Archive for July, 2011

What More Can They Get Wrong With This Thai House Build Project?

How They Covered Up The Ugly Electrical Wiring By Trashing The Concept For The Vaulted Ceiling

What are those idiots up to? They have a set of construction drawings produced my our Thai Architect in Bangkok which they are supposed to be following. But – yet again – they choose to ignore the drawings and do what they feel like. At the expense of the lovely high and open feel the house would have had if it had been contructed as designed and also at the expense of thousands of additional Baht for the wood they used which is not needed by the design.

How The Ceiling Should Look

If you are a regular here, you will know the picture below which is the design concept for the house ceiling (i.e. there isn’t one):-

Bamboo Wall Mat Between The Rafters Of Our Thai House

Concept For The Vaulted Ceiling

Above, the concept for the vaulted ceiling in our retirement house under construction in Pakchong (Pak Chong), Thailand.

You can see what a lovely ‘airy’ feeling you will get as you walk into the room. It’s beautiful.

And They Have Ruined It

Look at the same picture below, where I have marked up what they have done with the ceiling:-

Image of Where They Put A Flat Bamboo Mat Ceiling

Where They Put A Flat Bamboo Mat Ceiling

All that lovely high level space thrown away. And the detail of the vaulted ceiling (like the above photo) was clearly shown on the Thai Architects house plans we commissioned.

Extracts From The Thai Architect’s House Plans Clearly Showing The Vaulted Ceiling With Bamboo Mat

Below is one of our Thai Architect’s house plans for the retirement house now being built in Pakchong (Pak Chong). This drawing is actually a cross section through the house and I have marked a rectangle in red colour that is shown in close-up in the next image.

Image of Thai Architectural Drawing - Check Out The Detail Indicated On The Next Image

Thai Architectural Drawing - Check Out The Detail Indicated On The Next Image

Below is the close-up taken from the construction drawing above and you can clearly see the text “4mm Thk. Plywood finish with bamboo mat” together with an arrow from the note to the ‘herring-bone’ cross-hatching that represents the bamboo mat in the vaulted ceiling.

This is a clear description of the requirement for the house to have a vaulted ceiling and not a flat ceiling as the builder has now installed.

Image of Thai Architectural Drawing Clearly Showing Bamboo Mat on 4 mm Plywood

Thai Architectural Drawing Clearly Showing Bamboo Mat on 4 mm Plywood

In case you are thinking that the above note is only in the English language and perhaps the builder can’t read English (which is true, but Kanyah can) I’ll refer you to a Thai language note on another construction drawing made as part of the set by our Thai Architect in Bangkok:-

Image of Thai Thai Language In Bamboo Mat Architectural Drawing

Thai Language In Bamboo Mat Architectural Drawing

In the image above (an extract from the Thai house plans made by our Thai architect), note the Thai language note circled in red colour and the arrow clearly pointing to the ‘herring-bone’ cross-hatching that represents the bamboo mat in the vaulted ceiling.

Below is  a close-up of the Thai language note:-

Image of Thai Language In Bamboo Mat Architectural Drawing

Thai Thai Language In Bamboo Mat Architectural Drawing

Above, I think this refers to the bamboo mat in the vaulted ceiling. I’ll get it translated and put the English language translation here.

Now For Some Photographs Of  How The Bamboo Mat Ceilings And Bamboo Mat Walls Were  Actually Installed On Site In Our Pakchong (Pak Chong) Retirement House

The first photo (below) is a photo of the bamboo mat flat ceiling I drew attention to in the marked-up photo above.

Image of Bamboo Mat Ceiling 08

Bamboo Mat Ceiling 08

Above, I must admit that the bamboo mat installation is very neat and clean. I like the wooden trim in the corner between the wall and ceiling. What a pity they didn’t follow the vaulted ceiling concept.

This Is How They Hid Away The Ugly Domestic Electrical Wiring

In the Post “Don’t Let Them Wire Your House In Thailand Like This I showed photographs of how the builder’s electricians had installed the domestic electrical wiring and electrical conduit in areas where it would be visible. I complained of this to Kanyah and after talking to the builder she gave me a list of reasons why “I was talking rubbish and the Thai builders know best” or words to that effect.

Well now I know why they weren’t concerned about the wiring being visible. Look at the photo above or below and behind that flat bamboo mat ceiling lies hidden the ugly electrical wiring.

Next is a photo showing the bamboo mat ceiling and bamboo mat walls.

Image of Bamboo Mat Ceiling and Walls

Bamboo Mat Ceiling and Walls

Above, this is a view inside the house in the Kitchen looking out onto the Balcony. In the corner the concrete column is exposed. This was supposed to have been painted before the bamboo mat was installed and failure to do this was one of the reasons why Kanyah sacked the previous builder!

Next picture shows the bamboo mat walls and the wooden floor.

Image of Bamboo Mat Ceiling Walls And Wooden Floor

Bamboo Mat Ceiling Walls And Wooden Floor

In the photo above you can see the bamboo mat walls and the wooden floor. At high level are the wooden joists to support the flat bamboo mat ceiling. Also visible is the unpainted concrete column in the corner of the room.

More detail on the wooden frame to support the bamboo mat ceiling in the photo below.

