Our Philippine house project – equipment shopping

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Building our house in the Philippines. Buying our construction equipment in Iloilo.  Delivered, premixed concrete is rarely used in residential construction in the Philippine provinces. In fact, many houses are built without even a cement mixer.  The concrete is mixed on the ground by workers with shovels. When we were considering a two story house, we were certain a gas powered mixer would be a good investment in the quality of the concrete and the safety of our house and ourselves.  This is earthquake country and recent events in Haiti can’t help but focus the mind on structural design and construction quality.  Although we finally decided to build a one story house, we decided to buy a gas powered mixer for the project.  After all, we’re building a house which is almost entirely concrete — not to mention driveways and carport.  The mixer will allow us to control and properly mix the concrete we use.  The cost of the mixer is a very small percentage of total construction cost and it will be sold once the project is done.

We looked at mixers at several locations.  The best we saw was at “New OK Marketing” on Ledesma Street in Iloilo City.  New OK impresses as one of those frantically busy businesses which move a large volume of product out of a small storefront. They seem to know their product, have a good stock of spare parts and can service what they sell.  So far, we are impressed with “New OK”.  They sell and repair all sorts of gas and diesel equipment including generators, brush cutters, chain saws, agricultural and construction equipment.

Concrete mixer in front of New OK in Iloilo

We also bought a more exotic bit of equipment, a gas powered internal concrete vibrator. One of the challenges of building with reinforced concrete columns, is getting the concrete to flow around all the rebar in the relatively small column forms and thoroughly fill all the voids without making the concrete so soupy that it is weak.

Concrete Vibrator engine


Vibrator wand

We decided to buy a Chinese-made gas powered internal concrete vibrator to ensure the quality of the columns.  This consists of a Robin 5 HP gas engine with a coupling for a six meter long flexible shaft.  At the end of the shaft is the vibrator mechanism. It bears a frightening resemblance to the equipment used in a colonoscopy! The vibrator is inserted into the wet concrete filled column to ensure that the concrete fills every void.

A word of caution.  The proper use of a concrete vibrator can definitely produce better concrete.  However, it’s likely that your crew will not know how to use the vibrator and may produce worse concrete.  Unless you educate yourself beforehand so that you can properly train and supervise your crew, you may be better off without the vibrator.  There are some instructions on vibration and lots of other information in this PDF from the Australian Concrete Association.

The price of the mixer was P48,000 with a 6.5 HP Briggs and Stratton engine.  A Robin or Honda engine would have added P7,000.  Once proud Briggs and Stratton is now the economy option. We had a choice of a light duty mixer with a Robin or Honda engine or a heavy duty mixer with a Briggs and Stratton engine.   The heavy duty mixer looked 100% better than the cheaper model so we opted for it.  The price of the vibrator was P17,000.   As it turns out, both the mixer and the vibrator required repair.  The Robin engine had a defective ignition and had to be returned for repair.  Both times a problem getting repairs would have been caused vexing delays in the project, but were delighted to report that New OK has really stood behind the equipment they sold us.  The Robin engine on the concrete vibrator was fixed while we waited under warranty, at no charge.  We ran the cement mixer for one day and our foreman sensed that all was not well.  He removed the mixer bucket and found that  the main bearing roller bearing was frozen.  He hopped on a jeepney to Iloilo City and later the same day a technician from New OK appeared at our job site in a New OK truck with all the tools and replacement parts needed to replace the faulty roller bearing — and the new bearing was a USA-made Timken.  The entire repair was done so promptly and at no charge, so we happily recommend New OK if you need power equipment including generators, brush cutters, pumps, compressors, welders and similar equipment.  New OK, 29 Ledesma Street, Iloilo City.  033-337-1023, 335-0509, 337-6931.

Concrete vibrator in action

Concrete vibrator in action

Business end of the vibrator

Based on the first two weeks on the project, we can’t imagine not having the mixer.  It makes better concrete much, much faster.

Rebar cutter in action

This is a reinforcing bar “rebar” cutter.  Cutting and forming rebar is a big part of building in the Philippines.  On our fence project all rebar was cut with hacksaws.  For the house we invested in this rebar cutter.  It speeds up the work at little incremental cost.  I can’t say the number of “Lenox” hacksaw blades we bought on the fence project but it was dozens.  This cutter cost P4,300 and will be sold at the end of the project.  We bought our at Far Eastern hardware in Iloilo City.  Far Eastern is nirvana for the builder with every type of tool you can imagine on display.

