So it was January 2013 while on a holiday and a retirement reconnaissance trip to Chiang Mai we decided that Ace would purchase a block of land to have our house constructed in a new Moo Baan (housing development) called Mod Chic by Sansaran.
It was south of Chiang Mai in an area called Hang Dong, just where the foothills begin, rural Chiang Mai flourishes and only about 20 minutes to the vibrant, busy city center. Nearby are both rural countrysides, shopping facilities and other amenities such as a local gym and swimming pool making it ideal for us in terms of location and tranquility – something we were looking for. This will do just fine, for many reasons, as our retreat in a new tranquil life in a different land; but one that is Ace’s home country.
During our time exploring the area we probably visited about 20 housing developments over a two-week period, many repeatedly but kept returning to what has become our home. We had rented a house north of Chiang Mai to get the feeling of living in a gated-estate and felt we would be comfortable in such an arrangement for the longer term. The area, the developer, ease of access around Chiang Mai and the natural environment of the area was a drawcard.
I decided to pen a short story on the construction project and activity to highlight how things are done here in Chiang Mai. It’s not intended as a detailed building guide but simply a general overview of the building schedule and steps observed for our house and others in the neighborhood. I am happy to share further details if you wish to contact me.
We decided that it would be a good approach to have the house constructed while we continued to work in Australia while we planned retirement in about a year. This required that architectural design drawings were done remotely by email and phone calls to agree our final house plans. The design period took from March to about June 2014. Construction finally started in August 2014 and finished in April 2015 – about 9 months later.
Being absent from Chiang Mai during the building phase was a bit of a gamble. Not being around the building site on a routine basis was somewhat risky, but we thought that the developer, who had done a previous development and was doing lots of houses, was reliable. We had seen the workmanship of completed houses and were satisfied with the work, so decided to take the chance.
This was probably against the standard advice of being present to oversight what is going on by Thai builders and sub-contractors. We did have the opportunity to visit only once during construction to see how things were coming along and to make some choices on fit out products and colors. The developer was good at taking progress pictures and sending them to us so we could see what stage things were at and to ask questions. The result was pleasing and we are happy with our finished product – in future I would rather be around to inspect the new house building if I ever did it again.
The decision to pick a building site was fairly simple. We reviewed the site’s plans of available lots, did site tours and settled on a lot at the end of a quiet Soi (street) with views across the countryside to some foothills and Doi Suthep, the mountain that overlooks Chiang Mai.
With the paperwork for the contract completed and down payment made the site preparation and construction got underway in August 2014. The foundation construction was first and there seem to be two construction methods for this. One was to dig footings and pour concrete where the ground is sufficiently hard or as a second option for soft soil, they use pilings driven into the ground with poured concrete footings around those pilings.
A site blessing ritual is often performed and coins put into the footing pits for good luck. The construction company did that for us in our absence and the construction proved successful! Once the footings were in and foundations poured it was time for the pest control people to lay their piping systems. Then the first floor is laid with pre-made concrete slabs topped with poured concrete to create the base for the ground floor and later tiling.
This created an open space under the floor that had piping laid to allow for fumigation under the house to prevent white ants and other creepy crawlers from invading. With the first floor and foundation complete a wooden framing system is put in place to prepare for the construction of the second floor. that is made again of pre-made concrete slabs and poured concrete. Once that’s done then its time for brickwork to commence to fill in-between the concrete house pillars and to create our room designs.
Usually, as this is happening, sometimes before and sometimes after, the roof trusses are secured to a metal frame that has been welded to the pilings around the house and the roof tiles are installed.
Here is a selection of images of the first stage of works that might be easier to interpret than the words.
You have to love the use of bamboo scaffolding for work around the house – its strong and easy to handle. It a bit concerning to watch the Burmese and Thai workers scrambling over the site, up on the roof or around the scaffolds with no harnesses, safety equipment and usually only in sandals or thongs. Getting things done seems to be the motto and not worrying about safety – accidents apparently are bad luck in Thailand and not something to waste time to prevent. Not sure about the philosophy.