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  1. #1
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    sabang's Avatar
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    Building a house in Isaan, for Dummies.

    I'm well qualified to write this guide because when it comes to construction, I'm a Dummy. I also speak next to no Thai, and have the healthy mistrust of Isaan standards of craftmanship and forthrightness that only a resident expat can have. My sole qualifications to embark on this project were a Thai wife, whom I trust, and a certain knowledge of how business should be done- combined with a healthy cynicism as above, and a functioning 'Bullshit meter'.

    The mandate- put up a decent but basic bungalow in a village about 30 km outside of Ubon Ratchathani, to serve as both my mother in laws residence, and our upcountry retreat (the house is in my wifes name). The original budget- 800K baht, plus sundries. The end result- it cost 900K, plus sundries. Say a million baht- but the end product surpassed my expectations, and was in fact completed not on schedule, but three weeks early.



    There it stands- 2 bedroom (actually adjusted from a 3 BR plan that I stole- more on that later), two bathrooms, a Thai and western kitchen. More photoes to follow of course, but lets start at the beginning.

    Any feedback welcome- fair price, did I pay too much, did I get a good deal?
    I'm a Dummy, remember.
    probes Aliens

  2. #2
    Member HINO's Avatar
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    Ok Sabang you wet our appetite for more.

    The first picture is a nice view but lets see something closer.

    How about the basic floor plan and what quality you believe you got on say a scale of 1 to 5 and 5 being the best money can buy.

    Give me "input", I need more "input"

    Nice start

    hino


    If you take the time to do the job right the first time you won't need to "find" the time to go back a second time

    HINO

  3. #3
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    Butterfly's Avatar
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    yeah need more pics to evaluate. Was it 1m with the land ? or without the land ? either way, seems quite good and cheap, and good enough for the MiL I would say

  4. #4
    Thailand Expat JoGeAr's Avatar
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    Nice-looking house from the single photo posted to date. Look forward to many more.

  5. #5
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    As long as you didn't let CMN chose the colour scheme it should be OK

  6. #6
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    Pt. 1- Finding a Builder

    Finding a builder we could remotely trust was probably the most stressful, and demanding, aspect of this whole project. You know how it goes- if you ask for an answer whether they can competently do something, the answer is invariably 'Yes, up to you', and the reality all too often the opposite. Combined with this, you had MIL's proclivity to favour local 'Builders' to do all the work. Early investigations were not promising- of course, local village monkeys could do anything for you, whether you wanted the Sydney Opera House, Versailles or a Bamboo shack. Yeh, right.

    I decided a two pronged strategy, quite early-
    1- Keep the Falang involvement hidden as far as possible (of course in the local Village, the secret was already out).
    2- Give the potential Builders firm plans from which to quote. Uncertainty is not rewarded in this country, even less so in Isaan.

    Suitable plans were found by a combination of intellectual theft and cruising the internet. Found a decent looking set of plans from a Builder/Developers website, with the added bonus that it was in Thai. A few adjustments were made to suit ourselves- 2 bedrooms, not three- so more living space, two bathrooms, and a patio area at the rear of the house expanded and enclosed to serve as a Thai kitchen, laundry and general storage area. I was quite obsessive about specifying things in detail, down to light switches, plumbing and western toilets. No doubt I was a pain in the arse- but thats what falangs are for.

    In the end, five companies were invited to look at the job and quote- two local village 'Builders' (whom MIL favoured), two Ubon based builder/developers (who I fancied) and a Khon Kaen based oufit, who a Thai friend of Mrs knew and recommended.

    Builder 1, Ubon based, sizable company- Mrs visited their showroom, quite impressed. Asked them for a quote. When told where the house was to be built (all of 35km away) they responded 'not interested'. End of story.

    Builder 2, Local Village. He was given the plans & said he would need to take them to a draughtsman/architect/cost estimator to produce an accurate quote. I was quietly impressed. He came back a few days later with a price of 3.4mm bht. Sounded way over the top to me- and theres no way I was going to pay that for an Isaan house anyway. When told it was totally over the budget, he came back with a price of 2.5mm Bht.

