Q: Why did you decide to build this house?
A: Well firstly, I was sick of renting,
my Thai wife being able to endure it better than I.
The rental house my wife and I lived in prior to the cool thai house was
a nightmare - everything that could go wrong did go wrong. The
community water well was only turned on for an hour a day, so
essentially we had no running water. To get the place habitable I
fixed it up, at my own expense, only to have the owner announce she was
selling it at the end of the lease (ergo, we would need to vacate). But more importantly I wanted to
see if a good quality low cost house could be built without cutting
Q: How did you go about getting the house
A: The first step was getting a house plan.
Then we set about finding a builder would would contract to build the
house labor only. I wanted to be in charge of buying materials
since, from what I've seen, this is normally where house buyers get into
trouble. I got a number of bids for labor and they were all over
the map as far as cost goes.
Q: Who did you finally chose?
A: I chose my wife's father, who is a
builder. He does construction, and I've seen he does good stuff,
so it was strictly a business decision. The benefit of having a relative do it is that we could
trust them to want to do a good job.
Q: How did it work out?
A: Well, the house turned out really good.
There were a few hiccups along the way though. And there are
certain stresses that come up when working closely with family members.
Q: What kind of hiccups?
A: For example, in the first group
of workers that contractor (father in-law) assembled, one of the workers
didn't really know how to do anything. As the contractor had made him a partner
-- this turned out to be a bit of a problem for him. Eventually
the partner left (of his own accord) and we repaired any bad work which had been done.
This is the reason that some things in the early stages of the house
needed to be reworked and also accounts for a delay of at least a month
or two in the project.
Q: Anything else?
A: Everything else seems pretty normal.
Sometimes things needed to be reworked a couple of times, but as I've
seen this is pretty normal. The only thing I would definitely do
different in the future is on the roof. I would not include the
roof in the original contract and would subcontract it to a company who
specializes in roofs. Even though the roof turned out really nice,
it was a struggle, and since then I've observed some of these roof only
companies, they really get it on.
But I have to say I was really lucky to
have the Father involved. He was really determined to do
everything perfect and would really work to get things to go right.
Q: What other workers did you use?
A: We used a specialist for the electrical and
hot water plumbing. And then another specialist for the bathroom
and kitchen tiling. A specialist for windows and doors. And
then there are the normal things you contract out, like window glass,
security metal, screens, curtains, and screen doors.
Q: How were these workers?
A: For the most part excellent, but
there were still things that went not 100%. On the screen door for
example, the door closer was installed upside down - but he fixed it.
I think that is one good thing here, at the end of the day contractors
will generally will do what it takes to get it right.
Q: Any problems with the house?
A: No, the house is really nice. There
have been some problems with the entry road though, although these are
on the way to being straightened out.
Q: Was it a good idea to use the
father as a contractor?
A: Essentially, I think the house
turned out better than it would have been otherwise. Things happen
pretty quickly when doing a project like this, and it is easy for things
to slip between the cracks - so it is nice to have concerned people
involved. That being said, most of the other contractors around
here that I've observed do really good work also, the only problem
coming in when it isn't the buyer of house who is paying materials (see
corner-cutters). The skill
level of carefully chosen contractors (ones that come with referrals and
observation) is pretty good -- although nothing is 'exactly'.
Q: What do you mean nothing is
A: A Swiss friend of mine has a
habit of commenting on the building here, he sums it up 'not exactly'.
I tried to show in the photo history how things are normally done more
than once to get things right and then, in the end, if you're expecting
100% you may stress yourself out. If something isn't done right
the workers will always endeavor to fix it, but it isn't the detail
level one would expect in Europe, for example. Things like a
little paint on the pvc bathroom doorframe, or a crooked door handle I
just don't sweat.
Q: Why did you do this web site?
A: First, I wanted to record the
history of this particular house, so if I do eventually sell it the
buyer could see the full history. I discover that it really isn't
possible to capture the full history of a house project, it is just too
big. But still I think this objective has been partially fulfilled
Then, I thought it would be an interesting
information exchange. But the real motivation was -- I could see a
lot of games being played, corner-cutting, which really goes on here
because there are no inspections and things are free and easy.
Anyway, it just seems so inefficient of a process -- that is builders
cutting out about 10% out of the cost of the project but lowering the
quality of the house by, maybe 1/2. Then, often, new owners will
come in and really deck the place out and do a lot of improvement, but
the foundation is faulty. Maybe by having information available it
will change buying habits and force some kind of standards.