Our Philippine house project: shopping for cement hollow blocks

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Shopping for cement blocks (called hollow block) in the Philippines is certainly not a top pick adventure story but anyway, perhaps someone will benefit from our experiences.  Really, this is one chapter in the building of our Philippine house in Tigbauan, Iloilo.

We’re fencing the lot we bought in Tigbauan with a cement block wall.  Why?  To keep out roaming carabaos, dogs, ducks, chickens and goats, to assert our property rights, to keep in our dogs and to keep out uninvited guests or intruders, and because we will be filling the lot to raise its level so that our house won’t flood during typhoons.  Since we’ll be putting in up to one meter of fill, a wall is needed to retain the fill.

Carabao "helps" our surveyor.....

Carabao and surveyor eye each other warily.

Our lot was surveyed three times.  The first was by the seller.  All the “monuments” were missing from that survey.  We asked the seller to resurvey the property before we bought it.  They put in bamboo monuments.  We had them come back and put in concrete monuments.  These were the round precast concrete monuments about 4″ in diameter and 18″ long which are sold in building supply stores.  Because the new monuments were not set in concrete, by the time we were ready to build our fence, some of the monuments were missing or displaced so we had to have it surveyed again, this time setting the monuments in concrete.  After the batter boards and lines (using 16 gauge tie wire) for the fence layout, the monuments were removed again when the column footers were dug.

The above photo shows our lot as we bought it.  These is normal wet season season flooding conditions in Philippine rice growing lands.  The soils are very heavy clay and tend to retain rain water — perfect for growing rice but not really ideal for residential development and especially not ideal for septic systems.

Many expats are willing and able to get personally involved in construction projects; hiring, supervising and firing local employees, shopping and bargaining for materials, getting permits and all the rest.  Bob did not feel comfortable with doing that so we hired an architect to develop the plans and to oversee the project.  Plans?  Yes, a building permit is required for the wall and to get a permit plans are needed.  We also wanted plans and specification to ensure that the wall was actually built the way we wanted it to be built.  We heard lots of stories about poor quality block. We told the architect that we wanted top quality block and that we wanted to approve the quality of the block in advance of its purchase and delivery.  That proved to be more difficult than we thought.

Our architect knew of a major supplier of block to the Iloilo area so we piled into his car to visit the Damasco block plant in Pavia, Iloilo.  The firm had a small storefront in “downtown” Pavia, so that was our first stop.  They showed us their standard 4″ block.  I really don’t have much experience with block and don’t know proper methodology or equipment for testing it, but here’s what I did.  I brought along my 20 oz. Estwing hammer.  My theory was that rapping a block would at least determine if it would easily crumble.  The ring of hard concrete would also contrast with the dull sound of a over-sandy block.

It was immediately clear that the block we were looking at was weak.  When hit it, there was a very dull thud sound, not the ring of hard concrete.  It was easy to tap a hole in the block. Another quick test, one which shows how low the bar for blocks in the Philippines is set, is to grasp the block with your hand and push on a protruding corner of the block.  With poor block the corner will crumble away.

Anyway, this is a standard block used in most local building projects.  When used in a house or wall they are said to be not  really structural.  The block is are reinforced with rebar, filled with wet concrete and then parged with concrete on both sides.  So, the explanation is that the strength of the individual block is not that important.  These blocks are made to sell for little money.  The block I ruined with my Estwing cost P9.75.  Doubtless, this price would be reduced with discounts.  Hence the block is mostly sand with not much concrete.  I have seen worse.  I went to one block plant that made blocks so weak you could crush them with your shoe.

