The Thinking Behind The Sala

General Construction, Uncategorised

One of the aims of this construction was to include traditional features in the build – roof style, overhang, window proportions and wood panelling detail. A particular and central feature of traditional Thai Lanna and Ayutthaya houses is the Sala.

The Sala was an important part of the traditional Thai house – it was the link between the house occupants and any visitors. Anyone arriving at the house would meet the householder ‘ halfway’ in the Sala. It was only after introductions and some initial conversations that the householder could decide whether or not to invite the visitor into the house proper.

So, we wanted a Sala.

In traditional wooden Thai houses, the Sala would also be a wooden structure, but the Thai House Build was an RC-framed building. We wanted the strength of concrete but with the appearance of traditional wood, as much as possible.

The Sala in modern Thai buildings has in many cases become a ground-based family seating area in the same style as a gazebo. Other designs can have the Sala at the top of the stairs, actually on the same level as the main living buildings for the family.

The Thai House Build Sala would be a two-staircase structure, with a seating/meeting area half way up. This roofed area had seating on two sides to provide the all-important meeting zone. The stairs would be tile-over-concrete but the bannisters would be wooden to create the wooden impression of the overall structure.

Location-wise, the Sala is usually situated at the front of the house, leading up to an open area from which all the house’s living rooms were located. We could not put the Sala at the front because we had a plan to put the swimming pool at the front, in an area we could ultimately close off for privacy. Therefore, our Sala was located at the back of the property, leading up from the area adjacent to the access point to the large outdoor covered area under Zone 2.

In traditional western-style houses, there is less need for such a structure – house owners simply come to the front door to greet visitors, as the living rooms are all on the same ground level. Traditional Thai houses though, have the living rooms on the first floor. This comes through history, when flooding could affect the ground floor of the house, and also animals might have been kept at the ground level.

Nowadays, that lower level of the house is often an open social area for the family, so the Sala might be rendered less important if meetings could take place in this area. However, we wanted to have the option, so the Sala was included in the design.

AAC Blocks

General Construction

AAC Blocks

Autoclaved Aerated Concrete Blocks. AAC Blocks

Why did we go for this type of block instead of the more traditional standard concrete block? The standard concrete block would have been cheaper, making a big saving, on the face of it, for the project walling costs. The construction process is basically the same, so what’s the advantage?

Well… AAC blocks have increased thermal insulation properties. They keep the heat out, and the cool, in. In Thailand, where heat build-up is a relentless factor, this is important. By using AAC blocks, we could keep the home cool without over-reliance on Air-conditioning – a big saving over time.

Next, they are lighter than that standard concrete block. Therefore, they can be lifted and passed about very easily, so which makes construction using the AAC block much safer, avoiding back, arm and contact injuries

The AAC block is easier to work with. They can be cut with a saw, so shaping an AAC block is very straightforward.

Now to the costs. Yes, the AAC block is more expensive BUT… it is larger, so you need fewer blocks. If you factor in the price negotiations and discounts for a truckload of blocks, the cost difference is actually negligible.

Now, any downsides? Yes, there is one that needs to be considered, but it is solvable. Once the wall is built and finished…how does one attach anything to it? The construction of the AAC block means that if you attach anything to it with weight, it might pull out of the wall. You get around this by using the AAC wall fastenings which will allow, say, kitchen units to be safely mounted to the wall.

So with the advantages that this type of block offers, the question should really be… why would you not use AAC Blocks!?

Glossary 2

General Construction

Curing – The chemical process of the hardening of concrete. The evolution of wet concrete to green concrete to hard concrete is known as curing. Concrete does not go hard simply by ‘drying out’ and in fact it is a chemical process where the cement interacts with the sand and aggregate. Within reason, the longer a curing concrete is kept wet, the harder it becomes.

Green concrete – The name given to concrete that is solid but has not achieved its final hardness.

Black water – Water that passes out of the toilet system. Water entering the system is not black water (it will be the water supplied as mains water or harvested rainwater) but water leaving the toilet is always referred to as black water.

Grey water – The water that is the outflow from the sink, shower, bath, washing machine or dishwasher. Again, this name does not apply to the water entering the system, which is mains water or harvested rainwater.

Pile – The first and optional (depending upon your soil type, and the type of structure you are going to build) part of the houses foundations. Basically, it’s a long re-enforced concrete pole, either driven into the ground until it hits solid ground or the friction forces prevent it from moving, or a hole is drilled, a steel cage is lowered in and concrete is poured into the hole until it is full.

Chanote – The highest form of land ownership document and the one you should always try to obtain when purchasing land to build your home on. The Chanote (Nor Sor Si (4) Jor ) is registered in the Government land office, and the owner details are recorded on the document. The land is physically marked with corner Chanote markers, placed by the Land Office survey team, and tied to the national grid. (See the Types of Land section for more information)

Marking out – The process of taking the plans, showing the footprint of the house, and physically, accurately, marking that footprint on the actual building plot. The marking out process extends to service routes (water, electric), septic tank location, boundary wall gates, etc.

Striking – Nothing to do with disputes or unions! This I the process of removing the shutters from cast concrete to reveal the final shape, hopefully the one that was planned, with no voids or exposed rebar.

OrBorTor office – The equivalent of the Local Authority, or local government. For housebuilding, this office deals with checking of planning application documents and the checking of calculations, plus the issuing of the building permit.

Bill of quantities – Literally, a list of the different amounts of everything needed to complete the build, with the unit and total prices for each item.

Glossary 1

General Construction

Cast – As in ‘We cast the concrete’. The process of pouring and distributing the wet concrete into its final place.

Chair -A small, concrete disc with wires set inside. Used to keep the steel rebar within the concrete being poured, so that no metal is exposed to air or water.

