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August 12, 2004.  Interview between Digger and the editor.  Pattaya, Thailand home construction, and the cool thai house project.  This 'readme' discusses the whys and wherefores of this prototype house project.



Q: Why did you decide to build this house?

A: Well firstly, I was sick of renting, my Thai wife being able to endure it better than I.  The rental house my wife and I lived in prior to the cool thai house was a nightmare - everything that could go wrong did go wrong.  The community water well was only turned on for an hour a day, so essentially we had no running water.  To get the place habitable I fixed it up, at my own expense, only to have the owner announce she was selling it at the end of the lease (ergo, we would need to vacate).  But more importantly I wanted to see if a good quality low cost house could be built without cutting corners.

Q: How did you go about getting the house built?

A: The first step was getting a house plan.  Then we set about finding a builder would would contract to build the house labor only.  I wanted to be in charge of buying materials since, from what I've seen, this is normally where house buyers get into trouble.  I got a number of bids for labor and they were all over the map as far as cost goes.

Q: Who did you finally chose?

A: I chose my wife's father, who is a builder.  He does construction, and I've seen he does good stuff, so it was strictly a business decision.  The benefit of having a relative do it is that we could trust them to want to do a good job. 

Q: How did it work out?

A: Well, the house turned out really good.  There were a few hiccups along the way though.  And there are certain stresses that come up when working closely with family members.

Q: What kind of hiccups?

A: For example, in the first group of workers that contractor (father in-law) assembled, one of the workers didn't really know how to do anything.  As the contractor had made him a partner -- this turned out to be a bit of a problem for him.  Eventually the partner left (of his own accord) and we repaired any bad work which had been done.  This is the reason that some things in the early stages of the house needed to be reworked and also accounts for a delay of at least a month or two in the project.

Q: Anything else?

A: Everything else seems pretty normal.  Sometimes things needed to be reworked a couple of times, but as I've seen this is pretty normal.  The only thing I would definitely do different in the future is on the roof.  I would not include the roof in the original contract and would subcontract it to a company who specializes in roofs.  Even though the roof turned out really nice, it was a struggle, and since then I've observed some of these roof only companies, they really get it on.

But I have to say I was really lucky to have the Father involved.  He was really determined to do everything perfect and would really work to get things to go right. 

Q: What other workers did you use?

A: We used a specialist for the electrical and hot water plumbing.  And then another specialist for the bathroom and kitchen tiling.  A specialist for windows and doors.  And then there are the normal things you contract out, like window glass, security metal, screens, curtains, and screen doors.

Q: How were these workers?

A: For the most part excellent, but there were still things that went not 100%.  On the screen door for example, the door closer was installed upside down - but he fixed it.  I think that is one good thing here, at the end of the day contractors will generally will do what it takes to get it right.

Q: Any problems with the house?

A: No, the house is really nice.  There have been some problems with the entry road though, although these are on the way to being straightened out.

Q: Was it a good idea to use the father as a contractor?

A: Essentially, I think the house turned out better than it would have been otherwise.  Things happen pretty quickly when doing a project like this, and it is easy for things to slip between the cracks - so it is nice to have concerned people involved.  That being said, most of the other contractors around here that I've observed do really good work also, the only problem coming in when it isn't the buyer of house who is paying materials (see corner-cutters).  The skill level of carefully chosen contractors (ones that come with referrals and observation) is pretty good -- although nothing is 'exactly'. 

Q: What do you mean nothing is 'exactly'?

A: A Swiss friend of mine has a habit of commenting on the building here, he sums it up 'not exactly'.  I tried to show in the photo history how things are normally done more than once to get things right and then, in the end, if you're expecting 100% you may stress yourself out.  If something isn't done right the workers will always endeavor to fix it, but it isn't the detail level one would expect in Europe, for example.  Things like a little paint on the pvc bathroom doorframe, or a crooked door handle I just don't sweat.

Q: Why did you do this web site?

A: First, I wanted to record the history of this particular house, so if I do eventually sell it the buyer could see the full history.  I discover that it really isn't possible to capture the full history of a house project, it is just too big.  But still I think this objective has been partially fulfilled at least. 

Then, I thought it would be an interesting information exchange.  But the real motivation was -- I could see a lot of games being played, corner-cutting, which really goes on here because there are no inspections and things are free and easy.  Anyway, it just seems so inefficient of a process -- that is builders cutting out about 10% out of the cost of the project but lowering the quality of the house by, maybe 1/2.  Then, often, new owners will come in and really deck the place out and do a lot of improvement, but the foundation is faulty.  Maybe by having information available it will change buying habits and force some kind of standards.




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