We do not accept the idea that weak block is OK.  Generally, 4″ block is used.  The cavity in 4″ block is small.  The filling of the block with concrete is often so haphazard that the idea that it will add much structural strength is wishful thinking.    Very often concrete is not used.  Mortar is used to set the block and so it’s much easier to fill the cavities with mortar than to keep both mortar and concrete mixed and ready.  We are increasingly dubious that the quality of hollow block is unimportant.  The shear strength of wall is a critical factor in earthquake survival. See our post /earthquake-philippines-design-right/

To continue with our block shopping, since our fence was not to be parged, we wanted a less crumbly block.  The worker at the storefront sent us back to the yard where the blocks are made.  Damasco’s was an impressively big operation.   The owner was very articulate about global warming, the Greenland ice cap and Al Gore.  He said the standard block were manufactured at seventy blocks per bag of concrete.  (A bag of concrete costs about P200.) He said the strength of these standard blocks is 300 PSI.  He showed us some well-cured 700 PSI block.  Forty blocks are made with one bag of concrete. I did the “Estwing test” on these.  These were much better, but still not comparable to block I had handled in the U.S.  The owner said he would custom make 700 PSI block for us, but the cost quoted to us is just about double that of the 300 PSI block.  Is it any wonder that most use the cheaper block!  Using better block would add about $1,000 to our fence project cost.  Also the better block is custom made.  The special order takes three weeks to produce.

After looking at and testing dozens of blocks, I decided to use the Damasco 6″ standard block.  The quality of Damasco’s standard 6″ block seems better than the competition.   Why 6″?  The price is only P1 more than the 4″.  The big advantage of 6″ block is that the cavity is much bigger than that of 4″ block so the extra concrete fill will make a stronger wall.  We are paying P13 per 6″ hollow block delivered to our Tigbauan building site.   We also bought 4″ block from Damasco but were no so impressed with it. Keep in mind that we probably could have bought local 4″ block in Tigbauan for P7 each and we would have used considerably less concrete to fill them.

We were recently in Manila.  There was a minor construction project going on near the Manila Pavilion Hotel with a pile of 4″ hollow block near the sidewalk.  I could not resist going over to examine the block.  It was immediately obvious that it was better block than that available in Iloilo.  It really had a significant cement content.

***OUR RECOMMENDATION is that of many other expats.  Don’t buy poor local block.  Buy a block making machine for about P20,000 to P30,000.  You can sell it when you are done. Make it a part of the purchase that the seller will train your crew to use the machine and make block.   Hire two or three workers.  Maybe you won’t save money but you’ll get far superior block and a better, stronger fence and house.  We also suggest that only 6″ block be used for reasons given above.***  Also keep perspective.  The cost of hollow block, good or bad, in a surprisingly small percentage of the cost of building a house.  Your paint will probably cost more.  The extra cost of using good block is not worth obsessing over.

Manual Hollow Block Making Machine


Poor quality hollow block, crushed with my shoe

We also looked at 36″ x 18″ precast tiles for our well at Damasco. We got to see them being made. The quality seemed excellent, however there probably is a well digger in your area who has forms and can make well tile on-site. That will probably save you money.  The story of digging our water well.

Making culvert/well tiles at Damasco, Pavia Iloilo

Making culvert/well tiles at Damasco, Pavia Iloilo


Read all about our Philippine House building Project at http://myphilippinelife.com/building-our-philippine-house-index/



Comments (57) Write a comment

  1. Good day, i am a supplier of sand,gravel and Hollow Block, as of now I would like to purchase another one(1) unit of Hollow Block Machine, that can produce 4″ and 6″ of CHB at a time, How much per unit and where? I live in Province of Romblon


  2. Thank you so much.This is very informative & would help a lot of common citizens like us.Appreciate you sharing this experience.


  3. A veritable gold mine of information offered in a really thoughtful and professional manner. Great insights I hope can learn from…thanks Bob!


