House Extension to "Baan Thai" Chiang Mai

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House Extension to "Baan Thai" Chiang Mai

Postby eyecatcher » Thu May 28, 2015 2:44 pm

I am up in Chiang Mai, moved here 4 years ago straight out of Blighty; sold up, and put all the eggs in one basket well it seemed like going back...and must make a success of myself.
I found an empty unit, and renovated it mostly on my own for 3 months and it became my Spa. Very very pleased with the success there 4yrs on. The Gf at the time was press ganged into becoming my receptionist and after two years slog with the business “she” bought our house; courtesy of a 20% deposit from me and 80% from the bank. Typical Thai style wood house built on 8 tree legs.; I thinks its wonderful.
Now we would like to extend it. The extension will be bigger than the house but the challenge is to almost replicate the style but in modern materials. If I get it right the vision will be achieved but I am also worried that the pretty little wood house will become overshadowed by a design monstrosity. The big difference will be on floor levels. The bedroom floor level on the new build will be about a metre higher than we have now and the roof higher yet again so I need to tie the two roofs together somehow.
I drew the plans last year, then had them converted to CAD for the bods at the local office to understand. The irony is, that now they are all on CAD I walk everywhere with my original pencilled plans, as I dont trust anyone to even CAD copy my drawings correctly..
So, the wife took the drawings to the office, paid her 80bt fee and three weeks later, there were all red stamped as approved, excellent.
I will convey the story of my trials and tribulations starting very soon. You see I am not coming into this blind; my background is a jack of all trades in construction from Building surveyor to quantity surveyor from architectural draughtsman to building project manager; and even in Thailand i have helped a few guys out here with land surveys, structural surveys and interior design I am set in my ways; can be quite bombastic; and my peoples skills are lacking; add that to the fact that my Thai language is basic and I am going to have one hell of a ride getting my project completed.
I will be definately looking for advice on diplomacy skills with Thais along the way please as well as construction techniques and ideas here.

The Pre contract countdown

T minus 18 months
We have been in our little traditional Thai tree house for 6 months or so; just love it. Its so quiet; I have neighbours on two sides, but one I have never spoken to and front and rear I have longan orchards. The only blemish on the noise landscape are the local 4pm news tannoy system and some weekend village karaoke murders. Our business in the city is getting more successful and we need to convert our old bedroom there into another spa room (I own a spa in Chiang Mai). The result was that my “drunk in the city bolthole” was about to disappear so everything had to come back to the house. Now we have boxes of clothes; books, documents, even a dozen 70’s 80;s heavy LP records.
“we need more room” Our current house is only one bedroom, bathroom and…..downstairs outside kitchen. We eat everyday outside, we cook everyday outside; I cant think of anything better!.

T minus 17 months
So I am wavering about the need for an extension. My game plan is that I have no money; well my budget for life in Thailand for say 20 yrs did not include a new house; yes rented apartments; motorbike hire; girlfriends; beer and food. What more is there?
My wife has given up a lot for me emotionally in the 4yrs we have been together; 20 yrs my junior she wants a family. My children are a lot nearer to her age than she is to me and the big play here is vasectomy. Really she should be off with someone firing live bullets but Ok she’s committed 100% to me so lets play this out. I will try to design something to embrace the natural traditional house we have with something more robust built from steel and concrete and bricks. The two will be interconnected and as with our cheapo wooden house we want everyone to say “baan suay”

Space is limited; we have 100 wah plot and the house is set literally at the back, but we have a vacant 5m width of lawn at the side. The idea is to build a 2 storey house with wifes’ priority of an indoor kitchen; a dining room and somewhere to watch tv instesd of sitting on the bed.(I really want the kitchen to be outside and to continue eating outside) My priority was to make as much outside decking and places to eat and drink and to get it all for a reasonable Thai price and not a Farang price.

T minus 16 months
I t didn’t take me long to prepare the design; actually I prepared two. The first was really my dream and involved extended high level walkways 15m out in front of the house with legs built into a fish pond. At the end was a round pergola for me to sit and look back at my creation and drop a fishing line in to see what I could catch.
That can still be achieved when I come into money, but remember I don’t have any. I don’t have the ill sense to pump my own money into a project here based on a marriage; especially with my track record. I am on number 3 already. So even from the time we decided to buy our current house it was the Mrs who I pushed in to the banks to take out a mortgage for 1.2 million.; and now we split the monthly 50/50 perfect.

