Stickman Readers' Submissions September 17th, 2008

Happy in Thailand (Well almost) Part 4

We visited the province again and decided to finish the house there, found a builder (ha ha ha, we've done it this way for time immemorial and we're not going to change for a stupid farang) in the village who wanted 35,000 baht for the work and we buy all materials. E said she had spent about 70,000 to get it so far and I think I spent another 200,000 or a little more but we've spent lots more since.

As I mentioned before her father had given her the land. She said she wanted to extend it to build a kitchen and toilet at the back but I did some measuring and said it would be adequate as it was and designed the interior divisions to give a modest front room a large kitchen, 1 large and 1 small bedroom and an adequate shower room and loo. Getting the builder to understand what was needed was hard work, even getting E to understand was hard work. Even mixing cement and concrete they had no consistency and the concrete they swim in like water and mix the stone as they're laying. Try to explain that concrete is a chemical process and the only way to get a good mix is consistency. These people had no true skills and very few tools.

They got a guy in to fit the windows and doors and he started on the windows. He must have been the only one in the village with an electric planer so he was the joiner. I knew he wasn't making a good job but I didn't realise how bad until he'd almost done because he cut them all to fit first and then fitted the hinges before fitting them in the frames, you could drive a bus through the gaps. I wanted to throw him off site then but the builder said he'd already paid him so I said he could fit one door and if that wasn't good then he was finished.

Now we'd bought 2 hard wood doors for the outer and 4 of the white faced moulded doors for the inside but when we got back from shopping this stupid bastard was fitting a hardwood door to the bedroom. I told him to stop and leave but he just carried on working, I had to take the tools out his hand and lead him off site. I then said I would fit them myself. I designed the drains and water supply and tried to do it to UK standard. I wanted an automatic system for the water and as we work on ground water I did it with 2 pumps and a 2,000 litre storage tank. A piston pump to lift the ground water into the top of the tank then a pipe inside to take the water to the bottom to keep the sediment there. Then draw water off about 1/3rd of the way up through the impeller pump to feed the house. The impeller pump has a pressure switch and gives a near constant pressure and it works well even for the shower and we don't get a big differential in pressure even when 2 taps are switched on. Every so often I bleach the storage tank, drain it and clean it out. I wanted to use an automatic impellor pump for the ground water but even a small amount of sediment seizes them up so I use 2 level switches on the storage tank, 1 to control the ground water pump and the other to stop the impeller pump if the water level drops too low. We use the water for the house and the outside hoses and get very little problem. Ah you might say, ground water is iffy but her sister next door drinks it without a problem and we buy bottled water for drinking and cooking. I must admit that we do use it to brush our teeth but I rinse my mouth with Listerine afterwards. I fitted a proper sceptic tank for the sewage, now what happens in UK is that the overflow from this goes into a soak away. Dig a 2x2x2 metre pit and line it with polythene, puncture the bottom, fill it with rubble then polythene on top and cover with soil. Now I thought this might be too complex for the Thai mind so I had to think of something else. The Thais use these concrete rings for the sewage, about 750 mm diameter and 600 mm deep, so I thought if I sink these in the ground 3 deep and pipe the overflow from the sceptic tank into this it would soak through the bottom. Wrong! It overflowed after a while and as I was putting everything through the sceptic tank I thought if I took the shower and sink water out it would be OK. Wrong again, it still overflowed. Now this is sand land and I expected not to have problems but the sand must be so fine that nothing will pass through it. It's strange because water doesn't stay on the surface long after rain. Now I've put an overflow in to the small canal at the side of the property. This again is acceptable in UK out in the sticks.

Things that are commonplace in UK are unavailable here so I spent a lot of time on wild goose chases looking for things that I could pick up in any DIY shop in Farangland, plus I don't speak Thai so a lot of sketches and a lot of browsing and pointing. I have yet to find any good quality timber here, no matter where you go it is all hard wood, warped, knotted and wormed. Even the manufactured windows doors and frames are bad.

To be continued.

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Stickman's thoughts:

Thai tradesmen might be cheap, but one needs to take their time to find a good crew. References from other Westerners of viewing examples of their work is usually necessary.

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