t know if I share this with others who have built in Thailand but I have reached the stage that if I never seen another bag of cement in my life I will be a happy man. From day one the progression of the house has been mostly the addition of concrete to previous layers of concrete. If not concrete then steel. I now look back with fond memories of building in Australia with more characterful clay bricks and the smell of freshly cut timber. Somehow it was a process with a “softer” feel than the construction of my concrete bunker. Having got that out of my system we’ll get into the post finally.

I have been on the hunt for two main items in Week 13, a kitchen and some decent insulation. I’ll start with the latter, Now you’d think that in a country as hot as Thailand with increasing awareness of the building standards used elsewhere that something like insulation would be dead easy to find. Well it is, although it is rare to see a Thai house using it, but only the very thin foil “packets”. Any of the hardware stores, and I will list those in Udon Thani shortly, stock them but with very low Rt ratings.

I don’t know how the rest of the western world operates but in Australia we grade our insulation with a “R” rating, the thermal resistance to heat gain or loss that applies to the insulation product itself. The higher the rating the better and more expensive the insulation. Don’t be fooled into comparing the R rating you used back “home” with the Rt rating they use in Thailand.

Rt is described as “The Total R-value (RT) and is the total resistance of a building element such as a roof, wall, floor or ceiling. It takes into account resistance provided by each given construction material, internal air spaces, and the air film adjacent to solid materials. This allows architects and consultants to assess the overall thermal resistance of the complete component (such as roofing system)”. To my way of thinking this is a less useful form of grading unless every manufacturer used the same criteria for the non-direct insulation aspects of the building to reach a total, which is doubtful.

Now there have been some very heated :-) debates on building forums such as about the pluses and minuses of using insulation in Thailand. Some support the Thai “system”, which is to use minimal if any insulation. Sure it gets hot during the day but then the heat is quickly dissipated at night because there’s nothing “holding” it in. Maybe this works in a traditional Thai environment where people are out working during the day from sun-up to sun-down but for a retired farang like myself using the house during the day it doesn’t seem a viable proposition. It also presumes that temperatures do cool down to an extent that makes the nighttime comfortable, which is also debatable in the hot season.

I am currently living my wife’s family home, which is a two level building the upper storey with wood walls and a tin roof, totally uninsulated of course. Our bedroom is upstairs and on a sunny day, even in the cooler season like now, the heat makes it impossible to use comfortably. Everything you touch is warm from the reflected roof heat. In the hot season it would be unusable.

A typical Thai village house, except for the broadband aerial.

Insulating the ceilings also raises a debate in the forums about trapping heat within the house negating the beneficial effect of the cooler evenings. Some people argue that one should insulate the roof, install venting in the gable ends, if you have them, to allow heat within the roof cavity to escape and leave the ceilings uninsulated. This is certainly a more realistic option in my opinion than no insulation. It does raise the question about why the excessive roof heat is a problem of course. At the risk of upsetting the concrete tile brigade I do question our obsession with dark coloured, heat retaining concrete roof tiles – see “Red Clay Tiles” below or indeed the dark coloured steel roofs. The plus for the steel is of course that the tiles will continue to radiate heat in the evenings well after the steel has cooled down.


Let me quickly add that I am pushing no particular barrow. I have made my decisions and it’s a free building world, in some aspects anyway, and people can construct the house that works for them.

I have written about my choices for a cool house before so if you have been reading the blog religiously you can give this bit a miss too. I have to confess that my original inclination was for a darker coloured roof. However after experiencing living in a hot Thai designed house with tiles and no insulation in Chiang Mai, and reading extensively I rather reluctantly decided to opt for white roof. Colorbond was always the material I was going to use not tiles whatever the other decisions on roofing.

Having installed the white roof I am now a convert. I was worried that the roof would look totally out of place and clash with it’s surroundings. The reality is that it is a bit of a chameleon and changes colour with whatever the sky is doing, even reflecting the blues on those clear days.

The roof picks up the colour of the sky and blends in really nicely. That shed won’t be staying past the build in case you were wondering.

The main benefit of a highly reflective roof is of course to reduce roof space temperatures and the rooms underneath. As we are in the cool season here I can’t report on the effectiveness of this strategy with any authority yet. All I can say is that the internal rendering is taking ages to dry off because it is so cool inside the house.
Under the Colorbond went a silver foil with a foam backing. The anti-metal roof people always refer to the noise aspect during the Thai rainy season. Having been in an uninsulated tin roofed house during a tropical downpour I am here to let you know that it is a conversation stopper. The silver foil, a building regulation in Australia, was a given and the foam is there as the first defence against the rain noise.