  4. we are looking to buy a hollow block machine to start making our own blocks as in our region south cotaboa in mindanao we cannot there are no decent blocks,,, but we cant find a machine any body help….plenty of machine at around the 25k to 28k in manila but only one here and he wants 40k..? we have built our house on concrete legs all from lumber and 3/4 ply double layer 3″ gap with double roof so the heat can escape..its nice and cool inside not like block houses


  5. Am building a home in malanday,west of manila in oct 2012 what percentage of the total cost of your home was cement, rebar,hollow block and windows? dou you have a rough idea of your cost per square meter for the rough in. thankyou and God Bless


  6. Hi guys,

    I am a Civil Engineer practicing my profession as a contractor based here in Luzon. Please allow me to clarify things based on principles used here in the Philippines.
    Concrete hollow blocks is the most common block used in Philippine construction. Bricks are never or rarely used here and there are no local suppliers for this. Even the old US structures here at the former US navy base made by Americans here in Olongapo City are not made of bricks. While it is true that CHB helps to make the structure more rigid, it is also negligible since the structural design is concentrated on beams, columns and footings provided you have the structural members designed properly by professionals not just anybody claiming to know these stuffs. Unless otherwise specified to use that wall as a structural member/support it is not necessary that it should be structurally strong. But it is true that it adds up to the strength of the whole building, but please bear in mind that too rigid structure affects its seismic design.

    Usually block makers claim that their hollow blocks are 300psi but there those makers that do not comply with this load. You must really inspect the quality of the blocks you buy.

    If you are still after the strength of the blocks there are blocks that can satisfy your taste. These are called LOAD BEARING BLOCKS. They usually come ranging from 500 – 1700psi. They can be placed with using mortar or be used just like ordinary hollow blocks. There are suppliers of these load bearing blocks here in the Philippines, but they are not available in your local hardware stores. Their price range from 20 – 27pesos per piece. If you want more structurally sound walls, use reinforced concrete walls (retaining wall types).

    If you’re erecting fence that is about 1.8meters high, beams are not required. provided this fence will serve only as fence and not as lateral support such as retaining wall.

    with regards to general construction materials, there are a lot of poor quality materials but i can assure you that even though the Philippines is a 3rd world country, there are also good and economical materials available.

    If you are a foreigner wanting to build a home here in the Philippines, I suggest you ask your contractor to specify ALL the materials you want to be used. Hire an individual consultant (not related to your contractor in any way) if you can’t inspect your construction yourself to make sure the materials used are what you both agreed. Visit home depots so that you’ll be informed of materials used here. The general idea here just like in other countries, with great construction comes with great price.


    • Hi Amie…would you mind sending me your contact details. i have a project in planning stages and would like to chat with you further about using an external consultant to check on the construction and specifically the spec on key building materials.


      Colin R


  7. Hi,

    Wow I’m really impressed with the work you’ve done here and the lengths you’ve taken to go into such detail describing your building project. I’m from the UK and I’m a final year student at the University of Manchester. I’m currently finishing off my final project where I have to write an investment appraisal on an original business idea. My Mother’s family own a piece of land (about one acre) near Caticlan so my idea is to build an ecovillage consisting of 40 homes run entirely on renewable energy. Although this is in the concept stages at the moment, I do hope to undergo this project once I graduate in the summer.

    I’ve done the drawings for the project but the problem is finding information about suppliers, architects, engineers, costs of labour and materials in the area or close by. I’ve been using websites such as Alibaba and Sulit, but all the suppliers seem to be in Luzon. I have a list of materials that I need so all I need now is the contact details of a good construction supplies company/ individual ideally in Panay or in the Western Visayas Region.

    Seeing as you have had first hand experience in building your own house, I wonder if I you could lend a few pointers in the right direction? Just to give you an example of the kind of things I’m looking for:

    1,000 cubic meters of wet concrete for the footings
    91,500 units of 40cm x 20 cm 4 inch concrete blocks
    7,900 square meters of 50mm insulation
    1 architect ideally specializing in eco-design
    1 engineer
    Daily wage of an unskilled labour
    Daily wage of a skilled worker (i.e. bricklayer, electrician, plumbing)
    1 crane capable of lifting 1000KG and can raise 12m high (HIRE)
    1 backhoe loader (HIRE)
    Tileworks – floor and wall
    Paintworks – interior and exterior
    Bathroom fixtures i.e. toilets, shower heads, basins
    Kitchen fixtures i.e. sink, counter tops
    2,500 square meters of plywood
    Electrical supplies i.e. sockets, switches, backboxes, fuseboard, cables, lighting
    200 Doors and 320 windows

    Sorry, I know there’s a lot of things on that list so I’d be so grateful if you could spare any help or ideas. I’ll be coming to the Philippines in the July but I’d like to get a rough idea of costings before I come over.

