Our Philippine House Project – Finishing (Plastering)

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.

Finishing - more

Finishing - more

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.

Finishing (plastering, stuccoing) the outside of the house

Finishing (plastering, stuccoing) the outside of the house

Finishing - first steps

Finishing - first steps

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.


Cross section of finished wall

Cross section of finished wall

This photo shows a cross section of a finished wall.  On the outside (both) is the cement finishing, next is the outside of the hollow block, in the middle is the concrete filling of the hollow block.  This an exterior wall built of 6″ hollow block.  If we ever built another house (never!) we’d use all 6″ block.

Applying masonry putty

Sanding, the final finishing of the concrete wall

Once the finishing is complete, the walls have to be left to cure for about a month.  Then the concrete finishing can be neutralized and a final coat of masonry putty applied and sanded smooth to cover any small imperfections and hairline cracks that develop as the cement finishing cured.  That’s in the painting section.

Comments (10)

  1. Submitted on 2013/05/09 at 9:24 am | In reply to Myra.
    Hi Myra,

    Construction using gypsum board would yield less labor cost and less time but it is not very durable. A single bump with a furniture or kids playing around can easily damage and puncture the 3mm or 4.5mm gypsum board. This is the problem i see most apparent.

    Denis Denis Jaleco
    E-mail : denisjaleco@gmail.com

    Comment from Bob: I agree with Denis, at least with regard to the type of drywall I’ve used in the U.S. I can’t imagine the gypsum board or the studs holding up to Philippine conditions. But, possibly there are more rugged boards, such as those we used in bathrooms in the U.S. The finished hollow block wall are cheap and rugged (hose them down after flooding!) and Filipino workers know how to make them.

  2. i love your web site so helpful
    is it possible for me to build a block house and fir out the exterior walls and use dry wall and get either plaster or shoot a knockdown finish with a hopper gun in cebu do they have guys who plaster and tape and finish dry wall are those materials available

    • Randy,

      I have not seen dry wall used in the Philippines. I’m guessing that it might not survive the humidity and bugs. It’s hard enough for a plastered hollow block house to endure.


  3. Pingback: Our Philippine house project: walls and wall footers. | My Philippine Life

  4. Pingback: Updated – Plastering/Finishing Our Philippine House | My Philippine Life

  5. Thanks a lot Bob, actually you were the one who gave me good ideas LOL.

    For the ceiling I would really recommend to use the Hardiflex cement boards and not marine plywood, plywood will shrink and enlarge.

    Here is a link to a translated version of my page for all who can not understand German. Unfortunately the translation is not really accurate but better then in German.


  6. Hardiflex is the modern stuff for housebuilding and our ceilings were fitted by suspending the boards from steel tringers from Steel in the roof and concrete on the first floor. I remarked on the strength when the guys were fitting them and he suspended himself from two of the stringers …… convinced me!

  7. the ceiling would be properly made with Hardiflex boards on any kind of base constrcution, I guess in Bob’s case aluminum. On my house construction, which is still going on we used also the Hardiflex boards but the base were wood construction, painted with Solignum.

    On the following picture you can see my workes attaching the Hardiflex boards to the ceiling.


    • Yannic,

      No, we’re using angle bar and flat bar for the ceiling structure. I think the ceiling itself will be marine plywood. I’m going to do a write up with photos ASAP.

      I can’t recommend Yannic’s blog too highly. I’ve gotten so many good ideas from his blog. I wish could have read it before starting our project. Thanks Yannic!


  8. Pingback: Building our Philippine House – Index at goILOILO.com

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