This weeks article is called building fails in the Philippines – part 1. I have called this part 1 as it will stretch to two or three articles.
Those who read my articles know that one of my pet hates is open bottom septic tanks. The main reason for this is that they are currently polluting the Philippines Aquafers.
Eventually, digging a hole and continuing to fill it with sewerage will cause bacteria to find their way through the soil and rock and into the freshwater. So now, instead of a nice “FREE” freshwater source on your property, you need to pay for filtering your well water or pay for piped water filtering to your lot.
The government has now in place legislation to slow this pollution issue, but maybe the damage is too far gone.
Recent tests not only show Manila bay is not safe to swim in due to high concentrations of Coliform bacteria but also 58% of tested wells are contaminated with coliform bacteria.
Errors During Concrete Construction
So generally, the concrete slabs and columns will be poured using a constant flow of buckets. This can lead to issues in the strength and longevity of your concrete.
One issue is the creation of cold joints and associated cracking. The environment in the Philippines does not help in trying to maintain a constant temperature and mix, especially when doing it by hand.
A good article on temperature damage can be found here at InspectAPedia.
The obvious cure for this is to have pre-mix delivered to your site. Unfortunately, in the Philippines, this is not all that common and is very expensive when it is available.
So how many times have you watched a vlog of a build? And, as they walk through the ground floor and pan the camera up you can see the outline of the rebar in the concrete slab?
This means that there is not enough concrete cover between the rebar and outer edge, which means you will end up with spalling and cracking. It more than likely also means that the ground floor slab is the same.
Here is an article on lessons learned from a couple in the Philippines.
Incorrectly spaced and covered rebar will effectively cost you a great deal in the future to repair, but fundamentally, it means your home is not as structurally sound as it could be.
The reasons for the correct concrete cover are contained here in this video.
Ok, another building technique I see more and more of is the use of wood for lintels. At the end of the day, wood rots, it shrinks and moves, and termites love it. Using a thin wooden lintel to effectively hold up the wall above your window or door is complete madness.
Have a look at this video to show some of the effects.
When you have a hold for a door or a window, you need something to take the weight of everything above it. There are various types, and in most modern builds in the UK, the contractors use steel lintels.
Here is another good website detailing some of the various lintels you can use.
If you use wood or, even worse, nothing (I have seen this), you need to open up the walls. Get one in as soon as you can before the wall above starts to drop. The cracks will start to appear and warn you.
In the UK, a bad lintel may take a while to show up. In the Philippines, where there are frequent earthquakes, it won’t take long at all.
If you wait for the cracks to appear, then you can expect a very expensive repair bill.
Water Pipes in the Walls
We have all seen the standard practice of burying the service pipes and ducting in the walls. For me, I do not understand why this continues. Anyone who has had to deal with a water leak in a pipe, especially outside, knows that water will travel along to path of least resistance.
The point where the water appears above ground could be several metes from the actual leak, especially under low pressure.
So if you have a pipe buried in concrete in your lovely new walls and you develop a wet patch, the chances are the whole wall will need to get chipped out to find the leak. Even if you find the leak quickly, you will still need to chip out the concrete and rebar to replace the broken pipework.
Regardless of how well built they are, new houses will move and settle over the years. Plumbers and their materials are not perfect, so leaks are possible.
I am planning all pipework to move directly through a wall but be open and accessible for any repairs.
Water Pipes in Load Bearing Columns
A bigger issue that I have seen are pipes running through load-bearing columns that are obviously reducing the strength of the columns. There is a formula that must be used when working out the size of a column with a pipe running through it.
If there is one video you should watch, its this one. The engineer shows the correct formula and also shows how easy it is to get it wrong.
I hope these will give you some insights on things to check and look for. I am also hoping that none of you spot a huge expensive issue. However, don’t forget what I previously stated about using a registered architect and the 15-year guarantee it comes with.