It’s Your Money > Building in the Philippines

What Building Mistakes/Issues to look out for??

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Calatrava_Kano:
Greetings to All,

First off, I envy all you who have the construction knowledge to over see or build your own home in the Philippines.  In the States I never worked in the trades, but have owned several homes and have done a lot of rehab/remodeling over my life.  I have done a house addition along with lots of repairs/remodeling so framing, roofing, flooring, electric and plumbing are not a problem. 

But, I am not a mason, I have never made or built with a block anything, never used steel for roofing, nor have I laid ceramic tile.  This combined with the fact I do not speak the local language makes me feel very unqualified to build a home.  because of this at some point I will need to put some trust into someone, either a contractor or a foreman to take charge of building the home we plan to build.

I have been around this group and others for years, listened to B-Ray and others talk about the work ethic and quality of work that is done.  I guess my question/topic is what are the key things I need to watch for and make sure are done correctly when hiring someone to build a home.  Perhaps a \"your builder should, and not should\" list or guide could be created from those who have been down this road to help those like me.

I have notes on proper CHB ratios and drying methods \"The ratio of cement/sand should be 1:16 to make a total of about 55 blocks from one 40 Kilo bag of Portland\" and I have read it\'s a good idea to paint the rebar to prevent rust from harming the concrete over time.

What other common poor technique or mistakes need to be prevented??  For kuripots like me on a budget this is important.


Thank you


Brian

Calatrava, Negros Occ. / Chicago, IL

:
Well the first mistake you are going to make is to make 55 cement blocks from a bag of cement you need to get around 35 blocks per bag 55 per bag your blocks will fall apart while you are trying to lay them

Tom

:
I learned my brick laying at a one day seminar - I built a wall 4 courses high with corner at each end.....and that\'s all that\'s really needed (oh and another 3 walls and a few more courses for a house structure
 
Used a non-setting mortar.....can\'t remember which ingredient we left out/shortened the ratio on...so we could correct mistakes....knock it all down at end of day

Practiced a number of times the following week and noticed speed in laying increase noticably....

But with labour so cheap in RP....I doubt I\'ll be doing my own....but at least I\'ll know what\'s right

:

Alternative to Hollow Blocks

After experiencing the quality of the Cement Blocks available and the way everyone lays the blocks here when I built my small house I made forms and poured solid concrete walls over vertical and horizontal tied rebar

They had never done this before in my area, I had plenty of plywood available from packing crates for our rice mill equipment so the forms were no problem. The house is now 6 years old and still has no cracks in the walls so I guess it is okay

It is actually quicker as you do not need to come back and plaster over the walls as you do with the block walls the cost is close to being the same

When I do use Cement blocks I found the only way to get a quality block is to make them youself I bought a small machine (9,000 Piso 2 guys 300-400 blocks a day ) that vibrates the mix and forms a nice block by doing this you can almost get to the quality of the blocks available in the US

We are planning on building our real house in a couple more years I found this company on the internet that offers you a free cost estimate and uses a new system for building here with poured concrete in my opinion this is the best way to build here

There site is http://www.sibonga.com/

Good Luck on your adventure if you are in Roxas City stop by

Best Regards

Tom

 

Ted:
Brian,

If you can do an addition to a house then you are way ahead of most engineers in the RP.

The typical house is designed by an engineer, drawn by a draftsman and built by a foreman.  The engineer is likely the only one who has any basic understanding of strength of materials, compression and tension.  He may be the only guy who can read well and is likely the only guy who can read a blueprint.    Of course the engineer is not on the job site on a daily basis and may never show up.  If you can afford to have one who will really be there or family members who really understand construction and can really supervise then you are extremely fortunate and you don’t need to read further.

The typical problems in the Philippines could fill a book. Most have to do with saving time and money. Some are cultural.
Here are a few problems:

“Do it the way we’ve always done it” mentality = Low standards. No lintels above windows (even in “good” construction). No grounding, undersized wires, over fused, no ground fault interrupters.

With the exception of the engineer, lack of basic understanding of the principals/theory of construction. No basic understanding of curing, tension, compression, chemistry, hydrology.

Foremen that are corrupt, steal, take a percentage from the crew, ignore safety don’t provide basic sanitation, cut corners and lie about what they did while you or the engineer were away.  They get drunk and fight and go to jail. Saw this a lot.

Engineers that don’t understand engineering, project management what you want and will never show up on the job.  They overcharge for materials and take a cut of the total project – an incentive for running up the cost. They bankrupt the project, blame the owner and move on the next victim.

