Archive for January, 2011

Progress Photographs – Ground Floor Ring Beams, Ground Floor Slab & Posts Finished

These photos uploaded January 31st 2011, were taken on site on January 21st, 2011. 

Photo 1 Compacting The Sand Under The Cround Floor Slab:-

Image of Building Thai House Compacting Under Slab Sand

Compacting Under-Slab Sand

 

It is not always that the builder properly compacts the soil (sand in this case) under concrete slabs or foundations. This is being done by our builder as you can see in the picture above before the concrete slabe is poured and is a good sign of a professional and competent builder. 

Why is compacting the soil or sand necessary? The strongest soil is undisturbed soil that has not been disturbed since it was formed thousands or millions of years ago. Where this has been dug out and replaced with fill, or simply had soil placed on it to raise the level, the filling material will be ‘loose’ and liable to be compressed when any weight is put on it. Therefore it cannot offer much support to foundations or in the case above the concrete ground floor slab that will be poured over it. 

The solution is fill in with soil in many thin layers, (say 100 mm each time) and compact each layer with a heavy roller or vibratory compactor as you see above. usually the soil (or san) is also watered to make it compact more easily. The objective is to make the fill material as dense as possible. 

Naturally this is a time consuming process and that’s whay many builder often don’t bother to do it… plus of course perhaps they don’t realise the importance of doing it!

Photo 2 Under-Slab Anti Termite System:-

 

Termites. I Hate Them

I had a friend, David, who married a Filipino girl and he spent his life’s savings to build a wooden house in the Phillipines for them and their daughter to eventually retire to. They didn’t live in it for a year because he was working in Saudi Arabia accompanied by his wife. When he went back to the Phillipines for a holiday the house was completely destroyed by termite He was devastated. 

I guess everybody has their termite story. My wife, Kanyah does. Her niece in Phitsanulok had a huge house built courtesy of her Japanese husband. Luckily it’s mostly concrete and brick but the entire second floor is wood and is riddled with termites. One day she will have to drop it down and replace it. The same goes for the kitchen which is entirely wood, walls and floor. It will have to be replaced. 

My termite story is different and I hope it stays that way. The entire house above second floor level (except for the roof) will be wood. Aware of the damage that termites can do I did some research on the Internet and came across this quote:- 

“Facts: worldwide termites seriously harm more than 100,000,000 homes a year. On average these vicious insects do more damage than all natural disasters put together.” 

I found that on a website specialising in the kind of termite control system that I have in our house. You can learn more on the Pest Control Thailand website which describes the system. Here is another company offering termite control services

I should add that it was our builder who suggested this kind of termite control system. I only found the above website during the house foundations construction trying to see what it was that he was recommending because he gave me no details, just mentioned it when we were negotiating the contract. Nothing was written down in the Specification, BOQ or contract, but it was installed! Another sign of a good builder you can trust. 

Photo 3 Ground Floor Rebar and Termite Pegs?:-

Image of Building Thai House Steel Fixing Floor Slab

Steel Fixing Ground Floor Slab

 

You can see that they are putting steel reinforcement in both directions within the ground floor slab. Contrast that with the photo on Steve W’s house build where they only placed it in one direction and at far too wide spacing. 

Those wooden pegs worry me. (If that’s what they are). 

I read on a Thai forum that one guy had an under-slab anti termite pipe system installed (similar to ours). But the poison injection points were holes in the slab bunged up with wooden plugs. The plugs were removed, the bug poison poured in and the bungs replaced. What to termites eat? Wood of course. The system was proving the little buggers with a whole array of front doors to invite them into his house. 

I really must find out what those are. 

Photo 4 Waterproof Membrane:-

Image of Building Thai House Pouring Floor Slab

Pouring The Ground Floor Slab Concrete

 

My friend Steve W (See photos of Steve’s self-build Thai house in Si Khiu Korat which is going on in parallel with my house construction but a lot faster on the Si Khiu Korat House 1
page) tipped me off about this one. Essential to keep the ground floor dry in the rainy season. Water soaking through concrete (it does!) will attach the reinforcement steel and weaken the structure. Rusting steel reinforcement also expands bursting the concrete and exposing itself. Very nasty. The waterproof membrane helps to keep the concrete dry. 

Now I don’t know whether this was in the (Structural) specification, which is entirely in Thai language and I didn’t bother to get a translation,  or not. It certainly isn’t in the BOQ. 

