Archive for May, 2011

New Thai Builder, New Construction Contract, New Start On Building Our Retirement House In Pakchong (Pak Chong)

0910 Hrs GMT, Friday 27th May 2011

Great News, We Will Start Building Our House Again!

Kanyah just phoned me from Thailand with some bright news.

She has found another builder who has agreed to finish building the house for us.

They have agreed a fixed-price labor only contract. We will buy the materials ourselves. Kanyah thinks that we can complete the house within the total price we agreed with the previous builder which will be a terrific outcome.

The builder is one who gave us a quotation a few days after we had signed the contract with the previous builder. He was introduced to us by our neighbour.

The new builder has check all over the house and says that a lot of remedial work is needed to clean up the mess left by the previous builder and repair the defects. hence he has estimated it will take 3 months to complete, i.e. end of September. The previous contract was to complete on 22 June, ie three weeks time.

We are in no great hurry to move into the house, we prefer to have the work done slowly and properly.

Kanyah has not signed the new contract with the builder yet, nor has she sent me any photographs, but these things will happen over the next few days.

That’s all for now.

Kanyah Has Sacked Our Builder And All Work Has Stopped As He Clears The Site

1015 AM GMT Wednesday 25 May, 2011, in U.K.

Kanyah just phoned me to say that she has finally terminated the contract with our builder because of his shoddy work quality and inability to adhere to programme. This is a final decision by Kanyah, this Thai builder will not get another chance to work on our house.

The builder has removed the living accommodation for the labour and taken down the wooden ‘scaffolding’ used to access the higher levels of the house.

The builder was not too pleased and called the police who said it is nothing to do with them.

Now the builder is clearing his property from the site.

This is the end of the road for this builder on our retirement house build project in Pakchong (Pak Chong), Thailand, and naturally, all building work has come to a stop.

That’s all the report I have for the moment.

Kanyah will send photographs but right now she is busy dealing with the builder’s departure.

Lack Of Concrete Rendering Causes Thai Builder To Be Sacked From The Thailand Retirement House Build

Photos Taken In Thailand April 2011, Posted Tuesday 24th May, 2011

Kanyah Wants To Sack Our Thai Builder

A few minutes ago Kanyah phoned me from the construction site in Pakchong (Pak Chong), Thailand, where we are having a house built for our retirement to Thailand and told me that she is so fed up with our builder that she wants to sack* him and continue the build with her nephew, Jalan.

(* For American readers the term “to sack” in English means “to fire” in American English, i.e. to kick somebody out of their job)

At last it seems that Kanyah is getting the message about this builder and starting to show an interest in the house build and quality of the work.

I’m not convinced yet how firmly Kanyah will deal with the builder – I would have sacked him ages ago.

Anyway let’s look at the quality issue that she is referring to that has finally made an impact on her. There’s no doubt that she is feeling under a lot of pressure to sort this builder out.

Problems Rendering The Columns And Fixing The External Wooden Walls

The message from Kanyah was a bit garbled and she hasn’t sent me any photos so most of what follows is my interpretation of events, but since Kanyah mentioned this issue more than a week ago it I think I’m pretty well on target.

Typically, the finish on cast-in-situ concrete in Thailand is so appalling that it’s customary to ‘render’ the concrete after casting to achieve a smooth finish. ‘Rendering’ is like plastering except that a mixture of cement is used instead of plaster. It is labor intensive and very slow.

This is how how a concrete column or beam would be rendered:-

Image Showing How They Render Concrete Columns In Thailand

How They Render Concrete Columns In Thailand

And below are some photos and a movie showing the progress with rendering on our retirement house in Pakchong (Pak Chong), Thailand.

Image of Pakchong House Rendering Concrete Beams 04

Pakchong House Rendering Concrete Beams 04

Above, the first stage of rendering beams (or columns) is to do the corners.

Image of Pakchong House Rendering Concrete Beams 05

Pakchong House Rendering Concrete Beams 05

Above a close-up of rendering the corners. You can see a string line used to get the corner dead straight and even. Also you can see the straight edge used to make sure that the cement is nice and straight.

