Building a Concrete Block House – part 1

How to build a concrete block houseHow to build a concrete block house in the Philippines – part 1

Here are the steps for building a modest block house in the mountains in the Philippines. I plan to follow the construction of this concrete block house from beginning to completion and will outline the basic process.

building a concrete block house

The first thing to line up is the land. This house is being built Filipino style so the laws and customs will be dramatically different for a foreigner planning to build a dream home in the Philippines.

building a concrete block house

The advice of the “dutchpickle” has always been for foreigners to not invest in land in the Philippines because they will never be the legal owner and all sorts of problems will arise.

digging the foundationconcrete block constructionThis lot cost 4,000 pesos and is actually government land.

There was an existing outline of the old foundation of a house that was never completed, which we tore down.

I am not sure how it works but in this village people seem to have lots staked out that have been in their families for generations in some cases.

Apparently the “owner” can sell this land to others in the community in an agreement witnessed by the barangay captain. Obviously this is not the way to go if you plan to invest heavily in the project. The sale must be recorded with the Barangay office for tax declaration purposes. Basically what we have here is a “squatter” house – this is  not a solid investment, but it works for the locals.

concrete block construction

concrete block constructionBuying land is always very tricky in the Philippines as there are often heirs and family disputes about who actually owns the land.

In the mountains they are a tight knit community and if they all agree that a certain family owns that land and all his relatives and friends are willing to back him up – that guy owns the land – end of story.

There was an abandoned project on this lot that had to be cleared and some nice banana trees that are “owned” by the neighbors were spared and are to be harvested by them when the bananas are ripe.

sawing the rebar

A thick stand of bamboo gives the place great shade and there is a constant breeze blowing in from the cane fields making this a surprisingly comfortable location.

setting up a columnI was helping push over some block when i noticed a scorpion scurrying by and decided that these guys had everything under control.

We  had ordered 1000 4 inch concrete block and 500 had already been delivered.

The agreed upon price was 12 pesos each but after delivery they jacked the price up to 13 pesos.

I was helping these guys a little and was wondering if this was an additional “foreigner tax”. I am a realist however and realize that this building site is quite a ways off the paved road so a 1 peso delivery fee per block really was reasonable.

concrece block constructionA truckload of “screen sand” for the concrete cost 5,500 pesos for a 5 cubic meter load.

I had lined up some steel reinforcing rod and brought 40 – 12mm (175 pesos ea), 20 – 10mm (125 pesos), and 20 9mm (95 pesos ea), 40 bags of Portland cement (210 pesos ea), 10 kilos of tie wire (65 pesos ang kilo) , and 4 sheets of 3/16 plywood (280 pesos) up to the site.

Nails 2”, 3″, and 4″ – 20 kilos in all 48 pesos ang kilo.

Steel shovels – 2 (300 pesos ea), trowels 45 – 55 pesos. hacksaw blades 3 @ 60 pesos and 1 @ 75 pesos.Misc tape measures, hammers and other stuff I had lying around were donated to the project.

40 – 2×2 coco lumber was delivered by the multicab. This location is 34 kilometers round trip from town so you kind of have to plan the deliveries.

setting concrete block

The foundation for the footing was dug the first 2 days, the re-bar assemblies were done on day 3 and 4. Everything was ready to go on Monday. These guys are expected to work 6 days a week and take Sunday off.

concrete block house

This site is way out in the mountains and labor here is very cheap.The lead gets 200 pesos per day, the old man and the strong laborer 125 pesos, the 14 year old lad 50 pesos and some others volunteer their labor.

concrete block construction

This is not my house but I am helping them out a little bit.

getting the tie wire readyI donated a bag of rice at the start and have brought a bucket of fish and three chickens for lunch break.

A neighbor woman cooks the food. Bread and coffee are ready in the morning to get everyone going.

You must keep the morale up or things simply will not get done and I want them to get this house completed as quickly as possible. It’s not a big job if they can remain focused.

This almost has become an Amish barn raising style project. One of the neighbors is storing the Portland cement in his house to keep it dry.

mixing concreteThe bending of the re-bar is done in the shade under the trees at the neighbor across the street and the coco lumber is stores in another yard.