Image of Wooden Support Frame For Bamboo Mat Ceiling 01

Wooden Support Frame For Bamboo Mat Ceiling 01

In the photo above you can see the wooden frame they have installed to support the flat bamboo mat ceiling.

This was never intended, never in the design and never in my budget. I have had to pay the full cost of this wood on top of the cost of the original house just to get something I don’t want!

One thing to notice is the white concrete beam running left to right above the ceiling. With the vaulted ceiling this would have been visible. Perhaps that’s why Kanyah decided to go for the flat ceiling – to hide this beam.

I should add that the provision and position of this beam was an oversight by the original Thai Architect, in my view. (He would no doubt have a different view)

The beam is not shown on the Architect’s house plans, but is shown on the structural engineering drawings. Of course, I checked the Architectural drawings quite carefully, but paid less attention to the structural drawings expecting them to be in harmony with the Architect’s Drawings. Big mistake.

Don’t Expect The Thai Architect To Check The Work Of His Sub-Specialists!

By sub-specialists I mean the other engineering disciplines who contribute their expertise to the overall house design and these are mainly the structural engineer and the electrical and mechanical services engineer.

There are several instances where our Thai Architect did not show or check the detail of the structural engineers drawings and these were not spotted either by myself or by the previous builder. Also, there were items in the electrical and plumbing drawings that were incorrect and had to be put right by the builder.

I’ll not go into the detail here – this page is about the bamboo mat ceiling and walls – but maybe make a feature page of all the design errors separately.

Next, a view looking towards the bathroom doors from the Dining Area.

Image of Red Brick Bathroom Walls 02

Red Brick Bathroom Walls 02

In the above photograph above the two white rectangles are the door frames to the two bathrooms.

In the foreground where the worker is standing, this is the Dining Area. Again, you can see the flat bamboo mat ceiling instead of the vaulted ceiling.

Next, a  close-up of the bathrooms.

Image of Red Brick Bathroom Walls 01

Red Brick Bathroom Walls 01

In the above photo, you can see my shower room where the worker is standing and Kanyah’s bathroom to the right.

Notice the grey coloured vertical strip to the right of the picture in the red brickwork and then look at the photo below.

Image of Hidden Electrical Wiring Near The Red Brick Bathroom Walls

Hidden Electrical Wiring Near The Red Brick Bathroom Walls

Above, the grey coloured strip is where they have cut into the red brick wall of the bathroom to bury the yellow conduit for the electrical wiring.

At the top you can see the yellow conduit rising past the concrete beam. As it happens, I had agreed with the previous builder that this half of the house could have flat ceilings (as a cost saving measure – but obviously now its costing me more than the vaulted ceiling if they are putting in the flat bamboo mat ceiling requiring the wooden support frame).

How The Flat Ceilings Were Supposed To Save Me Money

The vaulted ceiling concept was originally applied to every room in the retirement house except for the bathrooms and the small lobby outside of the bathrooms. These were to be flat ceilings made from gypsum board suspended on steel wires.

The original builder’s quotation was above our budget and so before we signed the construction contract with him we went through a ‘Value engineering’ (VE) exercise to get the cost down. (VE – AKA Cost Cutting)

The original builder offered a considerable cost saving if the bedrooms could also be flat ceilings made from gypsum board suspended on steel wires.

I don’t think that Kanyah was up to speed with this, although the previous builder was supposed to mark up the original drawings to show all changes agreed as part of the VE exercise.

So we might have flat bamboo mat ceilings in the bedrooms with the expensive wooden support rafters that you have seen in the photos above.

By the way, strange that Kanyah has not sent me any photos of the bedroom areas. Wonder what she’s up to in there….

In The Next Post We Move To Photos Of The Outside Of The House

I have today received a whole stack of photographs of the external of the house, and oh boy has it moved on. Now you really can see the end in sight.

The photos include:-

  • Massive beautiful (and expensive) Teak double doors to the ground floor workshop (another change I wasn’t asked about)
  • Bamboo mat applied to the underside of the balcony roof. (Despite me telling Kanyah I didn’t agree to the builders price she did it anyway)
  • External views showing the finished wood walls – and how nice it looks.
  • The steps up to the balcony (including a departure they made  from my very detailed design that they should not have made)

And of course you get my usual complementary (not complimentary) commentary!

Don’t Miss it.

Domestic Electrical House Wiring Safety In Thailand- And Why I’m Backing Off Kanyah

Is This Not The Most Ugly Electrical Wiring You Have Ever Seen?

(Although the electrical wires and conduit are visible here, I’m not suggesting that this domestic electrical wiring installation is unsafe.)

Image of Electric Wiring In Retirement House Pakchong (Pak Chong)

The Most Ugly Electrical Wiring You Have Seen?

Actually, it’s not, you can see worse-looking electrical wiring in just about any street in Bangkok or other big city in Thailand – just hanging from the electrical posts in the street. Here’s an example:-

Image of Photo Terrible Ugly Birds Nest Thailand Street City Wiring

Photo Terrible Ugly Birds Nest Thailand Street City Wiring

Above, photo of a ‘bird’s nest’ of electrical wiring in a city in Thailand.

But that’s not in my house. This is!