T minus 15 months
The drawings were complete from my point of view, ground floor, first floor; elevations. All hand drawn with pencil; T square; set square and rubber. Wife didn’t understand any of them. Spacial awareness; visualising in 3d; using imagination…..reversing a car……same same for women; just forget it!
my first hand drawn plan is still the plan I am using today

She wasn’t bothered; “I trust you darling whatever you draw it will be right. Did you include the kitchen and dining room?” yes but lots of alfresco dining opportunities also!.
Next job was to get them approved. I realised that my days of drawing with ink technical pens on tracing paper were long gone but old habits die hard. The buzz word now is CAD. The land office only want to see CAD printed plans and reduced to A3…yes useless size, so you see scales of 1:75 and1:25 what use is scale rule has 8 standard scales, 1:75 is not one of them!
Why create 20 A3 photocopies that convey the same info as 1 no A1 sized plan ridiculous isn’t it.
So we are still rolling; remember I have no money as such but I am playing along with the new house idea; she has no money also so its going to interesting how this plays out.

A friend of the wife has recently moved into her new house all but a 5 minute bike ride from ours and suggests we contact her architect. I agree but stress that all we need is to get the plans passed and so we only need the architect to copy exactly my plans. No design, no flair; I have drawn to plans and elevations and sections all to scale; simple.
And so it was; he came and took my drawing, my sketches and suggested 6000bt and would have them back to us in a couple or three weeks.

T minus 13 months
We called at our local land office a couple of times; it seemed there was never anyone there. The whole set up seemed a bit slack and un professional. Even at this place I was concerned about how much they were going to charge to vet our plans. But eventually the wife managed to catch them at their desks, duly deposited a couple of copies, together with a copy of the chanote. They said they would come out to check the site; whether they did or not I never knew. 3 week later wife went back to collect our approved plans saying we have to start within 12 month or the permission is rescinded. My first question to her was “ how much did you pay for the approval?” 80bt she replied-why?…..not going to query that one.
T minus 7 months
The last few months we had a break from thinking about the house. I bought a bike and spent every day for weeks training to cycle to Ko Tao. That was a successful trip and then followed up with a trip to the Uk taking the Mrs with me for the first time. That was expensive!; so need to hold off the build for now or at least take time to find the right builder for the right price.
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Re: House Extension to "Baan Thai" Chiang Mai

Postby pipoz » Thu May 28, 2015 3:28 pm

Interesting timber house.

Can I ask did you buy the first timber house already built or build it from scratch

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Re: House Extension to "Baan Thai" Chiang Mai

Postby eyecatcher » Thu May 28, 2015 8:13 pm

We bought the house already on site, though it was only re built in 2011(from somewhere else) I was in England at the time; she got a tip off about it and sent me photos. I said lets go with it just based on her photos.
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Re: Costings and builders

Postby eyecatcher » Fri May 29, 2015 1:18 pm

T minus 6 months
Back on track now; we have the approved plans and I have done some internet research on building costs in Thailand so back of the fag packet price would be circa 900k.
I have about 45m2 of habitable accommodation on the ground floor and 32m2 on the upper floor and around 45m2 of terraces and decking linking the two buildings. After starting life as an architectural draughtsman I finshed up as a quantity surveyor with pretty much every other role in between so this was going to be like shelling peas for me surely?! Hahahahaha.
The only anomaly would be the labour costs as they vary so much and pretty much uncontrollable however I was reasonable generous with my rates costing labour as 500/1000bt a day and even a m2 rate.
I measured everything, the volume of the excavated dig, every piece of rebar, every length of steel, every baluster in the handrails, and every plug socket. I created a bill of quantities and arrived at a nett figure of 908k (expecting a quote of 1.2/1.3 million with OH+P to be fair and reasonable).
That price was too much; ok its not your basic build but I wanted to engineer that price to below 850k. so I was looking at reducing the steel guage, omitting some of the ground beams that the “architect” had generically included; reducing roof overhangs and varying the tile size and prime cost of floor tiles and even omitting brickwork walls and adding aerated concrete instead. Many options to save on costs.

