Our Philippine House Project: Plumbing

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Our Philippine house building project.  What we learned about plumbing in the Philippines when we built our modest dream home on Panay Island.

Before getting into the mechanics of our plumbing system, we’d like to comment about Philippine bathroom design.  For the Westerner, many Philippine bathrooms are just too small. Some have no windows.  Between the small size and lack of ventilation they can become cramped, hot, wet, moldy buggy and unpleasant places.  We had a bathroom in a nice apartment we rented which we dreaded to use, not because it was dirty, but because it was small, windowless, wet and hot.  This can be true even in upscale houses. Many well to do Filipinos also have small, unattractive kitchens as they don’t ever see themselves doing any cooking.  The kitchen is designed for the maid.  We’re not sure why bathrooms are so small.  I suppose Filipinos could wonder why foreigners want to have “palatial” bathrooms.  Anyway, be sure you Filipino architect and/or builder knows what your expectations are.

We only have “cold” water plumbing so our water supply plumbing is quite simple.  We realize that many readers will want hot water, so here is some information on the available options.  We have not included homemade systems such as outside drums painted black, coils of black pipe or the electric immersion heaters you put in a pail of water.   There’s lot of information on the former online and the immersion heaters seem too dangerous.

CAE Kitchen faucet failed after one year. No repair parts available.

There are many good quality faucets which are designed for cold water systems only, ranging from cheap all-plastic units to the modestly-priced (about P1,100) and very popular metal units from “Wassernison”, a brand name seemingly chosen to have a bit of European cachet.   This suggests the next category of faucet sets.  These sets are more expensive, more attractive and well promoted and are generally in the P2,000+ range.  We ended up buying one of these for our kitchen faucet.  The name was Italian, the display and packaging elegant.  The quality seemed good.  We paid about P2,400 ($60) for our cold water only kitchen faucet.  Despite the Italian branding, a bit of post-purchase research showed that the faucet was made by CAE, http://www.china-cae.com/en/Index.aspx a very Chinese brand.  Our lovely CAE faucet started leaking after about a year.  More on our futile search for a replacement repair cartridge later.

The third category of faucet sets available in the Philippines are those by the big American brands, such as American Standard and Delta.  These are expensive, some faucet sets more than P10,000 ($250).  However some American Standard units were reasonable.  We bought all American Standard lavatory and shower faucet sets.  They are made in Thailand and seem very well built.  After three years there has been no corrosion and no leaking in any of them.

That brings us back to our leaking CAE kitchen faucet.  We bought a Wassernison faucet set as a temporary replacement and then took the valve cartridge out of the CAE faucet so that we could get a replacement.  Those (Ace, Handyman, Moostbrand, Citi Hardware, AM Builders Depot, who had extensive displays of lovely faucet sets, had practically no faucet repair kits, except  for a few ceramic cartridges for some Wassernison faucets and a scattering of Delta repair kits.  There were absolutely no repair parts for the CAE faucets.  In fact, the Moostbrand store which displayed and sold a glittering variety of fancy faucet sets had practically no repair parts for any of them.

After checking with a dozen stores for a faucet repair cartridge for our CAE, we finally found a cobbled-together solution at the Handyman Hardware store in Robinson’s Place in Ermita, Manila.  A Wassernison cartridge worked, but could not accept the CAE handle so we had to buy a new handle as well as the cartrige set.

So, what’s the lesson?  If you can afford it, buy top quality Delta faucet sets.  We wish we could also recommend American Standard, but I saw no repair kits for the brand in all of our shopping for the CAE repair kits.  If you want to save money, just buy Wassernison faucet sets.  The quality and design are not great, but then the price is modest.  Avoid the fancy faucet sets from brands you’ve never heard of.  They may look stylish but the underlying quality may be poor and parts are unlikely to be available, making for an expensive throw-away when the faucet fails in a year.

American Standard cold water only shower faucet

This American Standard shower faucet set is solid brass and very well made.  While such cold water faucets might seem an oddity to Americans (especially Canadians!) or Europeans, there’s a pretty big global, equatorial market for such products.  Note the porcelain soap dish.  These dishes are inexpensive and last forever while many aftermarket metal dishes start rusting after a year or so.

American Standard cold water basin faucet

We bought and installed the best kitchen sink we could find.  We chose a Hwaco (made in Singapore) which cost more than P 8,000.  It was a pretty and the gauge of the stainless steel seemed sturdy.
Hwaco Kitchen Sink

Newly installed Hwaco Kitchen Sink

Now, after three years, the “stainless steel” sink is pitted with rust.
Since we bought the sink and many other supplies from Iloilo building product supplier “Moostbrand” we told them of the rusting sink.  Their salesperson implied that the rust was our fault, but promised to have a manager call us.  It never happened.  We have had better luck with Citi Hardware and Handyman.
"Bidet Sprayer"

“Bidet Sprayer”

These sprayers are common in Philippine bathrooms.  They can be used to clean the toilet user, the toilet itself  and the bathroom floor.  This is a cheap, sanitary and highly useful gadget which should be included in every bathroom. But don’t buy chrome-plated pot metal valves such as the one shown above.  That “Wassernison” brand valve screws into a stainless steel coupling.  I wanted to remove the valve to see why the water flow to the sprayer was low.  As soon as I put a wrench to the faucet to remove it, the threaded part of the faucet broke off and remained obstructing the stainless steel coupling.  Therefore I could not put in a new valve until the broken part of the valve was removed.  It was very difficult to remove the valve stem without damaging the threads on the stainless steel coupling.  I wasted hours on this.  Lesson:  do not buy ANY pot metal valves.  Buy quality brass valves even if they cost four times as much.

Also in this photo, note the stainless steel floor drain and how the water closet is set in mortar.  The bolt really serves no real purpose except to humor the Amerikano boss who is used to having stools bolted down.