Image of My Questions In Ugly Thai Electrical Wiring

Why Are They Making The Electrical Wiring So Ugly Like This?

Above, I sent this marked-up photo of the ugly domestic electrical wiring the Thai electricians are installing in our retirement house to Kanyah and asked her all the questions you can see on the picture.

Note that the red arrow on the comment “There should not be any wires on the concrete” is actually pointing to the yellow electrical conduit, not to electrical wires.

Let me be clear about one thing here. This is the second floor. Those concrete beams you can see are at ‘ceiling level’ except that our house has no ceiling.

No, in our retirement house now under construction in Pakchong (Pak Chong), Thailand, the ceiling is at roof level. (Except for bedrooms and bathrooms)

How The House Is Intended to Look

This is how the ‘ceiling’ is supposed to look in  the living room:-

Image Showing Bamboo Wall Matt

Bamboo Matt on Walls & Underside of Roof

Notice, in the picture above, that there is no ceiling and no visible electrical wires or conduit. This is how our retirement house is intended to look.

The above photo shows high level lights and ceiling fans needing wiring (which would be hidden behind the bamboo panels) but in our house there are no ceiling fans or lights, all the lights are on the wall. (Uplighters)

So there is absolutely no need for any cables or wires to be above the level of those concrete beams!

The Answer That Came Back From Kanyah Made Me Boil With Rage And Bad Temper. (Sorry!)

Instead of answering my questions (why were the wires there, why wasn’t the concrete beam rendered) she came back with non-answers that completely missed the point. I thought I was dealing with artisans and they turn out to be slippery eels befit of Thai politicians.

But before I get into that, here is the opening gambit from Kanyah:-

“Don’t ask me to send you any more pictures. Wait until it’s finished then I will send them.

If I send them before it’s finished you will just complain and make trouble.

Thinks: ‘The idea is that if I see the pictures early before it’s finished I can catch any problems and get them sorted out before it’s too late’

“If you want to check it (the house build) you come out here and do it!”

Replied: “Sorry, I have to stay here to make the money I keep sending you”

Now on to the ‘answers’ she gave me to my questions:-

“They are laughing at you” she said…

Thinks: ‘She’s doing it again – believing the builders and taking their side’. I thought all that had finished when she sacked the previous builder.

“They have been doing this for 40 years

Thinks: ‘With that much practice and still getting it wrong there’s no hope for them’…

‘So how come the electricians are only 20 years old?’

‘Have you seen my CV? I have been doing it correctly all round the world for 35 years’

‘Yeah! They’ve had plenty of practice learning how to make that bird’s nest wiring like in the photo above’

“They say that this is a three wire system with an earth wire and that it is a very safe system. You don’t have to worry about electrical safety”

Thinks: ‘I’m not talking about electrical safety. I’m talking about how it looks. None of these conduits and wires should be visible in the finished house.

Anyway, it was me who specified a three wire system (i.e. plus earth wire) for electrical safety and it was my Architect’s Electrical Engineers who designed the system (electrically) not you installers.’

And “Don’t worry”

Thinks: ‘Don’t worry? That’s my money you’re spending. That’s my dream house you’re spoiling.’

On The Phone Listening To Kanyah As I Grew Ever More Angry I Just Decided To Keep Quiet And Back Off (Maybe)

Why would I do this? Choking on my words I said “O.K. you just do it your way”

The fact is that Kanyah is getting ever more stressed out with this retirement house build project. It’s all too much for her as I described in an earlier post discussing the type of construction contract we should have – all-in or labor only.


This Should Be Just About The Happiest Time In Her Life

All her life with me (we have been married nearly 30 years) she has dreamed of having her own house in Thailand. And now it’s coming true right before her eyes.

She should be very, very happy. And I’m sure she is – but it’s coming at a price…


As the days go by and the pressure mounts on Kanyah – making decisions, buying materials, managing the builder, the stress has been building up day be day.

I’m told by people who should know that Thai men don’t like taking orders from Thai women. But that’s what Kanyah s doing daily.

She has never built a house before – who has – and it’s not at all easy.

Remember that since she sent her newphew, Jalan, back to his home in Kamphaengphet (Kamphaeng Phet) for being ineffective as an inspector she has been on her own, with no family or supporting person near her.

So I have decided to back off and let Kanyah get the house finished in her own way.

As a wise young man and a good friend of mine, Steve W who is building his house up at Si Khiu Korat said “It’s not worth losing your wife over a house, you can deal with all the re-does when you go out there”.

Well, Steve, thanks for the advice. There is no chance of losing Kanyah over this house build, but I am worried about her mental health. She doesn’t do stress at the best of times and I just want this whole retirment house build project over with so that she can relax:-

Image of Project Manager Supervising Thai Retirement House Construction

Project Manager Supervising Thai Retirement House Construction

Above, a photo taken when we had the other builder. She wishes she could relax like this now…

O.K. On With The Other Photographs From This Stage Of Our Retirement House Build Project In Pakchong (Pak Chong), Thailand

Now look at the photo below. See that electrical box, and the red and black short wires coming out of it? Those red and black wires are going to some king of electrical outlet. Like a socket outlet, a light or fan.

But as I said, there is nothing electrical at that level.