Update.  At the end of the project we had no trouble selling the equipment.  We sold the mixer for P38,000 and the vibrator for P13,000.

Read all about our Philippine House building Project at /building-our-philippine-house-index/

Comments (9) Write a comment

  1. I wanted to express my appreciation for you putting this section of your website out there for us expats. We are building our new house on Tablas Island, Romblon, and before we started I’ve followed many ofyour suggestions. We now have a cement mixer, a vibrator, rebar cutter, power drill and other items.
    Great advice also on the rebar splicing. I used that portion of your blog as a question when I interviewed foremen for the job.
    Keep them coming.

    Greg Pasden
    Pili Nut Farms


  2. All mixer stories aside for a moment, a concrete vibrator is essential for getting the actual mix strength you require.

    Customers want their permanent structures to last, well… permanently. However, in most cases, contracted workers want to finish quickly and easily. When it comes to concrete, wetter is better for concrete workers. Unfortunately, wetter means a weaker structure. Yes, a wet mix will help the crete flow around rebar easily and push air bubbles to the surface and leave a nice wet top to trowel. However, the cement powder (the stuff that binds everything together) sinks to bottom because water rises to the top. Therefore, leaving the top 60-70% under spec.

    A vibrator allows you pour a dryer (stronger) mix yet still have the ‘cream’ rise to top for troweling. In doing this, water is not seperating from the cement powder and you are keeping an equalized strength from top to bottom. Of course this method is more time consuming and may cost extra, so I leave it to you, the reader. This method is recommended for both vertical and horizontal applications.


    • Dave,

      Thanks for the explanation. I did buy and required my crew to use a vibrator. Our problem was that none of really know how to use it properly. Given that, I don’t know if it actually did more good than harm. However, I have seen vibrators in use on projects in Manila. I’d say, If you or your engineer can train and oversee the workers — go for it. Our workers had never heard of such a thing, except one that had worked in KSR. Unfortunately, his knowledge was not deep and he quit.



  3. We bought a mixer with “new” as we thought robin 7.5hp engine from a reliable hardware store Macquiling or such like in Lip. All was fine, we used it to do both slabs of the new nouse without problems.
    For the plastering and tile laying we made the guys mix by hand for the small batches.
    Almost up to the 6month time we got it going again for some more work and it just stopped on us after a few mixes. no compression on the pullstart told me that it was a serious breakage, valve or piston ring.
    Removed the engine and returned it to the shop on the exact day of 6 months of the warrantee!
    We noticed that the serial number of the engine on the block was ground away and I cursed myself for not checking it at the beginning. 4 days later we collected it and it is back running okay now.
    Asked for the problem and the reply was “dirty petrol” ?????
    i have an engineering background and was lost for words!
    Why do the mechanics lie about the fault unless they are “making up” recon engines fron spares and do not want to the public to know.
    We have all the info that you get when buying a new engine, spare spark plug, spanner, brochure etc…………all looked new. We changed the oil after 20 hours for the “running in” stage as the brochure specified.

    For readers buying a mixer PLEASE ensure that the number of the engine that is stamped into the block is written into the handbook and mentioned on the receipt.


  4. Providing cold drinking water for the gang of builders can be problematic in keeping the water cool. We have bought the large blue containers with tap in the bottom and tried to cover it with some roof insulation 1/2 inch. It is untidy and doesn’t lend itself to refills or adding ice. We have just added a clear plastic ROUND container same size with lid and handle. Buy about 4 meters of the roof insulation ( 1meter wide) and wrap it round the bucket. Fasten round with cord and nip the top together with cord through holes in the edges. This can be lifted off like a tea cosy and ice/water added easily. 4 large lumps of ice made with the ice bags from the supermarket last all day. So do not buy the blue rectangle jobs!!


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  6. Dear Bob and Carol,

    Greetings! Hope you both are in best of everything despite being busy in your house. Hope to also meet you both there in Iloilo. by the way, I love your apartment in Molo we’re just neighbors, arevalo and molo is just neighbor, right? he he…

    am just a silent reader of your blog for years starting from your old one. I am really thankful as i am learning a lot from your blog. By the way, I was trying to email you but just can’t find your email or any link here to email you so here goes this message.

    Anyway, I am planning to renovate my old house in iloilo and i am thinking of buying new or second hand or just rent that cement mixer and metal cutter to make work faster as my time is just very limited. The works for renovation is just on the roof. I am planning to convert it from wood to cement so it would be faster i guess.

    So if you plan to rent it out or sell it please do email me. I will be needing it on the mid of April to end of May.

    Thank you so much.

    best regards,



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