BUILDING IN KHUKAN/SISAKET

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Re: BUILDING IN KHUKAN/SISAKET

Postby sidney » Fri Dec 14, 2012 9:38 am

Wow, finally some connection to the real world again after moving to Khukhan from Sisaket last Sunday. From that day things moved quickly, because we signed the building contract late Sunday evening after a lot of deliberations. And yes, after that all the typical Thai shenanigans started to work. On Sunday the builder was very reluctant to sign our contract, because he said that Thais have their own (non-descriptive) contracts. Anyway, to cut things short, finally he realised that not signing our contract there was to be no build for him. He even didn't bother to take his own copy with him.

The ink wasn't even dry yet, when he tried his salesmen’s skills to let him do the roof, windows and doors. I declined.
Although the signed contract stipulates that payments would be made only after finishing each stage of the work, he asked me to make an initial payment of 30,000 baht for arranging the rent of all kinds of stuff, such as formwork and electrical tools. I felt that got us off with a bad start and probably a sign of worse things to come. I already regretted signing the contract and the thought of tearing up the contract crossed my mind repeatedly. In the end I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt for the time being. We settled for paying 15,000 baht only and had it written in the contract (for deduction later on).

Monday started off with the ceremony for the spirits after which the building crew, consisting of mainly old (hopefully experienced) men, started work. Decided to leave them without interference all day. They started with setting out the stringlines at around 10.00 hours. At the end of the day I decided to have a look at the progress they had made so far. It appeared that they had quite a bit of trouble getting the distances right during the setting of the stringlines. When they returned home I had a better look. It turned out that things did not square up, talked about this with my wife and the need to discuss it with the builder first thing on Tuesday morning, before they started doing anything else. Better nip the problem in the bud than have problems later. It appeared they had also moved the location of the first post which was to be the reference point for all the others as stipulated by the clairvoyant. My wife was quite miffed about that. Until then she had kept herself in the background and was reluctant to take a more active role, but now she seemed a bit worried about developments. In other words, the battle lines have been drawn.

First discussed the incorrectness of the setting of the stringlines on Tuesday and let them measure everything again. My wife told the builder in no uncertain terms that moving the first post was unacceptable to her.

When measuring was finished it still did not square up, so I did it myself 3 times before we got it finally right. When the digging began the builder suggested that the depth of the footings as shown in the design was not necessary. I explained to him I expected him to work only according to the specs of the plan and nothing else and as stipulated in the contract (am I glad I insisted to have our contract signed, so he can't get away with anything). I heard the workers mumbling in Khmer, because it meant they would have to dig 19 one metre deep holes by hand.

At around 14.00 hours the rebar and plastic (vapour barrier) arrived from Ubon Ratchathani that my wife had ordered late Monday. I was quite happy that the steel had no signs of rust at all and that the delivery of each item was correct in numbers and quality as ordered.

At the end of the day the building crew was about to leave without having covered the steel with plastic to avoid it getting wet through condensation. It got done only after my wife insisted it be done before leaving.

In the evening I went over the plan again. Because the posts get different sizes of rebar it would be necessary to number them like Roger Ramjet did, otherwise they most likely would screw it up.

Discussed things with my wife and told her I was very unhappy with developments so far, because I feel the builder wants to do things his way, instead of doing things according to plan as discussed before signing the contract. Besides I feel being railroaded and rushed into (doing) things I do not want and that the builder is savvier to do a salesperson’s job rather than anything else.
Also that I do not like the builder to discuss things at the end of the day, such as ordering stuff in a hurry. I expect him to do that first thing in the morning. As things stand now it is as if the work and having to make decisions too quickly is taking us over without us being able to make proper judgements to make the right decisions. And that I will make a decision Wednesday whether or not to have the start of the real work delayed by a week.