By the way, why three wires? And what do the colors mean?

I have to admit I’m not sure about that. The colours look like two black and one red. I would have expected: Live – black, Neutral – grey and Earth (also called Ground) – green (or yellow and green striped).

But it seems that Thailand does not have and does not follow any standard electrical wiring color system. I’ll just be wary of making any changes to the domestic electrical wiring installation in our retirement house for the reason of electrical safety.

Image of Electrical Wiring In Thai Retirement House 01

How I Could Have Caught The Wiring Issue Early

The photos here bring me to another point that I have explained before.

If I had the photos from the building site in Thailand early enough I would be able to spot the problems – things going wrong – and let Kanyah know in time for them to be corrected before things had gone on too long for there to be an effective correction. In Other Words:-

“A Stitch In Time Saves Nine” – Not On Our House Build Project In Thailand

Kanyah Deliberately Delays Sending Me Photographs

But, no. Kanyah deliberately delays sending me photographs because when I spot something wrong and tell her about it it becomes a problem for her. She waits until it’s too late for anything to be done about it. I’m sure – and I’ll prove this in the next post – that she makes changes to the design as set out by our Thai Architect drawings and specification, doesn’t tell me about it and doesn’t send me the photos until it’s a ‘fait accompli’.

I’m also sure that some of these changes are initiated by the builder to make his life easier and to make himself more profit.

Image of Electrical Wiring In Thai House Above Ceiling Level

There Are No Electrical Outlets Here So Why Are They Wiring It?

Above, the caption says it all.

Image of Thai House Electrical Wiring How It Should Be Done

How Electrical Wiring Should Be Concealed In Our Thai Retirement House

The photo above shows the conduit for the wiring passing within the wooden frame for the dividing wall between living and bed rooms. Perhaps you can see that they have drilled neat holes in the wooden frame to carry the conduit? A very neat installation. When the electrical work is finished the wooden frame will be covered with bamboo mat and the electrical wiring will be hidden. Perfect.

Let me make a clarification. I’m loosely referring to ‘wiring’ when I actually mean electrical wiring and conduit. ‘Conduit’ to the layman is the tube (or pipes) put in to contain the real wires. In these photos the yellow ‘wires’ you can see are actually plastic conduit. The real electrical wires will be inside this conduit system.

Many (especially low cost) Thai houses do not have the electrical wiring in conduit. Often is is run on the surface of the walls and is visible. That is ugly and why I insisted on conduit to hide the wires. But the conduit itself is supposed to be hidden, not exposed to view!

A Quick Word About Electrical  Safety Relating To Domestic Electrical Wiring Installations In Thailand

Also, as I mentioned before I had specified a three wire system for the sake of electrical safety. Thailand is now moving over to the three wire system – years ago it was all two wire and there were no three wire  receptacle (socket outlets) or plugs available. A three wire electrical wiring system has a live and neutral wire carrying the electrical current and the third wire is an earth (often called ground) wire. by the way, this is not supposed to be a lesson in safety in domestical electrical wiring installations in Thailand. If you are interested in the subject I suggest this web page:

In the photo above and below you can see the conduit is withing the width of the dividing wall. When the bamboo mat is placed on the wall framethe conduit (and wires) will be hidden from view. Exactly as it should be and as it is specified on the construction drawings.

Image of Close Up Of How To Conceal Electrical Wires And Conduit With Walls

How To Conceal Electrical Wires And Conduit With Walls

The photo below is in the bathroom and bedroom areas. here there will be a flat false ceiling jut below the concrete beams so that these conduits will be hidden from view.

Image of Electrical Wiring Above The Ceiling For The Bedroom And Bathroom

Electrical Wiring Above The Ceiling For The Bedroom And Bathroom

Above, this is OK because there will be a flat ceiling in the bathroom and bedrooms to hide the conduit and electrical wiring.

Next Post: Another Major Change From the Drawings And Specification Made On Site Without Asking Me Sends My Blood Pressure Into Orbit!

They’re at it again – changing things without asking me. And here they have ignored a major feature of the house that was intended to give it the ambiance and character that you can see in the “How The House Is Intended to Look” photo above. This is serious stuff going wrong – again. And Kanyah and the builder are in cahoots together over it.

Perhaps I’m going to abandon my softly-softly policy when dealing with Kanyah in future. Let’s see in the next post…

Bamboo Wall Paneling Is Used To Create A Wonderful Warm And Rustic Feel To The Pakchong (Pak Chong) Retirement House In Thailand

The Photo Below Formed The Inspiration For The Hanging Bamboo Mat Decor We Wanted

I hasten to add that the photo below is not of our retirement house we are building in Pakchong (Pak Chong).

The image is borrowed from a Bamboo Mat Ply Panels website and shows the kind of look and feel I wanted to achieve in our house in Thailand. The photo is from the beautiful Wakaya Club Resort in Fiji.

Image Showing Bamboo Wall Matt

Bamboo Matt on Walls & Underside of Roof

Above, the main characteristics I love about the application of the bamboo mat panels as a wall decor are:-

  • The exposed roof rafters
  • The darker color dividing lines between the bamboo mat panels that break up the space and create clean lines
  • The wall-washer lights
  • The clean bamboo mat finish
  • The way the bamboo mat panels are correctly finished around the windows

I wonder how close we will come to achieving this kind of ambiance in our own retirement house in Thailand?