    Builder 3, Local Village. Quoted 350K Labour cost, plus we pay for all material costs. When asked what the material costs would be, he didn't know, but said they were 'usually' about twice the labour cost. Six month time frame to build. MIL was quite keen on this one, I was not. Uncertainty is not in my vocabulary, and I have heard too many falang nightmares based on granting contracts this way- always way over budget in the end it seems.

    Builder 4- Referral, from Khon Kaen. Husband and Wife team (she Office and Marketing, he the Builder), with their own full time workforce. Would they do the job, being from KK? No ploblem. Get to work on the quote then. They came back with an 800K quote (ended up 900K when we added some of our stuff), and a three month construction time. And they sounded sharp- they even gave some value added proposals, e.g we changed our roofing material at their suggestion. I was suitably impressed, but still a bit dubious about getting a smallish KK based outfit to do the job in an Ubon village.

    Builder 5- Ubon based, medium sized. Last ditch effort to find a local crew that was competitive. Shown the plans, and asked what the budget was. Told 900k- 1mm by Mrs. They said the best price they could do it for would be 1.5- 2mm, so not interested. I think they're too well fed in Ubon Ratchathani.

    So Builder 4 got the job, not without trepidation on our part. MIL wanted builder 3.

    The Contract (Oh yes, there had to be a written contract, and a payment schedule based on progress made, not time on the job. Who do you think you're dealing with here?) :-

    1- 200k bht on signing of Contract [10/3/08] Work was commenced the next day.

    2- + 200K when Earthworks, foundations and structural poles completed [25/3/08]. I was actually concerned at the speed of this, so sent Mrs up for a look see (falang involvement still kept quiet)



    Looked OK I guess- a fair bit of earth was brought in to raise the place by about 3 feet, I doubt we'll have to worry about flooding. So far so good- I have to say the indirect feedback i was receiving from these people quite impressed me, and even MIL was beginning to think we'd made the right choice.

    3- +200K when roof structure complete. [after another fortnight, jeez they were quick]

    4- +200K When walls & roof on, & exterior painted. [12 days later]

    5- Last 100k When job done & glitches sorted out to our satisfaction. [11/5/08 as it turned out]

    So from contract to completion was two months, almost to the day. Took me by surprise actually. More piccies to follow, Bloopers where they occurred, and some sundry stuff.

    Of course you don't need to spend 900K on a place in Isaan.



    The building crew were quite appreciative actually that we gave them this place to stay in, just across the Track. Ours is a little family hamlet, about 3km from the local village, and this place is just used for storage these days. Thats the Builders truck.
    Last edited by sabang; 26-05-2008 at 09:52 AM.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Butterfly
    Was it 1m with the land ? or without the land ?
    Without the land BF- although I reckon the cost of the earthworks would about match the price of this land anyway.

    Quote Originally Posted by HINO
    Give me "input", I need more "input"
    More input to follow, but remember I'm a Dummy.





    Quote Originally Posted by NickA
    As long as you didn't let CMN chose the colour scheme it should be OK

  8. #8
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    Heres a few photoes at stage 4 on the payment schedule. The builders had asked for their money a bit early (I subsequently heard). Mrs sabang, bless her, said No. The veneer was off now- I was up there on a visit, the Falang involvement was out in the open. Would problems arise? I'm pleased to say, no- incidentally, they said they had built houses for falangs before, and 'falang quality' was one of their catchphrases.



    Rear view, with our 'Isaan porch' starting to take shape-



    The interior was a bit of a mess as you'd expect, but I noticed it was somewhat bigger than I had visualised. Could easily have gone for the third bedroom really. That kitchen island you see in front is one of the things we elected to add on, and pay a bit more for- well glad we did.



    Starting to look like a House now, innit? We snapped this shot shortly before we departed- and sent them their 200k money same day (only 100K left to pay). That rain you see in the background lasted for two days incidentally- and the house didn't leak, family sources assured us. Mild optimism was setting in, on my part.