On Wednesday we bought some petrol (I thought for the machine to spray paint the rebar). At home it turned out that the builder mixed the petrol with the red oxide primer. I told him I didn't want it that way, because the oil would attach to the rebar with the result that it may not settle properly in the concrete (I wasn't sure about that, but in my memory I thought to have read it on this forum). I did not tell him about the fumes, (perhaps the minor) ecological impact, the mess it would leave on the ground and the fumes, while our little daughter is around all the time. He and his workers were not happy about it. I suggested buying a PVC or iron holder to put the primer and rebar in to get the lot primed.

I also discovered that all the nails had gone (2 boxes). In the evening I had a chat with some workers about politics and the economy in Holland, Europe and Thailand in general. I was careful to be diplomatic about former (booted out) prime minister Thaksin avoiding to touch some raw nerves here where he's very popular. I did say that he did good things like the 30 baht health scheme, 1 million baht per village borrowing scheme, OTOP and that he got things done unlike Thailand had seen before.

In the evening we had some friendly banter with some of the local workers of the site during a beer drinking session. They were impressed by the (theoretical) strength of the build and on my insistence of certain procedures. Before that in the afternoon the workers on site challenged me to do some digging (the ground was hard like rock and difficult to dig out by hand), so I did for about 15 minutes to show them that I didn't mind to do the same work or get dirty hands they did.

I also discovered that the Khmer words for buffalo and cow were almost the same in pronunciation as in Dutch (koe and karbouw: koe and karbai). We had a good laugh about it.

Checked the dug holes (for size) on Thursday morning before arrival of the crew. The ones I checked were generally too small considering the size of the specs of the footings including the use of breeze blocks for forms. In the afternoon I had some friendly banter with the builder and the workers about the struggle for life for the average Thai and had some fun together about other things. This broke the ice after the initial problems. My mood was also getting back to normal. So I hope that this will clear up the air a bit if there was some resentment, because of the last few days.

At the moment I'm very happy, because I am connected with internet again through AIS aircard (even though it's very, very and annoyingly slow).

This way I can at least get information from this website and ask questions again. I think I may have someone else come in to get the plumbing done, because I doubt that after the trouble with setting out the stringlines they would get that right either. For me every day so far has been long (up 5 a.m.-23.00 hours). Hope to attach photographs later.
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Re: BUILDING IN KHUKAN/SISAKET

Postby Roger Ramjet » Fri Dec 14, 2012 1:17 pm

Sidney,
Congratulations at breaking ground.
Come on, where are the photos? You know we love photos. Or is this going to be like a silent movie, but without the movie? Rather more like a "thriller" so far, me thinks.
Congratulations, you certainly have read a few builds and know all the loopholes that are used by Thai builders and it appears you're off to a normal start where the builder and his workers will try and do the whole thing their way.
You'll also find by writing a lot and putting your thoughts on paper, it relieves the pressure of the day and "gives them" to the members of the forum like a pressure cooker valve and it appears you're going to need a lot of stress relief.
Now just wait until you aren't there!
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Re: BUILDING IN KHUKAN/SISAKET

Postby sidney » Fri Dec 14, 2012 4:16 pm

Thanks Roger. But the pressure valve is quite closed at this very moment (steam is coming out of my ears) when the internet connection is very slow and doesn't want to connect most of the day, even though you have shelled out a fair amount of money for a stupid AIS-stick.

I feel like living in the boonies right now, apart from having given up on the relatively luxury surroundings in Sisaket. Here it's back to basics. Which means that I also can't attach photographs. At the moment I desperately try to get information about what to do about the footings. The builder and I disagree about the proper steps/procedure, especially since we agreed to do everything according to the plan's specs. So he got me cornered and being smug about it here, because my plan's specs of course don't mention/cover any of the following.

From memory I thought the PVC plastic goes in the hole first, then the sand, gravel and 5 cm of concrete (according to Maseratimartin) on which the rebar cage of the footing will rest (with or without rebarchairs) and finally topping it off with another layer of 20 cm concrete? The rebar cages are 15 cm high and would be covered at the top with 5 cm of concrete only which I thought too little. If there would be no layer of concrete under the rebarcages I doubt whether the footings would hold properly, me thinks.

