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Damian Murray

Building a western style house compared to Thai build

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I'm not sure if this has been covered elsewhere but I'm looking some advice please on whether building a typical western style house with cavity wall with insulation is better, cheaper, stronger etc compared to a Thai built house with concrete colums and single block wall? I'm thinking of costs of ready mix compared to a standard block wall, I've yet to see wall ties used to tie in the blocks to the concrete colums and have a real fear of movement and cracks in the corners, thank you in advance for any advice given.

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I would do (slighly modified) Thai style build because otherwise you'll be constantly fighting the builders ,they know how to do it their way and it (mostly) works ok..(try to get them to do a damp proof course) .I think cavity walls are overkill unless you're trying to stop noise...the large aerated concrete blocks are good thermal insulation...but whatever you do eventually everything will reach the "average" Thai temperature of about 30 degrees.
Have the inside of the roof lined with aluminum foil and design the roof to have larger overhang over the walls + lots of ventilation of the roof space.

Electrical system with earth and earth leakage protection (safety cut) lots of plug sockets.
CAT 5 or better Lan cable to every room.

Try not to use metal connectors (unless they are stainless steel)
In the plumbing system especially bits buried under the floor or in the walls...pressure test the system before the tile floor and walls.

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The sellers of aerated concrete blocks advise you to use ties every two or three rows anyway. That's what I did 4 years ago when I built and apart from a corner where I think there is a slight foundation settlement, no cracks.

I agree heartily with the remarks about damp proof course, "no need in Thailand".

Do need.

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All the builders I have seen do in fact tie walls to columns. They drill into the column every few courses and insert short pieces of re-bar. They do it as they go so you might not notice.

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I think "cracks in the corners" are not a concern, because the footings and columns are all tied together with re-enforced concrete beams (sorry I don't know all the technical jargon), so the whole building moves as one. You get hairline cracks in the rendering because the concrete is not usually allowed to cure properly, but these are cosmetic only. T think the tendency here is to over-engineer, so no real concerns over strength.

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I've spent countless hours researching a Thai house build over the past several years. I came to two conclusions. One, there is nothing inherently wrong with a Thai style build if done correctly and two, the cost of imposing a non-Thai style build would be considerable. The important points after that were designing a house that suited the land (slope, orientation, etc) and most importantly, getting a good builder. The Thai wife and I asked around a lot to find a good builder and were delighted to locate a degree qualified civil engineer with a good reputation. More hours of discussion with him to learn of his approach to various aspects of the building. He took our basic design and over the course of a month refined it with us and produced a wad of engineering diagrams that were submitted and just approved. We are paying approx 11,000 baht/sqm although we are sub-contracting a western style kitchen supply and install to another company. Prior to agreeing the overall price I had the builder submit detailed costings of labour and material for our review. Much to my amazement he came back with almost two hundred line items, including a line for his own profit. Proved to be a worthwhile exercise for him as well since I found there were items missing that he would have had to absorb if I didn't highlight them.

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One problem with a "cavity" wall over here will be that it will be a haven for every kind of critter out there. The concrete blocks help keep a lot of those out as they can't (easily) burrow through the concrete. I understand that, if done right, a cavity wall with a thermal barrier is great for keeping the heat in (back in Canada) and would probably work just as well keeping the "cold" in over here. I've built small cabins in the mountains in Canada with "cavity" walls, (pressboard outer wall, 4 inch fibreglass insulation, plastic sheeting and pressboard inner wall) as well as an insulated roof and the place would be comfortable in a couple hours with just a candle burning (or Coleman lantern) . (If you used the small air-tight wood stove, you'd have to open the door to let the place cool down even though it is -10 outside and the snow is 6' deep.)

So if the idea is to use "cavity walls" to help keep the place cool when you are running the air-con, you will have to make sure the ceiling is insulated as well.
One thing I notice is that the roof tends to often just be a metal frame with tiles or "sheet tile" attached. The ceilings are the same kind of metal frame with drywall sheets attached. That means all that "attic" space is wasted as you can't put anything up there or it will just fall through the roof. (Also difficult to move around up there if you are trying to find a leak or run a new cable from one room to another.)
However, it should be strong enough to lay fibreglass insulation on top of the drywall. Probably wouldn't insulate the roof though as you need all the heat to be able to escape. You'd probably want to lay the insulation as soon as the ceiling is installed as it could be quite a pain in the patootie to do afterwards.

You could run into problems with the electrical wiring as well unless you get a construction company that has experience with grounded (or "earthed") wiring. Otherwise you could end up with a lot of outlets all wired nicely, with the "ground" wires going nowhere (and possibly not even having a proper grounding rod).

I've thought about doing a "Western" style house as well over here but in the end it is probably easier to go with the "local" style (but I'd still want a proper electrical system, even if I had to do it myself). Way too many issues with the power over here. Depending on where I end up, I might even consider a back up power supply with an automatic switch (in the event of an outage the back-up generator would start up automatically and the house would switch over to it). Useful especially if you live in a rural area and have a freezer full of food, as it could take awhile before power is restored. I use UPS's for my computers and surge protectors on all the power bars, just in case. Would probably still do the same if I was in a properly grounded house because using those would be a lot cheaper than replacing all the electronic junk I have plugged in all the time !
 