  9. #9
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    Bloopers

    No story is complete without it's Bloopers, and there were a few :-

    1/ WATER- The Hamlet uses Well water, 'No ploblem' I was assured. Three holes were sunk, no water was produced by the Diviners- and they gave up. This was at Stage One of the Build- foundations and poles. I threatened to pull the plug on the whole project at this point, not amused (I can be a right grumpy SOB). Turns out we got piped water OK- appallingly muddy after rain though. Thats OK- I had designed a seperate rainwater system (we paid for guttering, the builders installed it) as part of the 'add ons'. MIL paid for the water connection, which wasn't a lot.

    2/ CARPORT- hopelessly inadequate size, and I had repeatedly pressed Mrs to ensure this was not the case. Not the builders fault though- they worked truly off our Plans. I'll prolly put up a decent carport at some stage. Frankly, the builders showed more common sense than my wife- who's progress visits to the site I came to consider wasted money.

    3/ Isaan porch padlock was on the outside, not the inside. Pretty dumb, but easily solved for a couple of hundred bht- we added one on the inside of the door.

    4/ Window sealing- some of the glass was inadequately glued to the wooden panes by silicon sealant- it was loose. I should have picked this up, but missed it. Easily solved- we hired a guy to put in flyscreens around the place, part of the deal being that he ensure all the windows were well firm- extra cost to us 500 bht for the silicon sealant. No big problem- and in fairness, that is one of the few jobs the Builder subcontracted to a local.

    5/ Bathroom two- the original design of the sink cabinet meant the door couldn't open! Easily solved- narrower cabinet, different sink. The Builder picked this up actually, and it cost us no extra.

    6/ Front door glass- showing the exquisite taste and foresight for which Isaan folk are renowned, our nice double fronted doors were surrounded with clear glass, not translucent- and then a curtain and railing paid for to cover it all! Once again, not the Builders fault- specified by Mrs. Waste of money and bad design- especially now that the Fly screen security door has been fitted. I wish the builder had pointed out the folly of this to Mrs sabang, Oh Well.


    So no real Biggies, I'm relieved to say.

    Down this track is the main road to Ubon, about 3km. Theres a village on the way.



    Same track, opposite direction- we are on a bend in the track. Our local village is about three kilometers down here (it's our local because theres family there, and thats where Mrs and MIL were born).



    These photoes were taken from the same vantage as the shot of the newly completed house in post #1 above. Bangkok this is not.
    Last edited by sabang; 26-05-2008 at 11:20 AM.

  10. #10
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    Damn, my internet connection is slow at the moment. I'm off to the shop for a couple of beers, will wrap up later. Some phot's of the newly completed house, a shot of a local falang 'mansion' being built (for a price), and of the local haunted, abandoned house that I'm thinking of buying. Plus the extras we paid for, to end up with a basically furnished place for around 1mm.

  11. #11
    Cacoethes scribendi
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    Nice looking place sabang. It seems to be good value for the money and a safe distance from the pollution of big city life. I would love to see more pictures, if you have any, and good luck with the garden.

  12. #12
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    The place looks beautiful....

  13. #13
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    Looks just like what I'm saving for ... I'd have thought something like that would cost heaps more

  14. #14
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    Falang mansion and haunted house

    This place is going to be quite something. He's having not just this huge pile built, but a 12m swimming pool, and a biggish fishing pond in the back yard (with an island and sala in the middle, a bridge leading to). Cost so far, 5.7mm Bht and counting- easy to scoff, but the guys from London. You can pay more than that for a carpark there.



    It's running late, the story is he hired an Ubon firm to do the work- but they just contracted everything to local village people, and they turn up every now and again to see how it's going. We walked around the site (family connections) - it's big. Fair play to him- realise your dream, for less than a tenement in London. Methinks, once immersed in Isaan, he'll be wondering why he made it so big. No matter- he Could. It's about 4km from our humble joint, and locally renowned. The view-



    I like ours better, but rice paddies are cool too. Word is, once his Palazzio is complete, he's putting up another place for his MIL next door.