    I look forward to hearing back from you or anyone that can share their ideas.

    Best Regards,

    Sean Flint


    • This site might help you with other materials available here in the country. Do not rely on sulit sites.


      Here in Luzon daily skilled wage is Php350(8hrs)-all skills: Helper/unskilled Php250(8hrs). I am pretty sure wage range in Visayas is close to if not the same here in Luzon.

      Feel free to ask questions. Good luck on your project and God bless.


  8. E-mail : jun_jun5473@yahoo.com

    hi,mr. ravello at average output per bag of cement of 43 pcs chb with the market price of 9/pc.is it still a profitable for your biznis?im john flores from tibiao antique,im also in a concrete hollowblocks biznis


  9. Building a house here in the Philippines will be a real trip for anyone from an advanced country. Building materials are poor, or poorly made. Tradesmen are usually barely skilled compared to the American or European counterparts. First have your own hollow block made on site. Be sure they are mixing the proper ratio of portland cement. Supervise the work onsite Yourself. If you leave it to someone else they may “skimp on the mix and save the cement to use or sell. The worksite must be fenced and guarded 24/7 or everything will disappear. Hire a trusted security guard as they come cheap and it is worth it. Here they use concrete columns to support walls because of poor materials and workmanship. Consider using strong extra thick footings properly reinforced with steel re-bar. This will prevent cracks from developing in walls and stucco later. Use 6 inch blocks if you can afford to. Use reinforcement vertically and horizontally. Look around and talk to foreigners and knolegable locals first to seek out quality workmen and sources of the best available skilled labor, hardware, lumber ectra. Use steel matting and re-bar in floors this will prerclude cracks in your beautifull ceramic floor tile later. These guys cant pour a decent floor either. They tend to leave the edges high along the inside walls witch means furniture will lean away from the walls unless the tiles is laid carefully with compensating bed of cement. For stucco walls use the motar cenent as it will tension crack less. 3M company makes an elastic coating for stucco to be used under paint. Light shades or white paint absorbs less heat. Roofing should have a plywood underlayment . here they go large gaps in the roofing trussess witch means weak roof that tends to dent, and heat is radiated downward. This will make your home into an oven. Use wide overhangs on roof. Consider insulating the ceiling or roof as its essential especially with AC. Wood used for doors and cabinets should be SEASONED so it does not crack later. Use good electrical hardware made in the USA, Europe or Austraila. Use grounded 3 wire cable or run an extra ground wire. Install a security system with infrared activated spotlights outsise. Use an ornimental security grating. Own a dog that growls and barks. You get the idea. Good luck!!


    • Richard,

      Thanks for your excellent comments and tips. I especially agree with the use of 6″ block. There is practically no room to fill 4″ block with concrete. We did not use plywood roof sheathing but rather used heavy .6mm Galvalume roofing. It’s quite strong — no denting.



    • Thanks for this site, I am really enlightened with the ideas given. If you want to build your house in the Philippines you must do your research too from prices to quality rather than just believing immediately the local contractors advise. They will insist on their primitive strategies yet expensive but unsatisfying quality. You have to be an engineer or an architect as well so that you wont be robbed. It is really a very big headache constructing in the Philippines. My contractor insists on an undersize hollow block 4″7″16″ for the exterior walls. So disgusting.


    • Great tips! The only concern I have is that wide overhangs would induce stresses due to lift in high winds.


      • Eric, yes that should be taken into account by the engineers who design your roof structure. Bob and Carol


    • I don’t have a specific suggestion but if you ask around the J.M. Basa, Iznart area, I’m sure someone can help you. Good luck!