I have gone for ceiling insulation because I am planning for a “mildly” air conditioned house. The two living spaces and both bedrooms will have Mitsubishi Electric inverter air conditioners, a 9,000 BTU in each of the bedrooms, a 12,000 BTU in the kitchen/family area and an 18,000 BTU in the lounge room. Having done my research ME are highly rated although quite a bit more expensive than some of the other brands. I have had inverter units in Australia and they are so much quieter than the on/off alternatives, especially in a bedroom environment, and are supposed to be a bit cheaper to run as well.

You can find a useful guide to calculating the size of air con required use Perth, or a very similar one use Darwin. I will report back how accurate they were once we get through a hot season.

The reason I raise the air conditioning is that I have added Bt37 ceiling insulation, bought from Thai Watsadu for 428 THB a roll, each roll covering 2.4 m2. The high grade insulation, by Thai standards, is partly to reduce the Isaan village early morning noise, the basis for a lot of my house design, rain noise and to exclude any roof heat transfer and retain the cool from the air conditioners when working. I am not relying on an expectation that relief from the heat will be available just by opening the windows in the evenings.

I used to live in Canberra where the temperatures ranged from -8 degrees Celsius in winter to 40 degrees plus in summer so I know a bit about hot climates. Once the air temperatures gets up to these levels it is way beyond the capacity of fans to maintain a comfortable living environment. Even with double AAC block walls, windows protected from the sun and good insulation I believe the internal air temperature will increase during the day to reach a level that requires some assisted cooling. Time will tell.

I am minded to hold back on buying the air conditioners for the two living areas and see how we survive the heat this season, which will hit us anytime from March. Lots to share with you later in the year.

Our search for building materials, last week being insulation and kitchens has made us an expert in local suppliers. In Udon Thani we have the following major outlet choices that I have discovered so far:

DoHome, HomeHub, ToolPro, Global House, HomeMart, HomePro, Living Index, St Mall and Thai Watsadu.

GoogleEarth_Image (3).jpg
These are my location pins so are correct. Google in true form has Living Index at the HomeMart site.

I had never heard of several of them so it would be worth Googling the names for your local area if building here. We have visited most of them in Udon, which is why the locations above are correct.

In a brief summary:

DoHome: Massive – probably bigger than any of the others. A huge range of everything required to build plus the usual cheap flat-pack furniture and some really awful decorating offerings. An electrical area selling TVs, washing machines etc etc. Take a packed lunch and plenty of water to explore this place. Heaps of undercover parking out the front. A decent small garden centre in the front but there are heaps of bigger alternatives roadside in Udon. We did pick up 100 decent sized hedging plants for 2.75 THB each or A$0.10. No Rt37 insulation.

HomeHub: We didn’t go in because we had visited the Khon Kaen version a few days previously. A good middle of the road building supplier. No Rt37 insulation.
ToolPro: A smaller place and feeling a little run down. I read on Udonmap that they offered kitchens so we called in. No Rt37 insulation.

Global House: We are spoiled in Nong Bua Lamphu, 30 minutes from home, with a brand new and little used Global House. The Udon branch is obviously a lot older, or certainly looks that way. I suspect it is also something to do with the Thai’s lack of interest in maintaining anything once built. The usual GH range, which excludes Rt37 insulation!

HomeMart: A smaller place, which provided us with plumbing P pipes in our time of need, so I have a soft spot for it. Not a huge choice of building materials and I don’t see how they compete with their bigger opposition. However they DO stock Rt37 insulation at 435 THB a roll. They only had 24 in stock and I want 67 so we moved on.

HomePro: The classiest home store but not catering to the true building enthusiast. They have all the internal items, tiles, taps, lighting etc, as well as a “gentleman’s” range :-) of the other stuff such as plumbing items, soffits, doors etc plus three offerings of high grade insulation, one at 299 THB for a 2.4 m2 coverage and the other 328 THB. There was also a version that had a photo of a sleeping baby on the front at twice the price which I ignored. How could I have walked onto the building site with the guys and hand over a product with a baby photo on it! Really what were they thinking? Unfortunately HomePro only had 30 rolls of one and 12 of the other, with a ten day wait for more supplies.

If you are looking for good quality, farang orientated items for your home and maybe pay a slight premium, but not always, then HomePro is a great place to have a wander. Under the same roofline you will also find a standard range of additional home product shops that seem to form part of any HomePro centre including quality lounges, a electronics shop, some furniture and saunas – just what you need in Thailand.

