Construction methods in the Philippines do vary from town to town and contractor to contractor. When building a house in the Philippines, there are many good building design and construction companies. Most do follow the Philippines Building Code but there are a great number that do not.
We have looked at the environmental issues facing your house design and the challenges facing your architect and engineering team. A good team will follow principles of good design and good construction in a natural hazard-prone area.
We also looked at issues you will face in designing and installing your electrical system.
I guarantee the first structure on your land will be a Bahay Kubo. These are small handmade bamboo huts and will effectively be your office while you watch your house being built. If you want it to last well beyond the build, then ensure it’s treated. To keep the termites and powderpost beetles from eating it.
Cheap and Cheerful
People who have tried to import fake or inferior products for sale generally end up in prison for a while.
Unfortunately, the Philippines does not have such stringent checks. This means you really need to check the quality of everything that goes into building your home. From the concrete blocks and steel to the plumbing, cabling and fixtures.
When you are looking at plumbing parts, for example, yes, you will find lots of cheap options, but always keep in mind, “if it goes wrong, which it will, how much is it going to cost to repair?”
So cheap is not always cheerful and could cost you a fortune in the long run.
Concrete is everything
By watching all the build videos on YouTube, you will learn. That a Filipino with a bag of concrete can build you anything!
Very few of the builds I saw showed the contractors employing a surveyor. They are needed to run ground core samples and ensure the foundations for the house are appropriately deep enough. I don’t have to tell you how important this is, especially in an earthquake region.
Employing a good architect whose engineers used for the final drawing sets will always ensure these ground tests are completed. Ensuring everything is correct.
Make sure your reinforcing steel is of the correct size and strength. One simple test is to take one bar, lift it above your head and slam it down across the other bars. Cheap fake rebar will snap immediately due to the metallic properties.
Not only do you need to ensure that the rebar is of the correct size, quality and quantity, but you also need to make sure the concrete coverage is sufficient. Walk around any town in the Philippines, and you will see where the rebar is rusty and sticking out of the concrete. There are standards that specify the distance between the rebar and concrete, which must be followed if you want your house to last.
So, the foundations have been dug, and the rebar is in place with the concrete forms ready to receive the concrete.
This is where the typical westerner will lose the plot as building a house in the Philippines is a slow and steady process.
The normal contractor will give his guys all the cement powder, sand, gravel and water they need for your foundations and pillars, maybe even the ground floor concrete slab. Then turn up with one battered old concrete mixer if you are lucky. Otherwise, the guys will just get to mixing it all on a patch of your land (this will take you a huge effort to remove at the end).
I think I can say that we all know concrete, when mixed in different batches, will dry at different rates. This will lead to weaknesses in the concrete and, at worst, some major cracking.
My advice for foundations, pillars and slabs. Pay the extra and get the concrete poured in one go.
Let’s build a wall
So, currently, construction methods in the Philippines dictate that the main way to build a wall is to get in a truckload of concrete blocks (the quality of these varies incredibly, watch out for poor quality blocks where the concrete used is minimal).
Rebar is placed in the block, and concrete is used to fill the holes in the block and then about one to two inches of concrete plaster is placed on either side of the wall. This is then followed by a white finishing plaster on the walls to smooth it off and provide a surface for painting.
Not only is the rebar in the walls but also your water pipes, drainage and sewage pipes. So, all the joints are buried in the walls during the build, so by the time they are tested, the walls are solid and dry. Any leaks at this stage will probably take months to show up and will be a drama to rectify.
The concrete walls (inside and out) are built, plastered and finished.
This is generally when the electrician and AC guys turn up and start to carve channels in your new walls. So, once they have their ducting in the walls, all the plaster and finish will need to be re-done. To me, this is nuts and a waste of money.
The other issue with this is the electrician’s chances to drill or cut a hole through one of the pipes buried in the concrete.
Just focusing on the way walls are built, for now. There are some new methods and technology already in the Philippines that is cheaper and faster.
In the UK, we build houses to keep the heat in and the cold out.
For my build in the Philippines, I am effectively going to build a fridge. I want to keep the cool air in and the hot, humid air out. The new technology in the Philippines can help with this.
LiteBlock is incredible. It is heat insulated, soundproofed, goes together like lego and once up, will only need a 5mm skim of plaster to finish it off.
ICF or insulated concrete forms is another new and incredibly easy technology to build your house with.
Both of these technologies will not only help in building a house in the Philippines faster and cheaper but much stronger.
Next week I will look at the interior walls and how new technology will help here also.