Lest’s see how it’s panning out as the house gets decorated with bamboo mat panels under the watchful eye of my wonderful wife, Kanyah, in the photos below.

Image of Bamboo Mat As Bought

Bamboo Mat As Purchased

Above, this is one of the bamboo mats bought by Kanyah in a trip to Khampaeng Phet with her nephew, Jalan. (Kanyah sacked Jalan a few weeks ago, after first terminating the first builder’s contract)

You can see that it is very lightweight and has not enough strength so support itself. That’s why our Thai Architect specified that it be fixed to 4mm thick plywood panels to form Bamboo mat panels.

In the photo below you can see the start of the process of gluing the bamboo mat to the plywood panels.

Image Of Bamboo Mat 02 - Pasting The Plywood Panels

Pasting A Plywood Panel

Above, the brush is used to apply the adhesive, detailed below.

Image of Bamboo Mat 03 - The Glue

The Glue To Fix The Bamboo Mat

Above, the bamboo mat glue and below a finished bamboo mat panel ready for hanging on the wall.

Image of Bamboo Mat 06 - Bamboo Mat Stuck To The Plywood Wall Panel

Bamboo Mat Stuck To The Plywood Wall Panel

The next photo shoes the bamboo mat in close-up.

I’m not so happy with the finish. Looks a bit coarse to me compare to the bamboo mat finish in the photo at the top of the page. Also the colour looks too light and I would have expected it to have been varnished…

O.K. I’m hard to please. After all this Is Thailand!

Image of Bamboo Mat 03 Close-Up

Close-Up Photo Of Bamboo Mat Wall Lining

Below, the first photo of some bamboo mat actually hanging as wall decor. I must say this does not really give the feel i wanted in the photo at the top of this page.

Quite clearly the finish is not so smooth, there are no dividing lines between the bamboo mat panels and the installation is not flat.

Image of Bamboo Mat 09 - Wall Matting Hanging

The Bamboo Mat Panel Hanging As Wall Matting

In the photo above, it’s clear that the Bamboo mat wall panels are not tall enough to cover from floor to beam level. I suppose some kind of infill panel will be added but that will look like an afterthought. Clearly the Bamboo mat panel size was not considered before hanging them.

Perhaps this is something the the Thai Architect should have done when producing the construction drawings for the Thai house.

Next another photo of the Bamboo mat wall panels as they are added to to form the Bamboo wall decor.

Image of Bamboo Mat 08 - Around The Window

Bamboo Mat Around The Window

In the photo above of the Bamboo mat installed around a window I notice that the window frame is not visible. No idea why and it should be visible to define the edge of the Bamboo mat wall panel.

Next, we are coming to a real big issue with me.  Not in this photo but in the next one (appears in the next post).

Image of Electrical Wiring 10 - Wiring Hidden Behaind The Bamboo Mat Wall Paneling

Electrical Wiring Hidden Behaind The Bamboo Mat Wall Paneling

In the photo above you can see that the electrical wiring (in yellow colour) is run through the wooden fram forming the support for the Bamboo mat panels.

That is OK. (Except that the Specification made by our Thai Architect calls for all wires to be run through conduit.) Note for the non-technical person. The phrase “conduit” refers to pipes that are used to carry electrical wires. (you’ll see plenty of those in the next post)

The Next Post Shows The Ugly Way They Have Done The Wiring – A Major Issue That I Had To Raise With Kanyah – And It Caused Quite An Upset

  • You’ll see the exact email and marked-up photo that I sent to Kanyah – and that caused such a stir on the job site in Pakchong.
  • You’ll read about the big technical mistake that I made when checking the Thai Architect’s drawings  - despite it being one of the things I am passionate about doing in my role as a professional engineer.
  • And I’ll fill you in on how the response from the Thais made my blood boil, and
  • Why I decided to cool down and let Kanyah just enjoy her moment.

Construction Cost Control When Building A Retirement House In Thailand

How I Attempt To Get Some Construction Cost Control Into Our Retirement House Build Project In Pakchong (Pak Chong), Thailand

Background – Change Of Contract Strategy Demands New Construction Cost Control Approach

We changed the format of the construction contract under which we engaged our new builder after Kanyah terminated the previous builder for poor quality work, tardiness and general poor quality of project management and delivery.

The previous construction contract was a fixed-price contract to build the retirement house in Pakchong (Pak Chong), Thailand, to the Thai Architect’s construction drawings (house plans to the layman) including provision of all labor and supply of all construction materials.

The total contract sum (price) was broken down into staged payments summing (adding up to) the contract value. we paid the builder these staged payments according to his progress. (Actually we paid him in advance which is why we lost so much money when his contract was terminated).

Anyway, the point is this. The project cost control in the construction phase was simple. We had a schedule of payments against progress which we monitored as we paid the builder. Simple.

After Kanyah kicked him off site, she engaged another builder on a fixed price labour-only basis, whereby Kanyah would purchase all the construction materials.

The Labor Content Of the New Contract Is easy To Monitor (But See “Specialist Subcontractors” Below)

This made project cost control in the construction a bit more complicated.