Index Living: only included because it is part of the house building “package”. This is a good quality home decorating outlet with a farang oriented range of everything needed from bedding, rugs, curtains, kitchen items, lighting, as well as an electrical area – TVs, air conditioners – they are one of the few to stock Mitsubishi Electric air conditioners – fridges plus heaps of furniture. They do flat-pack wardrobes and kitchens but at a better standard than some of the others.

St Mall: A smaller outfit with a more limited range. We were there looking at kitchens only so I can’t comment too much on their offerings. A range of cheaper furniture, tiles and electrical items. Not a full building supplier but I could be wrong. Let me know.

Thai Watsadu: A Thai-wide company. I prefer Global House to TW in Nong Bua Lamphu, the latter which is looking a bit run down and is stocked with disinterested staff, but in Udon Thai Watsadu is a better set-up than GH. They also have a big stock of Rt37 insulation! Eureka. 67 packs ordered at 428 THB each and delivered 80 km to Si Bun Ruang for just under 1,000 THB or around A$35.00. The end result is the photo that heads this post.

On the kitchen front after searching around we have decided to go with a more expensive option, typical, the MJ range from Global House.


Although this is a flat-pack offering it is solid and good quality. I am not a big fan of the Thai concrete kitchens with the timber or plastic door inserts but each to their own. They are cheap and robust two big pluses.

Of the alternatives in kitchens:

ToolPro: They have a very limited flat-pack range, which feels a little flimsy by comparison to MJ above, but would certainly do the job and at half the cost.
Living Index: Have some good quality flat-pack units but a very limited range. If you build your kitchen to the size of units on offer then these might work for you. Good value.

Thai Watsadu: Have the same sort of MJ option that Global House has.

HomePro: Probably the best range starting at the MJ type of level and heading upwards in price. They will design a kitchen for you at no cost and send you plans and images. A good service.

St Mall: Will design a kitchen for you although we left them with plans and haven’t heard. A basic range of units, which you can personalise with laminate colours, handles and benchtops. I didn’t get prices but suspect around the MJ level. The drawers and doors felt a little flimsy.

DoHome and HomeHub would probably have kitchens but they would be towards the bottom end of the market and we didn’t look.

So back to the build. The beginning of the week had five guys working steadily on the rendering. It is a slow process with the original layer going on, waiting for it to slightly dry before using a long scrapper to finalise the thickness, waiting again for it to dry some more, then going over it with a wooden tool to smooth it and then finally wet and wipe down with a sponge to get the final finish.

One of the crew is working full time to get the levels right on every corner in the building. He uses a plumb line to build up a concrete corner at the right depth to evenly cover the wall between it and the next corner. The render when applied uses this as a starting point. It’s a vital job but takes time.

The outside dining area finished. Kitchen/family through the left door and the guest bedroom on the right.

The lounge room making progress. Entry door on the right. That little window worked well in breaking up the wall for about A$12.00.

On Thursday, day 90 of the build, the electrical team turned up and started feeding wires through the maze of conduits across and down the walls. A total of nine people in the crew now including Ming, the builder.

A trip to Nong Bua Lamphu gave us 100 m2 of tiling to do the outside. At 122 THB or A4.00 m2 we got a good buy. We already have the internal tiling ready to go. The arrangement with DeKu, the window/door people, is that they will come and measure based on their doors sitting on the edge of the outside tiling with the inside tiles a later option. I have asked Ming to complete the outside painting first so that the tiler can start work asap and get the base ready for DeKu. As they have a 2 – 4 week construction delay it means that we can move to internal tiling while the windows/doors are being built.

Due to the delay in writing this it is only a day before I am due to update you on Week 14. It will be worth waiting for because with all the nine guys working it has been a very exciting week of achievement and has give me hope that I might end up with a home in the not too distant future.

I quickly ran out of photo upload capacity so head to my blog for more photos and some extra information
Posts: 44
Joined: Sun Dec 29, 2013 9:24 am
Location: Si Bun Ruang, Nong Bua Lamphu, Isaan

Re: Building in Si Bun Ruang, Isaan

Postby Sometimewoodworker » Fri Feb 06, 2015 7:51 am

Hi Tony
You've missed the new Global House in Udon probably the biggest of all the stores

Posts: 1897
Joined: Wed Sep 19, 2007 1:22 pm
Location: Non Sa-At / Tokyo


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