Again, like the termite control system i wanted to send a message to Kanyah to make sure it was included when they made the floor slab but she told me the slab was complete before I had chance to do that. Luckily the membrane (as you can see in the photo below was already installed). Another sign of a good builder. 

An Important Lesson To Learn If You Are Not On Site

The above events have taught me some important lessons that anyone contemplating having a house built in Thailand should pay close attention to if they are not on site everyday (and you will here this over and over in the Thai forums):- 

  • House construction in Thailand goes extremely quickly.
  • You need to be on the ball and have an excellent system of communication with your on-site Inspector (Agent or Project Manager)
  • Make sure that you have a good set of detailed construction drawings showing exactly what you want.
  • And, it goes without saying, find a good builder, cheapest is not always the best.

I have some changes I want to make to our house as specified. These are minor changes like changing the ground floor door from wood to steel (Anti termite and also security). I know I must get these changes into the builders hands in good time otherwise in a few weeks time I will be too late. Maybe he has already ordered the doors? 

Photo 5 The Concrete Car Port Slab:-

Image of Building Thai House Car Port Slab

Ground Floor Concrete Car Port Slab

 

Although it’s called a Car Port and that’s what we intend to use it for in the beginning, this area (as can the Workshop) can be developed into accommodation area in future if necessary. 

I have noticed that in houses like ours with all the living accommodation on the second floor and having a large open area under the house, like our Car Port area, the Thai occupants tend to ‘live’ in the open area on the ground floor during the day time. This is presumably because it is well shaded and cooler that the second floor. In our case I hope to have provided sufficient open and shaded area on the second floor so that we can stay there in daytime and enjoy the views of the surrounding rolling hills that typify the beautiful Pakchong (Pak Chong) area. 

The car Port slab is a goof few cm above the surrounding ground floor area. It was designed as 10 cm (100 mm) above the ground floor level but that changed on site due to:- 

  • It was raised (at my request) to be the same level as the floor slab of our neighbour’s (blue) house. I wanted the slab well above any flood water levels.
  • Kanyah has had about 12 trucks of soil placed on the land in front of the house to make the land level. (There was a half-meter fall from road level).

So at the moment I don’t know the relationship of the Car Port slab level to that of the front garden. All will become clear (?) in the next few days after she sends me some photos of the new soil. 

I should add that the original intention was not to leave the Car Port area finished in concrete but to have it paved with some nice looking stone. 

Photo 6 The Concrete Workshop Slab:-

Image of Building Thai House Workshop Floor Slab

Ground Floor Concrete Workshop Floor Slab

 

The level of Workshop slab is 100 mm above the level of the Car Port slab to keep any flood water out. 

You will immediately notice the red color of the concrete. I’m not exactly sure since I’m not on site but I suspect from my own construction experiance that is a concrete additive (called ‘Dry Shake’) that will harden the surface and prevent it from “dusting”. That means it will have a smooth hard finish that does not creat dust, especially when brushed, as plain concrete would. 

‘Dry-shake’ color hardeners come as powders that are spread by hand onto the freshly placed concrete and then worked into the surface with a float or trowel. Unlike integral pigments, which color the entire concrete matrix, hardeners color only the top surface layer. 

Again, this was briefly touched on when i was negotiating the contract. I remember I did not specifically request dry shake but asked for a “red colored anti-dust” finish. Nothing in the contract, nothing on the drawings and nothing in the BOQ about this. But our builder has provided it for us. The confidence I have in, and respect for, our builder, is rapidly building. 

Photo 7 The Concrete Workshop Slab 2:-

Image of Building Thai House Workshop Slab 2

Another Photo of The ground Floor Concrete Workshop Slab

 

The floor area of this room looks vast. Perhaps it will look smaller when the walls are built. 

Steve W (a very knowledgeable and interesting guy) told me when we went to see his farm and house build project at Si Khiu Korat that he was pleased to see the workshop on my Thai house construction drawings. He said that he had seen so many Farangs spend money on a house in Thailand for himself and his Thai wife and then never spend more than a few days there. Many of them , he said, just couldn’t stand living in Thailand outside of the holiday resorts. So “you need something to do” he said, and seeing my workshop he was pleased that I planned to ‘do something’. 

Well I’m not getting too deeply into that here, this is about building the house, but in a separate place on the website I will describe my ‘big plans’ for retiring in Thailand. Suffice to say at this stage that my hobby (when not building houses and websites) is to make real working models of steam engines and the like. That’s what the workshop is for and why it’s so big. 