Firstly there is the labor cost, which is monitored in a similar manner to the contract with the previous builder – agreed staged payments measured against progress. As it happens the figure (price) Kanyah agreed with the new builder for the labour only contract was just about the same as the labour only portion left in the previous contract when the builder was terminated.

Secondly there is the materials cost. And Kanyah will be purchasing the materials. This is where I get nervous. Kanyah is not good at record keeping. And…

… We Want To Complete The Build Within The Original Budget (Fat Chance!)

The idea is that since we are now purchasing all the materials we will save the mark-up on materials that existed in the previous builder’s price. If that saving comes somewhere near the money we lost when Kanyah fired the previous builder then we can still complete the house within the original budget.

To achieve this we (we = I) have to closely monitor the amount spent on materials against the amount left in the previous cost.

Kanyah calls me almost daily and gives me a brief progress report and a verbal summary of what she has spent.

Then follows a plea for me to send her more money so that she can buy the materials for the next stage of the works and avoid holding up the builder. The builder has told her that if the materials re not on site when he wants them he will not wait around but will go off to work on another project.

So I intended to A) calculate how much was left in the previous budget to spend on materials and then B) to regularly monitor Kanyah’s spending against that figure.

My Request To Kanyah To Get The Construction Cost Under Control

As I mentioned above, Kanyah is not good at paperwork. (Understatement – she hates it). So I knew I had a job on my plate to persuade her to get together some form of organisation and reporting of the money she is spending. There is no way she can do it. The only way is if i can get her to send me all the receipts and i will organise them and produce the reports.

Look. When I simply ask for photos to be sent to me of the build progress she sometimes ‘hits the roof’ complaining to me that I am putting her under too much pressure and as she puts it ‘pushing her in a corner’.

So I know I am going to have a difficult time to get her to send me the financial data I need to monitor the building costs.

Anyway, I made an example (simply wrote it by hand in a notebook) of the kind of reporting format that I wanted and sent it out to Kanyah. you can see that below, together with a narrative of what happened next.

Are The Costs Of Specialist Subcontractors Included In The Main Builders Fixed Price Labour Cost?

The specialist subcontractor are subcontractor brought in by the main builder and it seems he does not hire them directly, instead Kanyah has to pay them. They are typically the electrical and plumbing specialists.

When Kanyah tells me she has paid a specialist sub contractor – she seems to pay them in lumps of 20,000 Baht (£400 or $600) – I’m not sure if that is in addition to the fixed price agreed with the main builder or it is included in his price.

Seems to me like the main builder has pulled a fast one and the subcontractors costs are in addition to the price Kanyah agreed with him. But I will put the question to Kanyah and hold judgement for the moment. I may be pleasantly surprised. (What do you think?)

The Email I Sent To Kanyah To Attempt To Get Some Form Of Cost Control In Our Retirement House Construction Project

Here is an exact copy of the email I sent to Kanyah to explain what I wanted her to do:-

*26* Control The Money

From: Alan Brown alan(at) via

To: Thongplay Brown <Kanyah’s>

Date: Wed, Jun 15, 2011 at 8:12 AM

Subject: *26* Control The Money



We have to control the money.

Last time with Pongsak we didn’t do that and we lost 355,000 Baht (about £7,000). I can’t afford to lose money like that.

Don’t forget why we are building the house – it’s to retire to. The 355,000 would have given us 30,000 Baht for a year income to spend when I have retired. Now I lost that and I’m sad and angry.

So in future we have to control the money.

The contract with Pongsak wa for 1,697,900 (say 1.7 million Baht) and I’m not spending more than that.

Every time you get a receipt I want you to put the date and a number on every receipt. Keep all the receipts together in a file.

Then, at the same time, write the details of the receipt in a notebook. You can the calculate how much you have left to spend.

Every two weeks work out how much money you have in the bank and cash and send to me:-

1. Copy of your Bank Book

2. How much cash you have in your pocket

3. The list of receipts.

Do this now, for all the receipts you have, then do it on the same day every two weeks.

Kanyah, you have to do this.

See attached.



The Three  Steps To Effective House Construction Cost Control

I considered the following steps necessary to be able to get some form of control over the costs of building our house.

(Remember that I am in the U.K. and Kanyah is in Pakchong (Pak Chong), Thailand, where the retirement house is under construction. Also, please bear in mind that Kanyah hates paperwork, writing and any form of book keeping.)

1. Find out how much money (cash) Kanyah has ready access to, to spend.

2. Find out what Kanyah has spent already on money and labor with the new builder.

3. Find out how much of our original budget is left to spend with the new builder.

And below are the exact attachments to the email – the way I wanted Kanyah to record and report the money she is spending and how I intended her to calculate the comparison with our original budget.

Image of Building Cost Control - Commencing Account Balance Statement

Building Cost Control - Commencing Account Balance Statement

Above, is the calculation to find out how much cash Kanyah has access to immediately. If I then know on a regular basis how much she is spending I will know when and by how much to top up her funds.

Next is the sample list of invoices showing how much Kanyah has spent to date with the new builder.

Image of Building Cost Control - Example of List of Invoices

Building Cost Control - Example of List of Invoices

Above, I had a struggle to get Kanyah to make this list.