They seem excited about the activity and it is cool to be a part of it.

There are 10 columns planned – 4 across the front, 4 across the back and one halfway down each side.

There is a small creek at the back of this small property so drainage is an issue to look int as well. They are planning on having 2 pigs back there – seems like a solid plan.

concrete block constructionThe foundations for the columns are the first step. The 12 mm with the 9 mm supports go up first.

Just the foundation is poured and then hollow block is laid between the columns.

When there are around 8 completed courses the support pilings are poured giving the walls considerable strength.

There is a planned tie beam to run around the perimeter of the block wall at the top to tie everything together resulting a very solid house.

concrete columnThe team sets the form for one of the concrete columns.

These columns go from the foundation to the tie beam at the top of the wall and give the structure a lot of strength. This picture was taken about 2 weeks into the project.

A 5 cubic meter load of screen sand is set to arrive later in the morning and we still have about 15 bags of Portland cement stored in one of the neighbors houses.

The progress on this construction project will updated in Part 2 – Building a concrete house in the Philippines. It might be a few days before I get around to updating the site.

concrete block construction

Building a house in the Philippines

Sep 29, 2010

38 responses to “Building a Concrete Block House – part 1”

  1. Wow dp,
    going into the construction business now. looks great mate. it should be finished by the time i get home so i will have to come visit. great looking little place mate. BW Dave

  2. Wow! Lots of detail! I’d like one of those. Ready to help with another one?

  3. dp i should have had u over look the building of my last 2 places then maybe they would have been as i was expecting and not as the builder liked ahahah. great pics. by the way i have just ordered a new digital camera olympus e-420.. cracking bitta kit. keep up the great work. i will do the gecko tomorrow mate. and email back asap. all the very best mate. Dave

  4. Quite a job DP and congratulations for your kindness. Not easy to build so far from the city, guess you must second guess what ever is needed.

    maybe you can post the total square meter size, would be interesting to know completed price.

    Hang in and you must also stay focused as the potential for future problems will be there.

  5. Hi, Dp
    I have read most of your article here and was i thinking of building a house in Coron Palawan next to Salvacion in the province there i have a limited budget to work on and how much would it cost lets say from start to finish maybe a three to five bedroom if that possible on a small budget i plan on building this in this mountainous area where i have visited with my wife we met in the philippines manila i was there a bout 4 years and want to try and build there was thinking of maybe either trying to buy a lot or see if i could find a inexpensive house and lot , but if i planned on building was thinking what would be a realistic price on a very tight budget is 3 to 5 thousand could it be done on such, and in the end could one ever build a inexpensive swimming pool also in a areas such as this, Frank

  6. Hi DP
    I was wondering if you might have a guess at what it would cost to build a 3 bedroom block house in sindangan,this is where me and the wife are thinking of living when i retire from my job,we live in the good ole USA now,my wife is from cebu,but her parents live in zamboanga del norte i like sindangan and dipolog

  7. iam a builder to trade timber kit house i build here in the uk do you think that style of build would work in the philippines with kit panels then a skin of hollow blocks built around the kit panel or is that just extra cost for no reason

  8. 12 pesos per block?!?expensive… in tarlac it costs P3.50… 5 for high quality ones… given the river beds in southern tarlac is ready material for hollow blocks (lahar deposits) what mountains are you in? are you in an isolated island?

  9. Hey DutPickl;
    I love your site. My wife and I will be building a modest home a similar size to yours. I am on an extremely limited budget as you were. I am an Orthodox clergyman so the banks are not full of my money, if you catch my drift. We were curious about your design plans and if you still have them? We would like to llook them over and perhaps adopt some of your ideas. We are building in Mindanao near Pagadian in her families barangay there. Our budget is also about $5-7000 US dollars. We plan to build a bamboo church after our house.
    Father Deacon Chris

  10. Hi Dutch Pickle,

    I really enjoyed reading this article and found it very useful as I am currently in the planning stages of building an eco-village in the Philippines. I am originally from the UK but I have dual-citizenship so able to own land in the Philippines. I can see that you have experience in construction and would very much like to request any help in terms of Filipino suppliers of concrete blocks, foundations and lumber. I would be very grateful for the help so please contact me when you have the time.

