We build a “bahay kubo” bamboo guest house

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Traditional Bahay Kubo, from “Folk Architecture” GCF Books, Quezon City. This is an indispensable book for those interested in Philippine native construction.  We bought our copy at Tradewinds Books, Intramuros.

We build a “bahay kubo” bamboo guest house.  We’re planning on building our conventional concrete house in early 2010.  The plans are just about complete.  More on that later. We decided we’d build one of the pretty native houses, a “bahay kubo”  as a first step.  We selected the above photo of a Panay Island home  to guide the local workers as to what we wanted.  The photo is from the wonderful book “Folk Architecture”, published by GCF Books, Quezon City, 1989.  This book not only has hundred of photos of bahay kubos and other vernacular Philippine architecture but also measured drawings of many of them.

Our rationale for building this now is that we can use the building as “barracks” for our workers from Iloilo City while they work on our house.  It’s likely that we’ll use the same Iloilo City foreman and key crew members as built our fence.  We’d like to give them a little better accommodations than they had for the fence project.  They will stay on-site from Monday to Saturday pay day.  Saturday evening they take a jeepney into Iloilo City to see their family and give their pay — or most of it — to their family. So they spend five nights per week at the site.

Once the house project is complete, the bahay kubo will be used as a very atmospheric guest house.

The bahay kubo is 23′ x 12′ including the porch.  We decided to build using four concrete corner posts or columns which will extend all the way to the top plate.  The columns contain four 10mm rebars which extend above the top of the columns and which will be bent over the top plates to secure the roof strucure from being blown away.  The columns will be one part of the structure the termites can’t eat!  The rest of the building will be built entirely from bamboo and coco (coconut) lumber.  The roof will be of nipa — the thatched leaf of the nipa palm.

Construction began on Tuesday, November 3, 2009 with a crew of four on site.  Here’s a few photos:

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The standard Filipino column footer and four 10mm rebar column reinforcement.

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This photo shows the location on the lot and the surroundings.

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The columns going up.  They will be hidden in bamboo cladding.

Day 9 of project, total expense so far $510

Day 9 of project, total expense so far $510

Excess rebar coming out of column tops is bent over top plate to try to stop the roof from blowing off in a typhoon.

Excess rebar coming out of column tops is bent over top plate to try to stop the roof from blowing off in a typhoon. This is standard practice.

The roof will be thatch from the Nipa palm.  We paid P160 per 100 panels of thatch.

The roof will be thatch from the Nipa palm. We paid P360 per 100 panels of thatch in 2009.  In 2013 we re-roofed the bahay kubo paying P366 per 100.

Nipa after three and a half years

Nipa after three and a half years

 

Nipa thatch being laid.  It is tied on to the roof structure with thin nylon rope.

Nipa thatch being laid. It is tied on to the roof structure with thin nylon rope. We are laying the nipa with a 3″ exposure.

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A needle is used for threading the string through the panels of nipa. This needle is made of scrap 16 gauge galvanized wire.

nipa (4 of 7)

The nipa panels are made by bending leaves of the nipa palm around a thin bamboo rib.  The rib is kept in place with  a stitching of bamboo fibers or a vine (uaway) used for this purpose.  The nylon thread is push through the nipa, wrapped around the bamboo rib and then secured to the bamboo slats and poles making up the roof.

nipa (6 of 7)

The panels of nipa are attached to the bamboo framework using nylon fishing line which is referred to as “string”.

nipa (1 of 7)

This is very time consuming work.

The freshly laid nipa can be damaged by high winds which can catch and break the fronds.

The freshly laid nipa can be damaged by high winds which can catch and break the fronds.

A grid of bamboo slats is made to hold the nipa in position

A grid of bamboo slats is made to hold the nipa in position

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The bamboo grid is secured in place over the nipa

The split bamboo floor being laid

The split bamboo floor being laid over the coco lumber joists.

Our bahay kubo will be sheathed in tad tad.  Tad tad (which means chop-chop in Tagalog and Ilonggo) is bamboo which is unrolled into a flat panel using a bolo to make many cuts in the bamboo until it lies flat.

Marlo is using his bolo to split open bamboo to forma flat panel

Marlo is using his bolo to split open bamboo to form a flat panel

The finished tad tad panel ready to be installed as wall sheathing

The finished tad tad panel ready to be installed as wall sheathing

Tad tad is supported by a bamboo framework

Tad tad is supported by a bamboo framework

Mortises are chisled into the bamboo studs

Mortises are chisled into the bamboo studs

Wall framing.  The short studs are for window openings.

