Lessons Learned

Information on building a house, buying poperty and land, and all other general contruction topics...
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Lessons Learned

Post by parrot » March 22, 2016, 2:48 pm

First things first......I've little experience with building/construction......but having lived in Udon for nearly 20 years and visited a good many homes (occupied and not) over the years, I've learned a few things that work for our home. If I were to build another home today (I'm not), here are the things I would do absolutely:
(in no particular order)
- building a 2000 liter water storage tank (brick/cement) under the house. I learned this trick from the man who built the Bamboo Resort in Nonsung way back when. He built his tank in the ground under his gazebo.....out of the sun......and the water is always cool. Actually, I'd probably build a larger one now......but 2000l has served us well over the years. Pumped from our well into the tank under the house.....then house pumped as we need it.

- One story home only. If you want to keep the sun off of your windows/walls, you can do it with a one-story home, oriented correctly, and with large overhangs, especially on the east and south. Put your carport on the western end to keep the hot afternoon sun off your walls. I shudder at the sight of the new 2 story homes that occupy most new developments......no shade and full sun on the walls/windows most all day long.

- We've got probably 25 types of mature trees in our yard......fruit, pine, palm, neem, etc. The ones that provide the best shade with the least amount of maintenance are the palms. Although they won't grow as tall as some of our big trees, the palms are plenty big to make a wall of shade. And if you baby them with plenty of water and manure/fertilizer, they'll grow very quickly. You can grow them next to the house without worrying about a heavy branch falling onto the home. We have seven clumps of mature palms that shade the very hot eastern end of our home in the morning, and another set of palms that shade our carport from the hot afternoon sun. All the fruit/non fruit trees are nice.....plenty of shade....but can be a maintenance nightmare when it's time for trimming or when the fruit falls or when it's time for the leaves to leave. You can make a mistake and not plant trees soon enough or make a mistake and plant too many trees. The second mistake is easily fixable. The first......takes a long time to fix.

- a 2meter porch is useable (even more is better). Instead of a railing (if you put one), put in a 16" or so wide seat that serves as a railing and as seating. You can build it at whatever height is comfy for you.......the railing can serve as a chair/table/bench

- We raised our home about 1 meter off the ground........I thought it might aid in keeping things cool. I'm not sure it does that.....but it does provide a boatload of storage space for things that take up space (pvc pipe, left-over building materials, whatever). The space also gives us access to our under-home water storage tank and plumbing.

- There's not much sense (no sense) in opening a window when it's 99 degrees outside, unless you want the inside of the house to be 99 degrees. If your roof and ceilings are insulated and you keep the windows closed, the inside of the house won't be cool, but it won't be 99 degrees. The rest is up to air conditioners to fix.

- There's a reason most Thais cook outdoors.....and it's not just to keep strong odors outdoors. Kitchens (when used) pump out heat........the rice cooker, refrigerator plugged in all day, the stove, toaster, toaster oven, etc etc. If you can find a way to reduce that heat, it makes sense to keep it out of the house. We have a large indoor kitchen and adequate shaded (more palms) on an outdoor kitchen. 90+ of our summer cooking is done outdoors. If I were to build again, I'd figure out a way to keep the refrigerator outdoors as well with easy access from indoors.

- I like the idea of zoned air conditioning....rather than ac throughout the whole house (even the rooms not occupied for most of the day/night). We ac our master bedroom during the evening with an 18k btu inverter. During the day, we ac our living room and connected office with an 18k btu inverter. The rest of the house is not ac'd during the day....but windows are kept shut. It works well for us....and our electricity bill (including a well pump, house pump, irrigation pump and all the conveniences of home) has never exceeded 3500 baht. We keep the ac in the master bedroom at 23 and living room at 25. If we're going out for lunch, we'll usually keep the living room ac on even while we're gone.

That's a short list of the things that are important to us after all these years. What works for us may not for others. Feel free to add your ideas on things 'that work' for you.

