Our Philippine House Project – Window Screens

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Our Philippine House Project – Window Screens and Kulambos

Of course we always planned to have screens on the windows and doors of our new house, but we procrastinated. Screens on casement windows are a bit complicated. The window sash open out, so exterior screens won’t work. Since the window handles and latches are on the inside the screens have to offer access to those. Some use sliding screens with a track top and bottom. Some have little screened doors which can open so you can reach the handles to open and close the windows. Another possibility are fully hinged screens which open in. See a discussion of the pluses and minuses of casement and sliding windows HERE.  Anyway, we ended up moving in before any screens were installed. In Bob’s nine months at the job site he hardly ever saw a mosquito. This was a mystery as our property is surrounded by wet rice fields and pastures. Once we moved in we realized that our mosquitos were only active at night. They would hide in dark places in the house and come out to feed after dark.


Screen with hinged door to reach window handles

Sliding screens

The fact is that many Filipinos live without window screens, even fairly upscale families. We gradually learned the ropes. At first we’d leave our windows open all the time. That worked during the day, but after dark hordes of bugs would be attracted to the lights inside our house. They had to be swept up in the morning. We learned to close the windows before turning on the inside lights. Then, when we turn out our lights and go to bed, we reopen the windows. The cool breezes rush in. Almost no bugs come in, although flies can be a problem.

What about the mosquitos at night? We slept under a mosquito net called a kulambo. These nets, specially shaped to fit over beds, are available in several sizes and colors at the bedding department at SM City. They provide almost complete protection as long as the kulambo is tucked under the mattress.  If a Filipino couple are on good terms they are said to be sleeping under the kulambo, but if the husband is bad he will be out of the kulambo!

Bednet or Kulambo

So, will we install screens or not? Probably, but for now it’s interesting to try life without them.  Previously we could have never conceived of not having screens but now we better understand why so many Philippine homes do not have them. I’ve read that screens cut down on air transfer by half, even when clean. When they are dirty they pass little air.  They also block the vistas out the windows. Screens are expensive and inconvenient. Cleaning screens, especially ones as large as ours, is a real nuisance.  On a nice day we open all our windows and feel like we are almost outside.  We have in the Philippines in apartments with screens and we have had mosquitoes problems at least as bad as we have in our new home. One thing we do miss is being able to leave our windows open all the time.  Without screens we have to close them at sunset or we do get an invasion of bugs.  In our new house it is a bit difficult to leave windows open all the time because the house is in a windy location so a sudden tropical rainstorm can create havoc.

When we lived in Iloilo City we could leave or windows open unless there was a big storm.  Here almost any rain will be blown into our house.  For that reason, we have to close all our windows when we leave the house to go to town.  We also generally close them at night for the same reason.  A nighttime rain storm will get us out of bed to close windows — unless they are already closed. We also feel that having them closed somewhat improves our security as an intruder would have to break a window to gain access and that would likely wake us up.

As you can probably tell we are ambivalent about window screens.  We decided to test screens in one of our bedrooms; to see how much good they did and how well they worked mechanically.  We hired Iloilo Glass Company to make the screens.  (See our previous post about Iloilo Glass: http://myphilippinelife.com/our-philippine-house-project-iloilo-glass-service/)  We met with Iloilo Glass to figure out the best type of screen for our huge 5′ x 8′ windows.  We ended us with a screen with a sturdy frame and four hinged screen sections.  The hinges are stainless steel and the latches are magnetic.  A single screen costs P8,000 or almost $200 (US). We installed the screen the only bedroom which has only one window.  Here’s what it looks like:

Installed screen with hinged screen panels open

We’ve lived with this screen for over six months.  Really, we don’t see enough advantages to cause us to rush to have more installed, especially since it would cost almost P100,000 to do all the windows.  Cleaning these screens is a bit of a problem as the screen panels are not removable.  We may try screens with two sliding panels.  They might work as well, cost less and be easier to clean.  Stay tuned!




Comments (23) Write a comment

  1. Hi
    This is jean from iloilo i just want to seek help from you if where can we order the quality door screen and windor screens


  2. Dear Bob and Carol,
    This is my first post, so first things first – well done on building your house and for sharing all your thoughts with us. I don’t know where we would be if we hadn’t stumbled across your website.

    We’ve just started building in Tuguegarao City, Northern Luzon. I wanted to ask if you ever settled on mosquito screens. You see, we are mulling over which ones to get and so far I’m sold on the retractable ones because they just seem a more practical for casement windows.
    Best wishes,


    • Hi James, we are pretty much still ambivalent about screens. I think to have them or not have them depends on local conditions. Negatives: screens cut down significantly on the breeze coming in from the window, especially when they get dirty. Open windows allow in dirt and noise. In certain locations open windows are intolerable. Much of the year, such as the current dry season there are no mosquitos. A neighbor moved in a bunch of roosters, so having our bedroom windows open would just be too noisy. Closed windows make burglars break windows and hence noise. So, to answer your question. We still don’t have screens except in one bedroom. Bob and Carol


  3. Hello Bob & Carol!

    Thought I would enlighten both of you with an individual that I know who lives in Gingoog and had screens with “magnets” installed on his exterior windows. This way he can remove the screens, clean them and reinstall them. Might be an answer to your “expensive screens” that you speak of on your website. If you want his email address, I can provide it to you providing he doesn’t mind my giving it out to you.

    Your Friends,
    Paul & Ester


    • Hi Paul,

      We’ve seen magnetic storm windows in NY. Unfortunately, the type of
      casement windows are so difficult for screens. They open out so
      exterior screens won’t work. We also need easy access from the inside
      to latch and unlatch the sash. Removing a magnetic screen to open or
      close our windows just would not work. I wish it could! Thanks for
      thinking of us.