Large crews that are fast and impossible to supervise.

Slowdowns, drawing out the work, milking the job for the pay.  

Being blocked.  If you are not on the highway, the road is blocked until you pay for an easement or buy the lot.  If you are on the highway you get notice that you are blocking an easement and construction is halted.  Maybe they pay off the engineer for a permit and a lot owner blocks them.  Happens even to big contracts.

No permits.  Guy I know had a fence built close to the shore and was given a “notice of illegal construction” by the municipality for no permit and violating the 20 meter shore easement (Water Code).  He resolved it but was so disappointed in the process that he put the lot up for sale.

Pride and respect.  Pride means I’ll never admit that I made a mistake, I’ll cover it up.  Respect says I’ll never bring up a mistake by someone else.  Never look ahead. Run out of materials in the middle of work. Run out of gas in the middle of a concrete mix.  Ignoring problems and “just good enough”.  Recognizing and voicing problems, and maintaining standards - not a cultural strength here.

Hollow blocks that fall apart in your hands. Not reinforced, no consolidating of concrete.

No drainfields. Single chamber septic system, poorly vented.

No perk test, no soil analysis for load bearing or drainage.

No sense of style.

Concrete problems in order:

Too much water - it makes the concrete easy to work, place, consolidate and finish. It also is a major factor in reducing strength.  If the concrete is easy to place and consolidate then it is too wet. The amount of slump can be tested but you’ll know it when you see it after a few bags.
 
Too much rock and sand – a cheap mix ruins strength.  A typical very strong mix is 1 bag cement, 2 bags sand and three bags of rock.  I used this for columns and beams.  1-2-4 is ok for flatwork (floors). Typical local mix is 1-4-7 and lots of water.  

Undersized rebar and not enough of it. Rebar is expensive. But it is the key to strength. There are online guides for rebar.  You don’t need to be an engineer if you are patient and can read. Of course my rebar schedules were in the blueprints, were more than adequate and were easy to flow.  

Poor aggregate - Crushed hard clean rock binds better than round, the size should not exceed ¾ of the distance between rebars. We washed all of the rock in my house.  Almost unheard of in our small town.


I had very few of these problems. I built with local fishermen and farmers. I didn’t hire experts and barely had a foreman.  I took a hands on approach.

I never mixed concrete until I started building my place in the Philippines.  There are a lot of books, online guides and tips and I read many of them until I understood the concept. I watched it done on job sites.

For house construction, most concrete mixing is done in a “one bagger”.  It mixes one bag of cement, rock, sand and water.  The amount of rock, sand and water determines the strength of the concrete.  I like to add a few gallons of water, add the sand and then the cement.  This keeps the dust down.  Then we add the rock and additional water until the slump looks right. Curing is a process of keeping the concrete damp for several days. This is important because concrete gains strength only if it has water available.

Concrete is very strong in compression but weak in tension. So rebar takes the tension forces.  

 I only let one of my guys mix the concrete.  Everyone fed the mixer but he was the only one to add water. He counted the bags going in. This was a constant battle because his older brother always wanted to take over. It was almost impossible for him to tell his brother to back down.  I always put his brother in charge of placing and consolidating.  When the forms were removed, zero air pockets were a source of pride for him. So it helped him stay focused on his job of placing.

While hollow blocks make up the walls, the structural elements of the house (columns, beams and foundation) are all cast in place reinforced concrete.  So you will have to learn the basics of concrete masonry anyway.

I used the cast in place method. We built our own forms and didn’t use hollow blocks.  It costs more and is a little slower but there is no comparison in strength.  My wife’s lot near the beach has real sloppy land and is prone to flooding.  So concrete was the way to go for the first floor. Also, bugs can get inside the hollow block and find a path to the wood structure.  Not in my house.

A draftsman did the coordination with an engineer that I never met.  He drew the plans based on my drawings and had the engineer sign.  They were complete with rebar schedules and diagrams.  They were 500 pesos per sheet. The crew made 150-180 pesos a day and lived off site.

I started small, building the road and a large octagon bamboo tambayan.  Then the CR, then a small 2 room house. By the time I started the main house we had a system.  A small team of seven that knew what to expect and knew the standards. I was trained as well, knowing how to handle the project with complete confidence. It took 18 months to finish the job but I moved on site after only 5 months.

This is not the route for everyone but I had a lot of fun doing this.  If you can read you don’t need to hire experts.  They are generally the source of the problem not the solution.

Ted


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