One day whilst at the local builders yard checking the price of bricks I met a builder, within 30 minutes he was following me back to the house to have a look and to take a copy of the plans. Out of courtesy I said ok you can price the job but can I to come to look at a job you are doing right now. I went with the wife the next day to check out his current job. We very very surprised to see him set up in the grounds of a massive mansion building a 3 million baht car port and sala for the owner of TOT broadband telecom.
We asked him for two prices; labour only and labour and materials. He came back with a labour only price of 800k and labour and materials 1.8 million.
At this point you think 3 things. My first reaction was, he is taking the piss big time; my second thought was have I made a critical omission somewhere in my pricing or naively underestimated the fast rising labour rates currently……and thirdly I just had to tell the wife if these are the prices we are going to be getting then lets just forget the whole thing right now.
He called back 3 times over the following week to reduce his price by some paltry amount but the fact was that he didn’t include electrics, drainage, water supplies, external deckings, water tanks, pumps, let alone floor tiling and decoration; well his list of omissions was endless.
He was actually quoting a labour only price for part of a job that was almost the same as my overall budget price.; a figure I expected to be 300k tops

T minus 4 months
My next builder I found was building a nice house along the lane. I took a keen interest watching them build from the ground to the roof before I approached them. The quality was good, their methods were pedantic to a fault and they were all a young team. Sadly after discussion with the wife they conveyed they were busy and had forward orders for the next 6 months.

My next builder was building a 3 million bungalow and swimming pool for an expat in Saraphi. I called on site several times over 3 months to watch the quality and general site management. In the end and having listened to my friends experience (also ex construction pro) we we asked him if he would like to quote for our build.
The plans were handed over to him and following the ridiculous quote by the first guy we generally listed out the items he should be quoting for and the wife duly wrote the items in Thai. His price for labour and materials was 1.6 million.
Not very encouraging; though I knew this builder was top quality but our budget simply will not stretch that far.
I really didn’t want to compromise on my house design so we then started to tailor the build in to getting someone to build the structure only. Then when the concrete frame is up and roof is complete I can jump in myself and build the walls, set up the doors and windows, set up the kitchen and bathroom and then find a team to come in and first fix plumbing and electrics and render the walls inside and out.
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Re: House Extension to "Baan Thai" Chiang Mai

Postby kiwimartin » Fri May 29, 2015 2:55 pm

Hi - An interesting project amusingly written - good stuff. I think you, as we have done, will find prices run along of their own volition.
I keep expecting your count-down to revert to T minus 18 months - Groundhog Day style...

Good luck
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Re: House Extension to "Baan Thai" Chiang Mai

Postby eyecatcher » Fri May 29, 2015 3:39 pm

kiwimartin wrote:I keep expecting your count-down to revert to T minus 18 months - Groundhog Day style...

Good luck

what! and age another 5 yrs
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Re: House Extension to "Baan Thai" Chiang Mai

Postby eyecatcher » Sat May 30, 2015 7:18 pm

T minus 3 months
The next builder was building another 3 million baht house on a plot 25m from our house. I had already been watching this build just out of interest really for 4 months already. I occasionally made a positive remark to the wife who really wasn’t interested but I was actually becoming quite impressed. Site management was spot on. Tidy everywhere. Lots of measuring and setting out. Concrete deliveries well planned to use the full 6m3 concrete, pouring columns and garage floors. Shutters were steel, neat. The general contractor was the project manager and often seen guiding his team. The wife met the builder by accident one and explained what we wanted but didn’t think we could afford to have the whole build completed. The builder was not local. He came to Chiang Mia to build a house 50m from us; then he started one in Sansai, then the owner of a new plot also from Bangkok commissioned him to build the bungalow. He cant get back home because his reputation is keeping him busy.