There are several reasons we avoided installing a hot water heating systems.  Most people who have hot water systems in the Philippines, including many hotels, use the tankless, instant-on electric units.  There are single-point units which generally are used for hot showers, often mounted in or near the existing shower, but up high on the wall so they don’t get wet. They cost about P6,000.  The purchase price may include installation.  The second type of tankless unit is the multi-point.  These units have the capacity to serve multiple plumbing fixtures and can be hidden away in a cabinet, say under the sink.  The single-point units for showers can generally be installed fairly easily if there is already a cold water shower, even if the house was not designed with hot water in mind.  It’s best if the plumbing for multi-point units is installed when the house is built or remodeled so that the pipes can be hidden in the walls.  We could not have used either of these on-demand units because our water pressure is too low.  Before you buy a unit be sure to check your water pressure and the water pressure requirements of the unit you are considering.

These units use between 3.5 kWh of electricity for a basic single-point unit to 6.5 kWh or more for a multi-point unit.  Electricity costs are about P10 per kWh and rising, so these units cost between P35 ($.81) and P65 ($1.51) per hour to use.  If they are used mainly for showers and lavatory, then the operational costs may be modest.  If used in the kitchen or with a washing machine, then it could be costly. Another problem with these units is that they are a maintenance headache and they generally don’t last too long unless well maintained. In many areas of the Philippines, water is heavily mineralized and also contains dirt and other impurities. Deposits can build up quickly on the small, high intensity heating coils.   We decided that we would avoid these problems and expenses by not having hot water at all.  In general, water in the Philippines is already relatively warm, except in the “winter” — December and January.  Then, Carol will heat some hot water on the stove and bring it to the bathroom for bathing.  Bob has adjusted to not having really hot water and finds a coolish shower on a hot day to be wonderfully refreshing.

These wall mounted tankless electric units are popular

Of course there’s another, better, and in the long run cheaper way to heat water — a solar hot water system.  Citi Hardware, the “Home Depot” of the Philippines is a favorite of ours.  In addition to regular building materials, they offer some innovative products including drip irrigation systems from Israel and the Suntec solar hot water packaged systems.  If you’re interested in solar hot water you can go to Citi and look at them.  We bought our Bompani kitchen range from them and have been happy with Citi’s service.

SunTec solar hot water system from Citi Hardware

Back to our plumbing.  We avoided running pipes in tiled walls or tiled floors to avoid having to tear out tiling to make repairs.  As much as possible, we put the pipes underground just outside the walls.  In th photo the blue PVC pipes are supply lines to a bathroom on the opposite side of the wall.  That way, if there’s a leak, we can make repairs from the untiled wall in this bedroom.  We’d still have to tear the wall open, but at least we’d not destroy our tiling. We used Neltex brand PVC pipe, although we would have liked to use Atlanta brand. Atlanta was unavailable when we needed it. The Neltex brand is a step above the generic, unbranded pipe generally available.  Better pipe may have more wall thickness and better UV protection.  The orange pipe is electrical conduit.

Blue pipes serve a bathroom on the other side of the wall.

Bob, who was used to working with copper pipe, found that it was easy to make secure joints in the PVC, especially the smaller diameter pipes.  Tip for good joints:

  • Use good quality pipe, fittings and solvent.  We used Atlanta brand whenever we could.
  • Make sure the pipe cuts are square and have no burrs.
  • Make sure the pipes and fittings are completely clean and dry.
  • If you use one brand of pipe and another brand of fitting, make sure they fit together tightly.  PVC solvent does not work well at filling gaps.
  • Make sure the pipe goes all the way into the seat on the fitting.
  • Put solvent on the pipe end and the fitting.  Be sure the surfaces are really completely covered.
  • Let the joint set for about fifteen to thirty seconds then twist the joint 180 degrees.  In thirty seconds the solvent has not set,  yet it has dissolved the surfaces of the two plastic pieces being joined.  This melds the joint together, closing up any imperfections in the joint.
  • Then, let the joint be undisturbed for at least a fifteen minutes or a half hour.  The full strength does not come for 24 hours.  I’d try to leave critical joints in larger pipe to set overnight.  This drove my crew crazy.  If I had let them, they would start work or run water into the pipes immediately.

This photo shows three elements of the plumbing system.  The horizontal blue PVC pipe is a 1″ water supply line which encircles the building outside.  Repairs and changes to these outside pipes will be relatively simple. The vertical blue pipes are 1/2″ lines into the bathroom inside of this wall.  Because we have a gravity operated system, it would have been better if  we had used 1″ supply lines throughout, although we really have not had any problems, so far, but we may as mineral deposits build up over time inside the pipes.  These water pipes can be repaired from the outside with no need to damage the tiled bathroom.

TIP: It’s a good idea to take lots of photos during the construction of your house so that later you can refresh you memory as to how things were done and where things are located.

The upper 4″ PVC orange pipe is leading from the toilet to the septic system.  Only toilet waste goes into the septic system — nothing else.   Don’t forget to make sure your crew maintains a proper slope on the sewer and drain lines.  If the slope is too little the solids will not be carried to the septic tank.  If the pipe is too steep, the solids will be left behind as the water rushes to the septic tank.  The rule is 1/4″ of slope for every one foot run of line or 2.5″ per ten foot section of pipe.  Plumbing codes require that 3″ and smaller drain piping be run at 1/4″ per foot minimum slope. The 1/4″ minimum slope assures sufficient flow velocity for the transport of solids. Two feet per second velocity is the minimum recommended for soil and waste lines. A 3″ drain at 1/8″ per foot slope has a flow velocity of only 1.59 fps. A 3″ drain at 1/4″ per foot slope has a flow velocity of 2.25 fps. This is particularly important where 1.6 gpf water closets are involved, due to the limited waste carry of  low flow water closets.