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Lessons Learned

Post by Shado » March 22, 2016, 3:23 pm

Good thoughts parrot and much the same as we do. Our water tank is underground and it does feel nice to have a cool shower during the hot season. Our home is two story (wife's insistence) but now she agrees with me that if we ever build another house is will be about the same size but all on one level. Along with our outside Thai kitchen we also have an outside oven that works well for most of our baking. I prefer our inside oven but don't have to use it if we don't want to.

Storage areas will always be an concern if you live in a house long enough. We recently covered part of our back patio just for that reason. Storage/work areas should be a big part of anyone's home construction plans.

Thanks for sharing your observations.

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Lessons Learned

Post by bumper » March 22, 2016, 5:10 pm

Our current and only house I will have here is well shaded. We have the zoned method as well Using the office and bedroom.

If I could change things this is what I would do.

Create a ventilation in the roof attic area

Insulate the Attic and exterior walls

I have my water tank raised it is enough so that water will flow to the sinks even without electricity. I would like it raised enough to do a shower. I find the water to be an acceptable tempature at time like this as long as I don't turn the heater on.

Really not a long list. Walls could be done with sheet rock and insulation between the existing, the strips they use here would make a great spacer. I still have not found anyone who will install the insulation in the attic without removing the roof. So I have never gotten past that point.
I reserve the right to be wrong, mispell words type badly. leave words out of sentences because my mind works faster then my fingers. To be an OLD GIT I've earned it

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Lessons Learned

Post by parrot » April 14, 2016, 3:13 pm

For the first 15 years living in Udon, I kept a record of the daily high, low, and evening temp, along with rain fall....all neatly in a spreadsheet. That info has been helpful at times......to remind myself that Thailand's seasons are unlike the 4 I grew up with....and maybe more importantly, April is not a time for spring-like weather.
Because of large vacation gaps in my record keeping the past few years, I've given up keeping them further. I still look at my high/low for the day on my digital thermometer....I just don't record it on the computer. But this year, it seems we'll easily overtake the 9 days of 100 or 100+ degree weather in April/May of 2001. Not only with more 100 or 100+ days, but at least a handful now of 102-103 days! And we're only in the middle of April.
Back to those records....and lessons learned. If I were to build a house knowing what I know now:
- I'd have at least 6" of insulation on the ceilings along with the newer 3/4" foam under my steel roof (rather than the older thinner type).
- I'd design the walls and windows of my house to be completely free of the suns rays (morning and afternoon) between the months of Feb and Oct; oriented properly and with large overhangs where necessary.
- I'd plan not for the 4" downburst that happens every few years, but for the 13" one that happens at least once in 20 years.
Probably more to follow as the years roll by.

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Post by Barney » April 14, 2016, 4:14 pm


I have read your lessons learned Parrot and have in my house design been close to your requirements if you built again.
I have the fully insulated house of insulated roof sheets, bats in the walls and ceiling space.
Yet to see if elevating the house will prove to be a good decision, but should be fine for my maintenance and future works on piping and electrics.
Double glazed windows, large roof overhangs, large gutters, my additional water storage is the 10,000 ltr underground tank plus eventually a similar amount stored above ground.
Main activity rooms are facing away from the westerly sunset.
Good natural ventilation through the house.
In fact the inside house is considerably cooler than the outside temperature even without fans or A/C in operation, can be felt by hand through the glass windows and walls. Meaning the ambient temp is a few degrees lower. I think I have got it close to the best I could get.
The underground 5 mtr x 5 mtr room I have for entertainment is absolutely much cooler by a number of degrees and my decision to go down and not up IMO has proved a good investment for me.
The pool though may be an ongoing cost but not many years left so enjoy it while a can all year round once I stop the work merry go round.
Its good to hear from your post that what I have in place albeit not exactly what your vision is may see me proven correct in design.
Landscaping is not done but have been listening to others with remarks about shading from trees.
Having lived in the hottest of climates in Aussie land has made me automatically think of keeping cool. Plus I have built 2 homes in Vietnam which I definitely learnt from.
Thanks for the post. Good food for thought for people to see what they can fit into a budget.
I do have plans for a 2nd and 3rd stages of work to include outside living areas.