Image of Pakchong House Rendering Concrete Beams 03

Pakchong House Rendering Concrete Beams 03

Above, can you see the sharp corners awaiting rendering of the flat infill?

Image of Pakchong House Rendering Concrete Beams 01

Pakchong House Rendering Concrete Beams 01

Above, it is not only cast concrete that is rendered, the blockwork walls are also similarly treated and there is a very good finish.

Image of Pakchong House Rendering Concrete Beams 00

Pakchong House Rendering Concrete Beams 00(Alan's comments)

Above, the beam is not yet rendered, but the column is.

Below is a movie showing the rendering on the beams and columns of our house in Pakchong (Pak Chong).

The Problem Of Fixing The Wooden Walls

The extract from the Thai Architect’s construction drawings for our house shown below has been slightly modified by myself the illustrate the concrete column and the rendering. The wooden wall is shown butting up to the rendering i.e. the finished column.

Image of Wooden Walls And Concrete Columns Interface

Wooden Walls And Concrete Columns Interface(Alan's comments)

Above, the design intention – the wooden wall butts up neatly to the finished (i.e. rendered) concrete column.

The next image is a close-up:-

Image of Wooden Walls Butting Up to The Rendering On The Concrete Columns

The Wooden Walls Butting Up to The Rendering On The Concrete Columns

But Kanyah is telling me that the builder has not yest completed the rendering but is installing the wooden walls, as shown below:-

Image of The Wooden Walls Butt Up Directly To The Concrete Columns

The Wooden Walls Butt Up Directly To The Concrete Columns

Above, the wooden walls butt up to the concrete column which has not been rendered.

How, then, is the column to be rendered to give a neat finish.

My guess is that what is visible will be rendered but it is not clear how the rendering around the wood wall will be dealt with. The inner-most layer of the wall construction is to be bamboo mat and it’s not at all clear how/when this will be installed with respect to the rendering.

I’m sorry that I don’t have any photos from site to confirm all this, I have asked Kanyah to send me some, but she is (understandably) preoccupied with getting the builder to do his work correctly.

That’s all for now, I’m awaiting an update from Kanyah.

PS Rendering Crack Control

This is a photo of a neighbours house and you can see a vertical line in the rendering just to the right of the doorway. This is intentional and is a shallow grove in the render about 10 mm wide and 10 mm deep, called a ‘crack relief channel’.

Image of Neighbours House - Crack In Rendering 01

Neighbours House - Crack In Rendering 01

The idea is that as the rendering dries and contracts any cracks forming will tend to be formed withing this man-made channel instead of forming randomly and uncontrollably across the wall. Our house has these channels and at first I thought they were for decoration, but no, they have a practical purpose – to control crack formation.

The picture below is a close-up of the ‘crack relief channel’ and indeed you can see that a crack has formed.

Image of Neighbours House - Crack In Rendering 02

Neighbours House - Crack In Rendering 02

PPS Shockingly Poor Concrete

The photos below are of the underside of a second floor concrete beam on our house. The defects are plain to see. The concrete has not penetrated to the bottom of the formwork, there are holes in the concrete and the steel reinforcement is exposed.

This is very poor but I suspect typical of concrete pours in Thailand if not done and supervised properly. Where was our inspector when the concrete was poured? Well, maybe he didn’t know about the importance of getting the concrete to the bottom of the formwork. This is often achieved using a concrete vibrator or ‘poker’ which I’ll explain later down the page.

Image of Pakchong House Poor Concrete 01

Pakchong House Poor Concrete 01

Above, this concrete beam has both air pockets and exposed steel reinforing bar.

The Dangers of Air Bubbles And Exposed Rebar In Cast Concrete

Air Bubbles In Cast Concrete

Clearly air has no strength.

Therefore concrete with air bubbles is weaker than concrete without air bubbles. Another danger of air bubbles is that the cavity is a stree uinducer. Like a crack it concentrates the stress in the beam and can lead to premature failure.

