Raising the land

Land Preparation

Thailand has a close association with water– there is a lot of it everywhere. It rains a lot during the monsoon season, a lot of the land is low-lying. It is often said that Bangkok is built over water and certainly you see a lot of it everywhere. Rivers, ditches, flooded land, standing water on the roads.

The plot we settled on was not particularly low lying. According to the locals it had never flooded, but good advice dictated that we should future-proof the development. This was going to be our long-term home. Who knows what adjacent development might happen down the line and how that might affect us?

No… to be sure (as we could be) we needed to raise up the land. This would need the import of soils from elsewhere and then a ‘settling’ period for the new levels to consolidate. The plot sloped very gently from left to right as you stood on the road looking into it. Behind the road, the palm oil plantation was lower again, meaning that flooding on the plot was unlikely.

We decided to raise up the land, on average by 1m, and to level it at the same time, meaning more material was to be placed to the right as one looked from the road.

Once that had settled, the house footprint would be raised up another 60cm. So… a minimum increase of about 1.3m over and above the surrounding land, and with the surrounding land falling away from the plot.

It is recommended that land raising should stand for at least 1 rainy season to compact naturally. We were placing the soils just before the rainy season so if we were successful in completing in in time, we might only have to wait 6 months if the season was short.

A deal was done to supply soils to raise up the plot. We worked out it would take 112 loads at 8m3 / load to raise the land to the desired level and so one morning, about a week before the rainy season was due to start, those soils started arriving.

Day one

The land-raising operation was supervised by the supply company with an on-site supervisor, who ran 4 trucks to and from their soil source and a tractor fitted with a blade to spread and lightly compact the soils as they arrived. We were also on hand to ensure that there were no ‘mistakes’ with the delivery truck-count as we were paying per load.

The trucks soon started piling up the soils and the tractor was flat out spreading the material. He also periodically cleaned the road of the spillages and tracked material where the trucks exited the plot. The guy never stopped

By the end of day one, 80 loads had been delivered and placed – a good start. We now did a quick re-check on the estimated truck loads needed. Was still pretty much on track except for some of the first truck loads were well under weight. That was noted and it was agreed that a reckoning would take place at the end.

Of more concern was the impending weather. Cloud had been building up towards the end of the day and it did not look too good. With crossed fingers we set off to the accommodation and hoped for the best for the following day

Day two

This picked up from the previous day and now the race was on to get the other 60 loads or so (extra loads due to the underweight deliveries at the start). The trucks started rolling in at 0800, and soon the operation was running as before. The road would be a disaster if the rain came – think mud everywhere, but we were saved by 2 things – the road itself is very lightly trafficked, with the ‘rush hour’’ consisting of a couple of pick-ups, a car and about 4 motorbikes and secondly, the excellent work carried out by the tractor driver.

The cloud built up as the soil placing progressed but the rain held off until we had placed the last load. The soil boss was straight round to check we were happy – he had sent extra loads to make up for the small truck loads. The job satisfactorily completed and the money paid, the road cleaned up, the trucks departed, and all parties went their separate ways

The rain came overnight.

Day three

Next morning we headed straight back to see the land. The rain had puddled across the plot and there was, what looked like a lot of run-off unto the road.

But in the main, the land-raising looked good. Now we had to wait…. at least until the end of the rainy season.

It’s OK though – there was plenty still to be done!


Land Preparation

As any would-be builder knows, finding and acquiring land is a big part of any self-build project. The perfect location or as near to it as possible, the cost restrictions, the planning restrictions, the availability of services etc. etc. In the West, these considerations can be prohibitive – they certainly were for me, anyway. No matter how hard I tried to find a plot and fulfil the dream, it was always just out of reach.

In Thailand, these issues are a LOT less! I mean, literally there is help along the way to smooth the passage of turning your land plot into a building plot complete with any permissions. I am told that in the north of Thailand one can almost buy the plot and then just build the house!