    Our Family Hamlet was once adulterated by foreign blood. Tragedy is part of village life, and one person that lived there died in hospital, the wife of that person died there in the house soon afterwards. The ultimate owner will not go there anymore, nobody wants to know the place because it is cursed or haunted. My wifes cousin farms the attached land (15 rai) on a deal with the owner. The owner is willing to sell for 600K, my wifes family describes him as a greedy old man. One to keep an eye on- I wouldn't mind securing family control of the Hamlet and surrounds (including some virgin forest). No one else will buy- maybe 450K might be the go, and the haunted house has some charm really.






    Theres quite a nice lake nearby too. Some chancer (prolly Chinese) has put the lakeside land up for sale at 300k per rai. Obviously, no takers. Still, what does he care? Next life, next generation, there will be takers.




  15. #15
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    Payment 2 was too early and payment 4 was probably really needed at that stage, apart from that it looks good

  16. #16
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    I have really enjoyed the building progress thus far.

    However, I have a few questions. What about the septic tank and the electrical wires coming into the home?

  17. #17
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    A development in Knightsbride recently sold parking spaces under ground for 250,000 each, they all sold very quickly!

  18. #18
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    So heres the newly completed Joint then. I'll start with my favourite photo. Here's an extremely proud and happy MIL in her Isaan Porch. This is a woman who laboured all her life to ensure her children received the best she could give them, and who also took care of the rest of the family in Ubon on what she could send back from Bangkok on her measly wages. There is no more deserving Happiness- this woman Humbles me.



    There was a nice washing machine there when we left.

    Might just enter us in the Chelsea flower show.



    Kinda ugly from the back, but functional. Nice big water tank- one of our extras.





    Well big inside, but who's complaining.







    Bedroom 2, small but adequate. Fitted robes too.



    Bathroom 2, the one that had to be 'adjusted' so the door would open. It's OK.



    Decent cabinetry really- in some ways better then our place here, which cost a whole lot more. Ouch.



    And that oh so mundane, yet useful, storage room. One of the things that attracted me to this design in the first place.


  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by sabang
    Here's an extremely proud and happy MIL in her Isaan Porch.
    Great one, just great. Well done.

  20. #20
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    Think i'll get a cage built for my MiL too

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by hillbilly
    However, I have a few questions. What about the septic tank and the electrical wires coming into the home?
    Septic tank is fed by the two toilets (both adjacent, simple). Shower & sink water goes into an adjacent holding tank, then overflows into the forest (it's ours anyway). Dish water just goes straight into the ground. They'd never get away with this in the West.

    Electricity was quite easy- the line to the Village goes past the house. It works, it's prolly shite, ignorance is bliss.

  22. #22
    Thailand Expat davearn's Avatar
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    Great stuff Sabang. Living the dream, mate.

  23. #23
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    HB's query got me thinking of one more thing- yes, the house is earthed. Or so I am told, but don't expect me to fly a kite from there during a lightning storm.

    There is a difference between the original 800K quote, and the 900k we finally agreed upon that should be explained-

    Better tiles, floors, patio & bathrooms (the original patio tiles were quadraplegia guaranteed)
    Hot water heater for showers
    bigger water tank
    Isaan patio/ Thai kitchen & laundry (14.5K)
    Western kitchen island
    back of house guttering, for rainwater capture
    Better toilets
    better sinks
    Mirror sliding doors on bedroom BIR's
    Roof insulation (31K)
    Roof fans in the L shaped living area

  24. #24
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    Great thread, Great looking house. There was a house built around the corner from me of a similar size for 1.5m looks like a good price for yours.

  25. #25
    Member jaiyenyen's Avatar
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    Great looking house, for a bargain price I reckon, well done.
    I love the photo of your MIL, she must feel very proud. One thing I would like to know, do you stand outside the cage and throw peanuts at her? lol.

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