I just hope that the beams have been oversized compared to the stress they are expected to carry. They certinly look big enough for a two storey house. I’ll may get a structural engineer colleague of mine to lookat the pictures and the structural calculations and let me have his opinion.

Exposed Steel Reinforcing Bar (Called ‘Rebar’)

In addition to the fact that the concrete/steel composite material cannot be so strong if there is no concrete around the reinforcing steel, there is another danger and that is corrosion – commonly termed rust.

If steel reinforcement is left exposed it will corrode or rust. This corrosion expands the steel and the concrete bursts away. So not only is the beam (or column) weaker because the steel has turned to rust whch has no strength, the concrete will fall away.

In the cases you see in the photos here, this is not such a danger because the steel will be rendered and when the rendering is complete will not be exposed.

The danger is in the foundations of the house and the underground columns and beams. Being underground, anay exposed steel will be sitting in water for a large part of the year.

Based on my observations of the beams as seen on this page, the general lack of care by the builder and the inefective monitoring by Jalan, our ‘inspector’ and not using the concrete vibrator I would say that there’s probably a 100% chance that some of the steel reinforcemnt in the underground concrete is exposed.

Image of Pakchong House Poor Concrete 02

Pakchong House Poor Concrete 02

Above, air pockets have weakened this concerete beam.

Image of Pakchong House Poor Concrete 03

Pakchong House Poor Concrete 03

Above, exposed steel reinforcement in the concrete beam.

Using A Concrete Vibrator or ‘Poker’ To Consolidate Concrete

Below is shown a petrol-powered handheld concrete internal vibrator (oftern referred to as a ‘poker’) used to compact concrete and ensure that air bubbles are removed.

Image of a Concrete Vibrator or 'Poker'

Concrete Vibrator or 'Poker'

The concrete vibrator shown in the picture is alled the ‘insertion’ type because the vibrating head is inserted ito the concrete like a poker is used to poke into a fire.

Handheld concrete vibrators are used to consolidate concrete, make sure that it travels to all parts of the formwork and to remove air bubbles and air pockets that would weaken the concrete if left in.

To use the concrete vibrator it is simply pushed into the concrete at intervals of approx 500 mm apart for 5 to 10 seconds or a few seconds longer.

Although this is a simple and cheap device, not many small builders in Thailand use it. Clearly it was not used on my house. I should have explained this to Jalan.

Below is a movie of a concrete vibrator in use.

In the movie notice how the concrete ‘slumps’ as soon as the concrete vibrator (‘poker’)  is pushed into the concrete. that means the concrete is ‘falling down’ to the bottom of the formwork. This proves that there exist air pockets under the concrete that will remain there unless the poker is used.

Double Rainbow, Gate Runner Concreted, Wooden Floors Complete, But Folding Doors Problems

A Double Rainbow Over Our Land In Pakchong – Is This A New Start?

Does this double rainbow(see the second one above the main one) right over our land signify a new start for our retirement house build project in Pakchong (Pak Chong), Thailand?

I would like to think that our builder has changed his ways and all is now going to plan and with good – or at least reasonable – quality.

But something in my bones tells me it won’t be like that. I fear that our prospects of getting this house finished to good quality and an time are pretty slim and explained on the Thailand Retirement House Build Plans Dashed post.

Gate Runner Concreted

On the previous post I showed the picture below depicting the ground runner for the 6 m stainless steel gate:-

Image of Thai House Gate Runner 2

Thai House Gate Runner 2

Above, the the stainless steel gate has wheels at the bottom which run along this track. The gap between the ground and the runner has to be filled with concrete to support the track when vehicles run over it. If you have seen the Stainless Steel Gate Runner Ruined you will have read how our builder ran over the track before it was concreted in an bent it.

The concreting has now been completed as you can see in the pictures below.

