Our House Project – Steel and Welding

Building our house in the Philippines.  Buying steel and steel fabrication.  Fabricating steel trusses, rafters, windows, security doors.

Another load of steel arrives

The angle iron in this load will be used to make roof trusses.

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.  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 all were technically substandard. The caliper is also useful for detecting undersized rebar.  Not surprisingly, it turns out that, once again, price differences are minor once you’ve finally managed compare products with similar specs.

There’s another complication.  It turns out that steel is sold by kilograms per meter.  This may be a fair way to price steel products, but a difficult translation when your engineering specs call for 2″x2″x1/4″!

So when shopping for steel in the Philippines, you have to be on your toes.  Some, perhaps even most suppliers will automatically ship you substandard steel unless you are educated and persistent.  Make it clear that you will return any substandard material.  Once sellers know that, they will be more careful.  You must be there when the steel arrives at the building site to inspect the material before it is unloaded.  Good sellers will ask you to go to their yards and inspect the material before the purchase is made.  We had especially good luck with Far Eastern Hardware in Iloilo City.

Welding.   We could have paid local welders under a fixed price or “pakyaw” agreement.  Under pakyaw, the contractors supply their own welding equipment and do all the work, possibly including materials, for a fixed price.  Filipino workers know that daily wages are low.  They hope to get better pay by working on a pakyaw agreement instead of a low daily wage.  However there are many good welders who do not have their own equipment or capital and therefore must work for a daily wage.  We decided to buy our own equipment and to hire welders on a daily wage basis.  That saves money and, just as importantly, you have the workers and equipment on-site for the many other welding projects during the job and afterwards.  Our welders were paid P280 per day. We set up our own “welding shop” on-site. There was lots of work for them to do. First came the roof  trusses (15.5 meters long), center beam, purlins, and cornice framing.  Later the welders made all of the windows, security doors and a myriad of other smaller projects.  If we had accepted a pakyaw arrangement for the trusses, we would have been involved in endless negotiations when we moved on the fabricating windows and other welding projects.

The 300 amp welder and AEG cut-off saw cost about P25,000 or about $500. Our “Yamato” welder is a popular Chinese-made model  costing about P11,000.  Yamato also has a cheaper model (P7,500) which has aluminum coils.  Our brief research seemed to say that aluminum coils are markedly inferior to copper so we sprang for the model with copper coils.  It seems to work well. The welder was directly connected to the mains with 6 AWG aluminum cable protected by a 60 amp breaker.  For some light followup welding work we connected to mains using 12 AWG wire! It worked fine.  We are used N-6011 welding rods for the trusses.  We bought the welder at Far Eastern Hardware in Iloilo.  Huge numbers of these Yamoto welders are sold.  Ours served us without problems.

Making roof rafters in our new on-site welding shop

Making roof rafters (trusses) in our new on-site welding shop

We built  five pairs of the roof truss (rafter) shown above.  Each half is 8.5 meters long, has a 2.5 meter rise and spans 6.5 meters. The total span is 13.15 meters.  The crew wanted to make each piece over-long, lift them up onto the roof structure and then cut them to fit the angle at the roof beam and at the cornice end.  This cutting and fitting of these heavy rafters high overhead did not make sense to me.  We did a layout on the ground to be sure our calculations were correct, welded up a rafter to use as a template and made five identical pairs. Once we got the first pair of rafters up,

Center girt and first rafter up

we decided that the roof pitch looked too low.  After checking to see how much additional pitch the rafter length would allow, we raised the pitch.  Luckily, this impulsive change did not cause any problems.

The story of the roof trusses and roof continues HERE It includes getting those heavy trusses in place, something which we were  unsure how would be done.

Once the trusses were welded up the welders moved on to building OUR CASEMENT WINDOWS and SECURITY DOORS

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

Comments (21)

  1. Do Far Eastern Hardware deliver steel bars in Ormoc City, Leyte?
    It’s 2014 now and is the hardware still there?
    Do they have phone to contact?
    thank you,
    angel

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences.
    Great web side and great work.

    As I am constructing our house in the region of Bayawan I see many discussions that we also have.
    For our roof construction I was using angle bars mostly 50x50mm x 6mm (and for the V-web members 5mm).
    Since we are located at the seaside, one major problem for our steel roof construction is rost. To protect the steel I have used zinc paint, that seems to be a excellent protection against rost.

    Often, our suppliers deliver angle bars that are rusty. Even after cleaning with a machine steel brush we got problems with painting.
    So I am looking now to buy galvanized angle bars, but in Negros I have not found any supplier for galvanized steel bars in Negros.

    Does anybody know suppliers for galvanized angle bars ?

    • Kari,

      Hopefully someone will be able to answer your question. We cannot, but can observe that top quality galvanized structural steel is available. I did see some really great looking galvanized steel stacked up to be used on a Smart cell tower. It looked to be heavily galvanized, perhaps hot-dipped. In general, I would be cautious about the quality of galvanized steel. Generally, the grade of all materials is the cheapest, especially in the provinces.