Wall framing. The short studs are for window openings.

More progress

More progress

Making Shutters

Installing shutters

Installing shutters

Porch added, also bamboo shutters

Porch added, also bamboo shutters
Inside the bahay kubo

Inside the bahay kubo.  We project the final cost to be about $1,500 USD.

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The roof after 3 1/2 years.  This is about the normal lifespan for a nipa roof.  While the roof looks like it would be very leaky, it really is not.  It is being replaced now (March 2013) so the bahay kubo will be ready for the rainy season.  We expect the cost of the new roof to be about P6,000 ($150)  labor and materials.

It’s interesting to note that our workers are salvaging a good percentage of the old nipa to use in their own projects.  Just as with any leaking roof, only a percentage of the old shingles are unsalvageable.

Overlap of nipa “shingles”.  The durability and weather tightness of a nipa (or just about any other type of roof) depends on the overlap and exposure of the courses of nipa.

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You can see in the above photo of our old roof,  that the spacing between rows of nipa is almost three inches.

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A  smaller exposure is durable and better resists wind-driven rain.  Our new roof will about 1 1/2″ of exposure per course.  Of course reducing the exposure means that many more nipa “shingles” will be used.  In our case, going from 3″ exposure to 1 1/2″ exposure will double the amount of nipa needed and the time to install it.

bahay_kubo_sunset

Sunset light on bahay kubo.  Note  ”security” light on right.  As is traditional, the globe is the bottom of a plastic bottle, in this case a water bottle.  Vinegar bottles are also popular.  Inside is a 26W compact fluorescent bulb.  These lights, as well as lights and outlets inside the bahay kubo, were installed over the weekend by a neighbor who does electrical work.  Next steps will be adding a porch railing and bamboo strips to hold down the nipa roof.

It’s been hot and dry lately but the bahay kubo stays cool.  The windows set high on the walls and the wide roof overhang keep the sun out of the house during the day, even though there is no trees or shade.  The very open breezy site also helps.

The completed bahay kubo.  Thirty five days labor and $1,500.00

The completed bahay kubo. Thirty five days labor and $1,500.00

Happy homeowner!

Bahay Kubo one years later (Sept 2010)

Bahay Kubo  (June 2011)

The bananas have grown!  Grass grows on the sandy fill.  The bahay kubo was home to our construction workers for over nine months.

Canna lilies under the nipa roof

Canna lilies under the nipa roof

Below, we’ll show more bahay kubos in our neighborhood:

Our neighbors built this bahay kubo. It’s a bit fancier than ours.

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but this one is more modest!

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another Bagumbayan bahay kubo

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Bamboo sari sari store, Napnapan, Tigbauan, Iloilo, Philippines

Bamboo Church, Tigbauan, Iloilo, Philippines (demolished)

Bamboo Church, Tigbauan, Iloilo, Philippines (demolished)

Read all about our Philippine House building Project at /building-our-philippine-house-index/ and how we’ve tried to incorporate the feel of a bahay kubo in our permanent house at /our-philippine-house-project-roof-design/

Updated March 23, 2013

Comments (44) Write a comment

  1. hello, I find it interesting to read about your adventures building a Kubo. My wife and I have been building our house for a couple of months or so with 75% of the construction materials being bamboo. I knew I wanted a Bahay Kubo and the price was what we could afford without going into debt. We were able to purchase the lot at a great price and We decided to build a two story Bahay Kubo in the mountains of Antipolo, Rizal. I’m pretty sure I own the only two story Kubo here. My wife and I are foreigners but I myself am a Phil-am. I had some questions i would like to ask you about how you deal with the preserving of your bamboo house. Is there anything you could recommend in terms of prolonging the longevity of your Kubo. Any tips would be wonderful and if you reply I could snap a pic or two to show you what a crazy 33 year old was able to dream up and build. Lets put it this way, I’m from Philadelphia and being a home owner at my age is something hard to fathom considering the potential mortgage and such in the states, I would have probably had to work 6 days a week until the age of 65 to own anything there. Here in the Philippines I wanted to build my fantasy and with bleeding hands and hard work I was able to build my home, mortgage free and own the land. Not bad if I may say so myself :)

    Reply

  2. I grew up living in a bahay kubo in the southern parts of Cebu, lasted all the way until I left home to go to college. My parents demolished that house quite some time ago and replaced it with a concrete one, but I have many fond memories of our old nipa house. :)

    Funny experience I’d like to share (which I remembered the moment I saw the fresh nipa panels).