SO, IF ANYONE CAN GIVE A DEFINITE QUICK ANSWER TO THIS QUESTION THE VALVE WOULD AT LEAST PARTLY COME OFF TO RELEASE SOME PRESSURE!!

And Roger, don't worry. As soon as I can sort out the internet connection problems I'll attach some photographs about the progress.
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Re: BUILDING IN KHUKAN/SISAKET

Postby Roger Ramjet » Fri Dec 14, 2012 4:33 pm

Sidney,
There are two ways of doing it, you can put the plastic down first or you can put the plastic over the gravel and sand base. Either way it stops the water in the concrete from being absorbed into the surrounding ground and weakening the mixture. The gravel (first base) and the sand (second base) should be compacted before the base concrete is poured. This should be allowed to settle for 24 hours before the breeze blocks are lade at the sides and the rebar cages added. As long as the rebar cages are covered by 10cm you should have no problems.
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Re: BUILDING IN KHUKAN/SISAKET

Postby sidney » Fri Dec 14, 2012 4:40 pm

Forgot to mention that one page of the plan showed 19 posts, whereas another page showed a total of 20 posts. Or so I thought. The plan also showed that 3 of the posts takes different size rebar than the rest. So we phoned the person who had drawn the plans. It turned out that all the posts take the same rebar size and that the other page showed the rebar for the beams. Glad we did find this out on time, otherwise a bit of rebar would have been wasted by incorrect cutting.

Roger Ramjet wrote:
You'll also find by writing a lot and putting your thoughts on paper, it relieves the pressure of the day


Indeed I found keeping a diary of things happening during the day to relieve some pressure. But also conversations with the workers helps a lot with this I found.
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Re: BUILDING IN KHUKAN/SISAKET

Postby sidney » Fri Dec 14, 2012 4:51 pm

Roger Ramjet wrote:
Sidney,
There are two ways of doing it, you can put the plastic down first or you can put the plastic over the gravel and sand base. Either way it stops the water in the concrete from being absorbed into the surrounding ground and weakening the mixture. The gravel (first base) and the sand (second base) should be compacted before the base concrete is poured. This should be allowed to settle for 24 hours before the breeze blocks are lade at the sides and the rebar cages added. As long as the rebar cages are covered by 10cm you should have no problems


Thanks for your quick answer Roger. With base concrete you probably mean 5 cm? And there is some confusion about the meaning of rebar cage. I gather you mean the cage that goes in the concrete of the footing and not the rebar cage of the posts? The plan shows 10 cm of sand as first base, 10 cm of gravel as second base and 20 cm of concrete with the footing's rebar cage closed in by concrete.
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Re: BUILDING IN KHUKAN/SISAKET

Postby Mike Judd » Fri Dec 14, 2012 5:21 pm

You are doing what is the most important thing when building a house in Thailand. Being there when the work is being carried out. Then you can either stop them when something is being done wrong or not to your requirements, or at least before it gets too expansive to correct.
With rebar it's not usual to paint it ,slight surface rust is not a problem, it helps the concrete grip the steel when it's in tension. That's why the best rebar is deformed ,not plain round. Also why in the beam steel the ends are bent over for extra resistance to slipping. Just remember that concrete is very strong in compression, but weak on it's own in tension,hence that's where the steel is best placed. A well designed beam or column will only have a max of 25m.m. cover of concrete where the tension is.
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Re: BUILDING IN KHUKAN/SISAKET

Postby Roger Ramjet » Fri Dec 14, 2012 5:52 pm

Sidney,
There are two stages in pouring pad footings that do not sit on piles. After the hole is dug you can add the plastic so that it covers the bottom and sides of the hole or you can place in the fill gravel and then the sand and then add the plastic; either way is acceptable as long as both are compacted in stages. Your 5cm of concrete that sits on top really doesn't do much at all, it's just there to give a firm base to build up on. In fact it can be dispensed with if you are going to place the plastic above the gravel and sand. Just make sure all the rebar is going to be covered with at least 10cm or 4" of concrete.
The retaining breeze blocks are there to do the same thing as the plastic, stop the concrete from seeping into the ground during curing and to keep the pad footing uniform, nothing more, nothing less. They are normally left after the concrete cures or they can be removed, if they are used at all.
Does this answer your question?
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Re: BUILDING IN KHUKAN/SISAKET