  10. I read a post saying 4″ block is fine for building fences! I want to laugh. We do not necessary use rebar in our block construction in the states, but we are using 8″ block! The blocks we use for construction are one difference between the us and philippines. The other, MAJOR difference, is the way we lay the blocks in the US! I have witnessed pinoys laying block without a level and leaving 2″inch mortar joints! That’s hilarious in comparison to US construction.

    For normal walls (fencing) we will use 8inch block in the us. If we are going to be building a two story house we use 12inch block. And no need for concrete column and beams. That just makes for incredibly slow construction!


    • I hear you. I was so frustrated shopping for block here. They were just sand with a tad of concrete to hold them together until they dried out and fell apart — a totally different creature than the block I know from the U.S. Still, I just am not qualified to judge if the Filipino method of deep column footers, columns, tie beams and rebar is better or worse than a 8″ block wall with no columns or tie beams. The conditions in the U.S. are mostly different. Where we built, our structures have to endure earthquakes and floods. Our perimeter wall is now contains the water from our neighbor’s rice paddy. We did not have to consider that in New York!


  11. Pingback: Our Philippine house project: walls and wall footers. | My Philippine Life

  12. Hello there i am selling concrete hollow blocks no.”4. I am producing 40-45 chb in
    40kg/1 bag of cement. (my mixture is 1:2:5) 1 cement, 2 chockers 1/4 size and 5 sack of river sands. This is a machine made with pressure test of 300 psi.
    I am located in Bayawan city, Negros Oriental. Try to visit my place and see the
    finished product of chb. I dont a bad feedback from customers. I you are willing to
    order try to contact my 09204454287. I am using CEMEX CEMENT (APO)


    • Hi Felipe,

      It sounds like you are making a good product. I wish we had been able to find someone like you when we were building our house.



    • hi,mr. ravello at average output per bag of cement of 43 pcs chb with the market price of 9/pc.is it still a profitable for your biznis?im john flores from tibiao antique,im also in a concrete hollowblocks biznis


  13. From our friend B-Ray in Dumaguete:

    “For a fence, 10mm rebar is fine, 12mm is over kill and costly, IMO, if the footings is half again wider then the block size and 10mm rebar in the footing. 6″ block is over kill for a fence also, IMO. 4″ block fencing has stood for generations, even the not so good blocks and without finishing, unless your building a 8’/10′ walls? Also, I DO NOT do the columns with fencing or any hollow block building. IMO, that’s over kill also and more costly with the rebar cages. Over lapping each row of blocks by a half block and filling with concrete is what is done in the States and has served well. That gives you a solid wall when finished. What I’m saying is, filling each row make the hollow blocks the form for the wall and no form materials left over. The problem with Pinoys, they want to use the block set mix to fill. That’s a NO-NO! Concrete with chipped rock is to be the fill! In other words, two different mixes are needed in building with hollow blocks, fence or building!!”


  14. Pingback: Our Philippine house project: concrete columns and beams | My Philippine Life

  15. Hi Bob,
    hollow blocks are one of the major problems in Philippines construction.
    I have purchased hollow blocks from a large hardware supplier which crumbled when I picked them up- no hammer test necessary.
    What you are shown as a sample generally is stronger than the order you will receive.

    The issue is that they skimp on the cement content to make more profit. The only good hollow blocks are grey in color ( as yours are). They are very rare here.
    If the block looks brown it is garbage. It is terrifying to see tall buildings going up in Cebu with hollow block construction that is sub standard and dangerous.
    My Filipino friends will not buy stock hollow blocks, preferring to make their own to guarantee quality.


    • Simon,

      It was not until I started a little research on structural design for earthquake-prone regions that I realized that the oft repeated advice that the quality of the block does not matter because “the strength of the building is in the columns and beams” — is really bad advice.

      I started learning about the critical importance of rigid “shear walls” in preserving the integrity of the building during lateral shaking. I feel ok about our 6″ exterior walls, but our interior walls of lousy 4″ block look fine, but I know just how weak they are!

