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:
The standard Filipino column footer and four 10mm rebar column reinforcement.
This photo shows the location on the lot and the surroundings.
The columns going up. They will be hidden in bamboo cladding.
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.
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.
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.
You can see in the above photo of our old roof, that the spacing between rows of nipa is almost three inches.
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.
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 bananas have grown! Grass grows on the sandy fill. The bahay kubo was home to our construction workers for over nine months.
Below, we’ll show more bahay kubos in our neighborhood:
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