So I scheduled phase one:
Foundation pits; concrete columns; timber columns; ring beams over two floors;concrete planked floors, steel roof and roof tiles. In addition quite a lot of steel and shera decking.
The builder came back with his price of 825,000 baht.; my own costing for these elements of work were circa 350,000 baht!
It was another shock but fortunately he had scheduled out 8 items together with his quantities and rates so it was a simple job to compare with mine.
We liked the builders work and the wife was getting stressed and anxious. The quotes were coming in too high, and I wasn’t pumping in more than 650k to the job; the rest would have to be on mortgage; so basically at this stage we could only get it half built…if that.
Added to that was a stipulation she kept bringing up from the building permission. We had to reasonably make a start a start within 12 months before the permission lapsed.
All conversations were via the wife. Her command of the English language is pretty tip top but when my conversations are about rebar; shuttering, footing depth, eaves overhangs……you can appreciate her vocabulary was as limited as any English person not familiar with building construction terms
The builders other job 25m from ours was already at plastering stage so I knew they would be able to use all that set up, living quarters, toilets; materials, tools, be on site at 8 every morning and not need to rush off. So very convenient for everyone for another 2 months at least; enough time to get the roof tiled at least.

It was at this stage I needed to seriously cut down on the over engineered foundations and beams, even omitting some of the unnecessary beams connecting the columns. We also decided to lose 5 concrete columns and replace them with timber posts but that was really for aesthetics of the design. His measured area of the floor slabs was a lot different to mine but the big difference was the roof. The cost should have been 130k but he came in with 302k.; that aside he over measured 50% on my area.
So to enable him to re-quote; I reduced the footing depth to1m; omitted 5 concrete columns and went to by them myself. I omitted some of the heavy duty ring beams and remeasured them potentially saving us 32k bt; the concrete planked floor was overmeasured as much of it was steel and shera decking; and the roof had a massive potential saving but 100k saving on the measured area and reducing the steel guage was a given.
He came back with a revised quote of 645,000 baht but still didn’t reduce the area of the roof by 50m2 so I still have 60k baht to negotiate around.
We were heading in the right direction on price and that was good enough for me to give him the nod and set a start date a couple of weeks hence.
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Re: House Extension to "Baan Thai" Chiang Mai

Postby eyecatcher » Sun May 31, 2015 10:20 am

T minus 10 days
We had just agreed to go ahead using the builders second quote as the basis for our contract. The adds and omissions will be correlated as we go along but the aim is; as always to get in under budget or get more value into the job for the said budget.

I suggested a start date which was immediately turned in to when is the best day to start. Monday is start day,it always was in the hundreds of projects I have undertaken. A building and contract programme starts w/c Monday…… always, always, always. So then the calendar comes out, Buddist day, spirit day;public holiday, shall we consult the family in Isaan, is it a good day; shall we ask a monk…FFS!. Forget that love we aim for Monday the date is irrevelant….and also, to clarify I am not wasting my Chang beer down the foundation pit; the only stuff going in there is termite soilguard and concrete.

I had confirmed our desire to use some timber posts; so the pressure was on for me to find some. I had already looked in a dozen reclamation yards a few months prior and not found anything suitable. I really wanted 6” to 10” square posts 6m long.They were either too big or too rotten or too full of shakes and most were expensive quoting between 500 and 2500 baht per metre.
The local timber yard had planed and seasoned posts at 5” square 6” and at 6m long if I wanted. Subject to whether I wanted Mai daeng or teak the price per post ranged from 4800bt to 8500bt each. My budget for the posts was 500bt a metre and I needed about 27m over 5 posts.
On our first trip back to the yards we called in at the first one, he had some beautiful pieces but was only willing to sell the full set of 15 posts but by chance another guy was in the yard who said he had some in his own place just 400m away. We followed, I looked and it was that instant desire.
To most people they looked crap but to me they were beautiful. He had 12 so I had them drag them each out for me to choose the best 5. They were all 200mm square, exactly the same as the concrete columns and not dissimilar to the 225-300 square posts in the existing house.
Admittedly they were all painted that hideous blue for 2 metres on each one, and some were bent like a banana, others were eaten away where they had notched out but he only wanted 2500bt each for them. I decided to buy a spare; just in case something happened to one of the other 5 but if not can cut it up and re use it as a feature, maybe inside the house like we have now.
7 or 8 men to lift one beam onto his truck, each weighing between 200-250kg.
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Re: House Extension to "Baan Thai" Chiang Mai

Postby eyecatcher » Tue Jun 02, 2015 12:21 pm

T minus 4 days
It took me 6 days to sand down 6 posts and stain them all up with chaindrite timber treatment. 6 days of aching, trying to turn each beam over on my own and about 20 rolls of sandpaper; but very happy with the result. Still have the base ends to cut off and re cut what was the top to become the new bottoms.