Image of Stainless Steel Gate Runner Concreted

Stainless Steel Gate Runner Concreted

Above, it is best not simply  to put concrete under the runner but to excavate down by at least 300 mm, put reinforcement steel in the excavation and then fill with concrete.

Image of Close Up of Gate Runner Concreted for Stainless Steel Gate

Close Up of Gate Runner Concreted for Stainless Steel Gate

A close-up view of the concrete supporting the gate runner.

Wooden Floors Complete

Image Of Wooden Floorboards on The Balcony Floor

Wooden Floorboards on The Balcony Floor

Above, the balcony floor looks quite reasonable, unlike the main accommodation floor which is terrible as you can see in the movie here.

Image of Main Living/Dining/Kitchen Area Wooden Floors

Main Living/Dining/Kitchen Area Wooden Floors

Folding Doors Problem

This problem is how to fit the lower door runner for the wooden folding doors.

Issue 1 The External Security Doors

Our retirement house in Pakchong (Pak Chong), Thailand, is designed to have two sets of folding doors located as shown on the Thai Architect’s house plan below:-

Generally folding doors need two tracks (I call them runners) in which the door sliding gear runs, one is at the top of the door, the other at the bottom.

Here is a photo showing the top and bottom runners:-

Image of Sliding Door Runners At Top And Bottom

Sliding Door Runners At Top And Bottom(Alan's comments)

Above, you can clearly see the top and bottom runners for the folding doors. By the way, this is not our house, but I wish our wooden floor looked as nice as this one.

Here is a detail of the top runner (typical):-

Image of Detail Of Typical Sliding Gear At The Top Of Folding Doors

Detail Of Typical Sliding Gear At The Top Of Folding Doors

This can be provided in the frame for the door (somehow).

However it is more difficult to provide this in the bottom of the door. Here are the details of the doors from the Kensington Architect’s drawings:-

Image of Thai Architect's  Elevation Drawing For The External Folding Doors

Thai Architect's Elevation Drawing For The External Folding Doors

Image of External Folding Doors Section View

External Folding Doors Section View

Another Builder’s Mess Major Up – Floors On The Wrong  Level

The wooden floors in the Thai Architect’s design for this house are on three levels as you can see in the image taken from the Thai Architect’s house plans:-

Close-up view of the Thai Architect’s house plan showing the difference in floor levels for this Thai retirement house.

Image of Pakchong House Floor Levels 2

Pakchong House Floor Levels 2

Above, the steps in level are a convenient location for the lower door runners in the Thai Architect’s design for our retirement home.

Issue 2 The Internal Glazed Doors

This is the same issue as the external folding doors issue – the lower runners – but the problem is made worse because the builder put the Kitchen/Dining area on the same level as the Living Room. In the Kensington design there was a 50 mm step, similar to that between the Balcony and the Kitchen/Dining area.

That step would have provided a natural break line to put the lower runner for the doors.

See the photo of the Living/Kitchen/Dining area floor as constructed:-

Image of Wooden Floors Showing Locations Of Folding Doors

Wooden Floors Showing Locations Of Folding Doors

There are several difficulties with installing a lower runner for the internal folding doors:-

  1. If it is to be cut into the floorboards there would be no support for the floorboards at that point. Subject to actual situation on site, the support may be provided by installing two additional joists, one on each side of the runner.
  2. Since all these areas are now combined with a single flat floor (which I think will actually look very nice) I don’t want ugly slots across the floor to carry the runner.
  3. I don’t want a permanent runner above the floor. This would look ugly and is dangerous because people would trip over it.

Thai Websites For Folding Doors

Here are the website details of some companies selling folding doors in Thailand:-

Many Folding Door Companies In Thailand:-

http://www.alibaba.com/countrysearch/TH/folding-door.html

Good Quality Folding Doors In Thailand – I Like These:-

http://www.auseco.com

Folding Door Sliding Gear (Top):-

http://www.alibaba.com/product-free/242283684/Tangent_290_Standard__Sliding_Door/showimage.html

General Information About Folding Door Companies:-

http://www.alibaba.com/member/th106190841.html

Builder Ruins The Gate Runner – But Check Out My Office…

Day 9. Sunday 01 May. (Written in Pakchong (Pak Chong), Thailand. Posted In U.K.