  11. oh my…
    it sure is costly to build a house… mr. dp, i would like to start a house of my own… good thing i ran into this blog of yours… i have a small lot within the city of cagayan de oro… about 80 sq m, not too much for i live alone and im just 25yo… i intend to build only a 40 sq m floor area for the house with 2 bedrooms, and a little bitsy for the dining room, living room, toilet, etc. how much do you think will it cost me? i really really really want a house, im tired of renting… thanks…

  12. Do you have an email address. I’d like to ask you something privately. Thank you

  13. Are you sure about the price of the lot? 4,000 pesos? how cheap.. eheh may natira pba ganyan ka mura dyan sa inyo?

  14. Just want you to know that I think your story on building the concrete block house is excellent and very informative. Fantastic pictures and it really lets you see how this kind of thing is done in the Philippines. I work fifo in Australia doing 2 weeks on and have 1 week off which I manage to spend 4.5 days in Butuan. This story interests me as I am contemplating building something like this on a few hectares with a plan of being almost self sufficient.
    Thanks for the great story.
    Cheers and beers

  15. ask ko lang po magkano magastos sa concrete house sa 100 square meters..

  16. hello everyone, I’m glad I read this article, mayroon na po akong small lot bigay ng tatay ko gusto ko lang bahay kubo style bamboo made but concrete or tiles floor one bath, 2 bedrooms a little kitchen with dining area together. My question is mayroon bang nagtitinda ng mga materials monthly payment? 10,000 to 12,000 a month pesos please let me know. salamat po:)

  17. Hello,

    Im a Dutch resident and loved to read your articles. I am currently planning to built a simple home for my parents-in-law in Eastern Samar, which have faced a total destruction of their own home after Yolanda. I am now in Tacloban. Would it be possible to visit you one of these days. I have been in Lake Danao before.I was thinking about using similar techniques and materials you are using, but I have many questions about quantities, labor, techniques etc.

    Please let me know if this is ok for you. My girlfriend would also like to see the house.



  18. Mr. DP

    Great website and thank you for sharing your time.
    I have many questions and will try to ask them to allow for quick answer.

    (1) why do you always say that it’s easy to go broke in the Philippines?
    (2) How do you feel about leased land that is purchased through a respectable real estate firm?
    (3) when your decribing the construction of this home, you never mention utilities. Was this property of grid?
    (4) There was mention of a septic tank installed down by the creek? Is it not best to place the tank away from the water?
    (5) What is the common practice for compaction of the fill dirt that was placed under the floor slab and what is the slab thickness?
    (6) Why were kitchen and cr placed in another smaller building?

    I’m sure that there will be more questions, i’m a curious guy. I currently live in California, which is located in the USA. I do not have property @ this time but will diffently be building a home in the Philippines. If there is another person (perferably a female) that would like to exchange email and hear my plan for property development, please feel free to share my email.

    Best wishes.


  19. Your post here are very helpful and thanks,,
    May questions are simple if you will please answer.
    -What was the sq footage of your home?
    -What was the cost per square foot?
    Feel free to email me at above address.

    Thanks in advance

  20. Hello,
    Like you, I have also built a similar type house in the Philippines. Mine is in the city of Gubat near Sorsogon. We have built a two story house with a roof top terrace.

    I am wondering if you might be able to give me a suggestion on how to solve a issue that came up with this latest typhoon that just passed through this area. Our terrace drain started backing up with all the rain because of the accumulation of leaves. This required constant removal of the leaves during the storm.

    Do you have any suggestions on how the drain can be set up with some sort of system that will keep the leaves and debris away from the drain so that we don’t have
    to constantly go up there to clear it?

    I hope with your experience that you may be able to help me out with how to solve this problem. Thank you.


  21. Has anyone seen concrete blocks B0 anywhere, they are a block with 2 large holes a bit like a squashed figure 8, l will need around 8000 plus in the area of Valencia, Dumaguete if anyone has any news. Thanks/Bedankt

  22. I want to build a 3 bedroom house for my GF and repair/rebuild the shop in front. Do you recommend anyone who can build it for us in Panao?

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