Photo 8 Steel Re-Usable Formwork And Proper Access Equipment

Image of Building Thai House Column Formwork

Steel Re-usable Formwork (Or Shuttering) For the Columns

 

Many (most?) times – and I’m sure you have noticed the same – when I see buildings under construction in Thailand the formwork (or shuttering) for the concrete is made from wood nailed together. That is both expensive (wood is not cheap), not accurate, not strong and does not give a good finish. 

In the West, re-usable shuttering – as seen in the photo above – has been in use for many years but rarely have I seen it in Thailand. Sure, they may use it on huge shopping malls and hotels in Bangkok, but on up country small projects? So I was pleasantly surprised to see them being used on our house build. The sign of a modern-style builder. 

Also the common form of access platforms on up country small projects used to be (and still too often is) wooden platforms knocked-up on site by the labor. 

In the photo above you can see that they are using a proper steel access platform. When will hard hats and safety shoes come in, I wonder? 

Joking apart, my hat goes off to our builder for using modern and safe access equipment. 

Photos Of The Steel Reinforcement For The Ground Floor Ring Beams

These pictures taken on 22 January 2011 showing the rapid progress of building our retirement house in Pakchong, Thailand.

They show the steel reinforecement for the ring beams running around the perimeter of the ground floor slab and forming the foundations for the slab.

Note that this ring beam only supports the ground floor slab. The foundations for the second floor are 1.5 to 2 m below ground floor level. The columns (or posts as they call them in Thailand) are founded on the footings at -1.5 m to 2 m below ground floor level.

Before the concrete is poured, the steel rebar has to be encased in formwork. Traditionally the Thais use wooden formwork. In this build the builder will use steel re-usable formwork. This is quicker and more accurate that wooden formwork.

Image of Ground Floor Foundations Ring Beam Rebar (8)

Ground Floor Foundations Ring Beam Rebar (8)

Image of Ground Floor Foundations Ring Beam Rebar (1)

Ground Floor Foundations Ring Beam Rebar (1)

Image of Ground Floor Foundations Ring Beam Rebar (2)

Ground Floor Foundations Ring Beam Rebar (2)

Image of Ground Floor Foundations Ring Beam Rebar (3)

Ground Floor Foundations Ring Beam Rebar (3)

Image of Ground Floor Foundations Ring Beam Rebar (4)

Ground Floor Foundations Ring Beam Rebar (4)

image of Ground Floor Foundations Ring Beam Rebar (5)

Ground Floor Foundations Ring Beam Rebar (5)

Image of Ground Floor Foundations Ring Beam Rebar (6)

Ground Floor Foundations Ring Beam Rebar (6)

Image of Ground Floor Foundations Ring Beam Rebar (7)

Ground Floor Foundations Ring Beam Rebar (7)

Metal Mesh Fencing and Topsoil Costs In Thailand – Plus a Progress & Quality Report

The Concept Of Metal Mesh For Perimeter Security Fencing

This is entirely Kanyah’s idea and I give her due credit for that.

The objective is to have fence around the perimeter of our land that:-

  • Is low cost
  • Is secure against people and animals
  • Looks natural to blend in with the garden and plants in the area

The concept is to make a perimeter fence from steel mesh fencing panels. Then to put some special kind of plants along the fence. these plants then grow up the fencing panels and soon the panels become hidden by the plants. the result – a natural looking fence that incorporates strong steel security panels.

I have seen the steel mesh security fencing panels in the U.K., but not where the plants have been added. I have seen the fence with the plants in Thailand and it seems to be a perfect secure, pretty and low-cost answer to perimeter security.

I don’t have any photos of the fence with plants but here are couple of just the fencing itself:-

Image of Metal Mesh Security Fencing

Metal Mesh Security Fencing

Next, a close-up photo.

image of metal mesh security fencing - close-up

Close-Up of Metal Mesh Security Fencing

Those photos are taken from the website http://www.weld-mesh.com/securityfencing.htm and since I am giving them free publicity I hope they don’t mind me showing their product images.

This is how they describe their steel mesh security fencing:-

“Fmm Heavy Security Fencing system consists of 2.5 m panels with 4mm horizontal wires 6mm vertical wire with 3 decorative profiles along the horizontal. The panels are hot dip galvanised followed by a dark green powder coating. The support posts are 3.2m high, .8m to be concreted in the ground All posts come with holes pre drilled and tapped to accommodate an 8mm screw.”

