Our Philippine house project: walls and wall footers.

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Building our house in the Philippines.  All about putting up hollow block walls.  We started building our walls as soon as the footers were in and at the same time as the columns were going up.  Read about hollow block HERE, columns and beams HERE and rebar splicing HERE.  Correct rebar splicing is just as important in the hollow block walls as it is the the columns and beams.  Properly spliced rebar can tie your building together.  Improper splices cost just the same and weaken the building.

Our wall footers were less sturdy than the column footers, but still hefty.  The base of the wall footers are 80cm (2.6′) below grade.  The concrete footer is 25cm (10″) thick and 40cm wide (1.3′).  The footer is reinforced with four 12mm deformed bar (rebar).  The walls had 10mm rebar horizontally every three courses and 12mm rebar vertically every 60cm (2′)

The photo gives an unusual perspective on the footer and wall.  Because the engineers left out a porch column, we had to demolish part of an already completed footer and wall to make way for the added column.  This photo shows the footer with the two 12mm rebar and the hollow block wall above.  Demolishing the short section of the footer proved to quite difficult, perhaps a sign that the concrete quality is fairly good.

With some help from El Nino we had perfect construction weather.  We did not have any significant rain between October 2009 until the roof was on in mid-2010.  This has was terrible for farmers, but good for us. One continuing worry about the dry weather was that our well would run dry.  We used so much water for making concrete, cleaning tools and equipment, watering plants, and for our crew’s personal needs — washing, laundry and so forth.   We had the redug deeper in 2009.  See /digging-water-well-tigbauan-philippines/

Wetting hollow block

Wetting hollow block

Once you receive delivery of your hollow block, you must constantly keep them wet.  If they dry out they lose strength and eventually crumble back into the sand they were made from. 2-16-10. Day 26 of project.

Above.  While this is a nice action shot showing a column being poured and vibrated, it also shows a serious problem.  This is a corner column.  The building should be well tied together at the corners.  The rebar should sweep around the corner securely tying together the column and the walls.  The red arrow points to the very short length of rebar protruding from the columns.  The intent is that these stubs will be spliced to the horizontal 10mm rebar in the hollow block walls.  However this splice is far to short and too close to the corner to provide a meaningful tie.

This is my crude drawing showing how the rebar should sweep around the corner, helping to tie the building together.   It would be ideal if the rebar could extend to its full length or at least until a window or door opening intervenes. Of course there are practical problems in installing and working around such webs of rebar.  This drawing is based on concepts in the highly recommended book “Peace of Mind in Earthquake Country”  You generally can buy it used for about a dollar plus shipping at ABE books.  Our plans provided no guidance on rebar splicing.  Insist that yours do.

AbeBooks – Books on Sale

Also, if you have large windows, add one or two additional vertical rebar in the block cores on each side of each window opening.  A large percentage of structural failures occur around door and window openings.

First the exterior walls went up.  We used decent quality 6″ hollow block for the exterior walls.  We very much regret that we did not use 6″ block for the interior walls as well.  It would have given the house additional rigidity or shear strength so that it could better hold together rather than break apart in an earthquake.  We did not use it because Bob thought it might reduce room sizes.

It’s very important that the hollow block cores be filled with concrete NOT mortar.  If mortar or concrete starts to set, throw it our.  Don’t let the crew add more water and remix.  This is going to be a very tough sell to the typical Filipino mason.

Digging footer trenches for interior walls

Interior walls going up

Walls and columns go up simultaneously.

Above. The block walls went up before the column but the block were laid too close to the column rebar to allow for a full size column.  The block had to be cut back.

Lintel Beam 2-19-10

Lintel Beam 2-19-10

Once the walls are up to the top of the doors and windows, the lintel beams go on.

Ties beam at roof level

The construction of the roof and lintel beams is covered in http://myphilippinelife.com/our-house-project-concrete-columns-beams/

Next the walls are plastered with concrete.

"Plastering" the walls

Finishing (plastering) is covered at http://myphilippinelife.com/our-philippine-house-project-finishing-plastering/

Read about hollow block HERE, columns and beams HERE and rebar splicing HERE.  Correct rebar splicing is just as important in the hollow block walls as it is the the columns and beams.Read all about our Philippine House building Project at /building-our-philippine-house-index/

Comments (11) Write a comment

  1. Hi,
    Thanks for this informative blog.I just want to ask your opinion regarding footings along the property line. Can I just construct an isolated footing 1.0×1.0 meter and positioned its column along the edge in lieu of constructing ftg tie beam?My 2 storey house is to be built in Binangonan Rizal and upon soil investigation we figured out that the soil is good to start up the construction.Thanks in advance and God bless.


    • If I understand your question correctly, you will need a strong and deep footer and as many tie beams as you can manage. I have seen so many boundary fences leaning and even falling. I feel it is false economy to skimp on the fence. In the end, the cost difference is not that much compared to having to tear down and rebuild a weak fence. Of course we all have a budget. Good luck.