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I have insulated cavity walls between pillars and I'm very pleased with them. The builder recommended using small red clay bricks which worked out well. With an external temperature around 35 - 40 C internal without air con is below 30. I don't have ceiling insulation upstairs but I wish I had. That's on my todo list. I don't have a damp proof course and have no problem with rising damp. I had a good builder who did a really good job all round including the electrical installation with safety features as standard. The kitchen is a western style done for me by a kitchen expert (expat) in Buriram. The house is just over seven years old now and is as good as the day it was built. As needs must, water comes from a well and electricity from the sun. Being in a very remote rural area I have insect screens at all windows and doors and some ornate window protection to keep out the bigger bugs from the local villages. All this is inside a walled garden with a few pleasant tree shaded areas. 

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9 minutes ago, Muhendis said:

With an external temperature around 35 - 40 C internal without air con is below 30

How ?    have you patented this revolutionary discovery ?

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We used the largest aerated blocks available rather than use cavity wall in current house, they "work" well, along with 6" of ceiling insulation, house stays cool & we never rely on cross breezes etc which are all a fallacy IMO to keep the house cool. Opening windows just equalizes the inside temperature with the outside which a lot of the time is Hot!

After building four houses in total over quite a few years I have yet to see a Thai builder who does not tie into corners etc, current house has no cracking after four years. Damp course not necessary if you are building on a raised concrete base as we did, if you are starting with blocks or bricks at ground level most certainly will be needed.

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1 hour ago, phibunmike said:

All the builders I have seen do in fact tie walls to columns. They drill into the column every few courses and insert short pieces of re-bar. They do it as they go so you might not notice.

We went the cavity wall route when building our home in Khon Kaen, we used TC House Khon Kaen, and we were very impressed with the owner Dook and the work they did . I belive they do work in Udon Thani.https://www.facebook.com/dooktanakorn7772/

image.png.c6515ed8b3b24616c548691cfbc7bcf3.png

as Phibumike said they tie in to the columns with rebar ,

 

image.png.69c7f15964bd9aba5e54c4d4c68541c6.png

Notice the groove in the block, which is where the rebar is laid (sorry , was the best picture I could find) 

image.png.97c5fc544aa048ebac8134177755cdc8.png

The ends were filled and glued together to seal the cavity and more straighten (and overkill IMO)

image.png.d2adfa0694275c134215aba562d6a11d.png

a horizontal beam is poured at the bottom of the window and at the top, and small columns on the side of the windows

image.thumb.png.9b41033ef2974526be2df0d1aa59d282.pnga solid, wall , hiding all columns, and keeping the house cool and quiet.

PM me if you need additional info on the build and or builder.

 

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37 minutes ago, johng said:

How ?    have you patented this revolutionary discovery ?

I have built an extension to an old house.. the new part  is Thai concrete post and concrete beam.. as is usual.. Downstairs the walls are insulating block on the outside (10 cm.. I think they are).. + a cavity.. the inside wall conventional Thai concrete block (the thin ones).. rendered with plaster inside and out.. The outside walls are flush with the posts.. inside flush with the posts as well... so no unsightly posts.. with the Verandas protecting walls from direct sun  .. NO air-con.. stays between 26 and 30 most of the year.. in the very hot weather sometimes creeps above 30 but not much.. always comfortable with fans.. open windows at night to cool down.. close up in the morning..  insulation attached to aluminum  roofing & insulation above ceilings.. the upstairs does get hot in hot weather but cools down quickly in the evening.. occasionally a bit hot for sleeping but not often..    The attached photo was taken 4 years ago while we were building..   Oh... 4 years later no cracks..

16473598359_e64c8ccd39_o.jpg

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I have built an extension to an old house.. the new part  is Thai concrete post and concrete beam.. as is usual.. Downstairs the walls are insulating block on the outside (10 cm.. I think they are).. + a cavity.. the inside wall conventional Thai concrete block (the thin ones).. rendered with plaster inside and out.. The outside walls are flush with the posts.. inside flush with the posts as well... so no unsightly posts.. with the Verandas protecting walls from direct sun  .. NO air-con.. stays between 26 and 30 most of the year.. in the very hot weather sometimes creeps above 30 but not much.. always comfortable with fans.. open windows at night to cool down.. close up in the morning..  insulation attached to aluminum  roofing & insulation above ceilings.. the upstairs does get hot in hot weather but cools down quickly in the evening.. occasionally a bit hot for sleeping but not often..    The attached photo was taken 4 years ago while we were building..   Oh... 4 years later no cracks..
16473598359_e64c8ccd39_o.thumb.jpg.84aa5e892a6d02900eba0caa04a86e52.jpg
I'm a bricklayer, still setting everyday on sites in England, they way you have described your build is good enough for me.. coming to thailand in November to retire, anybody having any work done I would be happy to come and keep a eye on it for them, for a small contribution to the Channg jai Dee society..

Sent from my SM-G955F using Tapatalk

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Thank you so much guys for all your tips and hints, I think my main issues were about tying the blocks into the colums which my Thai wife said doesn't happen too much, her parents house has major cracks in the corners where it hasn't been tied in, I do understand that you will have settling cracks no problem but looks like I'll just have to insist on colums ties during the build, also with the cavity wall, I'm trying to keep the heat out, I don't mind going overkill on the insulation if it will def work, another quick question, has anyone ever used block and beem for the sub floor? Is it cheaper than a solid concrete floor as my wife wants the house raised a few mts of the ground

supreme-4000mm-suspended-concrete-t-beam-flooring-by-tbm400-0b3.jpg

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