Thai Metal Mesh Fencing Costs In Thailand

Assume that these prices are for a product similar to the U.K. product described above.

Prices received from Kanyah:-

Materials: 115,244 Baht.

Our land is 80 x 20 m = 200 m perimeter (ignoring gates)

Therefore material cost is 115,244/200 = 576 Baht/m.  (Material only price)

Add labor cost, = 64,800 Baht

Total 180,044 Baht, £3,830 (@ 47 Baht/£)

That is a lot of money and I need to think about that before giving the go-ahead.

or 900 Baht/m installed price (£19/m)

Compare Those Prices to U.K. Metal Mesh Fencing Costs.

2.35 high by 2.5 wide per panel plus post = £110, includes 1 post per panel and all fixings.

£110/2.5 = £44/m

or 2,068 Baht/m (at 4.7 Baht/£) (Material only price)

As you can see the UK costs are 2,068/576 = 3.6 times the Thailand price.

Of course, I have not checked with Kanyah yet that the specification (wire diameter, galvanising, plastic coating etc) are the same.

Update 22 January 2011

Kanyah phoned a few munutes ago and gave me a new price for a lesser quality steel mesh security fence:

Material: 102,549 Baht 2,182 £ @ 47Baht/£
Labor: 36,544 Baht 778 £ @ 47Baht/£
Total: 139,093 Baht 2,959 £ @ 47Baht/£

Saving = 40,951 Baht or £871 @ 47 Baht/£

I can’t see why the labor costs have dropped so much. Surely the number of posts is the same? Beats me.

Now, she is asking me to choose between the two. How can I choose when I have no details of the materials or quality for rither option?

I ask her for details and a photo and she goes berserk on the phone. “Don’t buy it then. Let the chickens and the geese escape and go where they want!”.

“I’ll send you a photo by email marked up with my questions” I said. “No.” she said and put the phone down.

There was more to it than that, but that’s the gist of  it. Very difficult to communicate and control a project so far away.

Topsoil Prices In Thailand

Our land is a bit lower than the blue house neighbors land and lower than the main road. Kanyah wants to put some soil on the land infront of the house to make it flat, level with the road and at least as high as the neighbors land.

She says we will need 12 trucks of soil at a cost of 16,800 Baht. (£357 @47 Baht/£)

Update 22 January 2011

Kanyah just told me that she had three trucks of soil delivered today and perhaps another two later depending upon how it looked.

Also there will be the cost for the tractor to level the soil.

The last time she phoned me (20 January) she said whe was waiting for me to decide. Now she has gone and done it! Who’s in charge of this project?

Progress and Quality Report On The Retirement House Build In Pakchong (Pak Chong), Thailand

Progress Report

Kanyah reports that progress is going well and quality is high.

From the photos she sends me the quality looks OK but the pictures are too few and not detailed enough for me to judge, really.

I keep asking for pictures of (for example) the steel (rebar) and formwork before the concrete is poured but it’s hard to get the message across that I want to see the situation before the concrete is poured for quality asurance purposes.

She keeps telling me to wait “It’s not ready yet”. What she means is that the concrete is not poured yet so there is nothing to see! She wants me to see the concrete columns (posts as they call them in Thailand), concrete beams and floor slab all finished and looking nice. That’s O.K. but I also want so see ‘behind the scenes’. I finally got the message across today and Kanyah has promised to send me the pictures tomorrow.

She says that all the foundations and all the posts are finished, i.e. concrete poured.

The ground floor is at the stage of fixing the steel for the ring-beam she reports.

In short the progress is very fast. In fact for me, too fast because I can’t make changes and check the quality, bearing in mind that I am 6,000 miles away.

For example I wanted to get a price to remove the topsoil from under the house and replce it with sand. This is an anti-termite measure about which I’ll explain elsewhere.

Also I wanted to have a water-proof membrane put under the ground floor slab.

But as you have read above the rebar for the ground floor is already going in so I am too late.

Quality Report

Kanyah says she is very happy with our builder and the quality of the work.

I paid for a top-quality Arcihtect in Bangkok to produce our construction drawings and they are very detailed. The builder follows them religiously and Kanyah’s nephew, Jalan, whom she drafted in to oversee the build checks the build against the drawings every day.