Your workers might have never heard of such a rule.  Mine had not.  Perhaps it’s not generally such as issue in the Philippines because it’s usual for the septic tank to be very close to the house.  Our is quite far from the house.  It takes some serious advance planning to get everything right, so that in the end you’ll end up with the proper slope.  Remember, the sewer pipe exiting the house is fairly fixed at a few inches below the horn of the water closet.  You can go deeper, but then the septic tank has to be deeper.  The input pipe entering the septic tank has to be at the correct level,otherwise the tank will not work properly. This should all be figured out before the finished floor level of the bathroom and the height of the septic tank inlet are set. Once the house and tank are built, there’s little one can do but live with whatever mistakes have been made.

The lower 3″ orange PVC pipe carries downspout water from the roof and wastewater from the kitchen, showers, lavatories and floor drains to a series of catch basins and then through the perimeter wall to a ditch.  In the photo you can see two 2″ PVC pipes coming through the wall and connecting to the 3′ drain pipe.  The one on the right is from the sink in the master bedroom bathroom and the one on the left is from the shower and floor drain.  The 3″ pipe continue to the left and empties into the catch basin system.  We used 2″ pipe to try to avoid clogging.  There are no p-traps, except under the lavatory basin.  Remember that  gray water goes to catch basins, not the septic system.  We have not had odor problems.  We installed two 3″ PVC vent pipes which are hidden in the bathroom walls.  They only serve the water closets, not the sinks, floor drains, or shower.  These vents were intended to extend out through the roof.  We have not been in a hurry to cut holes in our beautiful long span roof.  Our attic is well ventilated and we have not had odor problems.  When we do the vent pipes will go up through the roof.

We mostly used heavier and more expensive Atlanta brand drain pipe.  Orangeburg brand pipe also looks good.  Cheaper pipe is available, but is subject to damage before and after construction — for example from landscape work.  It’s easy to put a shovel through the cheaper pipe but less likely with the heavier Atlanta. As you can see below, good pipe costs more than twice the cost of economy pipe.  I really wish we had not used one length of the cheaper pipe.  Guess what pipe you’ll get if someone else builds your house!  You may be charged for Atlanta and receive National.  It will all be hidden underground.  Of course, if you always choose the best materials, the per square meter cost of your house (excluding land) could end up being significantly higher.  It’s a paradox that old foreigners with a few years to live, at best, often insist on building houses which will last a hundred years!

Here’s a sample of prices we paid, mostly in the last half 0f 2010:

  • Neltex 1″ PVC water pipe 10′ P112
  • Atlanta sanitary pipe 4″x10′ P545  Better quality
  • National sanitary pipe 4″x10′ P238 Standard quality
  • Atlanta sanitary pipe 2″x10′ P192
  • Atlanta sanitary pipe 3″x10′ P410
Catch basins

Catch basins. Drain pipe is 3″ PVC

The house is surrounded by a system of catch basins and pipe which collect and discharge roof water from the gutters and gray water from the kitchen and bathrooms,  outside the lot.  The 3″ pipes facing the house will be connected to the roof downspouts.  The rebar reinforced catch basins were made on the site by our crew, a significant project.  They will have removable concrete lids.  The lids are removed periodically to allow cleaning out any material collected in the catch basins.  We’ll cover that in a separate post.  But there can be problems. see Beware of clay soils in Philippine construction.

3″ PVC downspouts installed

Downspouts painted

The downspouts are secured to the building with brackets made of flattened and shaped PVC pipe.  Very durable.  The pipe and brackets are painted with gloss latex paint — don’t use oil based paint on PVC pipe.  The brackets are attached with stainless steel screws screwed into nylon anchors in the wall.  We tried to use brass or stainless steel wherever we could but see our annoying experience with Creston stainless steel hinges.

There are twelve downspouts leading from the gutters to the catch basins and hence to a ditch outside the property.  Tigbauan, Iloilo gets about 100 inches (over 2.5 meters) of rain annually, some of it in torrential tropical downpours.  That’s about three times the precipitation of the average American city. Our roof covers about 300 square meters.  The volume of water coming off the roof during a storm  is prodigious.  I calculate that the system has to handle 168,542 gallons of water from the roof annually.  The system of  gutters, downspouts and catch basins are essential to keep your lot from turning into a muddy mess.

Catch basin with concrete lid

Catch basin with concrete lid

Gray water piping

Gray water piping

These two 4″ pipes carry gray water from the catch basin system out through the perimeter wall and into a future roadside drainage ditch.  This may not sound ideal but really has not produced any real problems.

Septic tank just about done and ready for 4" reinforced concrete top. 3-3-10

Septic tank just about done and ready for 4″ reinforced concrete top. 3-3-10

See more details about building the septic tank and catch basins HERE.

500 liter stainless steel tank

August, 2011 update regarding the “Stainless Steel” water tank.  When we bought the tank we wondered in my own mind how they could make stainless steel tanks and sell them so inexpensively.  Now, after a few months of use out tank is has quite a bit of rust, particularly at the seams and spot welds.    Some things which are sold as “stainless steel” are coated steel. If we were doing it over, we’ probably buy the readily available polyethylene water tanks.


Our S-Tank “stainless steel” water tank after about four years. No leaks yet but it just seems to be a matter of time.

The following company sells polyethylene septic tanks, grease traps and water storage tanks: http://www.weida.com.ph/index.html

I am not sure about the economics of using a poly septic systems instead of concrete, but we’d be glad to add a poly grease trap and, when our stainless steel water tank give out, to replace it with a polyethylene tank. The stainless tanks look very nice but I am dubious about their longevity.


Stainless steel water tank in car port.

Rather than having a separate water tank tower, we put the 500 liter stainless steel water tank high in the roof structure of our car port.  The tank is about 15 feet above the house floor level.  There is a long 1 1/4″ suction line from our well, which is at the front of the house,  to our 1/2 hp Pedrollo water which is located in a storage room off the garage which is in back of the house.  The water from the well is pumped up into the water tank and then is piped down (gravity fed) and goes underground to supply the house.

