Building our house in the Philippines. Buying steel and steel fabrication. Fabricating steel trusses, rafters, windows, security doors.
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.
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,
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.
Read all about our Philippine House building Project at /building-our-philippine-house-index/