I’m so glad I had those drawings made. Sure, I may have paid a bit extra for them, but I have piece of mind in that I know that if the house is built to the drawings then there will be no major quality issues.

You can’t cheap-skate on design and construction drawings if you are living half way round the world from where your house is being built!

That’s all for today, tomorrow I should get the promised photos of the concrete posts and the rebar for the floor slab.

The House Build Has Started In Earnest Now – Steelwork For The Posts & Pouring Concrete

The pictures were taken on January 13th 2011.

Image of House Build Pakchong (Pak Chong) Thailand Two Post Ceremony 1

Our House Build Pakchong - Two Post Ceremony 1

Above, getting ready for the “Two Post Ceremony”, the “Yok Sow Eg Sow Tor” Ceremony.

Image of House Build Pakchong (Pak Chong) Thailand Two Post Ceremony 2

Our House Build Pakchong - Two Post Ceremony 2

Above, I recognise the lady second from left – she is our neighbor. The other people I don’t know.

Notice how the steel rebar for the column reduces in size at ground foor level. I remember this is correct from the structural drawings. Will just check the drawings to make sure, though.

Image of House Build Pakchong (Pak Chong) Thailand Posts 1

Our House Build Pakchong - Posts 1

Many steel columns ready to receive concrete. This is January 13th. Works started on January 6th. i.e. day 7. Not bad progress, I think.

Image of House Build Pakchong (Pak Chong) Thailand Posts 2

Our House Build Pakchong - Posts 2

Above more posts – called “sow” in Thai and “columns” in western building language.

Image of House Build Pakchong (Pak Chong) Thailand Pouring Concrete 1

Our House Build Pakchong - Pouring Concrete 1

Above, getting ready to pour concrete. Now the building really hs started! Note that it’s ready mixed concrete delivered by the concrete truck – not mixed on site.

Image of House Build Pakchong (Pak Chong) Thailand Pouring Concrete 2

Our House Build Pakchong - Pouring Concrete 2

Actual concrete being poured into the footings. Wish I could have inspected before the pour. But I am here in the U.K. – some 6,000 miles from where the action is!

Image of House Build Pakchong (Pak Chong) Thailand Many Posts Rich Colors

Our House Build Pakchong - Many Posts Rich Colors

I just love the rich colors in this photo. The red and green clothes of the workers and the brown of the clay soil. And the vast number of posts just waiting for concrete. It’s going to be busy over the next few days…

A Few Photos Of Digging For The Foundation Footings

These photos of digging for the foundation footings for our retirement house in Pakchong (Pak Chong), Thailand were actually taken on January 9th, 2011. The photos were uploaded a few days later after I had returned to U.K.

Image 1 of Digging Holes For Foundation Footing - Pakchong, Thailand Retirement House Build

Digging Holes For Foundation Footing 1 - Pakchong, Thailand Retirement House Build

As you can see in the phographs, the holes for the foundation footings are quite deep.

In fact, the soil report that I had commissioned specified the footings to be a 2 m below ground level. That makes quite a deep and narrow hole when the footing is only 1.2 m wide.

Image 2 of Digging Holes For Foundation Footing - Pakchong, Thailand Retirement House Build

Digging Holes For Foundation Footing 2 - Pakchong, Thailand Retirement House Build

The soil report that I mentioned above had identified a layer of silt as forming the ‘topsoil’ and up to a depth of 1 to 1.5 m. When saturated (i.e. very wet) silt becomes like quicksand and has no strength to support the weight of the house. Hence all footings had to be located on the next soil sublayer, which is clay.

Following an inspection of the holes made by the Thai labour it became apparent that the silt did not extend much below 0.5 to 1.0 m so I agreed with the builder that the footings could be located at 1.5 m below ground level, rather than 2 m, making digging the holes and pouring the footings concrete much easier.

Image 3 of Digging Holes For Foundation Footing - Pakchong, Thailand Retirement House Build

Digging Holes For Foundation Footing 3 - Pakchong, Thailand Retirement House Build

Image 4 of Digging Holes For Foundation Footing - Pakchong, Thailand Retirement House Build

Digging Holes For Foundation Footing 4 - Pakchong, Thailand Retirement House Build

Image 5 of Digging Holes For Foundation Footing - Pakchong, Thailand Retirement House Build

Digging Holes For Foundation Footing 5 - Pakchong, Thailand Retirement House Build

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