      I agree, make your own block, use 6” (or even 8″ block), make sure the rebar and rebar splicing is done properly, make sure that the block are carefully filled with strong concrete (NOT mortar) and consider additional tie beams. A strong, continuous tie beam above the windows and at the top would be good.

      Tigbauan, Iloilo


  16. Pingback: Earthquake Philippines – design right at goILOILO.com

  17. Hi Good to all!

    I want to know the standard production of hollow block in 1 sack of cement. Also, if you have any idea about the electric machine for making CHB (price)

    Felipe Ravello
    from Negors Oriental
    Bayawan city


    • For good quality block perhaps 40 blocks per sack, poor quality up to 70. This is a chance to urge the use of 6″ block, not 4″. The 4″ block just don’t have a cavity large enough to hold much cement and for the wall to have even minimal structural strength.


    • From what we’ve been told, 70 block per sack of cement for standard (weak) block, 40 per sack for better block.


  18. Pingback: Building our Philippine House – Index at goILOILO.com

  19. Pingback: Our house project: getting started at last at goILOILO.com

  20. Ritchard,

    Sorry I can’t help with a cabinet maker. I’ll be facing that myself. I did have some bookcases made by a contractor. I found bookcase designs I liked online, printed out photos and gave them to a contractor. I specified that they be built with 5/4 lumber so that the shelves would not sag. They are not fine furniture but they are sturdy and attractive. We built them of Lauaan (Philippine Mahogany).

    Many cabinets are made by the carpenters involved in the house project. Usually they are acceptable but not great. There are furniture shops in Iloilo. These may be your best bet for good cabinets. There is one furniture shop on Compania street in Molo – I think it’s called San Jose woodworking. The owners name is Issac. They are pretty skilled but must often work to modest price point and use less expensive wood. If you specify better wood and top workmanship, I suspect you could get good quality out of them.

    One big problem is that Philippine forests have been almost totally logged off so obtaining the fabulous old growth hardwoods which furniture used to be made from is very difficult. A friend get around this by buying beams and lumber from old houses and reusing it for door and window casings and cabinets. I have some photos of the beams being resawn by two guys using a crosscut saw. They work day after day making lumber from those old beams.


  21. hello, we are planning to build about 3.5 hours south of iloilo, but will have to buy most materials from iloilo, we plan to use wood trusses ,, do you know any one who builds them in iloilo, and we need cabinets (kitchen and bathrooms ) and are finding it hard to find a supplier or a good cabinet maker ,, can you help , thank you , and yes i understand a bout the hollow sand blocks ,, some are now saying 400 psi, and this is very doubting if they are even 200.. i am a canadian marred for 18 years and 2 children and want to build in the next 8 weeks or so, but we are not ritch , just love the philippines ,and yes iloilo is great place . thanks bud ,and all on this site .. sincerly ritchard


  22. Pingback: Digging our well in Tigbauan, Philippines at goILOILO.com

  23. Hi Jim,

    Thanks for your feedback. I think things may be a bit cheaper in Iloilo, at least as far as labor is concerned — more like P300 for a skilled worker and P200 for a laborer.


  24. Bob is right on his estimate of between P15,000 to P20,000 per square meter to build a house. We just finished a 1-storey 24 square meter addition to our vacation house in Antipolo, Rizal at a cost of approximately less than P19,000 per square meter. The finished project consist of 1 bedroom with a private toilet & bath, window A/C, and french door; open patio with ceiling fan/light combo, outdoor kitchen with S/S sink and gas cooking stove on a tile counter top; concrete tile roof; “Mariwasa” non-skid tile floor all over; laundry machine; 2 additional septic tanks; paint and all fixtures. I don’t have the cost of materials, but labor cost was P400 a day per (Mason) person.


  25. Pingback: Our house project: building a hollow block perimeter wall at goILOILO.com

  26. Weng,

    Steel (rebar, roof trusses and metal roofing) is a big part of the cost of building. It should be going down because the world market price of steel is tumbling down. How long that will take to reach the Iloilo building supply dealer, we don’t know. I don’t think concrete has come down. We have not paid too much attention to material prices as we locked ourselves into a fixed price contract for the fence. We’ll pay much more attention when it comes to building our house.

