Choosing our builder


Once we had got the house idea firmed up, with my concept and sketches and floorplans being turned into CAD plans an elevations, it was time to start finding the builder.

We were not looking for any relative to do it. In my experience a family link can compromise what you want and family loyalties, plus how to be mates while at the same time being able to take the tough decisions that the family builder might not like!

Same applied to a family friend, or a workmate who was eying a main chance to make some money from the falang.

We had decided to look for a proper building company, rather than a one-man band with a gaggle of ‘builders’ (here read, ‘a bunch of farmers who also know how to stick blocks together and paint stuff’). Because of the size of the construction it needed to be a builder who had experience of projects of this size. We wanted someone one who we could work with, who had the team and the backup to carry the project through without literally being hand-to-mouth for the next block of cash.

The architect

The first person to ‘offer to do the build’ was…the architect. He had been setting himself up for this from the start. He gave a very good price to do the plans and elevations, and to do the calculations. He made a point of getting to know and dropped in comments about how he’d built this and that construction. He supplied the plans and we paid him.

 He then sent a quote to build the house…12.6M THB!!! Lol unfortunately, in his excitement, he inadvertently included a comprehensive bill of quantities in his submission. I was able to pick it to pieces to see where he was marking up and where he was, quite simply, ripping off. We discussed with him where some err…savings could be made but he was adamant we would not get the house built for less than his quote.

He gave us another builder who might be interested. He sure was… for 20M! lol I think maybe the ‘mate’ (for that is what he was) gave a crazy price to make Mr. Architect look more reasonable.

The dreamers

So one at 12+, one at 20M. One more came along but at 18M. All of them seeing a chance to charge western building prices in the Land of Smiles. Using that BOQ from the architect, and my own calculations based on experience, cost of materials, cost/m2 etc. I KNEW these quotes were out of the ball park.

We pursued 2 more hopefuls who fitted the bill of being building companies. One was promising but wanted 10M, the other, nowhere near, at 16M. (Funny how the amounts are always an exact million!)

Temple Builder

While looking around the temple at Lat Krabang, we saw work being carried out on one of the ancillary buildings and it looked good. The crew was carrying out delicate architrave work, plus excellent painting finishes. We could see right there that the workmanship, and pride in the job was evident – this was a conscientious building company.

Let’s call this company the Temple Builder. We spoke to the site foreman, and arranged to meet with the project manager. The following day we sat down with him, armed with all the plans, elevations and the wish list.

 To be fair, he was unfazed, and yes…they had carried out builds of this kind before.

K. Pot

We were looking for another choice at the same time as the ‘temple builder’ and my wife got to hear about a building company, local to the potential build site.

We made arrangements to meet with him and discuss the build project. I immediately got a good feeling about K.Pot. He listened and understood what we were trying to do. Hear read through the plans and was confident he could do it all. He also asked to meet at the site to get a feel for the land, the access and the services – he was not a guy who just said ‘’yes, yes’’ to everything, hoping to secure the contract. We met there on the same day.

He also asked to go over those plans and requirements more fully over a couple of days before saying for sure, and of course giving a price to complete the work.

The waiting

We were waiting for the Temple builder to come back with his price too so had nothing to lose when K.Pot also asked so that time to go through the figures.

We had by now pretty much discarded the other quotes and offers, though the guy who drew the plans came back with a reduced offer of 10M (2 6M was falang mark-up!?).

The temple builder came back first. His price was much, much nearer to what I had calculated – within 400,000 THB and his architrave work and attention to detail were really pushing me towards him. But PJ reminded me… we do not have much if any architrave work on our build.

Some examples of how K.Pot did painting to resemble wood finish.

Then came the quote from K.Pot. It was lower. Not by much but it was lower, nevertheless. We has seen examples of his work previously and one particular skill he had was in painting, specifically painting surfaces to look like wood. We were impressed.

The decision

Once we had considered everything – cost, ability, availability, and that sense that this person was ‘right’, there was really only one choice. We gave the building contract to Khun Pot and his building company.

PJ and K.Pot

That set the ball in motion, and the building of TD Towers would soon commence!!

The people who are important to your build


Your wife (or husband)

She’s going to put up with a lot. Your temper tantrums, maybe. Your haggling – because she would not do it. The crazy Farang, in general. The builder’s comments in Thai. Her role in smoothing things over. Her role in managing the build in your absence. Negotiating for those ‘extras’ that cropped up. And most importantly…. Being a strong and untied team with you. Together, you can achieve almost anything. If she’s not on-board, in effect…you are on your own.