    When I was about 9 or 10 years old (mid-80s), my old man wanted to replace our nipa panels with new ones. To save on cost, we worked on it ourselves, with me as his assistant. He had zero experience on it and it seemed like a good idea to start attaching the nipa panels from the bottom.

    Big mistake.

    By the time we got to the middle part of the roof, the nipa panels were almost at a 45-degree angle with respect to the roof structure, and by our estimate, it will probably be at 70-degrees by the time we reach the highest part of the roof.

    So we took everything down, then restarted attaching from the highest part of the roof first. Turned out that the nipa sheet’s attachment to the roof structure will be tighter, and stays almost parallel to the roof structure if you start from the top or highest part of the roof. Looks very nicely combed from the top too. :)

    I don’t remember seeing bamboo grids placed on top of the nipa roofs in our neighborhood. Maybe we just have calmer winds, or maybe attaching it that way helped too. :)

    Very nice and helpful blog by the way. I stumbled upon this site while searching for best practices constructing a house in the PH. :)

    Reply

  3. I am very grateful for your articles. I’m really enjoying them. Just wondering; is there any coating you could put on the nipa roof to make it last longer?

    Reply

  4. Hi!

    Ive been to several sites for constructing simple house. I can say that this is the perfect site. You showed us your progress through pics and most importantly the cost. I am planning to construct a bahay kubo for mama as a gift. Now i have idea how much should i budget. Thanks a lot for sharing!

    Jane

    Reply

    • Many thanks for your kind words. Glad you found the site to be helpful.

      Bob and Carol

      Reply

  5. Hello, there. I just want to thank you for your wonderful and informative website. Just moved to pasig but also dream of building a bahay kubo in la union or pangasinan in the near future, or maybe Iloilo. salamat po! Mary Ann

    Reply

  6. its my dream house.simple at maaliwalas magkano po lahat nagastos dto.we planning to build our house.in maragundon cavite. thanks and more power

    Reply

  7. I would like a copy of the book “Folk Architecture”.
    Could you advise where one would be available.
    Many Thanks

    Reply

    • It seems that some of the big book sellers do have used copies for sale. I saw copies for sale at amazon.com abebooks.com and alibris.com

      Reply

  8. I used to work with one of the author of that book Folk Architecture, and i have one. Arch. Rosario Encarnacion Tan. It’s the best vernacular architecture book one can find here in the philippines.

    Reply

  9. Hello,

    I love this bahay kubo concept and would like to build a couple too. Is there a way that I can “import” the crew to my place in Romblon to build the first one? They can teach the local people so the latter can build the second one.

    Thank you so much.

    Beverly

    Reply

    • I am 100% certain that you can find workers on Romblon (or anywhere else in the provinces) to build your bahay kubo. There is no need to import workers. Ours cost about $1,500 to build. It probably could have been done more cheaply. Good luck!

      Reply

      • Thanks, Bob and Carol.
        Would you say that attaching a concrete and bamboo bathroom is possible/advisable?

        Beverly

        Reply

        • Sure. I’d make it a kitchen and bathroom addition in hollow block but sheathed with bamboo.

          Reply

  10. Hi carol and bob,
    Thank s for your blog
    I m french retired and i would like to know how much money i need to build an house like that
    best regards

    Reply

  11. I have since a year a bamboo house in Binmaley ( PH )
    I wanne know how you maintain a bamboo house.
    Its painted in and outside…
    I hope you can give me some answers about that.
    I like native houses…

    greetings john

    Reply

  12. Hi! i have’nt been in your site for awhile and really miss the development of your house construction,, this bahay Kubo is fantastic.. hopefully with God’s blessing one day i will be able to have one too..so so great// CONGRATULATIONS AND WELL DONE…BOB AND CAROL ,, YOUR HOUSE IS GREAT !! you had been through a lot and now we can see the fantastic result very proud of you both and also the workers behind the scene… take care<<<

    Reply

    • Thanks so much! And yes, I think of the crew very often. We had lots of fights but I have great respect for and appreciation of them. Good luck to you too.

      Bob and Carol

      Reply

  13. Sir,

    We are looking to build same kind of hut on our land in laoag. Do you know if I can purchace an electronic copy of the book you mentioned?
    “Folk Architecture”, published by GCF Books, Quezon City, 1989
    Regards
    Trevor

    Reply

    • Trevor,

      You’ll have to do some searching online. It seems to be available at a few UK libraries and has been scanned by the University of Michigan, but due to copyright issues does not really seem available. If you find anything out, please let us know. We were fortunate to buy a copy in Manila but they are hard to find.