We used blue PVC plastic water pipe but all stainless steel and brass fittings at faucets and fixtures.  That way, when we need to make repairs in the future, such as replacing a faucet, we will have good material to work with rather than having to tear out tile to replace a stripped plastic fitting.  This is a riser for a hose bibb. It’s been checked for leaks and will be cemented  into this exterior wall, under about 1″ of cement finishing.

Setup for testing plumbing for leaks

This is the set up we used to test our plumbing for leaks before cementing the pipes over when we finished the walls.  The green hose from the water pump connects to and pressurizes the house water system.  The blue pipe goes to the water well.  The house water was left pressurized for weeks to be sure there were no leaks. We found only one leak in the plastic pipe but several in the brass and stainless steel fittings.  This set-up also provided water during construction.  Later we moved the water pump along with a washing machine and generator into a concrete utility building attached to the carport.  The Italian-made Pedrollo 1/2 HP pump was not expensive and has operated flawlessly for almost four years.  Highly recommended.

Update November 2010.  Now that we’ve been living in the house for a few weeks, we can report that the water system is working flawlessly.  To recap, we have a well.  A 1/2 hp Pedrollo pump pumps water from our well to a 500 liter stainless steel tank in the peak of the garage.  The long pipe run from the foot valve in the well to the pump is 1 1/4″ blue plastic.  Although the pump inlet is 1″, the pump manufacturer said to use larger pipe so we did.  The smallest leak in this suction pipe would cause the pump to lose prime so Bob was fanatical about the pipe joints.  In addition to using the usual solvent to join the pipes, many were also sealed with two-part epoxy.

Epoxy suction pipe joint

Epoxied 1 1/4″ suction pipe joint

To Bob’s great relief, the suction pipe has worked flawlessly, never losing its prime in almost four years of use. From the stainless steel tank the water is gravity fed into the house (and laundry) via a 1″ pipe which circles the house.  The feed to individual fixtures is 1/2″ blue plastic pipe.  As noted in comments below, it would have been better, on a gravity feed system, to have used 1″ pipe throughout.  Larger pipe does not produce more pressure, but does produce much more volume of flow.  We were using a 1/2″ hose to wash the car.  We switched to a larger 3/4″ hose and the difference was significant. We bought a simple tank mounted  switch which controls the water flow to the tank.  When the level in the tank falls, the pump turns on.  When the tank is nearly full, it shuts off.  It cost P250 at Citi Hardware and worked for a couple of years and then became unreliable.

Since our water tank is above our garage, a pump switch which does not turn off gives our car an unwanted washing from the overflowing tank. We replaced the original switch with an Italian-made MAC 3 floating valve which is installed inside the tank.  It cost P1,195 at Citi Hardware.  You can see the manual at http://sdrv.ms/12Kpc1C The first MAC 3 valve we installed lasted about two years and then became unreliable, leaving us without water sometimes.  We’ve installed another MAC 3 but if it is not more reliable, we’ll go back to the P250 Chinese valves.


MAC 3 Floating water tank valve

Until we moved into the house the big question was whether a gravity fed system would produce enough water pressure in the house.  We thought we might have to add a pressure pump and tank. While the pressure is not high, it is very usable producing a satisfying shower.  After dubious water quality in our apartments, we’re also relieved that the quality of our water is good.  Taking a shower is a pleasure, not a olfactory trial. When we have one of our frequent power outages, we have 500 liters of water stored in our tank so we can continue flushing, taking showers, doing dishes and so forth without using a generator to keep our water system operational. So all-in-all, we’re very happy with the water and our very simple, economical water system.  Updated Mar. 12, 2013

Comments (43) Write a comment

  1. Great info! I am building a house in Catmon, Cebu 3 bed, 2 bath. I found Chinese sandwich roof, with 0.6 mm top and bottom, white galv painted, to cover hip roof and 1-car carport, and same thickness wall sandwich panels for use on ceiling of house. With self-tapping 1,000 screws and white metal, total so far is $6,500, including transportation from China to Catmon in 40ft container, that needs more filling. I can order heavier Chinese galv tresses for roof, and has bottom to attach ceiling sandwich roof to. I like ICEB blocks on poured concrete floor. I have read alot about how to construct. Said blocks are earthquake resistant and typhoon proof. I believe the local Catmon workers can lay out first layer of blocks, and start first corner, then that will train them to use ICEBs. Simple concept, 3/8″ rebar, and 4.2 mm reinforcement rods, with a squirt bottle with cement and sand to seal, like tube of toothpaste around pre-made about 3″ two holes in block, and maybe a couple of streaks of this on side of next block. Reinforcement horizontal “beam” ICEBs at under window, above window and door, and top – 3 rows around the house. Vertical reinforcement at corners and about every 4′, done by drilling hole in floor, through one of the two holes of ICEB, and pound 3’/8″ rebar into hole. Simple idea! I like your idea of plumbing, carport, etc. Will use ICEB to make columns. Now, looking for architect to draw floor plan of first row of ICEBs – Philippine architects are not familiar with ICEBs. May have to do the drawing myself. Will use 1″ good quality water hose, and good quality waste lines. Soil is rocky, limestone. Will hire local backhoe and operator for dig soil, footings, drain lines. I like your idea of catch cement pits for eave water and grey water, to be directed beyond fence line. In our case, to river. I have to build a gravel 3 meter road past 3 relation’s lots to our lot, and plan on building drain line to river, and connect house eave water and grey water to that. You have Great Ideas! and commenters too. Now, I have to fill up 40′ container, probably with 20′ rebar, 4.2 mm rods, steel door and window frames, white eaves, white gutters, plumbing and waste lines, and anything esle I can think of. Will have local Catmon labor to unload.


