Self Build Horror – Thailand – Part 3

March 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

Welcome back to the third installment of the Self Build Horror story.  So far, in Parts 1 and 2, things have gone really well.  The Thai architect / project manager and the Burmese builders really have done an excellent job and progress has moved along nicely.  In this part we’ll follow the story of the 2nd month of the build and the following is in the words of the chap whose build the villa, read on…

It was a bright sunny Monday morning.  I was full of beans as the build was progressing so well.  Both my wife and I agreed that things where right on the money.  I had agreed with the architect that he would provide a fixed cost for the build but I would be responsible for purchasing of all the finish items, such as floor / wall tiles, toilets, kitchen units and all the other bits that would make the villa look and feel the way I wanted.  I know sometimes it’s easier to let the architect handle all of this but I wanted to ensure I didn’t end up with any cheap and nasty fixtures and fittings just for the sake of saving a bit of money here and there.  My intention was to sell this villa and so I had to make absolutely sure that the overall quality was as perfect as I could get it.  For instance I could have purchased a Jacuzzi Bath Tub that was around £1,500, but for me quality meant everything so I splashed out on the latest model at £3,700.  I just wanted to make sure that when people viewed the finished villa that it was impressive and for the buyer, knowing that they really were buying a luxury pool villa.

At the rate the build was progressing I was informed now  would be a good time to start purchasing all the tiles for the floor, walls and pool.  I took a trip to the local Home Improvement Superstore and had a word with the manager.  We decided, for a decent discount, that we would purchase everything from the tiles, to the kitchen, appliance, bathrooms and even down to the door handles.  The only thing we didn’t buy where the doors themselves.  I wanted to add a real touch of class to the villa so I commissioned a local craftsman to hand carve the double doors for the front and then all the internal doors.  These were beautifully made and all from Grade A Burmese Teak. The doors were expensive but again, I wanted the person, whoever bought the villa, to have a truly beautiful home.  I also felt that selling a Villa of this quality would be easier to sell.

The store manager was pretty good and agreed that they would deliver items as needed instead of cluttering up the building site, which seemed like a sensible approach.  Meanwhile back on site things where progressing nicely and week five saw the building taking leaps and bounds of looking like a real house.

Villa Swimming Pool

Villa Swimming Pool

The swimming pool was really beginning to take shape and once again the architect expressed is concern over the depth of the shallow end.  Again, there was me thinking in feet where in fact the measurement was in meters.  The shallow end, as I mentioned, was 0.4m and there was me thinking this was 4 feet.  Again, I assured the architect it was exactly as I wanted.  When it was all said and done, maybe he could of explained that at a depth of  0.4m it would barely come above my knee cap (if that) and maybe then the penny would have dropped, but as it happened he merely said “If that’s what you really want, then OK, but I still think it’s too shallow.”

Swimming Pool - Concrete Base Poured

Swimming Pool - Concrete Base Poured

As you can see from the photo, the rebar caging is now in and the plumbing work installed and yet it sill didn’t occur to me that anything was wrong. It wasn’t until they poured the concrete for the flooring of the pool that the penny finally dropped.

I now realized that the shallow end was all wrong and finally realized that I was mixing feet with meters.  There was no choice in the matter – the lot had to come up and be completely redone.  During this we also decided to reduce the angle of the slope, so that instead of such a dramatic drop, it gently flowed from one end to the other – this time I let the architect have full say.  This small mistake was a costly one. Digging up all the pool require all new rebar, plumbing and concrete – we simply could not just cut half of it away, the whole lot had to come up and it was going to take at least a month to get it back to the stage it was now.

I felt really bad, not about the money, but for my Burmese crew because I knew they would end up taking it apart using pick axes and shovels.  I felt so guilty to put them through such hard work and considering the heat.  The architect assured me it was OK (I guess it was for him, he didn’t have to do the labor) but I insisted he hired a Jack Hammer to make the job easier – which he finally agreed to.

Part of Roof Complete and Concrete Floors Complete

Part of Roof Complete and Concrete Floors Complete

While the issue with the pool was being sorted, behind me the remaining members of the crew were fitting all the sewage pipes and the roofing guys had arrived on-site to begin the construction of the steel roof.  Again, it was one of those weeks that if you blinked you missed so much.  At this point, and standing back, it was like watching a colony of ants at work and no single person stood idle for a minute.