      Bob

      Reply

    • Trevor,

      I suspect that there will be capable builders of native bamboo houses in the Laoag. I’d drive around and look at native houses, finding ones that you like and that seem well built. Then you could ask who built them and have them do the same for you. They probably would be more open to building what they know rather than having you show them a design from a book.

      Any way,

      Best wishes

      Bob
      ————————-
      hammerslag@gmail.com
      Tigbauan, Iloilo
      Panay Island

      Reply

  14. Hi Bob,

    Where did you buy the “Folk Architecture” book, we’re in Iloilo later this month, and this is just what we have been looking for, as we are in the process of starting work on our house build in Miagao in the next few months.
    Have to say your site is the best resource i have seen on the net for those of us who are planning to live and build in the PI.
    Thanks

    Reply

    • Thanks for kind words! I think I bought it at Tradewinds Books in Intramuros Manila. Might be hard to find. If you come to Iloilo you could come look at ours and see if it’s really what you want. It’s all about bamboo architecture so not sure how much it would help you except for inspiration.

      Reply

  15. Dear Bob and Carol,

    What a very insightful and helpful blog! I stayed up until 3 am (!) today because I have been learning a lot about building/constructing house/s just from this blog! This is really a very good resource for people who plan to build their houses in the future. :)

    We hope to build a farm house (hopefully next year) and we will use your site as a valuable source of information, tips, and insights.

    Thank you, too, on this bahay kubo post. It’s about time that Pinoys embrace again the principles behind this traditional structure. We will definitely use this, too, as inspiration to the farm house.

    Thank you, again, goodluck and God bless you both!

    Kind regards,
    Mei

    Reply

  16. Hello,

    Nice kubo, we have a program over an AM station- dyka am radio totoo 801 khz here in antique sharing the green architecture and concept of bahay kubo and the use of indegenous material that uses our very own bamboo.

    Hope your now enjoying the truly native traditonal house and thus preserving our cultural heritage hope to drop by soon with my co anchor.

    U may send comments if you happened to drop by audiostreaming http://www.kinaray-a. com.

    Good day and God bless.

    john

    Reply

  17. Good day!

    I’m interested about your bahay kubo. May I ask for contact person and contact number so I can get some construction details?

    Thanks and more power!

    Reply

    • Sorry, I don’t know how to contact the builders. In the provinces, many workers know how to build with bamboo. After all, most provincial Filipinos live in bahay kubos. You should not have a problem finding someone. Good luck.

      Reply

  18. maganda po talaga ang bahaykubo..
    Cool ang dating..
    Ganyan din po ang bahay ko pero gusto ko pagandahin..
    Magkano po ang gastos sa ganito kubo?..
    Salamat..galing nyo..

    Reply

  19. Clean and nice job well done. I like to have also in my small farm but it’s too far away but i wish you can supply the materials and manpower too. Please contact me at 09198489045, you can reach me sms only..thanks

    Reply

  20. someday i want to build also “Bahay Kubo” i really appreciated that house very cool and native.

    Reply

  21. hi that looks really good bob ,if you had a resort and buit these as guest accomadation i dont think there would be any complaints ,the buety that i find in this is that it is made from natural products (apart from the piers at the corners) the bamboo looks fantastic and the roof even though may not last as long has got to be better than rusty galvanized corogated iron its amazing that the craftsmen still adhere to traditional methods to build ,theysaybamboo is the same strenght as steel if this is the case it is a strong house and looks great wel i think it does anyway ,would also make a good hideout for the boys and a case of san miguel or two
    chris

    Reply

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  23. Oh! It’s beautiful now. I feel homesick seeing the finish product with the parol hanging on the bahay kubo. The early morning breeze of December … hearing Christmas carols … eating “ibos and paho” sipping native hot chocolate make it a perfect retirement.

    It is cold here in Canada -19 C right now in British Columbia … well it is better than -40 C somewhere in Alberta.

    Bob Happy Holidays to you and Carol.

    Reply

  24. Bob,

    It’s looking great! You will have the strongest bahay kubo to withstand any flood or typhoon.

    This is first class accomodation for the construction crew. Is there any provision for bathroom or cooking facilities once you convert this into a guest house?

    This is the place where I would take my everyday afternoon siesta – to just lie down on the bare bamboo floor and enjoy the natural breeze.

    Warm regards to you and Carol.

    Reply

  25. Hi Bob!
    Can I get the 1st reservation on the “bahay kubo”?
    Good luck on your exciting adventure of home building,
    can’t wait to see the pictures.
    Take care both always…lady

    Reply

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