The builder

You need to get to know him. Of course you do your research. You check his background. Look at previous builds. If possible check with those owners – did it go smoothly? Any issues?  You gauge his resolve when you ask for changes or features. Does he listen? Or is it ‘no problem’ for everything. Is he interested in just winning the job, or completing the job?

His crew

You need to have faith in the builder you choose, but a quick assessment of the gang coming to do the work is important. Here you are getting a feel not just for ability but personality, the likelihood of causing trouble, theft, etc. It’s the builder’s job to make sure they are working, but you need to get a handle on those people building your dream.

The neighbours

If you are lucky, like we were, there will be no neighbours when you are building. But of course, in a lot of cases, those neighbours are there. You need to get them on side early. You are going to disrupt their lives for at least some of the time. Dust, noise, increased traffic, maybe damaged road or verge, you might need them for temporary water or electric supply. A happy neighbour will help you, a disgruntled neighbour will obstruct you. Simple really.

The land office

If you need to register the land ownership (you do) on the Chanote, or you need to register the lease (you do) on that Chanote…you need this Office. Obstacles can be put in your way here. Costs, leases that are suddenly not available, ‘government policy’, evidence of ability to pay for the land in the first place, etc. etc. Use your diplomacy, use whatever it takes to get the document and the lease in place.

The OrBorTor

As the head of the district office covering amongst other things planning, the OrBorTor wields a lot of power, has a lot of connections and is one person you definitely want on your side. If you develop a good relationship with him it can help to get your build up and running. He controls the Engineer’s office for the district, and ultimately he issues the building permit to allow you to start work.

The OrBorTor Engineer

Within the OrBorTor Office, the Engineer will go over your plans, check your calculations and advise on issuing the building permit. The Engineer’s office may well offer a plans service a lot cheaper than the architect – assuming they have time to draw up those plans. Additionally the Engineer might be employed to keep an eye on your builder and work progress, and to carry out the snagging assessment at the end of the build.

The architect

Depends on how you went about getting your idea to the stage where the OrBorTor office can assess and pass the plans and issue the building permit. Off the shelf plans don’t need the architect – just present them for approval and away you go. But if you are ‘building your dream’, your idea will have to be translated from your sketches, or your photos, or even your detailed home drawn plans – into architectural plans with calculations ready for presentation.

The architect is a powerful position and can really take you for a big fee… or he could work with you. You will be shopping around for one , assuming you need one, so get an idea of his price early on –and also, what is and isn’t included. You can get caught out if he says he can do it…’’apart from the plumbing’. Also…will he personally go to the OrBorTor office to present and discuss? Will he included required changes in the fee?


The Provincial Electricity Authority – you are going to need them, sooner or later. A temporary supply. A permanent supply. It’s not just a case of hooking up an extension and a 13A socket. These are professionals – you will need to have a clear idea what temporary supply is required. 15/45 single phase? 300/100 3-phase? Yes…they can supply it, at a cost. A meter will be installed and a bill will be raised. Who’s paying? That’s something you need to agree with the builder before he starts.

Later when it comes to the full time supply for the finished house, you need loads, equipment details, timings, maximum draw, etc. etc. The PEA can work it out but you need to provide detail. If you make a mistake with this one, expect outages or worse – fire.

The Water supplier

This might be the supply through the OrBorTor office, or a local supply. You might by-pass it all for a self-sunk well, though this water might need a lot of ‘processing’ to be useable. All the water supplied via pipe is not really drinkable and will need purification and filtering if you intent to use it for consumption. All the DIY outlets sell water purification systems, and reverse osmosis systems are also available, if you do not want to have to keep buying bottled water.

But you need a water supply for toilets, washing machines, garden watering, showers and your research for what I available in the area you want to build. It can get real expensive real quick if any length of pipe is needed to bring the supply to the land.

You will need a water supply for the build too so get that agreed with the builder before signing the contract.

House registration

May seem trivial but until your new house is in the system, you cannot get water or electric connections. You cannot request services at the property. You need a house number. You need the blue book or the yellow book. Again there is scope to be held to ransom for this. Diplomacy and resolve and possibly cold hard cash should see you though!