  2. Thank you for another informative article.
    Luckily in our Brgy in Cabangan, Zambales, we have town water, that comes in at around 50psi. The downstairs was done with blue pipe cold water only, and the upstairs only had drains installed, no water yet. 3 years ago, we had a 136L pressurized solar water heater installed. The installation was done using Thermo plastic pipe, that uses a fusion welder for all the joints and can withstand boiling water temps. I ran this downstairs and installed hot and cold taps in the kitchen, bathroom and shower. It’s nice to take the edge off that cold water, and great for doing dishes, etc. I just finished the upstairs bathroom and I did all the plumbing using Pex, that I had sent in a Door to Door box from Canada.. It is easy to work with, works well with hot and cold water and is cheap. A 100′ roll of 1/2″ is around 25 bucks Cdn and the brass fittings and crimp rings are about 20 bucks a bag of 100. Pex is also UV resistant and can be buried.
    Regarding stainless steel, It’s funny that in a country surrounded by an ocean nobody seems to have a clue about stainless. How many beautiful gates, fences,railings, etc., do you see that are a rusted and pitted mess in a few years. The minimum you should be using is 304, and if it’s outside and you’re near the ocean 316 is required. Besides having nickel and chromium, 316 has molybdenum to increase it’s corrosion resistance. 316L is better because of a lower carbon content makes for stronger welds. Another big problem is the welds will start to corrode, because the wrong filler wire is used. 316L should only be welded using 316L filler wire, same as 304 should only be welded using 304 wire.


    • John, thanks for the report and all the great info you have supplied, especially on stainless steel types. We have gates made of ordinary steel and we have to constantly repaint them or they would rust away in a very few years. Luckily, we have a great part time worker. There is not much steel that he has not repainted. You are lucky to have the municipal water. Another good use for hot water is washing clothes. It’s hard to get them clean with “cold” water. The same goes for greasy dishes. Bob and Carol


  3. Hi Bob,

    Once again, really appreciate your efforts on this site. Like another reader’s comments I saw some time back which made me laugh and agree, this has become the consumer report guide which I consult frequently.

    Have a question on the water pump you used and maybe a dumb question but did not see any other comments on this from other readers. Did you consider submersible pumps at the time you were building ? From the propaganda, er i mean, information out there it seems more durable, efficient, quieter, etc.

    Thank you,



    • Patrick,

      In our area almost everyone has shallow wells and uses the type of pump we used. They are cheap and reliable. Our 1/2 HP Pedrollo has been running four years without a problem. A submersible pump (which we had in the U.S.) is more expensive (all stainless steel) and more trouble prone. If we had a deeper, drilled well, we’d probably need a submersible.

      Bob and Carol


  4. Hi Sirs,

    We only bought a storage tank since we would like to also use the gravity fed water system to save electricity. However according to the plumber we need to put the tank in the high tower in order to supply water in our shower… Our house is only a bungalow design… does it necessary to put the tank high above our house? Is there any workaround solution? Is there a requirement on how high the tank should be placed above the ground? I saw the picture provided by Yanic using a water tank and pressured tank… but we don’t have a budget to buy another pressured tank.. Need your advice Sirs…Hoping your prompt reply… Thank you in advance.



    • Rochelle,

      Your plumber is correct. Sorry to say that your tank either has to be high or you have to have a pump/pressure tank. Our tank is high enough for showers, but the pressure is only modest. Once you are higher than your shower head you’ll start to have a small flow — the higher the tank, the higher the pressure. We like our system. The pump only works occasionally, not with every flush of the toilet plus we have a good supply of water even during power outages.

      Bob and Carol


  5. I think I posted wrong, let me try again.
    Thank you for your very informative articles. Not yet living in the Philippines I have a few questions:
    What is the purpose of the water tank?
    Does it sweat onto the carport below?
    Thank You,


    • Hi Dennis,

      I have seen two types of water systems here; the pump with a small pressure tank attached and the systems which pump water up to larger, elevated, non-pressurized tanks. These tanks gravity feed into the house. Here is why we used the gravity feed method. The pressure tanks are usually quite small so that every time you use use water, the pump runs to fill the small tank. That’s noisy and I’m guessing that it may use more electricity and cause more wear on the pump. With our system, the pump may only runs infrequently. Perhaps more importantly, electrical outages are frequent in the Philippines. With a pressure tank system you will be out of water quite quickly with no power to run the pump. Our 500 liters can last all day.

      No, there is no sweating. The temperature of the water from the well is pretty well matched to the air temperature, perhaps a little cooler during the day and a little hotter during the night but not enough difference to cause sweating.

      Hope this helps.

      Bob and Carol


  6. for my house at Quezon City, Philippines i have problem on my existing waterline 1/2″ dia leak which i could not see and plan to re-install new water line.
    my question are:
    1. what materials & brand will i use for water line.
    2. is a 3/4″ dia. good size to give way for mineral deposit.

    thank you in advance


    • Art,

      Ours is a quite low pressure system. We used 1 1/4″ pipe from the well to the pump (as recommended by the pump manufacturer) and 1″ for principal lines to the house from the storage tank. Unfortunately, we used some 3/4″ supply lines. If we had it to do over again, we would use all 1″. The cost difference is totally insignificant.



  7. Pingback: Our Philippine House Project – Plumbing: buying faucet sets | My Philippine Life

  8. Hi There !
    Your report is so informative ! congratulations .
    We are leaving in the province ( Mindoro ) and we need someone to help us design our main water supply system which is based on water coming from the mountain . We have high pressure, air in the pipes , low pressures etc… problems . Do you know of someone experimented who could come and visit us and attend to our need ! Thanks a lot for any tip you may have.
    Best regards


    • Wish we could help but Mindoro is a world away from here. You’ll just have to find a good plumber. Perhaps you could find a licensed master plumber. He or she might have more engineering knowledge than a local handyman.

      Our farm in New York had gravity fed water from a mountain spring. It was fabulous water and lots of it but keeping the system maintained was a major chore. One of our major problems was freezing pipes, something you won’t have to worry about!

      Good luck.