We did not want a plot too near to other family members. No…not because we were ‘not speaking’, but more because we wanted to be somewhere ‘new’. New start together, new life, new location. It seemed to make sense. Of course, we wanted to be within striking distance of that family should any emergency arise, so moving up to Chiang Mai, Isaan or the Mekong areas was out. Similarly, too far South was also off the table, for the same reason.

We wanted peace and quiet, clean air, low to no noise, nothing too built-up, so that ruled out large towns and cities. I am a country boy at heart despite living in the capitals of the Middle East for over 12 years.

Initially we were looking at a plot near to Ayutthaya. The problem there – 1. Cost. Because the area was a massive tourist destination, plots were pricy and small, and 2. A lot of the land flooded during the wet season. This phenomenon happens over a lot of Thailand, by the way and is a factor you need to take into account when choosing where to live.

After that, we looked at coastal locations but again, the idea of 1000’s of tourists descending into the area every holiday season (and it’s a long season in Thailand!) put us off. Land is also costly –you pay a premium for the sea view or the smell of sea air just about everywhere!

But we did want coastal access. So any plot we would consider should be within 90 minutes’ drive of that coast. In fact, that’s a good compromise – you can have a day on the beach if you fancy it, or if friends have come to visit, but then in the evening, you can either stay a night in a hotel or…jump in the car and say ‘good bye’ , and be back home in 1 ½ hours or less.

So… reasonable access to family (they are in the Bangkok suburbs and Rayong). Within a short drive of the coast. Not a big conurbation but access to one, with the shops and services when needed. Not a big tourist destination. Quiet, clean and a reasonable price for land.

Also – flood potential. Check the surrounding properties and even speak to the OrBorTor’s office. Then…will there be a new highway driven past your potential plot? What about other planned development? A new housing estate or worse… a new industrial estate? Are there plans to ‘up-rate’ the road past your front gate? Perhaps there is a new 7-Eleven planned for your street – maybe you would like that, (maybe not !). Also you need to check the availability of services into your chosen location. Electricity and water are pretty much available everywhere but the internet may not be.

One cannot stop time and nothing will stay the same for ever but by taking reasonable precautions, you can minimise adverse impact for the longest time.

For our eventual location, 100Km south east of Bangkok and about 90Km east of Chon Buri, we managed to tick just about all of the boxes.

The other factor, for us anyway, was the assistance and encouragement we got from officialdom to get the land and house purchased, approved and constructed. The Engineer, the architect, the planning / land office – everyone wanted to help you to achieve the goal in as little time as possible.

Lol – imagine that concept in the United Kingdom!


Pre-start Documentation

The design is our own, but of course there are influences. It had to suit the climate. It had to be, or appear to be older and traditional, i.e. not a modern box. It had to make use of up to date technologies and building practices. Those requirements led to investigating history AND looking at local building techniques.

Materials research, traditional layouts, historical features – all were thoroughly checked out and incorporated into the design. That design was then sketched out and transferred into a format that could be used to generate plans.

Initially we used HomeByMe by Dassault Systems to draw the floor plan.

It’s free for practise, with some low-cost add-ons for 3D, etc. and it’s fairly easy to use. It was a toss-up between this and our second trial – HomeStyler from AutoCAD. Again, easy to use, free to trial and with good, clear outputs.

Features for the design

As you know from my earlier posts, we wanted a traditional-looking construction, but with modern building practises employed.

  • Therefore, the construction will be RC frame, and block and cement, with plank and slab flooring, rendered and painted walls on the ground floor, clad on the upper floor

Heat Reduction

  • To help in heat reduction we will use Q-Con from SCG (Siam Cement Group) or Superblock by the Superblock Public Company Limited (or similar) block wall construction
  • Similarly, heat reflection under the roof tiles
  • Air flow-through in the roof void to remove the hot air
  • Large roof overhangs to keep the sunlight out of the windows
  • Not excessively large windows – in keeping with tradition and higher up on the wall.
  • Some cathedral-style roofs on the upper floor. All ceiling height is already 3m but I hope to add 1-1.5m of additional clearance upstairs by raising those upper floor ceilings, thus lifting any warm air even higher from the living space
  • Matched A/C throughout based on room volumes and hopefully cooler starting point.
  • Investigating options with heat-reflective glass for the windows and folding patio doors
  • Use of rainwater harvesting to reduce reliance on other sources, and cut some long term running costs
  • Use of grey water for irrigation along with any rain harvesting excess

