Posts Tagged ‘Construction Drawings’

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.

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.

Thai Retirement House Construction Leaps Ahead Again With New Thai Builder

House Build Starts Again In Earnest Under New Builder – A Report From A Happy Project Manager

Kanyah just phoned me from Pakchong (Pak Chong) in Thailand where she is now supervising the new Thai builder as the construction work on our retirement house starts up again. She is now the Project Manager and the Procurement Manager for the house build project.

On the ‘phone, Kanyah was laughing and sounded very happy as she told me that she was delighted with the new builder and that his work was 20 times better than the previous builder.

Purchasing Materials For The House Construction In The Pakchong (Pak Chong) Area

There are four labourers on the site and Kanyah is very busy purchasing the construction materials.

These are some of the house construction materials she has purchased or taken delivery of today:-

Nails, Teak wooden door for my workshop, two large wooden doors for the second floor, red bricks for the bathroom walls.

She buys most of the materials from the large industrial outlets that lie on the Mittraphap Road in Pak Chong in the direction of Bangkok. There is also a Home Pro warehouse in Pakchong, but it’s more aligned to providing house fit-out materials and fittings such as lights and sanitary ware, rather than heavy building materials.

Kanyah hasn’t sent me any photographs yet so I can’t post any details of the materials she has purchased nor of the construction works on the website just yet. I was puzzled when she said that she had bought two large doors for the second floor. The main doors are supposed to be folding doors, as specified by myself and detailed on the Thai Architect’s construction drawings. I don’t have any idea if Kanyah is looking at the house plans or not as the new builder progresses the construction works. It seems that the builder tells her what to buy, so I hope that he is looking at the drawings and not making changes to the design and specification like the previous Thai builder did.

It is very worrying that I don’t know what she is doing out there in Thailand on the building site in Pakchong. (Pak Chong)

Taking Control Of The Costs Of Building The House

Kanyah did say that she had read my last two emails, one of them being the the email I posted on the last post “Thai Retirement House Build Project Starts to Get Finished Under A New Thai Builderabout several issues and the construction program. She just told me “don’t worry” and I have no way to know what action she is taking from the emails.

She asked me to send her 100,000 Baht because she is spending so much on materials. She has already paid the new Thai builder the first 10,000 Baht progress payment.

The other email I sent to Kanyah a few days ago was to explain to her that we had to get control of the money we were spending on the house build and I gave her some examples of how she should be recording the costs by making a list of all expenditures I also asked her to send the list of invoices to me every two weeks. She didn’t mention that she would do that and as soon as she told me what she wanted to she closed the call, as usual.

Progress With The Construction On The Building Site

On the construction side she tells me that the red brick walls to the bathroom built by the previous Thai builder have been knocked down (the new Thai builder told her that he couldn’t work with the rubbish bricklaying left by the previous builder) and a new wall is half built already. No photos to show that, unfortunately.

Also, she says that he columns are painted already. Whether she means ‘painted with cement’ i.e. rendered or painted with paint (which should only be done after the cement rendering is complete) I don’t know.

Are We Getting Back On Track to Retiring In Thailand In Our Own Retirement House In Pakchong (Pak Chong)?

However, on a good note, after all the problems we have had with our previous builder it seems that our dream of retiring to Thailand in our own house has started to come true once again.

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.

Another quick and brief update on Kanyah’s progress on finding builders to construct our house in Pakchong, Thailand.

It certainly pays to ask around! Kanyah has now handed over sets of Construction Drawings to five builders and has a meeting arranged with a fith next Thursday. This last builder was introduced to her by a sales representative at Boonchai Construction Company 1992 whom she met when she went to their shop to get prices for building materials.

The kind gentleman at Boonchai Construction also gave her a list of websites from where we could select certain materials:-

Roofing Materials : Real ceramic roof tile at
  : CPAC Monier roof tile at
  : All roof tiles at
Sanitary Ware : COTTO Brand at
  : TOTO Brand at
Paving Block : Paving Block at
Paint : Jotun Brand at

Making And Using Bills of Quantity (BOQ)

I have commissioned our Architect the Kensington Company to produce a set of Bills of Quantity for the house based on the final construction drawings. This will help us to check and monitor costs and quotations from builders, to obtain quotations for the materails and qwill also help the builders and suppliers to prepare quotations for us.

Also, all the builders and suppliers will be quoting on a like-for-like basis and will not have to make their own BOQ saving them time and money.

The other big advantage of having a BOQ is that if the total price for the build as quoted by the builders is outside aour budget it will be a simple and quick matter to make changes to the materials to reduce the cost. One simple example would be to change from the special ventilated Ceris roof tile to a sheet material. Not want we want but something like that could make a big price difference.

I am aware that some people say not to give your BOQ to builders. There are several posts by visitors to the website on New House Plans And Building A House in Thailand.

More Information on BOQs:

Finding Builders in Thailand To Build Our Retirement House In Pakchong

A Thai Builders Cost Estimate For Constructing Our Thai Retirement House

Registered Building Companies Aren’t Interested In Small Projects

In another post I mentioned the problems Kanyah was having finding a building company who was big enough to do the purchase of the materials as well as the installation works. Kanyah phoned me again today (12 October 2010) and repeated her story. In fact it’s pretty much the same story that I reported on the Finding Builders In Pakchong, Thailand page.

All the people (Builders, Suppliers) tell her that any properly registered building company is only interested in doing the multi-million Baht development projects. ( 10-100 million Baht). None of these big companies are interested in our tiny little project and the builders who may be interested in building our house don’t have the capital to do the materials procurement.

So it seems that we are stuck with the Labor Only builder and we have to buy the materials.

And that brings me back to BOQ again. Kanyah just went to a large wood-yard to get quotations for all the wood in our house. Floor and walls are wood.

They asked her for the quantities required and said that they were too busy to measure from the construction drawings and would only deal with a builder when the builder has the quantities.

So, BOQ to the rescue again. When we receive the BOQ from Kensington, Kanyah will go back to the wood-yard again and get a quotation.

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