A bit late getting our finger out but during all this the wife has spent a lot of time trying to sort out for a mortgage. So she went to every bank to do a compare and contrast exercise and to see if we can dump our own mortgage with SCB and roll the existing mortgage and the new build into one; or at least all under the same hat. Lots of paperwork involved and but we anticipated a lot of it by transferring all our business income into our company credit card account in lieu of my own personal account a few months back. So we are going to try for the pink government bank. Their criteria a bit more awkward but the payback long term would appear to be better for us than SCB. So we are going for 2.9 million.(an outstanding mortgage of 1.1m + new build say 1.8m. If we don’t get it then its not a big problem, just going to take 12-18 months longer to build but I would actually enjoy that immensely.
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Re: House Extension to "Baan Thai" Chiang Mai

Postby eyecatcher » Tue Jun 02, 2015 12:59 pm

Day 1
Early doors a ten strong workforce arrived; 4 men and 6 women. With them, flowers, coconuts, fruits, and incense sticks. I summoned the wife suggesting this maybe something she wants to get involved with,(she didnt) they laid the flowers on a small tree and put a white bag on the grass and each in turn went to pray and bless the project.
Was then advised that Thai people believe every plot of land has a spirit so they are asking permission to build and thereafter keep an eye on them.
“tell them I am the angel. I will be keeping an eye on them but they will realise soon enough I am the dark angel”
First job was setting out and already my stress level was reaching an uncomfortable level for the wife. Of course I want to be in charge; its my project; I am the architect, the engineer, the project manager and the quantity surveyor and the client. They duly arrived during breakfast; actually on time; who are they trying to impress? Have to say it was the worst breakfast I have had here, a boiled egg and cold rice, just no thought gone into it because I wanted to get my hard hat and boots on and start directing operations. The wife will be doing breakfast tomorrow!
So I let them get on banging in the stakes, marking positions on the fence. I had already marked and sprayed all the post centre lines on the fence and pegged out all 20 columns positions weeks ago so I was watching them like a hawk out of the corner of my eye of course.

There is one thing you learn about concrete; you get it wrong and it’s a blood y expensive mistake. I don’t want any expensive mistakes nor do I want to see waste of concrete and reinforcement, time and effort. I have the “measure twice and cut once” (not measure once and cut twice) attitude.
It wasn’t long before I was needed to calmly move in with my tape measure and offer some guidance. I think an inexperience in building extensions was coming to light already. They were setting out the column positions a particular distance from the fence; not realising that the fence line actually tapered over its 32m length; which would mean that the existing house and the new house would not actually be parallel to one another….the head scratching where the two roofs meet doesn’t bear thinking about.

And so it came to pass that I ended up taking the position of responsibility for the setting out. I did feel that this wasn’t how the builder/project manager wanted it to go but when all said and done its my money and I want it correct first time….and really I don’t care about the losing face thing. So the wife asked the builder not to be afraid to ask anything of me as I know the all the dimensions, and all the levels. It doesn’t cost anything to “check centre duu” (check something-my new favourite thai words) basically he is here to help, not interfere though how can I do that fairly??
Anyway we are under way after a lethargic 18 months; honestly money orientated; I don’t like spending money so this is hurting.
I am looking at getting those tilers on the roof by day 30; lets see how they go.
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Re: House Extension to "Baan Thai" Chiang Mai

Postby pattayapope » Tue Jun 02, 2015 3:51 pm

eyecatcher wrote:Day 1
I am looking at getting those tilers on the roof by day 30; lets see how they go.

Best of luck and keep us posted. :D
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Re: House Extension to "Baan Thai" Chiang Mai

Postby eyecatcher » Wed Jun 03, 2015 10:39 am

Day 2; Day 3
The generic drawings that were printed out along with my plans and sections were of typical foundations. As is the case, they try to cover their arse by over designing; making footings wider and deeper than necessary. I don’t have a big plot and digging 14 pad foundations 1.4mx1.4 and 2m deep was ridiculous. The plot is on virgin ground so going deeper and deeper only creates the problem of having the whole of the footing standing in ground water for ever. It really doesn’t benefit anything. So I decided to take the footing to 1m depth, typically deeper than any standard foundation in the UK.
The lawn before the dig

3 men and a lady each hand dug the pits. It probably took them 4/5 hours to dig each pit. They had one each, so for two days they dug and dug and dug and just piled up the spoil on the narrow ridges between each footing.

