Above is what the house looked like after 21 weeks and near completion, so how did we get there?


Thanks for coming to this page of www.rickcafe.com I will take you thru the 22 week process of building a house in the Philippines, the planning weeks prior to that, and some of the pitfalls I encountered and some that I didn't. I looked around at houses on the market for sale and they were either in need of serious repairs or they were priced at some inflated price of what the owner and real estate agent  thought it was worth (remember the real estate agent is going to get 5-10% of the purchase price, so by building you have saved 10% off the house cost already).  There is no guaranteed success in building a house as many of you know, and being in the Philippines only complicates the process more with language problems, different names for tools, cultural differences (like hanging slaughtered chickens on the columns before building further, sorry I missed the photo on that one, (but I think it was really dreamed up by the construction crew to get a free lunch),  processes, and of course some of the workings with the local government. While I was in the building phase I looked on the internet and found a lot of good sites to coach me on how to build a house in the U.S; Australia and Europe, but not with the technology that is available here. The closest web site I could find was about building a school in Africa that answered most of my question on how the footing and cement work was done.

Many years ago I read a Dummies book on how to repair your Volkswagen and was thoroughly amused, so I will try to keep it in that format along with photos to keep you entertained through your read, it will be long just like the planning and building process were. First off I am no builder or engineer, but do understand having everything straight and even, how to mix cement and I have some basic carpentry skills from making furniture in years gone by. This was my first go at having a house built or even owning a house after renting all my life. The driving force in building was the rapid rise of rent in the Angeles City area due to the latest rapid expansion of the area with the new Subic highway, the  growth of the old Clark Airfield into an international Airport, and the decline of the U.S. dollar. Rent for a 4 bedroom house escalated from about $200 a month to well over $500 a month in the last 2 or 3 years. So lets go ahead and get started.......


You first have to own a piece of land to build your house on, and that of course is an entire web page or book in itself. It was about a 2 year process trying to find a good piece of land, in a secure gated subdivision, which does narrow down your search area.  You can read my first experience trying to buy land by clicking, I will update how I finally got the land after this portion of house building is finished. This is a photo of the 300 square meter piece of land I purchased:

Day 1 clearing the lot above.

OK so now you have your land and you want to build a house, lets do some basic planning and research in the area to find the right assets to get it done.

Planning Phase

First you need a budget to build the house, which is a double edged sword, because to figure out your budget you need to figure out the cost of the house you are going to build, a real catch 22 that turns most people to find a contractor to build the house and not go through the aggravation. To get a ball park cost of your house you can find a contractor to give you a quote by giving him a design/sketch of the house you want to build, (I had 2 quotes, 1 was 3.5 million pesos and one was 3.8 million pesos). Now you have a basic number to work around and see what best suites you. You will also find if you chose to do subcontracting yourself it is like trying to get your hands around a jellyfish in the middle of a tsunami. First let's look at the advantages and disadvantages of going contractor or subcontractor and then list out all or most of the variables in the subcontractor phase which I chose.

Contractor versus Subcontractor
Category Contractor Subcontractor  
Cost More expensive, you will end up paying 50% down to start construction, then 30% when half is completed and 20% when it is time for you to move in. A possible pitfall is the contractor walking off the job with your money. Some theft will be involved, so expect it and watch for it.  Cheaper if all goes well and is done right the first time. You will waste some money from inexperience as I did. Best to talk to at least 2 subcontractors for prices on their portion of the job. Get ready to open your wallet and start spending, instead of the 50% down you are going to be the one buying all of the materials after the subcontractor or foreman advises you what you need. Some theft will be involved so expect it and watch for it. Some subcontractors will want to charge you per square meter for their portion of the job, this will be a tough one for you to figure out not knowing all of their costs.  
Your time The contractor supervises the job which gives you plenty of free time You can plan on this being almost a full time job for the 5 to 6 months involved building.  
Quality Really depends on the contractor you chose, best to check some of his other completed projects, and talk to the customer, before deciding which contractor to use. The contractor is going to be the one that chooses his subcontractors not you. He is going to try and pick them on the lowest price available to up his profits. He is also going to choose basic items to fulfill the contract, not top of the line. You are going to end up checking several subcontractors to get the right price and quality, very time consuming. You are going to spend your time on site, looking and making sure construction is done the right way and it is advisable you spend some time learning how to read a blueprint.  
The first few days clearing the lot, this is an expense in itself and watch out as the contractor or subcontractor will try to rip you off with the cost of the truck to haul the trash away from the site.

Day 2 clearing the lot

Day 3 clearing the lot

Day 4 Ordering of materials begins for perimeter wall construction

Trench of perimeter wall


Column for the wall, pre-made and moved to the construction site.

Day 5 Continuation of Perimeter walls


Day 5 Perimeter Wall construction

Day 6 Perimeter wall construction

Day 7 Perimeter Wall construction and start of septic tank rear left corner

This was the first mistake found during construction, the foreman thought the septic tank should have 3 compartments when it really only has 2, one to collect the solid waste and the second is the overflow tank for liquid when the 1st tank is full, then the water disperses to a leeching field or ties in with the local sewer system (in our case the sewer system stops a hundred meters up the road, make sure you check before you purchase the property or have some knowledge how septic tanks work We have 2, the other is for sink and shower water only).

Day 8 Perimeter wall construction, work of solid septic tank rear left wall

Guard shack is built and floor level lines are constructed around the side walls of the lot and the front of the lot.

These floor level lines are where you determine how deep to dig the holes for the columns and footings which will come next.

There will soon be almost unmanageable piles of dirt everywhere from digging the 2 meter deep column holes and trenches for rebar to connect the column footings. Our house had about 17 column holes.

This intro page is starting to get long so lets break it down to the sub categories of building a house and you can click on each for a description. But first take a break you deserve it, if you smoke, light up now, if you don't go get a coffee or a cold beer and then let's continue.
Work Flow Chart Cement Work Plumbing Electrical
Ceilings, baseboards, and cornices Bug Proofing Tiles Cabinets and woodwork 
Welders Painters Roof Foreman
Required Permits and paperwork Inspections before starting and after completion Logistics for the Project and resources Theft and having a guard
Costs More Photos Architect and blueprints  
Updated June 20th, 2008 will add daily until completed
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