General Layout considerations

  • Master bedroom suite ‘wing’ with dressing room and full sized en-suite. Apparently we spend a third of our lives in bed so…might as well have all the comforts to hand
  • Large indoor kitchen with breakfast bar, island – kitchen the heart of the house, right?
  • Separate dining room for more formal dinners, etc.
  • External kitchen BBQ area for the obligatory incinerations
  • Large lower level shaded external sitting area – my design plans one 10m x 8m
  • Minimum 4 bedrooms – family plus guests needs it
  • Indoors living area, but by having a folding door arrangement, this ‘extends’ out to outdoor living space on the 1st floor verandah
  • Separate office. I am planning ahead that this could become a downstairs bedroom if the stairs become too difficult.
  • Well…it’s that or install a lift
  • Area to add gym and TV room in the future (under building 3)
    By having the large external area at ground level, and with access from the kitchen, and with a WC provision under building 3, visitors never need to go ‘upstairs’ keeping that as our private living area.(so I can slob around in peace, with no witnesses)


  • once completed, I see three buildings x 2 floors so… 6 electrical zones x lighting and power point circuits, plus cooker circuit and external lighting circuit, so 14 breakers (the electricians out there can correct me if this is overkill)
  • Sufficient power points in each room! 
  • low-energy lighting where possible
  • a properly (to western standards) earthed system
  • External security system, CCTV, etc.
  • House intruder alarm system


  • Separate systems for black and grey water
  • All black water furniture to be against or very close to external walls
  • Three smaller septic tank arrangements, passing the fluid element to a single tank adj to the drain field
  • Water holding tanks to regulate the supply to the house


  • Provision for swimming pool later
  • Privacy with perimeter wall, after house is constructed
  • Japanese-style ornamental fish pond (no…not a fishing lake, darling) near to dining room

Special requirements

  • Buddha room
  • Privacy

… check and…check!



They say anyone can build a house… and anyone can…in theory.

However, you need steely resolve, tenacity, single-mindedness and of course funds if you are to end up with what you want. We were not rich so that ruled out a lot of locations. Time was not on our side so we could not wait for the 2-3 years’ worth of deliberations and rejection that is so prevalent in planning offices in the west. And the design itself would probably fall at the first in those locations too!

In fact, attempts were made through the years to get plans through the system, but all to no avail. Seems it’s more a case of who you know than what you know!

We never gave up though, just looked at other ways to make the idea come to fruition. That’s how we ended up building our dream home in Thailand

The Idea


Like many, we had dreams of building our own place. The satisfaction of taking an idea, even a design,  a dream… and watching as that dream became a reality. A lot of people have ‘build a house’ on their bucket-list. Most of them remain an unfulfilled wish. But for us, after a lot of work, determination, negotiation, selection and of course time (!) we have managed to tick off that bucket list entry.

That idea was more than just a ‘build a house’ – this was to be the house we would settle down in, a long term place in a rural setting away from pollution, noise and crowds! See below for how we planned, selected and built the dream…

What are we doing…?


Did you ever want to build your own house? The idea that from your design, a house emerged. I had such a notion, over 30 years ago.

For all the usual reasons, My desire was thwarted by lack of salary, bonus too low, land prices running ahead of my buying power. In fact, I put the idea on the ‘back burner’ and for those intervening 30 years, concentrated on conventional ‘modern box’ living. The idea for an individual home came again when, through a change in circumstances, I found myself living in SE Asia.

Everything that previously prevented my build plan was now eliminated. My salary had not really jumped crazily but it had jumped enough to make a house-build a viable option. Land was cheap… I mean…really cheap compared to Europe, and so were build materials and labour.

It looked like my build dream might become a reality