By the end of Week 5 the base of the swimming pools was complete and then started in digging it up again. The roofing guys were well underway in fitting the steel roofing beams and the entire concrete floor base of the villa was complete.

I bought a few beers on the Saturday night and some food.  I really did express my sorrow for the amount of extra work for the swimming pool. The Burmese just had a good laugh about it and thanked me for the Jack Hammer – I still felt awful for such a mistake, but mistakes happen and building a home is not always clear cut.

Walls being to be built

Walls being to be built

Week 6 started off like any other week and everyone was busy doing their work. While some of the crew worked on the swimming pool others work on the roof and the bricklayers turned up to start their work.

At this point I was blissfully unaware of any problems regarding the steel roof and it was during this week that the architect put a stop to the roofing work.  Again, the architect was very good and explained to me that it was not up to the right specification.  We had ordered the roofing tiles from a company called CPAC and they offer a guarantee on the tiles, but only if the steel work met the proper specifications.  It didn’t and so the architect fired all the roofer and bought in a new crew, who then dismantled the entire roof and then started rebuilding it.  Thankfully this was not my responsibility and so didn’t cost me anything to put right.

I did have a contingency fund for the build of 20% but the swimming pool had already taken a large chunk of this so I had to make sure that nothing else major occurred.  I found that with every passing day I was talking over the plans with the architect just to make sure.  All in all it was a very good learning experience and anyone building a home should understand the plans.

Villa taking shape

Villa taking shape

By the end of Week 6 the villa was really taking shape. The brickwork was well underway and and the steel roof was 90% complete.  With the walls taking shape I could now walk around the villa and get a feeling for the overall size.  It was huge – much bigger than I had initially thought it would be.

Week 7 was another flurry of activity. The bricklayers were hard at work building all the internal walls and the roofers where working their way towards completing the steel roof structure.  We did have one issue and that was due to the last roofers making a mess of the job. It meant that CPAC, the suppliers of the tiles, needed to come out and inspect the steel before signing off and delivering the tiles and organizing one of their crews to fit the tiles.  Because we had missed our appointed slot we were looking at a delay of a month which meant that we couldn’t get the building water tight and the rains were becoming more frequent.  Being a tropical destination Phuket suffers from monsoons and so getting a building water tight was a priority.  If you have never experienced a monsoon I can tell you it is one sight to behold – it rains as if buckets were being thrown at you.  It can get so bad that you can’t see 10 feet in front of you and you have to appreciate just how powerful mother nature is.

Villa Taking Shape

Villa Taking Shape

By the end of Week 7 the Villa really was transformed. The roofing guys had finished installing all the main steel beams and the bricklayer had not only finished all the external walls but made real progress to the internal walls as well.  We even had the new road surface installed leading to the villa.  It was taking shape so fast and I was spending more and more time on-site to watch the progress and learn as much as I could.

At the start of Week 8 things looked really good, apart from the swimming pool. It looked like a bomb site as it was still being dug up, but the rest of the villa was coming along nicely and I knew the Burmese crew would do a good job of the swimming pool – I just had to grin and bare it while they tore it apart.

Inside the Villa - Living Area

Inside the Villa - Living Area

Walking around the internal of the villa now, with the brick work complete I got a true sense of the amount of living space the villa had.  The picture “Inside the Villa – Living Area” was looking great. The idea behind the design was for it to be open to the back of the house, so that you had great views over the pool and into the jungle.  There was going to be a fair amount of glass to capitalize on the views.

The remainder of Week 8 continued with the building of the internal walls, all of which were double skinned to help with soundproofing from one room to another. The villa had a total of 4 bedrooms, each to include it’s own en-suite.  Then there was the open plan living and dining area.  The kitchen and utility room completed the villa with a 2 Car carport.

Villa Looking Good - Steel Roof Completed

Villa Looking Good - Steel Roof Completed

The end of Week 8 arrived and the roofing guys had completed the job.  It was now time to tile the roof, but with the delays due to the first set of roofers, there were no tiles, or tilers to do do the job.  We just had to concentrate on other areas of the build and wait for our new allotted time from CPAC.

I really couldn’t complain, so much had been achieved in just 8 Weeks!

Well that’s it for Part 3.  Tomorrow we’ll take you through the next 4 week period.  Everything appears, on the surface, to be a normal build. A few ups and downs, but that is expected.  What lies beneath will change this fellas life forever – he’s lucky he’s alive to tell the tale.  Check back tomorrow for Part 4.


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