The sharper edge to traveling in Asia

Building scams in Thailand: Why is my concrete structure falling apart?

Written By: herbrunbridge - Aug• 24•10

Ultramodern techniques ensure a clean concrete pour in Bangkok

We here at WoWasis first discovered a remarkable example of mass building fraud when we began looking to buy older condominiums in Bangkok. We probably looked at ten structures in the Sukhumvit Soi 1- Soi Asoke area. All condo structures had one thing in common: they were all literally falling apart. 

The most grievous structural problem appeared to be the inferior concrete used when the buildings were originally built. Huge cracks were apparent near foundations, at upper levels, adjacent to swimming pools, and in hallways. 

Some issues associated with inferior concrete are: 

1) Improper mixture of sand and cement: there are standard civil engineering codes for concrete mixture, including charts that advise on how the mixture is supposed to change with elevation of multistory structures. Hot tropical weather presents its own set of problems for proper concrete curing, too. Increasing the sand content is a fine way to save money on building costs while decreasing structural integrity. 

2) Unclean water: using water from polluted water sources adversely affects concrete strength through dicey molecular bonding. 

3) Utilization of recycled concrete: this material is prone to wear, cracks and water penetration. Recycled concrete is ground down and mixed with fresh concrete corrupting the structural integrity of the building. 

Contributing to the problem of cracks in concrete buildings is the possibility of poor foundation work, especially critical for a city essentially built on water (look at Bangkok’s sidewalks, always an adventure.)

There seems to be little evidence that the original engineering documents specified inferior materials. Rather, we suspect that original contractors bought cheaper materials, charged the developer full price for specified materials, and pocketed the difference.  The actual evidence for such fraud is generally buried as deeply as Jimmy Hoffa. This building corruption scam is popular the world around, and in Southeast Asia there are many examples on virtually every city block.  Bangkok is a virtual textbook of construction fraud. 

One our favorites stories around building integrity in Thailand occurred one rainy day when we visited a business associate in a relatively new highrise. Water was coming down in sheets outside his window as he glared at us from behind his desk. “I have a big problem today,” he said, as a maid, armed with a mop and bucket, slid his desk away from the window. You guessed it, the water was falling inside the window rather than outside the window, descending from a crack where the wall touched the ceiling. He was literally sitting in a lake, his pants rolled up past his knees. 

So what should you do when considering buying property in the Land of Smiles? We’ve blogged before on some of the legal issues you’ll face as a Westerner in buying property in Thailand . In addition, you should have some concern that if you ever wish to resell your now-new condominium, it may look so structurally wrecked in 10 years that no one will want to buy it. The owners of properties we looked at at the time of this report were almost giving their units away. 

Westerners living in Thailand are used to throwing their money away on gem scams, bar girls, and shady business ventures. Being scammed when buying a condominium in Bangkok may eventually be just as legendary. Rents are cheap in Bangkok, and you can always leave when your wall develops a crack and the rain starts pouring in. Still want to buy property? Caveat Emptor.

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  1. […] Also read WoWasis post about construction scams in Thailand) Many Westerners who fall in love with Thailand have expressed a desire to own property there.  […]

  2. eduf says:

    It’s not just the bad concrete, either. Today’s Bangkok Post discusses “dodgy” rebar, made from recycled steel supplied b scrap collectors. More than 100 tons of the stuff was seized by the Department of Special Investigation, who found that it easily broke when under stress. The factory owners stated that they sold substandard metal to contractors not wanting to pay the price of standard-grade reinforcement bar. Goodness knows how many highrises in Thailand have been constructed from that junk.

  3. Ray says:

    Interesting article and should come in useful for some research I’m doing.


  4. Louis says:

    Hi, I took some time to read the post and show it to my wife and I’m quite pleased with how useful and well written it was. I wish more people actually took the time to write worthwhile content. Thanks

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