It was plain the see that bringing in a Kubota would not have achieved the same neatness than hand digging and with the amount of excavated spoil created a machine would have been impossible.
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Re: House Extension to "Baan Thai" Chiang Mai

Postby eyecatcher » Wed Jun 03, 2015 10:55 am

"yes mum we have started and its very exciting"
the lawn after dig
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Re: House Extension to "Baan Thai" Chiang Mai

Postby eyecatcher » Thu Jun 04, 2015 6:19 pm

Day 4
They arrived at 8 to start building the tents to prepare the rebar; and of course to keep the sun off them.
I am expecting the first concrete pour the morning after tomorrow. Maybe only after then will the chorus of frogs disappear. It seems that 14 foundation pits with water in the bottom were a magnet for frogs, the noise in the evenings now is deafening.
The rebar arrived and the team of 3 ladies and 4 men quickly got to work cutting, bending and making the column cages.
I want shape code 13 guys kao jai?

The builder came to see me to check on columns which were concrete and which were timber which was a bit worrying at this stage. :( So I decided to try and mark up his drawings with some additional dimensions and also gave him a copy of my sketch book details to enable him to follow my ideas, As I say to pour a concrete beam too high it has implications towards the end so what looks like a continuous ring beam; it actually needs to be at 3 different levels; and the CAD drawings don’t make that clear.
As the team tootled off for their snap; I saw :shock: the list of rebar he had ordered; 312m of 12mm. Of course I was keen to compare this with my own bill of quants for the same. I had measured 347m so it will be interesting to see if he actually needs to go back for 6 extra lengths at some point.

Ten minutes into the cutting their disc cutter saw packed up. Well it seemed to be running on half power; and I actually thought it was one of those power turn downs you get often enough in Thailand. Their bolt croppers couldn’t cut the rebar so the boss was called and he went to buy them a new AEG cutter. Conclusion; the new one worked fine so maybe the old maktec had just decided to go into retirement.
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Re: House Extension to "Baan Thai" Chiang Mai

Postby eyecatcher » Thu Jun 04, 2015 6:38 pm

So now I am taking the opportunity to at least give the soil strata a quick coat of looking at. I decided to reduce the depth of the footings for exactly the same reason as they drew them at 2m deep; for no good reason but now I have the chance to investigate and see if I made a foolish decision.
Visual inspection;that’s about the extent of it.(plus experience and acquired knowledge)
The site is flat, which is great but you have to consider that a flat site collects more water because none of it runs off.
We have what appears to be a water table at about 850/900 deep. We have 2 exposed foundations from the posts of my external decking which may need some shoring up, although I suspect the new columns will abut the timber posts so it may be prudent to drill some stabilising anchors into the posts and directly into the cast columns.

The soil strata appears to about 150mm of landfill/topsoil followed by about 400mm of lighter clay and silt and then another 400 of darker fine silt soil.
I am no soil engineer but I am happy to see the lighter clays above the level of the footing base as these are the clays that are susceptible to ground heave but at present(early wet season) we are still a good 200mm from the clay strata. The darker fine clay soil is considered “good” as a bearing foundation. (rock being best, sand and granular stoney soils next best)
The pads are pretty wide,covering 2m2 reinforced and will be minimum 250 thick so I know each pad will be capable of carrying a minimum of 20 tons on this medium/good quality “soil” (and upto 80 tons)
Just a quick calculation on the concrete beams and floors alone over two floor tells me the heaviest load will be 5 tons, so doubling that for the roof and the few walls I am quite happy with the footings at this depth; but must remember to instruct them to bail out the water prior to the concrete going in, then we can see if it is ground water or just seepage from surrounding strata.

What about seismic? Tremors do occur; I have experienced about 3 during my time here. Quite surreal and unnerving. The last time I actually ran away from the timber house at speed as I was quite scared. I would presume the main reason for ground beams here is to stabilise the concrete columns. I know the pads are unlikely to spread so really whilst they are oversized it cannot be for carrying loads.
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