Labor Day So No Building Work Going On

Today is labor day in Thailand so there will be nobody working on site building our retirement house today.

Wobbly Internet At The Mansion

Tried to get on the Internet at the Mansion. After trying for an hour and then giving up it suddenly appeared. But by then it was time to go out so no Internet work done. 

Stainless Steel Gate Runner Ruined

Kanyah has bought a beautiful and ornate stainless steel gate for the driveway into our retirement house being built in Pakchong (Pak Chong), Thailand. I do agree that the gate is a wonderful work of art and a clear demonsttration of the Thai craftman’s skills at bending and welding stainless steel tube. But to me it’s out of keeping with the style of house we are building. Our retirement house is intended to be ‘traddittonal rustic’ and to match the house the gate should have been black steel not bright stainless steel. 

Never mind, at least the gae does a useful job. At least it did until the runner was ruined by our builder. 

This video of the beautiful stainless steel gate was taken yesterday. Just look at how smoothly the gate runs when it is opened:- 

 

Then we discovered that our Thai builder had run over the gate’s steel ‘running rail’ in his pickup and bent it down. This must have happened yesterday when they left the construction site at the end of the day.

Image of Stainless Steel Gate Runner

Stainless Steel Gate Runner

 Above, showing the wheels and the runner fo the stainless steel gate in the front wall of our Thai retirement house. 

Image of Thai House Gate Runner 1

Thai House Gate Runners 1

Above, you can see how the gate runner is supported off the ground by the steel rods. They have done this so that the runner can be set dead flat, even though the ground is uneven. The gate fitters spent all day fitting this gate and getting the gate runner horizontal and flat. 

Image of Thai House Gate Runner 2

Thai House Gate Runner 2

 It bent down because the builder had not put the concrete under it as he had promised to. He just doesn’t care at all about quality or our property. 

There’s no photo of the bent runner because I was too upset to take one. I just had to walk away before I got too angry. 

Decided to buy a large padlock to lock the gate and not let the builder into the land with his pickup until he has put the concerete under the running rail. 

Introducing My Office In Pakchong

So Kanyah and Jalan dropped me off at what I call ‘my office’which is that roadside food stall where I can sit an use the laptop on a proper table whilst drinking a beer or two from the supermarket next door. 

Here is the sign to the roadside food stall – the Thai reads “Mea Rampaeng”, It’s the name of the restaurant I used to use for my “office” in Pakchong (Pak Chong). “Mea Rampaeng” means “worried mother” and when you see the video you will see why. The food (and service) is superb, by the way. Highly recommended. 

Image of Mea Rampaeng Sign

The Sign At The "Mea Rampaeng" Restaurant

 The guys/gals running that place (the office) are so friendly and helpful to let me sit there. 

 

Project Manager’s Office

I have shown you my office above, now take a look at the Project Manager’s office in the picture below:- 

Image of the Project Manager In Her Office

Project Manager In Her Office

Builder Appears

As I was sitting in my ‘office’ preparing a video of the poor quality workmanship of the floor planks to upload to YouTube, who should walk in but the builder, acccompanied by his wife and small daughter!

Apparently (as Kanyah toldme later) he went to the site and then made a special trip to ‘my office’ to see me. We couldn’t figure out why, especially as this was his day off. I suspect his idea was to sweet-talk me into giving him an advance.

Anyway I showed him the viideo of the floor planks and complained about him bending the gate runner. He promised to repair both the floor and the gate runner tomorrow.

Padlocks On The Gate

Kanyah and Jalan came back with the padlocks which were then fitted to the gate(s).

Image of Stainless Steel House Gate Locked

Stainless Steel House Gate Locked

Above, with padlocks on the gate, the builder can’t drive over the gate runner again until he has put the concrete under it.

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