Postby sidney » Fri Dec 14, 2012 6:16 pm

Mike Judd wrote:
That's why the best rebar is deformed ,not plain round. Also why in the beam steel the ends are bent over for extra resistance to slipping. Just remember that concrete is very strong in compression, but weak on it's own in tension,hence that's where the steel is best placed. A well designed beam or column will only have a max of 25m.m. cover of concrete where the tension is.


and Roger Ramjet:
Sidney,
There are two stages in pouring pad footings that do not sit on piles. After the hole is dug you can add the plastic so that it covers the bottom and sides of the hole or you can place in the fill gravel and then the sand and then add the plastic; either way is acceptable as long as both are compacted in stages. Your 5cm of concrete that sits on top really doesn't do much at all, it's just there to give a firm base to build up on. In fact it can be dispensed with if you are going to place the plastic above the gravel and sand. Just make sure all the rebar is going to be covered with at least 10cm or 4" of concrete.
The retaining breeze blocks are there to do the same thing as the plastic, stop the concrete from seeping into the ground during curing and to keep the pad footing uniform, nothing more, nothing less. They are normally left after the concrete cures or they can be removed, if they are used at all.
Does this answer your question?


Thanks Mike and Roger. This has cleared up the air/confusion.

Right now, the builder used his sales skills and/or offensive charms again. He wants to buy a new rebar cutter, because his is supposedly no good anymore and asked me to shell out the money. Never mind it has worked and still is working well. I didn't commit myself and want to discuss it with my wife first, because all the things needed would be supplied by him. Up to that point the day had passed relatively easy. I now feel I may have been a bit too friendly with my conversations with all of them, them now trying to push me over. I'm prepared to dig in my heels in if needed however, because I worry that he may be trying to wind me around his finger.
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Re: BUILDING IN KHUKAN/SISAKET

Postby Roger Ramjet » Fri Dec 14, 2012 8:54 pm

Sidney,
sidney wrote:He wants to buy a new rebar cutter, because his is supposedly no good anymore and asked me to shell out the money. Never mind it has worked and still is working well.

Is he using a real rebar cutter or is he using a cutting wheel? I bought a new rebar cutter and found the Thais weren't strong enough to use it even though when I tried it it cut like a hot knife in butter. You can buy replacement cutting blades for them for about 500 baht. My rebar cutter was expensive, but still works fine after I cut yards of rebar.
If he's using an electric cutting wheel they are about 2-3,000 baht for a cheap one (Hitachi) that will last for years.....unless of course it needs 50 baht carbon brushes/rods. We did go through some cutting wheels though; from memory about 10 for the whole build.
I think he's playing "his cards" a little bit too early, whereas mine waited until near the end because I had all or most of the replacements. I also had a manager for the first two months for just that reason.
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Re: BUILDING IN KHUKAN/SISAKET

Postby Mike Judd » Sat Dec 15, 2012 6:38 am

You have to remember, ! all Farang's are rich as far as Thai's are concerned, and I suppose we are to the average Thai (Not those driving around in expensive cars though) So a bit of generosity is expected as long as it doesn't get abused. I reserved mine for when it was earned.
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Re: BUILDING IN KHUKAN/SISAKET

Postby sidney » Sat Dec 15, 2012 10:03 am

Roger Ramjet wrote:
Is he using a real rebar cutter or is he using a cutting wheel? I bought a new rebar cutter and found the Thais weren't strong enough to use it even though when I tried it it cut like a hot knife in butter. You can buy replacement cutting blades for them for about 500 baht. My rebar cutter was expensive, but still works fine after I cut yards of rebar.
If he's using an electric cutting wheel they are about 2-3,000 baht for a cheap one (Hitachi) that will last for years.....unless of course it needs 50 baht carbon brushes/rods. We did go through some cutting wheels though; from memory about 10 for the whole build.
I think he's playing "his cards" a little bit too early, whereas mine waited until near the end because I had all or most of the replacements. I also had a manager for the first two months for just that reason.