  9. bought a plot of land want to build a simple rectangle shape house for my girl friend is it ok to use local builders to put my foundation in he has built simple small homes before mine will be 40ft long by 24ft wide 2bedroom 1 ensuite 1shower room were do i begin this project please can i do the foundations first as i have only enough cash to do bits at a time cud u tell me what section for me to aim at to do at atime many thanks.


    • Hello,,use local men to build your house,i have a bamboo 2 bedroom,one inside bath,NO hot water shower,just heat some water to wash in and save your money,my home is 30 ft by 20 ft,American looking home with large front and rear porches,built 3 ft off the ground,with plywood inside walls,screened windows and screen doors,glass windows and heavy wood doors,front and rear,cost you about $40,000 USD,if you use solid Gelinea wood and a good foundation,Philippines have Typhoons and ground shaking earth quakes,,build a good solid foundation,,or build a bamboo cheap house for $3,500.00,,you get what you pay for,,Good luck,,James


  10. Hi BOB.

    Hello, this site has been very informative to me, as a plan our very first 3 bedroom bungalow this year….I’m just wondering if you could show us detail design of mounting detail of downspouts hidden on the walls or embedded in columns..I find it simple and neat when this pipes are not seen outside…

    Thank you very much!




    • Troy,

      Sorry, I can’t help with embedded downspouts. We were advised that hidden downspouts could be difficult to unclog. If you do use downspouts hidden in the columns, just be sure that the columns are big enough that the concrete can flow into the column forms filled with drain pipes, electrical conduit and rebar. We had trouble pouring our columns with just the rebar in them. That’s because of the L or T shaped columns we used were 150mm (6″) wide. The advantage is that our columns were the same thickness as the 6′ wall block, so that wall finishing was a snap — no square columns to plaster around. Despite that advantage, if I were doing it over, I’d probably use 300mm square columns. They are just easier for workers to construct. If you do put the downspouts into the columns, make sure your workers don’t use super-soupy concrete to flow around all the stuff in the columns. Good luck!



  11. I should have looked at this before redoing my water supply system. having pipes nearly 20 years old they were starting to corrode. My contractor wanted to dig up the whole floor tracing the pipe to see where the leak/s were. fortunately he agreed to lay pipes outside the house and drill a hole to where a connection was required.
    When we finished the new PVC pipes keep leaking. 1st excuse water pressure[110psi+] too high so I installed a pressure reduced. 2nd excuse the pipes are exposed to the sun.
    I should have used my gut feeling and used 1″ stainless pipe.


    • That is pretty high. We wish we could take some of your pressure. Our’s is gravity fed and pretty low. Anyway, 110psi is quite high. I could see it bursting pipes. Is the quality of the pipe good? I’d get it down below 75psi. Hopefully your reducer does so. I’ve read that it takes quite awhile for PVC to degrade in the sun. Paint them with latex paint and they should last for years.

      Good luck!


      • Thanks, I’d send you a picture if I knew how so you can see the pvc pipe being used.
        I have reduced the pressure to 40psi.
        I have “covered” the pvc pipes with plywood so no direct sun and if it works I will use spare tequla roof tiles as its prettier.
        Will keep you informed.

        rgds – MG


  12. Questions from Theodore and answers from Bob


    Did you include “P-traps” under all sink drains, shower drains and floor drains? (Exactly what is the purpose of a “bottle trap”? To trap small bottles? They DO NOT stop odors.




    Did you include a vent stack for the blackwater and a separate vent stack for the graywater?


    Did you include a grease trap between the kitchen sink and the ditch drainage at the road?


    Are wax seals used underneath and inside the toilet flange?



  13. Thanks, Bob. I have a lot of area-specific questions to ask, and hope to also be able to share helpful information as we proceed with our respective house projects. I have been learning a lot about providing very carefully, from the planning stage, for problems particular to homeowners in Tagaytay due to high humidity (termites and mold), volume of rainfall and dealing with runoff from neighbors above us since there are no sewer lines in our part of the city (we are building on a slope in an established barangay, not inside a subdivision). I am very keen on good site design and preparation as well as the capture and integration of the bountiful rainwater in our plumbing plans. Though I cannot take over the contractor’s role as you, Yannic and others have, I am trying to learn enough not only to avoid pitfalls in the technical aspects but also find opportunities — as you have done; very good posts by the way — to ease human-neighborly relations in the process of house building.

    Questions today:
    Does anyone have experience or information about an economical water heater for a laundry washer, possibly also a dishwasher? Small on-demand heaters for the shower are cheap and better now than when we last lived in the Philippines but I have not come across anything on laundry and kitchen washer use.

    In June Peter mentioned an idea of a sunken bath (I assume to be made on site, not a ready-made bathtub). I’d be interested in hearing whether and how he had one made.



  14. Bob,

    Great web site, a fund of information.

    I am married to a Filipina and we are currently in the detailed design stage of a house we will build in Tagayay, your comments about column design are well taken.

    Regarding stainless steel in Philipppines, all I can say is – be careful. What the vendors call stainless is chrome plated steel, that is why you see corrosion where the plating has been damaged by wrenches.

    I hope this helps. There are three types of stainless, these are called ferritic, austenitic and martensitic. Forget martensitic because this is hard and only has specialist uses. Ferritic is the cheap grade of stainless and will rust in the Philippines environment. Austenitic is the best and will not rust, this is because austenitic contains not on chromium, which all stainless steels do, but also nickel. That is why austenitic stainless is more corrosion resitant than the others, it is also more expensive.

    To tell the difference between austenitic and ferritic use a magnet; ferritic and martensitic stainless steels are magnetic, austenitic is not.

    All the towel rails and soap dishes in the bathrooms of our Manila condo are non-magnetic and show no signs of rust. I am still trying to find non magnetic plumbing fittings to replace the rusting chrome plate but so far without success. Should I succeed, I will let you know.

    Added info on stainless steel:

    Hi Bob,

    Thanks for your reply, I really do appreciate the advice given on your site as I and my Filipina wife are about to embark on a house project in Tagaytay, we are currently in the detail design stage.

