Our Philippine House Project – Carpentry

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We built a house in the Philippines.  Here are some of our experiences in buying and using local lumber including building own own door casings. We bought air dried local “mahogany” – 2X6″ and 2X8″. This is quite a bit cheaper than buying pre-made casings, plus we can have thicker casings, a full two inches. At first it was a little bit of a mystery as to what this wood really was. So much wood in the Philippines is called mahogany. What we bought is cheaper than Lauan “Philippine mahogany” (Shorea Negrosensis).

Rough-cut Mahogany 2"x6" from local saw mill

Rough-cut Mahogany 2″x6″ from local saw mill

Wood shop -door casings

Wood shop – door casings

It turns out that what was readily available (in 2009) was the prized central American mahogany “Swietenia macrophylla” which is widely planted in the Philippines and grows like crazy. The wood we bought is from a sixteen year old plantation on Guimaras Island. The lumber has three or four growth rings in two inches, so it’s far from the quality of old growth timber still being cut in Central and South American rain forests.

door_casing_detail

Door casing detail

We  also bought mid-price doors by Orowood of Mindanao.    There is the same confusion as to what the wood really is. The rails on the doors are of “old growth” lumber — 25 to 50 growth rings per inch.  It’s probably Lauann mahognany perhaps mixed with some second growth Swietenia.   The 80x210x41CM doors cost P2650 each in 2009.  You can see some details of how we finished the doors using stain and flat laquer HERE.  We are pleased with the result and, after four years, the doors have held up well.

We used used a combination of Yale, Stanley and Schlage locksets.  All of these are good quality and have given no problems.  We used Creston stainless steel, ball bearing hinges.  We don’t recommend them.  See why HERE.

15 panel Orowood door

15 panel Orowood door

You can see in the photo below the method used to install the door casings in the rough masonry opening.  3 1/2″ nails are partially driven into the sides of the casing and then bent over.  The casing is placed in the opening, leveled and secured  with temporary bracing.  Then the space around the casing is filled with cement mortar.  Later the cement is finished to match the finish on the surrounding wall.

Cementing door casing into opening

Cementing door casing into opening

We treated the casings with the dark brown version of Solignum wood preservative.

Below: You can see lots of finger joints in these mid-priced doors.

Installed

Installed

The lighting in this photo shows how this door is made up of lots of finger-jointed bits of lumber.  Still, it’s a pretty nice door for the money and they have held up well.

Workers install Mahogany ventilator in roof peak

Workers install Mahogany ventilator in roof peak

2013 Update.  A reader has alerted us to a logging ban and limited availability of hardwood lumber.  “The logging ban was imposed in 2011 by EO of the President and not lifted till today. FWIK plantations are not affected, but these are just covering a minority of market needs in the Philippines. Effectively all non-plantation forest logging was stopped; just the illegal logging continues (and prospers, since many forest workers lost their legal jobs and were sort of forced to resort to join the illegal logging)—and prices for hardwood went steep. I was checking several lumber merchants in Iloilo City, and none of them has any hardwood timber available.”   Thanks for this update.

Some house builders try to use beams salvaged from old houses.  The lumber used in even recent Philippine houses from  1950 to 1980 usually contains wonderful old growth Philippine hardwood of a quality which may never be available again.

sawyers

This photo shows workers in Iloilo resawing lumber salvaged from an old Iloilo City house which was demolished.  They would keep this work up all day.  This method may be a way to avoid damage to expensive saws by hidden nails and other hardware.  While the piece they are sawing is small, much bigger timbers can be seen in the photo.

Also see Kitchen Cabinets and Closets

Updated Mar 20, 2013

Comments (17) Write a comment

  1. Just bought a farm land with mahoghany trees in it and planning to build a resthouse by using the said trees! My concern is……it is durable to use this kind of trees as a post and as an over-all materials for my project? Onething, how many months do I need to dry the
    timber (mahoghany) before I can use it?

    Reply

    • Joe,

      A great many different trees are called “mahogany”. Old growth “Swietenia” mahogany from Central and South America is quite durable. Swietenia is often planted in the Philippines. We are not sure how durable the new growth Swietenia is. That’s what we used in our door casings so we hope it’s durable! It’s probably not the best choice for in-ground posts but the alternatives (such as mangrove) are getting rarer and rarer. Why not use concrete posts?

      Bob

      Reply

      • thanks bob for the reply!
        actually, i’m not using it as a direct post to the ground instead a mahoghany post on top of the concrete post one-meter above the ground!
        plan to do like this so that it will come out as really a native philippine style resthouse.
        anyway, by reading some comments on this site gaves me a lot of ideas.
        thanks again!

        Reply

  2. Pingback: Building our Philippine House – Index | My Philippine Life

  3. Does a question about baseboards belong here in Carpentry or in Painting? My question is about how you intend to install your baseboards on concrete? Will you use concrete nails, two-part epoxy anchors and screws or liquid nails?

    Thanks in advance.

    Reply

    • Theodore,

      The baseboards are all installed now. We used what are called “Tox” here, those nylon expansion plugs that accept screws. We used a carbide bit, but in the Tox, drilled the baseboard and screwed it into Tox. Later the recessed screw heads are filled with a tinted filler.

      http://

      Reply

  4. Pingback: Our Philippine House Project – Carpentry | Philippines or Bust

  5. Thank you for the information you have provided in this site. Indeed we have experienced most of what you have experienced. We are also building our house in iloilo, still a work in progress. Any advice you can give as regards kitchen cabinets and storage places? estimated cost and materials used would be appreciated?