On the phone to her I explained that she personally doesn’t have to do the work. I suggested that she give the invoices to one of the daughters of the owners of The Mansion (the apartment hotel where she is staying) and get the girl to do it for pocket money.

Also I told her that there is no need to translate the invoice list from Thai into English, I would have that done by a translation company over the internet. All the girl ahd to d was to write down the list of invoices bay neat handwriting, in the Thai language. Not to difficult I thought.

I could hear the relief from Kanyah when I made that suggestion. It fitted Kanyah’s outlook on life perfectly. Kanyah like to get others to do the difficult stuff for her. Not that she shies away from difficulties I need to add, but that there are certain things she hates doing and if someone else can do them for her then she’s OK with that.

Next comes the calculation to understand how much we have left from the original budget to spend to get the house finished taking into account what we paid both builders. This of course needs regular updating as Kanyah buys materails and pays for the labour. minus

At the time when I made this calculation, we had 359,500 left in the budget.

Image of Building Cost Control - Example of Two-Weekly Balance Sheet

Building Cost Control - Example of Two-Weekly Balance Sheet

Received, The Invoice List Essential To My Construction Cost Control Strategy

Below is the invoice list I received from Kanyah a couple of days later. She had done what I suggested and paid the girl in the hotel 400 Baht to make the list. It’s neatly typewritten in Thai and from the pencil tick marks it looks as though someone has checked it. There is also a handwritten total at the bottom of 169,078 Baht.

Image of Building Cost Control - Actual Invoice List From Thailand (Thai Language) Page 1

Actual Invoice List From Thailand (Thai Language) Page 1

Above page 1 of the invoice list and page 2 below.

Image of Building Cost Control - Actual Invoice List From Thailand (Thai Language) Page 2

Actual Invoice List From Thailand (Thai Language) Page 2

Above, notice the hand written Total of 169,078 Baht.

From the 359,500 left in the budget less the 169,078 Baht spent, there is 190,422 Baht left to spend without busting our original budget.

Kanyah included this invoice which she obtained after the list was completed by the girl:-

Image of Building Cost Control - Typical Invoice From Thailand (Thai Language)

Typical Invoice From Thailand (Thai Language)

Now it’s time to send off the invoice list to the tranlation company.

The Wooden Walls Of Our Retirement House Styled After A Traditional Wooden Thai Style House Are Nearly Complete

Here are the latest photos showing the current status of the house we are building in Pakchong (Pak Chong), Thailand, for us to retire to.

We went through a very bad experience with our original Thai builder, and Kanyah eventually terminated his contract, but all the signs are that this new Thai builder is doing a terrific job for us and the house build project is now progressing very quickly indeed. The new Thai builder is delivering the high quality of building that we want.

Here are the latest progress photos from the construction site at Pakchong (Pak Chong).

Image of Rear View Wood Walls Finished

View Of The House From The Road Side

Above you can see that the wooden walls on this side of the house are complete. Also the rendering is nearly complete. At last I can get an image of what the finished retirement  house will look like.

Below is a close-up of one of the bays of the house looking from the same side.

Image of Close Up View Of The House From The Road Side

Close Up View Of The House From The Road Side

Above, the wood wall complete for one of the bedrooms.  The wooden area is the wall to a double bedroom, the cement rendered bay to the right is the external wall to the twin bathrooms. (Actually one bathroom with bath for Kanyah and the other is a shower room for me.)

Next, is a view of the house from the front, or balcony side.

Image of Front View Wood Walls Not Finished

Front View Wood Walls Not Finished(Alan's comments)

Above there is not much progress with the wood walls, just the Living Room in the left hand bay is half finished.

Next a view of one of the end walls.

Image of Blue House Side View Wood Walls Finished

Blue House Side View Wood Walls Unfinished(Alan's comments)

Above is a photo taken of the end wall from the blue house neighbour’s side.

Quick Redesign Of The Stairs And Hope I’m Not Too Late

Now, changing the subject, from wooden walls to steel stairs, below is a photo of the steel for the stairs receiving a coat of paint.

Image of Steel Stairs Painting

Steel for the Stairs Being Painted

Quick Redesign Of The Stairs And Hope I’m Not Too Late

The above photo of the steel for the stairs jolted me into action.

Why? Because I didn’t like the design provided by our Architect and I had already agreed an alternative deign with the previous builder and made a sketch which is on the That Architect’s house plans drawings.

But I’m not sure how much Kanyah has told the new builder about the alternative design and what he is planning to build. So I need to knock out a drawing pronto and get it to the new builder before he starts cutting that steel!

I am suspecting that he is planning for the alternative design for two reasons.

First when I explaind this to Kanyah by phone today, she said that the new Thai builder always looked at the drawings with the changes we agreed with the previous builder.

Secondly, in the photo above I can see some steel angle iron. that kind of angle iron was not in the original Architect’s design but is in the alternative design.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I have spent the last day making the new stair design drawings in AutoCAD and have just emailed then to Kanyah.

Let’s look at the two designs and why I wanted to change the stair design.