Rebar – Metal rods and frames, worked into cages and meshes. Used to strengthen concrete. (As in Re-enforced concrete).

RC – Re-enforced Concrete or, concrete with a steel rod or mesh inside it for added strength.

AAC block – Autoclaved Aerated Concrete block. Lightweight, foamed concrete block, lighter than traditional concrete block and consisting of sand, lime, cement, water gypsum and aluminium powder. Once formed, the block is ‘cured’ under heat and pressure in an autoclave.

Span – The distance between two sides of a room, measured between the RC beams, plus 1 beam width.

Plank – A re-enforced concrete slab, used to form floors on the RC frame of the house. The plank is of known thickness and reinforcement, based on load bearing and span.

Footing – The first part of the house – the piles, spot piles, plinth beam. Basically, the foundations of the house, from which the house itself will be built on. In the West, footings could be a trench filled with concrete, then a brick base course and Damp proof course membrane on which the slab is cast and the house is built up from.

Makro – No, not the discount store (though that is available in Thailand) but rather any mini-digger.

Soakaway – The part of the water system, both black and grey water, at the end. The final effluent pours into this and is distributed into the surrounding soils and neutralised via microbe action. The water literally ‘soaks away’ into the soil.

Shuttering – The solid temporary wall around columns, beams or slabs they set the size of those slabs and columns. The shuttering is fixed into place and then the poured concrete is bounded and cannot spread out or run away. Once the concrete has gone off, the shutters will be removed and reused elsewhere.

‘Gone off’ – Refers to the chemical process of the hardening of concrete, the pour is said to have gone off when it has hardened into a solid structure, before it achieves its final hardness.


General Construction

They live in colonies of…millions. They love to eat wood. Your building’s wood. Your wood.

They are everywhere.

You will never eradicate termites. It’s a sort of never-ending game where, for a time you are on top and they ‘seem’ to have disappeared, then one day you see little lines of 6-legged insects striding purposefully to and from your… kitchen or food store. You may even see those same insects entering and leaving through a tiny hole in a window frame or under a door.

No…you cannot rid the plot of termites but you can control them – reduce their numbers, steer them away from your food and your wood. You do this by careful choice of the wood you use, efficient sealing of all ways into the house, keeping the kitchen clean and tidy and of course…termite control chemicals.

Those chemicals and their application should be planned long before the base of your build because the feed pipes and spray nozzles need to be under the house. Once installed they should be put to immediate and continuous work. Apply the chemicals straight away, then start a contract with the termite control company to top up those chemicals on a regular basis to maintain the level of deterrent.

A clean and tidy kitchen? Yes. Keep food in the fridge or in sealed containers. Clear up spilt food, don’t drop crumbs, or leave food out for the dog… because you are also leaving it out for the termites and ants. Maybe they don’t want to eat the food but they are attracted to the smell, and will quickly put a scent trail down to the kitchen for other insects to follow. This is how you get overrun with the termites and ants.

Termites chew wood. They love wood but some woods are off their menu. We all know of teak and its anti-termite properties in the resin. Also Mae Daeng, which is actually harder than teak is termite resistant. There are others. Plan your wood to avoid heartache when those termites reduce your beautiful wooden piece to sawdust!

Take a trip around your house, both inside and out when it is finished. Look for holes or cracks, gaps under doors, poorly sealed windows, etc. plug all those holes and cracks. Re seal the windows, fit door air extruders. In short, try to ‘termite-proof‘ the place.

You can’t avoid them, but plan to live with them…on your terms.

Good luck!!


General Construction

Had a couple of questions about chairs. As in…’’what are they?!’’

No…it’s not the type we recline on at the end of the day, when the house is long finished and the day’s work is done, with a sundowner. Not the type you pull up at the table for your breakfast. Not even those portable ones you take to the beach in the hope of staying comfortable.

We are talking about chairs in construction, and that means…the supports for the rebar.

Supports for rebar? I hear you ask. Why does one need to ‘support’ rebar? Its metal. It’s solid. Strong. What support are you talking about?

Ok. I’m talking about the kind that is needed when rebar is encased in concrete, to form that RC structure.

You see, the rebar IS strong…and heavy. If you placed the rebar grid in the area to pour the floor, it would sit on the bottom, and that’s no good. Similarly, if you placed the rebar column or beam cage in the shuttering and it touched the bottom, or the side…that’s no good either.

Why not?

OK… the reason is simple. The metal contains iron, and as we all know, when iron comes into contact with water, or moist soil, or the moisture in the air all around us, it will start to decay. It forms a brittle, reddish-brown crust, which will only get deeper with time, if it is untreated.

You may know it as …rust.

Note the metal rebar is good for strength and rigidity, if it is in good condition. Rust has no inherent strength, quite the opposite in fact. It has no strength at all. So to prevent the metal turning into rust, we have to keep the moisture away from it. That’s what the concrete does. But if the metal is not completely covered in the concrete, the decay will start, will eat into the metal inside the concrete and eventually, the structure will FAIL.

Yes fail.

In order to stop this, the metal part of that reinforced concrete must be completely enclosed in concrete. When casting pre-made pieces such as floor planks, the metal is positioned in the factory, but our on site, for ring beams, floors and columns, it’s down to the building team to ensure the metal is in the right location. The chairs, or ‘rebar support’ move the rebar metal into the centre of the structure being cast, or are placed to push the metal away from the sides of the structure before the concrete is added.

You can buy plastic chairs, or, as most do (if they are clued up and even using chairs – some builders do not!), you can make them yourself. It is basically a small circle of concrete with a couple of wires set into the concrete. Once hardened, the concrete chair can be positioned and the wires used to secure it and prevent movement when the concrete is added.

A simple but very effective and important solution.