  2. Hi Bob. Good day. It’s good to see more people visiting your blog and interacting with you. Of late i’ve been supervising some home repairs, 90 sq. mtrs. floor area, done by a few workers coming from Dancalan village, Ilog town, Negros Occ. My wife and i thank God for my contractor Rey G. and his expert concrete mason Brian T. The construction is shown in many stages in “2kreformed” youtube channel. Your building tips have been really helpful. Thanks so much.


  3. Hello Bob!
    I am a Canadian, we bought some beach property in Hinoba-an, Negros Occidental, I have been looking for a trust worthy Architech/engineering/construction firm to build my house. I have a picture of my house in Cnaada, it’s obviously a woooden house, I would like it reengineered into a cement earthquake and tsunami proof house. I find everything you have written very interesting. I was thinking of weldiong my rebar splices specifically to avoid the splices, maybe a 3 inch overlap welded. I also want to build a naturally cooled basement 4 feet below grade and use the excavated dirt to landscape up my 9 foot basement walls which would bring my elevation up 5 feet above high tide. 99% of Canadian houses have basements and that’s where we keep root cellars, but I’m not sure how much cooler it wil be in the Phils. If you have time to share and mentor me a little bit it would be very much appreciated.
    Best regards
    Louis Boulet


    • Louis,

      I’d like to help but it’s difficult not knowing anything about your beachfront property. While I have had basements and root cellers in the USA (100mi S of Montreal) I really don’t see the point of a basement in the Philippines. It’s not going to be cool and I can’t imagine what you could use it for. It sounds like the basement floor will be at or below high tide, to say nothing of storm surges.

      What is more typical is to have foundation walls well below grade. Where there is flooding the walls extend above possible flood levels and the foundation is filled with compacted filling. The now raised concrete floor is poured on top of the fill.

      In any case, best wishes.



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  6. Hello Bob,

    WOW! What a lifesaver you are! I am in the process of designing and getting my material list together to construct a house in Bohol Philippines. I am currently in Maryland right now (where I was born and raised) I have lived in Cebu, Manila and Bohol for about 4 years. I love it there and can not live anywhere else…

    I do architectural 3D renders for a living and also do general contract building here in the USA.. I will be building the house myself with a few other helpers so my back don’t give out! LOL

    The one question I have is the price of 2? X 2? X 1/4? angle Iron… (6m long?) I read about that it is hard to get that size.. but how much is each piece? / length?

    I think I got all the other prices from friends in Bohol and also from your posts as well..

    Thanks again.. and WOW! great great work and Blogging!
    Enjoy your family and house for many many years to come!

    Take Care
    Jeff Lund


    • Hi Jeff,

      Good to hear from you. Shopping for steel in the Philippines is an adventure. To start with, here’s something I wrote earlier:

      Shopping for steel. It does seem very difficult to save money on basic materials such as cement and steel. While there are hundreds of construction supply firms, post-negotiation prices vary only by a few pesos. There are some pitfalls. Because of the way steel is described and priced it is easy to pay too much for the steel you are buying through sheer confusion. Our specifications called for our roof trusses to be made of 2″ X 2″ X 1/4″ angle bar. Give this spec to construction material sellers and you’ll be excited by the price variations, hoping for a bargain. Look deeper and you’ll see that there is no 1/4″ thick angle bar available. After looking at angle bar from various sellers, I decided to buy a vernier caliper so that I could measure the thickness of various items. It turns out that the prices varied because their response for a price on 2x2x1/4 included material not even remotely meeting the specification; 4mm, 5mm, 5.5mm and 6mm angle bar. One-fourth inch equals 6.35mm. So somebody may offer you a great price on 1/4″ angle bar and deliver 5mm or 5.5mm angle bar.

      My suggestion is to go into the yards with your caliper, use the caliper to determine the true dimensions and then compare apples to apples. Be sure to tell the seller that you’ll return anything which is undersize. Be there when the steel is delivered, confirm it’s what you bought. If it’s not, send it back.

      Now for prices. Back in February we bought 2X2 angle bar. My invoice says “1/4″ 2X2X 6M angle bar” then in brackets “5mm”. No kidding! The price was P855 each. I ended up with 5mm material really through confusion abetted by a clever salesperson. If I wanted 6mm angle bar, I would have to pay about P1300 each. I’d guess it would be about 20% more now. 3mm angle bar was P530.

      You also have to watch for undersized rebar. Ask for “standard” rebar.

      Good luck!


  7. Hi Bob – Thanks a lot showing important photos of your sturdy house in process and giving details on civil construction, materials costs, labor costs, materials quality, pitfalls to avoid, and many others. This gives me more confidence to supervise whatever future expansion our small church, Ebenezer CRC, will undertake at Bacolod City, Negros Occ. i thank God for you and Carol. gad


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