    Stainless steels are complex and fall into many categories. Keeping it simple, stainless gets its corrosion resistance from chromium which is added when the steeel is made. Steel becomes stainless when it contains more than 10.5% chromium; but a stainless containing just this much chrome will corrode in many environments. I suspect your magnetic drying rack contains a high amount of chrome, probably 20% or more – that will be corrosion resistant except where salt is present. I would think that your non magnetic drying rack has nickel but too little chrome.

    Magnetism is just a guide, I noticed an earlier post on the subject of plumbing mentioned grade 316 stainless – this is the best because it contains about 17% chrome, 11% nickel – this is marine grade. But can you trust someone that says “yes” when you ask whether the fitting is 316?

    If your plumbing fittings are weakly magnetic I guess that they are a lower grade of austenitic stainless (perhaps grade 304) which has a higher chrome and lower nickel content than 316 – as I said stainless steels are complex. If you don’t have a saline environment it should be OK. I would be interested to know how you get on.

    By the way, my qualification is metallurgy.


  15. Hi Bob.

    I would like to comment on your stainless steel issue.
    stainless steel does NOT mean that it dont contain iron.
    It does. We used in our dairies we build world wide, a stainless numbered 316. Even that needed to be cleaned after welding, with a acid solution that took the iron particles in the material, else it would rust up to the weldings. This process we called “Stained”, and after that it was polished with a special scouring cloth.
    316 is a special steel for dairy use, and there are lots of different types of steel like that. one is completely acid resistant, but it cant be polished. so its always a choice.
    When we installed desalination system of the membrane type, the water after the membranes where agressive because it missed one oxygen molecule so we used acid resistant pipes, or retreated the water with marble gravel filters.

    So the explanation on rust is, that every worked surface need to be prepared, so that iron particles dont start rust.

    Some the bathroom equipment might simply be done of too bad materials. OR just chromaticed iron.



    • John,

      Thanks once more for your always informed comments. I know I have a lot to learn about stainless steel. Our landlord provides roll around stainless steel laundry drying racks. There are several for the four rental apartments. All were welded up by a local welder, all are “stainless” but some are spotless and some corroded. We want to make some thing similar for Carol to use to dry laundry in our carport.

      I know there are dozens of varieties of stainless steel with different compositions for corrosion resistance, strength and so forth. I have a lot to learn!



  16. Hi Bob, yes others will benefit as I will on our planned bungalow when we sell the present houses.
    Our kitchen drain blocked up and the local “U” bend was clear so I opened up the manhole cover and was faced with 2 inches of thick fat! there is a “T” shaped pipe leading off to the septic tank that only gets its water from under the surface of the trap water, hence stopping the fat from getting any further. There comes a point however when the thickness blocks all.
    there are some difference in these septic tanks, here at Leisure Farms they insist on three tank systems before the leeching field and ALL our water goes into them.
    My builder says that they are the sealed type but argues that the ones for normal Filipino use are bottomless and rarely need attention. The beach house has shower water and sink water fed to the beach via a grease trap and we see the neighbours soapy water flowing onto the sand …….bit yuky for me but it is the done thing and it certainly disappears.

    Bob if your shower needs some pressure there is the chance to retrofit and feed pipes from the tank through the roof space and drop down to the shower head ??? Surface mounted and painted or into a plastic trunking (electrical useage).



    Yes, our situation is different. The kitchen sink does not go to the septic tank. In fact nothing goes to the septic tank except toilet waste. The tank is huge, three chambered and sealed with Sahara waterproofing, including the bottom. Frankly, the tank is so big I wonder if biological digestion can take place. The idea that kitchen, washing machine and all other waste just goes out the wall to a ditch was a surprise but was designed by our engineer and approved by the municipality. That’s why I dispensed with the grease trap. I think their purpose is to keep grease out of septic systems.



  17. SHOWERS…..Despite the tropical heat in the Philippines I cannot take a cold shower, I need a pint of hot in a bucket of cold with a taboo. Once we tried the little “donut” shaped electric unit and found it very good but on an island resort running off a generator it ran the engine down!
    Tried the electric heaters in our homes but when you introduce a mixer to regulate the temperature they cut off…probably due to reduced pressure and the temp protection coming in. We then installed the “Immersion type” that is like a giant electric kettle. Quite expensive and good name ie Ariston but three went down after a few months and they take some trouble to install, lot of weight on the bathroom wall.
    We have now a normal shower unit in the roof space and leave the switch on at minimum temperature. This is fine and we do not use the mixer, it supplies the washbasin and shower. I suppose the main culprit of our electric bill are these heaters with their 6 Kwatt and above rating.
    We are hoping that using a metal water tank in the roof will enable the water to warm up a bit to make showers possible without the need for electric heaters.
    Another noticeable result of the instant water heater is that a small cut on your finger will give tingles from the water, beware, it is important to have a good earth in the home.


  18. I splurged on stainless steel pipe fittings. I note that they are rusting where the pipe wrench gripped. In fact I have seen so much rust on stainless steel in the Philippines. These include bathroom accessories such as towel bars and soap dishes. Our landlord had stainless steel laundry drying racks welded up. Some are not rusty, some are badly corroded. Any comments, suggestions on buying stainless steel in the Philippines?



  19. Hi Bob,
    To obtain the best pressure from a gravity feed, try to avoid using elbow joints (90 degs) because they greatly effect the flow rate.
    The blue flexible could prove useful for this.

    The catch basins from the kitchen/bathrooms I presume will have the grease trap fitting?

    Its surprised me when I cleaned out mine after two years, where does it all come from…..and my wife is careful not to drain fatty stuff away?


    • Peter,

      These are excellent suggestions. I also should have used larger diameter pipe. I used a 1″ main line but 1/2″ feeders. Sad to say the plumbing is mostly done and cemented into the walls. The plumbing to the water pump, washer and stainless steel tank are not yet done because all these will be in the carport/bodega.