  4. Hi,
    I read your window building section with interest, as I have just started a project to build a full height arched window/door with twin opening doors.

    I bought some Z bar, the best quality version, 720 peso per 6m length!!! I tried to curve a length it to a 400mm radius, but that was a bit of a failure, even using a gas torch and various tools, so I decided to do the arched part in six angled facets, rather than a curve. I’m off out to buy some more Z bar, T bar and flat bar now.

    I’m not sure how we’ll do the screen on the arched doors, but at the moment there is an outbreak of dengue here in Angeles.

    The rest of the house is being done in sliding aluminium, which we don’t really like, but our true preference, UPVC, would have added $5000 to the build price, over and above the cost of aluminium windows. I have no idea why UPVC is so expensive in the PI?


  5. Another factor to consider is the presence of Dengue Fever in an area. This disease is endemic in parts of the Philippines but can become epidemic. The mosquito that is the main cause Aedes aegypti tends to live near dwellings and breeds in man-made containers and refuse that collects water. Critically unlike other mosquitoes this one is active during daylight mainly two hours after sunrise and several hours before sunset. It also has a greatly reduced humming.

    If you live in an area of endemic dengue you really need window screens and if there is an outbreak in your area keep the windows closed during the day.

    A method of killing mosquitoes that we have found very effective is fluorescent bug lamps. These typically have a fluorescent tube that emits ultraviolet light that attracts mosquitoes (and other flying bugs) and a wire mesh around the outside of the tube which is electrified and zaps the insects on contact.

    We have found them very good at taking care of any mosquitoes that get into the house at night, they do not use any chemicals and are cheap to purchase and run.


    • Good suggestion Peter. We close the windows at sunset. The mosquitoes are hardly ever active except at night. We use a bed net. We’ll pickup a bug zapper and see if it kills off the remaining mosquitoes.


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  8. Hi, Bob & Carol

    Interestingly, screening our windows in our house in Miagao will be our next big project when we get there in September – and I thought you already would have the best and final recommendation on the subject!

    Now you notice my mantra has been “After you” when it comes to all issues and concerns regarding living in the Philippines. Your blog always spoiled us with very practical stuff and now I can’t seem to go forward without first consulting your “Consumer Reports”.

    So I guess we’ll all wait how that one screened room will do and go from there.

    If I find some tips to address this issue, I’ll readily share it with you. (Can’t be one-way all the time.)


    • Window Screens. Thanks for those very, very kind words! I should have added that every site is different. Ours is unusually breezy so often that keeps the bugs in hiding. A more sheltered spot could have a much worse problem. Also, the problem may vary from season to season. That’s why we don’t mind waiting a year or two before concluding anything. Believe me, if we had been inundated with mosquitoes, the screens would already be up on every window.


    • Hi Sal.
      Interested to hear how successful your windows were, we built about the same time as you in Maigao (Bagumbayan), but have to say our sliding alloy windows, flyscreens are the thing that I would change if I did this over, I think in hindsight I would have gone for upvc windows from Iloilo glass rather than local manufacture.


      • Ed, do you mean that you would add window screens? I feel that so much depends on your site. If you are in a breezy site (such as we are), any style of windows would work fine. We hardly ever open all of our casement sash as we get enough breeze with only one of three sections open. We thought we’d like our big windows because they’d help keep the house cooler but actually the thing we like about them is that they flood our rooms with light. Also, we were able to buy the materials and build our windows on-site. I am sure we saved money that way. Long-run I’m not sure. Our steel window frames are welded in place and embedded in concrete. They are secure but we already see rust developing where the steel frames enter the concrete. Certainly they are going to require maintenance.



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  10. Hi Bob and Carol,
    First, let me say that we have been following your progress with great interest. You see, we are also building a retirement house on Panay although our place will be quite abit smaller at about 112 sq. meters.
    To my point: we have decided to install wooden French style doors and windows (outward opening) and the problem of screens is indeed vexing. I have found some websites in North America that advertise retractable screens, and I wonder (1) if you have considered that option and (2) if in fact they are available in Iloilo?
    I have learned a great deal from your site, and my wife Febe and I wish you both all the best
    Ian MacDonald


    • Ian,

      Sorry for the very late reply. I have not seen retractable screens here, but then I did not know about them. I did a Google search. They do seem like a viable option and not more expensive than our hinged screens. The great thing is you don’t need to use them unless you need them. We really don’t have bugs during the day. We could leave the screens up all day and put them down at night. With that system we would only need them in the bedrooms. The other windows we could just close at night. With our casement windows, we need frequent access to the windows so we can open and close them. Perhaps that would be a problem with the retractables. Also, I wonder about long-term durability. Anyway, thanks for this good suggestion.

      Regarding French doors, just remember you’ll need some sort of openable security grill.



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  12. Hello Bob and Carol!! I always check for updates and am enjoying this post. it reminds me of my childhood –screens were only for the upper crust…

    ok, time to see the Tree!!


  13. HI

    Congratulations with your new house.
    It must be a real nice thing to be able to move in
    and enjoy the fruit of the hard work during the
    building period.

    I really look forward to hear about your experience with
    the living conditions in the house, especially about the
    heat/windy conditions you made in the house.

    Enjoy it.



  14. Hi Bob,
    Apparently Lemon grass and Basil plants keep away mosquitos and there are probably more. To get the effect in the air the leaves must be brused as they say or moved by the wind. Lemon scented Geraniums would do aswell…..if you can get the plants? The latter can be grown in hanging baskets where they will trail successfully. I’m sure Carol will find good use for the herbs or erbs as they say here. Both the plants do very well in the Philippines, Lemon grass takes full sun whilst the Basil needs some shelter.
    Thai curries and Italian spagetti here we come……


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