    Reply

    • Jenny,

      We’re just starting to focus on cabinets and closets. We’re able to buy mahogany pretty cheaply so we’ll probably build kitchen cabinet doors and cabinet carcasses out of mahogany and use plywood for the ends, tops and bottoms. Probably the same for bedroom closets except we’ll buy the doors. As we refine our ideas and maybe even start building the cabinets we’ll post more info on .

      Regards,

      Bob
      http://

      Reply

  6. Bob, not sure if treating the doors with Solignum is a good idea. I wouldn’t doing it, if I were you.

    I also never heard anyone using Solignum for the doors, I am sure you do not neet to be afraid of termites for the doors.

    My doors will be treated with Wood Oil stain and afterwards with varnish. The problem is that Philippine carpenters use a lot of filler to cover damaged parts and holes in the wood they did not treat with more care before hand. That filler will be lighter in color from the wood oil stain. So all filler must be removed as much as possible with proper sanding before oil stain, or better do not use any filler.

    Reply

  7. I know the plastic doors that you are talking about, my Mom has this in her house in Baguio, the fiberglass I was mentioning is much more upscale than those doors manufactured by Pella, Thermatru or Jeldwen, truly resembles a wooden door and stained like a wooden door but made with fiberglass, it is a bit pricey here from $2,500 and up depending on style, finish, width and height, but this doors are gorgeous.

    Reply

  8. Gorgeous door Bob, beautiful jamb, do they not make fiberglass doors in the PI? As you know they are readily available here and looks like wood, like one that I have which resembles a knotty alder but made out of fiberglass, pretty much maintenance free esp in this Montana winter.

    Reply

    • Lady,

      Not sure about fiberglass but there are lots of plastic doors with all sorts of plain and fancy designs — stained glass, rising sun and so forth. Many people use these doors for CRs especially. There are also those colonial-looking steel doors. I am a traditionalist so I like wood panel doors and door casings, although I know they require more upkeep.

      Bob

      Reply

  9. Peter,

    I already bought my door locks. A local hardware store had a sale. I thought I was buying Yale but actually went home with Stanley. The Stanley locksseem OK but the Yale seems a bit sturdier.

    Interesting point about all interior doors have key locks in the Philippines. It used to be that way in the U.S. too — in the 19th century. Today in the U.S. its pretty much only the nuclear family having access to the house – so no interior locks.

    Philippines households may have lots of people coming and going; maids and other workers, relatives and neighbors who might or might not be 100% trustworthy. Having a lock on every door allows access to rooms and possessions to be controlled.

    Bob
    http://

    Reply

  10. Hi Bob,
    When you choose some doorhandles make sure you get some strong ones and buy extra because they may become unavailable when you need a replacement in a few years. I managed to find a round knob without lock for my front door and then added a separate lock. Strange how in the Philippines every doorknob has a lock in it, in the UK the locks are on front and back door only!
    My breakdowns have been with the steel “tongue” that is a hollow “cast” made and a few bangings with wind gusting can shatter it plus over zealous closing. Removing the doorknob is easy enough but extracting the remnants of the tongue from the jam socket is difficult. Also water can rust the tongue inner parts and give the same trouble. All my knobs stated “German Technology” so I thought trouble free…….however not German made hoho should have known better.

    Reply

  11. Hi Bob,

    Wood looks great when new doesn’t it, but keep the sun off. Our experience with two wooden window frames and double doors have not been happy. Two years and the wood has shrunk causing cracking and gaps that needed filling. Our front doors have been painted and filled four times and now that the wetter weather is here maybe something else will happen? The doors moved so much that I needed to drill out the fixing hole in the granite floor to accommodate the bolt. Apparently sun dried wood from upmarket companies. Our door in the beachouse was again from a good quality timber carving place and well painted, but after a year with rain and sun for a few hours in the morning it has shrunk and warped. The gaps in the inner thinner panels are almost a quarter of an inch wide! On reflection, better to have the two inch thickness all over the door without the inner thinner panels. Also Bob, think its best if the door has exposure to sun to use a “wood preservative” that seeps into the surface and is easy to re-apply. We found a tin of “Wood saver” dark brown that has the Bitumin content to provide waterproofing. The smell reminds me of doing creosote on my dad’s shed. There is a clear product but the Zinc content is not as good as the Bitumin.
    In the UK some chaps use varnish to coat their hardwood doorsteps, it looks good and shiny for a few months but then the weather gets under the surface and it needs removing the following year (plus some wood). Linseed or Teak oil is the answer, it soaks into the wood and is easy to renew the following year, wipe over with spirit and rub in new oil.
    Our homes here are steel frames and it sounds great until you get a lockout and then its shear brute metalwork, plus the hinges are welded to the frames……..ok for a bank!

    Reply

  12. cool, so you avoid buying the 6 inch door jambs but getting only 5 inch door jambs. When asking in the hardware, that would be normal in the Philippines, but all foreigner would complain… ha ha ha ordering 6 inch but getting only 5 inch. Only in the Philippines…

    We had to buy additional wood to add up to our door jambs so they would become 6 inch indeed. What a waste of work.

    Great job, the door jambs look good. The wood looks kind of Meranti to me, what is a cheap Mahogani wood, they might call it differently here. We used to use that kind of wood for doors and windows in my country about 25 years ago.

    Keep on posting. I like to see how you continue…

    Reply

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