      Our house is about one kilometer from the ocean, but we get salt spray during storms. Our windows are covered with salt film and our aluminum window screens get corroded. I have noticed that our ungalvanized steel roof trusses and purlins which are enclosed in our attic are not rusting, but that the same material in our garage are rusting. Both were primed with epoxy primer before installation.

      You may have to go to Manila to find what you need and have it shipped to you.

      Good luck with your project.

      Bob and Carol

  3. Interesting build project you have very interesting reading about it too.

    I hear what you are saying about the size of steel. Our roof design called for the same as yours, 2 x 2 x 1/4, but when the guys arrived to build it they had 50mm x 3mm angle iron. Our longest truss was only about 4 metres so I didn’t push the issue.

    I had to push to get them to fully weld everything, rather than a bunch of tack welds. I reckon it is still incredibly strong as it is anchored right into concrete all around. In fact I tried to be on site as much as possible as the roofers were a bunch of cowboys and simply would not follow our plans, but wanted to do their own design.

    All was well in the end though, but a lot of blood sweat and tears was lost.

    http://liveandretirephilippines.com/building-real-estate/members-homes/105-building-our-house-in-angeles-city

    • Paul,

      Thanks for sharing the link to your house building account. If OK, I’ll add it to my as yet unpublished list of favorite links.

      Best wishes,

      Bob

  4. A big problem I have noticed with welding in the Philippines is the lack of proper safety equipment particularly eye protection. I have seen welders using sun glasses for protection. Some use welding goggles but these are really designed for gas welding not electric arc and have only a shade of around 5. For a 300 amp welder you really need a helmet with a minimum shade of 11 and ideally one of 14.
    I do not think many welders in the Philippines own one.

    • Peter,

      No safety equipment for just about anything. I would buy my workers various safety equipment (welding helmet, dust masks etc.) and they mostly did not want to use it. Instead of a 3M mask they wanted to use a handkerchief!

      Bob

    • I have only ever seen ONE guy using a proper welding mask in the 20 or so years I have been in and out of the PI. And he was working in an ex-pat owned car repair garage.

      I have my own automatic welding helmet, and can’t imagine how anybody could get by without one, let alone just using sunglasses…..

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  6. Why a Yamoto Welder?

    Q: I went to DDIS looking for a Model 300 (Not really 300 Amps) Yamato DC Arc Welder with copper coils and got into a lengthy discussion about how inferior the Yamato is with its small copper core. It is for that reason that DDIS does not sell the Yamato. Instead they sell a 300 amp BX1-300 AC Arc Welder with copper coils.

    A: We bought the Yamato because our trusted supplier recommended it. All I can say is that it was heavily used and that it worked fine. Here in Iloilo the Yamotos are sold by the hundred.

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  8. hallo,
    i have see your web site i need a fream for my house from metal
    i look for some one what can bil this for mei live in cebu city
    close by winland tower, i hoop to here from you soon

    greeting
    wim zeegers

    • Wim,

      Do you already have an engineered design for your steel frame? If so there should be no problem getting someone to build it for you. There are so many good welders in the Philippines.

      Bob and Carol

  9. Pingback: Our House Project – Welding | Philippines or Bust

  10. Knowdafish, you are incorrect.

    6010 and 6011 are fast-freeze, deep penetration rods, whereas, 6013 is what we call a “farmer’s rod” & is a low-penetration, general purpose rod, normally used on low-carbon gauge steel & sheet metal. The “60”, in 6013 does designate tensile strength, as you’ve said, but the “1” designates which position you can use the rod in – in this case “all position” – and the “3” gives the composition of the flux on the rod, in this case, rutile. Here is a link: http://www.millerwelds.com/interests/instructors/pdf/Stick.pdf

  11. I would have used 6013 welding rod instead of 6011. 6011 is for welding thin material and has lower strength than 6013.

    The 60 part of the rod designates its tensile strength. Which, in this case would be 60,000 lbs. The 11 designates shear strength, which in this case would be 11,000 lbs. Stepping up to 6013 gives you a higher shear strength and is easier to weld with.

    Is your welding machine an A/C (alternating current) only machine or is it D/C (direct current) also?

    D/C welding rods are MUCH easier to weld with and give a much higher quality weld. A common D/C rod for welding 3/16″ and up steel thickness is 7018. 70,000 lbs tensile strength and 18,000 lbs. shear! The welds look great too!

    • you know nothing about stick rods 7018 70- tensile 1- all positions 8- type of flux coating.

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  13. Bob,

    I hadn’t looked at your website since October and am thrilled to see so many new posts, and progress on building your house. It’s great to follow the construction in such detail and it may someday inform better building practices in the Philippines and elsewhere.

    Dan

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