Why I Changed The Design Of The Stairs For Our Retirement House in Thailand

First look at the computer-generated 3 D image of our house below. (This is a 3D computer generated image created by our Thai Architect in Bangkok)

Image of Retirement House Thai Architect's Design Rendering End View

Retirement House Thai Architect's Design Rendering End View

Above, notice the stairs at the left hand side of the picture? What is important (to me) is that there is a gap between the stair treads – you can see right through them.

In case you can’t make out what I am referring to here is an annotated version of the same picture:-

Image of Retirement House Thai Architect's Design Rendering End View Showing Ope Stair Treads

Retirement House Thai Architect's Design Rendering End View Showing Ope Stair Treads

Above, the Thai architect’s 3D rendering of the house shows open style stairs. This is in contrast with his construction drawings – an extract of which is seen below.

Image of Stair Detail From Thai Architect's House Plans Showing Closed Risers

Stair Detail From Thai Architect's House Plans Showing Closed Risers

Above, it’s probably not immediately obvious (and I must admit I didn’t realise this until well after I had signed the construction contract with the first builder) but this stair detail has closed risers.

In other words you can’t see through the steps. The stairs will look just like any normal stair that you see in a building, even in your own house.

But I wanted steps – with open treads that you can see through – not stairs.

The stairs, I thought would look much to heavy and out of place in our retirement house which is supposed to appear rustic and mimic the treadittional Thai house which would have open steps not closed stairs.

Those steps had to go so I came up with my own design for the stairs. Note that I kept the basic design by the original Thai architect, all I did was to change from closed treads to open treads.

Image of Packchong House Stairs

Packchong House New Stair Design

Click on the image to see a larger version (Opens in new window)

I have made these two drawings to show the open-tread stairs I want to have in our Pakchong (Pak Chong) retirement house.

I started with the original design for the stairs by our Thai Architect from Bangkok as shown on the construction drawings he produced for us. Then, using the AutoCAD program I changed the steel steps so that there would be gaps between the treads that you can see through.

I didn’t fundamentally change the steel part of the stairs (apart from the steps) and made no changes to the handrails. It still took me a full day to make the changes, though!

I sent the drawings off to Kanyah last night by email and hopefully they will arrive in time before the builder starts fabrication of the stairs using the previous design.

Image of Packchong House New Stair Design Steel Fabrication Only

Packchong House New Stair Design Steel Fabrication Only

Click on the image to see a larger version (Opens in new window)

The picture above shows just the steel part of the new stair design.

Underside Of The Floorboards Look Nice

I don’t normally go round commenting upon how nice the underside of floorboards look, and usually it doesn’t matter. But if you’re on the ground floor in this house then you have no choice but to see the floorboards above since they form the ceiling.

And I plan to spend a lot of time on the ground floor – busying myself away making model steam engines in my workshop.

But let’s start by looking at the underside of the balcony, where you can see the red bricks that have been used to fill in voids above the beams and that will be rendered smooth by cement.

Image of The Underside Of The Balcony Floorboards

View Of The Underside Of The Balcony Floorboards

Above, the red bricks have to be rendered, like the ones have in the photo below.

There Is No Insulation On The Floors In This House

Look at any of these pictures and the wood plank flooring is all that stands between the living areas, Bedrooms, Dining Area, kitchen and living Room and the outdoor air. There is no thermal insulation whatsoever and this would be unthinkable in A) a house in colder climates like, for example, the U.K. (England, Britain, Great Britain, or whatever you call it) where I live now, and B) a house in Thailand that is to be air conditioned.

Image of Under Floorboards Balcony

Another View Of The Underside Of The Balcony Floorboards

Above the nearest column where the wet cement is has had the red bricks covered by cement render.

In the picture below, which is taken in the workshop, the red bricks await the cement rendering treatment.

Image of Under Floorboards Workshop

View Of The Underside Of The Bedroom Floorboards

The next picture (below) shows the rendered red bricks in the workshop.

Image of Another Under Floorboards Workshop View

Another View Of The Underside Of The Bedroom Floorboards

Look Out For “Counting The Cost Of Building A Retirement House In Thailand” In The Next Post

The previous builder was on a fixed price contract to supply all labor and materials to build the house and we paid him in staged and fixed progress payments. Therefore keeping track of what we were spending on the house was quite simple – just keep a record of the payments made.

Enter The Labor Only Contract – Where We Buy The Materials

After we changed builders and type of contract to labor only, it fell on Kanyah to purchase all the materials. Now, Kanyah is doing a great job in Thailand, it’s her enthusiasm that has kept this project alive, but keeping track of where money is spent was never her strong point.

Spend it (money) she can. Account for it she can’t.

I am very nervous that I keep sending money out to Thailand and I have no idea where it goes. We have a budget for the house build project and we both want the project to be completed within budget, despite the losses we suffered when Kanyah sacked the previous builder.

Fortunately she does seem to get a receipt every time she buys something or pays anyone so I had the idea of getting Kanyah to list all the receipts with the receipt number and dtails annd sending that to me every two weeks.

I could put all this data into a spreadsheet and bingo, I could track the spend.

Check out the next Post to see how I got on…

make Money in Thailand Logo
Post Categories
Keep Updated
Join the Announcement List and receive an email when something interesting is added to the blog or website.


Ads by Google" class="art-rss-tag-icon" title="RSS">