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Lessons Learned

Post by parrot » April 14, 2016, 6:54 pm

I like the idea of the underground room......just wonder how it'll hold up in the rainy season. Please post your experience....esp. temperature wise.
Just a short disclaimer....as I have no professional experience with building (zilch, nada), I learned what I know now from experience of renting two different homes here, websites like floridasolar, google, and from seeing other people's homes. In some ways I'd love to have another go at it, but in others, I can live with the mistakes I've made.

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Re: Lessons Learned

Post by Marmite The Dog » March 28, 2017, 7:47 am

Good points, Parrot.

My own bugbear is the use of concrete roof tiles in a country with a very high amount of sunshine. In my opinion, a metal roof is the only sensible choice as it doesn't store heat and radiate it into the house at night. A metal roof also means less structure is needed to support it so should mean less money wasted on unnecessary materials.

Two things lacking here are drain traps and doors & windows that actually work properly. I would love to be able to find quality sealed double-glazed window units at Thai prices, but they're either rubbish or very expensive from what I have seen so far. I will either make my own for my next build or use shutters.

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Re: Lessons Learned

Post by Marcosteffano » March 28, 2017, 11:13 am

Insulation is the key to keeping cool.im currently extending and renovating a property.upstairs is most important.ive used steel framework with Shera cladding,then a 1 inch air gap,2 inch polystyrene,then a 1 inch air gap,then the silver double sided foil,then plaster board.4 layers with 2x1 inch air gaps.also the ceilings have silver foil and 2 inch polystyrene laying on the.layers are the key to insulating.when building in the uk I used to wear 3 tshirts rather than one big pullover and it does the trick.the money spent on polystyrene was saved because the 3 aircon upstairs are not oversized.also the best thing is to keep the outside painted as bright as possible to reflect light otherwise dark colours absorb light and convert it into heat.in this pic you can see how bright it is and how dark the carport is.when I jump in the truck the air con kicks in cool right away,no starting car and waiting around.also large overhanging soffits to shade the house is a must.last but not least you must use LED bulbs as they use 10th of a normal bulb and half of a mini flourecent.

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Re: Lessons Learned

Post by FrazeeDK » March 28, 2017, 4:57 pm

concur with much of Parrot's advice.. Now that we're in the hot season, albeit a mild one thus far, our daily routine is to open the house up when we get up between 5-6AM turn on the ceiling exhaust fans and draw the cool air into the house. As the temp increases later in the morning we close all the windows and shut off the exhaust fans.. As Parrot says, the temps stay reasonable in the house for most of the day. Last year when it was 40C outside it stayed 30C inside without air. By kicking on the A/C in around 3PM for 45 minutes it would push the inside temp down to 27C which is comfortable enough..

Our western side of the house has a variety of trees which right now are fully leaved providing great shade and assisting in keeping the house cooler. To quote Parrot's advice to me many years ago, "plant plenty of trees, if you don't want them later you can cut them down, but you can't grow them quickly." yes, true, but you can always go to one of the garden companies and get a mature tree to put in, albeit at fairly high prices..

We have 6 inch fiberglass batt bags in the attic. We bought them at Home Pro 6 or 7 years ago and had a gang of relatives install them for us... Its worked out quite weill.. I am considering putting another layer of 6 inch bags on top of what we already have...

Windows.. Our original metal framed windows installed in 2007 when we built the house were heat collectors. We recently had them replaced with Windsor Windows (there's a string on that). though they are single glazed (double glazed is quite expensive) the 6mm glass provide significantly better insulation than the previous windows. They are also pretty much air tight with a great seal, keeping out dust and a lot of noise.

Heat generators in the house: Refrigerator is a huge one particularly at night. If I don't leave a window cracked open and the ceiling exhaust fan on, you can definitely feel the difference in heat within the house in the mornings. I've considered but not got beyond that phase putting in a thermostat controlled exhaust fan immediately above the fridge...

The other heat generator is cooking in the kitchen.. If the wife would consistently use the exhaust hood over the stove it would help... Additionally turning on the kitchen ceiling exhaust fan aids in pulling the heat out...

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