      We did not put a grease trap into the catch basin line serving the kitchen. Is the fear that the pipes will be clogged? None of this goes into the septic system.

      Thanks again. Hopefully others will benefit!



    • Hi Peter, the problem I found with the fatty stuff is the ingreidents called tallow which found in the soap and some personal care products .. Tallow is made from animal fats .. It accumulates and leaves the gunk in our drainage .. So I now avoid soap contains tallow and my shower glass wall stays clear and the gunk disappeared


  20. Hi Bob.

    I was looking the place you put your Watertank.
    Its in a certain distance from the consuming tap,
    and its not that high placed.
    In a modern city, with 1-2 storage building the
    water pressure from the waterworks is 30 – 35 meter !!
    Off cause the is pressure loss in pipes and hight from underground piping to the highest tap, and concumers
    expext a cerrtain pressure on their water, so they can
    flush their car with some pressure.
    I dont see which dimension your using from the tank to the maintap, but presume a 1″ pipe would be the preferation.
    I would say the loss then would be so that a shower might feel a bit low on water and feel unsatisfying. ??
    Are you going to use the self priming pump as pressure pump ??
    Then it would work for sure but it dont look to be a permanent installation ??
    Or this pump is the wellpump, operated by a pressure switch, the water tank has a float valve, and the pump can fill the tank, and keeo up pressure while concumption is most.

    Hope you get time to reflect ??

    Take care


    • Hi John,

      The pump you see is just a temporary set-up with no pressure valve or tank. The purpose was pressurize and test the plumbing before it was cemented in place and also to provide water during construction. It’s purely manual — you need water you plug in the pump and when done unplug it.

      Later the pump will be reinstalled and will fill the stainless steel tank in the car port. The pump will we controlled by a float switch. We know the water pressure will not be high. We’ll just see if we find it acceptable. If not, we’ll have to put in a pressure tank. Generally, we like to keep things simple. We have no hot water and really don’t mind bathing with a pail and tabo (ladle).




  21. Yannic, without power to your pump, you remain without water if the local water supply stops. With a large tank high up the gravity feeds it down to the house.
    We have lost power and water at our beach house and resorted to hand pump. The people over the road have a high tank and have no problems. Also we find our pump/pressure tank makes a noise that can become a nuisance, flush the loo early in the morning and everyone knows?? Our arrangement came from ACE hardware and the stainless steel one lasted exactly 13 months, one month over the warrante! the second one is galvanised and I changed over the electric pump. Their is also a possible snag with the pressure switch that comes on at 20psi and off at 40. One of my problems was having the pump coming on EVERY time we needed water, 13 pumps for one flush! The problem was the adjustment on the pressure switch, we live and learn. Think a high tank is preferable but ugly so make a feature of it in the garden, disguise the tank with roofing of sorts and have a roof patio underneath. How about a Tree top bahay cubo !!!
    Using super quality pipework is great until you do need someone to fix it, the locals don’t know the difference, our place has the green type ie joined with heating apparatus and I think it is okay to mix with the blue …..hope so?


  22. Thought that putting the pipes from the other side of the bathroom to avoid disturbing the tiles would be a good idea but then then digging it out will be messy. The Filipinos are not that good at repairing concrete walls and it would show. Then maybe it would need to be covered by something…..wall-paper?
    Think I will have a channel in the wall behind the bathroom tiles to keep the pipe in and bring it out under the wash basin. Will try to make the channel mid way in the tile. With access in the attic I can pull the pipe out if need be and have no need to disturb the tiles.
    A nice opportunity with single story dwellings is that the bedroom floors can be elevated by a short step, maybe two blocks, this way you feel that you are “going to bed” and also lifts the window ledge up a couple of feet to provide more privacy. Our UK postman used to call us through our bedroom window if he had letters…..learnt a lesson from that.
    With this higher bedroom floor it would also be possible to have a sunken bath or give some thought to sunken projects ???
    It can be a real headache planning these pipes so that as little as possible gets disturbed when probs arise, suppose a duct under a screwed tile line would be okay but then it would have to be away from very wet areas……not easy in a Filipino CR hmhmhm! ….and a home for cockroaches?


  23. by the way we used the better quality of water pipes as you can see on the pictures in my thread. They are really of good quality but cost around 4 times of what the ordinary blue pipes cost.


  24. Hi Bob, watching your construction closely as you started a bit earlier then I did. But I guess our house will be finished ahead of yours. Our house has around 150 sqm as well.

    Complete plans and pictures are available online.

    My complete house construction thread with 1.500+ pictures. Explanations unfortunately in German, but the pictures give you a good insight in the construction.


    Rather then putting a tank high on a tower I am using a water pump. A pressure tank and a water tank. This combination ensures that we will have water at all times. Also it is possible to change to the city water connection if their is no electricity and the pressure tank is empty.

    See two pictures here:






  25. Hi, good to see things moving on and it always gives other ideas to consider. I plan to install a tank in the roof space but of course maintainance would be tricky.
    I’m considerring a concrete tank with liner or concrete additives to ensure waterproofing, it would be wide to spread the loading and if made well should be maintenance free.
    The Filipinos love to imerse their water pipes inside the concrete, I plan to get them outside and under the border of the house or build a hardiflex box cover to hide them. At least this way they are accessable.


    • Peter,

      I was warned against putting the water tank in the attic of the house because leaking, cleaning, overflows and so forth will pour water onto the ceilings and rooms below. I was OK with putting in the carport room because leaking would only affect my car. My 500 liter tanks must weigh about 500 kilos so I made sure it was well secured and won’t drop on my beloved Innova in case of an earthquake!

      I really agree with you about keeping water supply pipes outside whenever possible. Our 1″ main line circles the house just outside the wall. It’s buried but easily accessible. Risers are cemented into the walls on the outside so no tile will be disturbed in case repairs are needed. Where faucets connect, we used brass and stainless steel nipples and elbows.




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