Was this a success? It looks like it’s going to cost us about 2.5 million pesos for our 150 square meter house or about P16,500 per square meter. Houses can be built for that amount or less, but we tried to use top quality materials, so we feel as though we have gotten a P20,000 per square meter house at a discount. By the end, construction will have taken ten months. We were on-site nearly the entire ten months. There were many, many problems and frustrations. We learned a lot and we think our crew learned from us. We learned some things about Filipino culture. So, I’d say that if you are knowledgeable about building, want a project and a challenge and can be patient, hire a foreman and crew and build your own house.
If you buy a lot in a subdivision, we’d generally advise against having the subdivision developer build your house.
Here’s a few notes about employing your own workers.
- You must have a skilled, knowledgeable, experienced and honest foreman. This is the key to the entire enterprise. Mutual language skills must be adequate. There will be problems, mistakes, but don’t criticize your foreman in front of the crew. I did this and undercut his authority with the crew. As with an architect, don’t hire a foreman until you’ve carefully examined some of his projects. Do this instead of listening to any yarns he can spin about his experience.
- Usually workers, even skilled workers with lots of experience, will not have their own tools, beyond the most basic such as a hand saw, pencil or trowel. Power tools that they may have owned are often sold. If you don’t supply tools, they’ll make do with what they have but the pace and quality of work will suffer. We bought a Chinese 300 amp welding machine. It’s been used and used with no problems. Many good welders cannot afford their own machine. If you can supply the welding machine you can hire the welder on a per day basis and get your work done economically. We also bought an AEG 14″ cut off saw, a Makita 4″ grinder, an AEG hammer drill, a Bosch orbital sander and an AEG orbital jig saw. We considered buying a table saw but did not. Except for the jig saw, all tools were heavily used with no problems. All were bought from Far Eastern Hardware on Quezon Street in Iloilo City. Far Eastern sells loads of power tools and has a complete repair shop. My foreman supplied a electric hand-held planer and a second 4″ grinder. We standardized on Bosch cobalt and carbide drill bits and Bosch grinding and cutting wheels as the best quality for a modest price.
- We brought our extension cords from the U.S. Again, the crew will improvise, but good extension cords save time.
- If you’re building a house, buy a cement mixer. Before the project began, we debated whether to by one or not. We did buy one. They easily pay for themselves in better concrete and faster work. They are easily sold when the job is done.
- Do yourself a favor and buy a four foot level for the crew. They’ll build without one, but will build better with one. Use it yourself to check the work and to let your workers know you expect good work.
- We splurged an bought a 8′ Rigid fiberglass step ladder. We have 10′ ceilings so we’ll need it later for changing light bulbs and other chores. It was very useful during construction. We also bought a 16′ aluminum extension ladder.
- Remember, that all of these tool purchases (ours totaled about $1,500 net) leave you with a legacy of 220v tools once the project is complete. You may want to use these yourself. A complete stock of tools will allow you to easily hire workers for repairs, maintenance and improvements.Most importantly, the project provides an excuse for shopping for tools, a existential pleasure for most American males.
- Our workers have been near 100% honest regarding tools and materials. To the best of our knowledge, nothing has disappeared except for possibly some metal scrap. If you treat your workers well, they will probably feel an obligation to treat you well. Be vigilant at the end of the project when the sense of obligation may weaken.
- You will be responsible for finding, paying for and delivery of every bit of material for your project and for ensuring that it’s on site when needed. Don’t expect anyone to let you know what will be needed when. You have to plan ahead. If materials are not available when needed, your crew will try to keep themselves looking busy, but you’ll be wasting time and money. Further, most workers are happiest and most productive when they have an assignment and the tools and materials they need to carry it out. As soon as you return to the site with new supplies, there will be a request for something else they should have told you was needed. Count on it. You may think you’re the boss, but mostly you’ll be the gopher and slave.
- Philippine workers are usually paid on Saturday after work. They are paid an advance (“vale”) on Wednesday. Payment is in cash. We have a strict rule not to loan unearned (advance) money to workers. They knew about the rule from the beginning and therefore never asked.
While we had many ups and downs with our foreman and workers, we came away with a greater understanding of and appreciation for the character, good humor, honesty, loyalty and work ethic of the Filipino worker.