The finishing (plastering, stuccoing) of the crude hollow block concrete walls is the process which covers up a multitude of construction sins and starts to convert the rough shell into a finished home. Finishing uses a mixture of cement and screened sand to create a smooth, paintable wall. Here’s the details of finishing our Philippine house.
Workers begin by laying out a network of guide strings to ensure that the finished wall will be flat. During the process, about 3/4″ of finishing will be applied, first rough courses to level the wall and then increasingly smooth final coats. Lots time and cement are consumed.
It’s this process of finishing which makes me really appreciate the Filipino method of construction. My workers are quite skilled at their finishing work. I worked at restoring old houses in the U.S. We always tried to use plaster rather than sheet rock when we could afford it. Plastering, especially over wood lath, creates wall surfaces and interiors with character and visual interest whereas sheet rock is a too-perfect machine and rather flimsy made surface, especially for a historic house. We referred to the “curse of sheetrock”.
To do the plastering in the U.S., we had to seek out specialized workers and materials. The wages paid were steep and the quality of the work sometimes not as good as that delivered by my Philippine workers. When I compare my Philippine house to U.S. houses built of 2×4 or 2×6 studs, sheet rock and T-111, to me it feels like the Philippine house is so much more substantial.
It seems to take my crew three masons and one or two helpers about three days to finish a bedroom. We project that the house will be finished, inside and out by mid-July.
This photo gives insight into how the wall finishing proceeds. First strings are used to determine the final finish level. The vertical bands you see on this wall are set by these string lines. Then the areas between the vertical guides are filled with cement mortar — in this case lots of cement mortar. Once this roughing sets, the wall is ready for the smooth finish coats – see the photos above.