    We are using architect Jose Mari B. (Jomari) Moleta for the fence project. 033-338-3800, mobile 09198921995. We’ll see how that goes before we decide on an architect for the house. We have also had discussions with Joemarie Yao, a quite talented designer and builder. His design-build firm is JV Landmark Inc., 033-337-3624, 033-336-6052 email: jv_landmark@yahoo.com.ph

    Again, one thing to keep in mind regarding septage disposal is that almost all lots in Iloilo must be filled, perhaps as much as a meter. If the fill material is carefully chosen it can contain a septic tank and leaching field.


  27. weng, hope you don’t mind my input…my architect was alex bachalian..i’m quite pleased with the project. it was behind-schedule, but i didn’t mind–i had time to ”work my tush off” trying to keep up with the expenses. of course, it went over budget since the economy was (and still is) very unstable..

    good luck and God bless all our projects…


  28. Hi Bob and Carol,

    Thanks for your reply. Yeah please do post the prices of construction materials if you have a chance. That would be a great help to me as i am budgeting now for the house. By the way, i was informed by a friend that prices of materials in manila is a lot cheaper already compared to last year and the pther previous years. I don’t know though if it’s tue in iloilo. Hope it is so that i could save more on my budgets.

    As to the septic systems that is what i am mostly worried of. If there’s no drainage one would be forced to spend regularly in hiringe a private company for cleaning the septic tank everytime it’s full. I learned it’s quite expensive there, 8 to 10k per service. Thanks for sharing also your thoughts about this matter. Just can help but worry about this.

    By the way, may i know who is your architect or anyone can refer their good architects there in iloilo.

    Thanks again.


  29. Hi Weng. Glad your finding the blog useful. We’ll try to post material prices as we learn about them. Since we have a fixed-price contract with my architect, we don’t always know the prices. If you’re planning to build a house, we suggest using P15,000 per square meter as a rough guideline with P20,000 for something quite deluxe. This includes tile floors, finishing and the septic system.

    Speaking of septic systems, you have a good point. If you buy in an established subdivision, you’ll likely have access to a drainage system which will take away (probably to the nearest stream or river) your “septage” — the output of the septic system. Where our property is located there is no drainage system to hook into. We have to take care of our own septage disposal, plus we have to worry about the septic systems of future neighbors. In the U.S. a septic system would never be allowed on a site like ours. We very heavy clay and very poor drainage. In the U.S. the solution would to be to bring in fill with good septic characteristics and put a leaching system in the fill. Since we’re putting in lots of fill, this may be a possibility for us. The architects we’ve spoken with don’t seem too interested in this approach. Since the leach field is above the septic tank, a sewerage pump is required.

    We located our well as far as possible from our own well and from our boundaries to give us the best protection from the drainage of future neighbors.

    Hopefully, as our neighborhood develops, the municipal authorities will build or require a proper drainage system.


  30. Hi Bob and Carol,


    I am an avid fun of your blog. Thanks for the the info and updates. By the way, if you can email me the cost of construction materials as i am also planning to build a house there by myself. However, i’m not yet there in the philippines to do the survey so if you could email me or post here in your blog i would really appreciate it. International prices already down but i’m not sure there in the philippines especially iloilo.

    another thing, how do you plan to do your septic tank. I think there is no drainage there for the waste to go out so i think it’s quite a problem.


  31. no, i won’t laugh since up to now, our wall isn’t 100% done…part of the front wall is made out of chicken wire and some bamboo–THAT will really keep the bad guys out!! haha..still waiting for some extra cash–maybe we’ll be waiting for a long while..

    seems like b-ray’s been through that same road..you must have pinched a few blocks. i’m ever thankful to my brother in law who kept eagle-eyes over the architect and the workers, as well as the accounting of funds.

    keep us posted, bob and carol..it snowed again yesterday, and this week we’ll have temps on the teens! but i guess you know that thru your kindle!!