Initially he used a real rebar cutter, but apparently changed it later on by using a cutting wheel for which I bought the cutting blades. I hadn't realized this until last night when I reviewed everything with my wife. She had been in Sisaket since last Thursday to pick up some household stuff and returned late last night.

The builder had been waiting around until her return, because I had told him that I wouldn't make any decisions until my wife would arrive. In these instances I let her deal with the typical Thai sensitivities. Meanwhile he passed his time having a drink with his crew until my wife returned. He told my wife the requested money was to pay his crew their wages. When that didn't square with what he had told me she said she was getting sick and tired of his practices. She shared my thoughts to boot him out if necessary, but wanted to wait until this morning, so he wouldn't "lose face" in front of his men.

I also think he's "playing his cards" indeed. He probably is taking into account that I'm able to stay here for about 7,5 months without realizing that it's my own money I'm using for my stay instead of being paid my usual salary. Again he tried yesterday afternoon to let me give him the order for doing the windows and doors. Again I didn't commit myself. And after all the latest crap I actually don't want any of his stuff.

He also asked me why I checked and generally know a lot about building, unlike other farangs who don't interfere at all. I informed him that I'm not the average farang who only spends his holiday here, but that used to live and work in Thailand in the past for about 7 years and therefore know about the ins and outs of building practices here. And that that was the reason I wanted to get involved by using my "hands on" approach.

Today the builder and his workers arrived with a real rebar cutter. I'm quite sure that my wife somehow had told him in no uncertain terms last night or by phone this morning that it would be the end of this building story for him if he didn't change his ways. They all went quietly to work without any fuss.

The location of the 20 kgs of nails which disappeared is known, so I keep an eye on that to see that they be returned.

Mike Judd wrote:
You have to remember, ! all Farang's are rich as far as Thai's are concerned, and I suppose we are to the average Thai (Not those driving around in expensive cars though) So a bit of generosity is expected as long as it doesn't get abused. I reserved mine for when it was earned.


I completely agree with you there and am prepared to do so in regards to generosity. That's why I gave him the initial payment of 15,000 baht, even though it wasn't required based on the contract. But he drew the current battle lines himself, when the ink of the contract hadn't even been dry yet.

Even now I'm aware of him working behind the scenes trying to change all kinds of decisions already made in regards to wood formwork. I'm quite sure he doesn't know that I know, but it's surprising how gossiping and rumours the Thai way spreads, so in the end I finally get to know these things.

I always consult my wife before making any decisions, so we do the right thing.
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Re: BUILDING IN KHUKAN/SISAKET

Postby sidney » Sat Dec 15, 2012 10:18 am

Forgot to mention that the builder wanted to make the initial height of the vertical rebarcages for the footings up to 60-80 cm because the erection of the whole cage would be too heavy to control or keep "straight".
Question is: is that the right way?
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Re: BUILDING IN KHUKAN/SISAKET

Postby Mike Judd » Sat Dec 15, 2012 10:53 am

Not a problem with that as long as the splice is right, off the top of my head I believe it's a min of 18 times the diameter of the Rebar but more will not hurt.It is easier for them to handle coming off of the solid concrete steel.
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Re: BUILDING IN KHUKAN/SISAKET

Postby sidney » Sat Dec 15, 2012 7:22 pm

The first effort to attach photographs got lost together with the newest post.
START BUILDING 2012.jpg
START BUILDING 2012 (site).jpg
THAI WAY OF UNLOADING REBAR.jpg
DIGGING HOLE FOR FOOTING.jpg
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