  32. B-Ray — you should write a book! Thanks for the feedback. Construction should start next week; building the shed for workers and materials and digging the well. 18 36″ (diameter) x 20″ well tiles. The tiles we looked at were really good. The fence will require about 5,000 block. The block is not really the big cost — it’s the rebar and concrete. I won’t tell you what we are paying because you’ll laugh at me! Remember, it’s 180 lineal meters of wall. We’ll keep you posted. Bob and Carol


  33. Natie, so far (knock on wood!) our experiences have been so good. Our Iloilo lawyer is a sweetheart and the whole process of buying our lot from a private seller (a retired judge) was flawless. We already have the title. Same with our dealings with Tigbauan officials. Everything on the up-and-up so far. We have been treated very well by our Ilonggo neighbors.


  34. Well now people, do I need to write a BOOK? LMAO

    As yet, I haven’t gone through everything you write about. So, bits is in order here ie…..hollow blocks.

    Telling a Pinoy, QUOTE: “We told the architect that we wanted top quality block”, is like piss’n in the wind and getting wet, PERIOD!! You’ll get a “YES SIR” and get “WHATEVER” they want to give you and with a foreign face involved, twice the price, COUNT ON IT!!

    9.75 pesos for a 4″ SUB-STANDARD block, tells the story, IMO!

    From what I have seen, dealing with Pinoy made hollow blocks, 80 to 100 per sack of cement is common. Then, what TYPE of sand is used in the mix makes a B-I-G difference! Many Pinoys will use illegal gotten sea sand and the salt is a KILLER! When we built our own blocks for the 2 story, we avg. 53 per sack and used ONLY black sand which has a binder in it at a cost of 3.5 pesos each, (made 2,500), in 2004.

    If I was to do this again, I would have to figure the mix again since OLD AGE has caught up with me!

    Another thing we did was using a 1 bagger mixer to insure the proper mix. The Pinoy, “that’s good enough”, hand mix wasn’t exceptable!

    QUOTE: “My theory was that rapping a block would at least determine if it would easily crumble. The ring of hard concrete would also contrast with the dull sound of a over-sandy block.”

    Not a bad test “AT ALL” my friend!! Another “test” is to take 3 fingers on the outside of the ear of the block and the thumb at the top and pinch as hard as you can. Not as effective as above, but if the test fails, (most Pinoy made blocks will), you know what’s there.

    Now, for the bottom line in reguards to hollow blocks. We have bought Pinoy built housing, built for Pinoys, to remoldel for rentals and after 18 years since built, they haven’t fall’n down. Granted, all we bought is a lot with 4 walls and a roof, maybe windows, called a house.

    Foundation, collums and beams are the backbone of a building. Hollow blocks just fills inbetween. When you add the “FINSHING” to the blocks with a mix of one to one by 1/2″ thick, will give a hard surface.

    Don’t expect Pinoys to build a true smooth wall!! Finshing makes up the difference and what is called a termit finish, is your best bet for looks. Basicly, hids the ocean waves in the walls! LOL


    • I believe you should not write a book nor should you ever be a so called “expert” in construction. Considering you don’t know how to spell and you are a racist. FYI to call a Filipino “Pinoy” is plain ignorant and politically incorrect. If you have a problem with the Pinoy in general, don’t deal with them, don’t even try to know them, better still don’t live in the Philippines.


  35. wow, thanks for the update, bob…very interesting! yes, a wall is a necessity for your project, unless you plan to be there 24/7 (and to be awake as a guard, too, 24/7) if you don’t, the building materials will ”grow legs” and walk away…

    now the fun begins…my sister and law and brother (had a house project in DBLedesma 3-4 yrs ago) experienced frustration over the ”lagay” system in obtaining permits and such..after being away for many, many years from the country, it was a very hard pill to swallow.

    when i did mine, i countered the minor problem with the system called “palakasan”, or ‘who do you know’…i don’t have to pay under the table for expedience…


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