Details in House Construction can haunt you later on!
Are you Losing your Mind Trying to Figure out House Construction?
Where to Buy South of Manila and How to Do It – A Primer
As many of you know, I constructed my own house and hired the contractor, performed oversight in the construction, and at times thought I was going to tear my hair out by the roots…
My daughter said “Daddy, Eat Ice Cream, its Therapeutic”
Wisdom from a 4.5 year old.
Trust me, its all normal.
Whether you watch a construction in progress in US, EU or Timbuktu, you can expect things will never go as planned. The amount of pain you endure is directly related to the amount of pre planning, attention, care and screaming you may do before, during and after the construction.
Why would someone deliberately endure pain and suffering?
In my case, it was related to the quality I wanted in the finished product, at the right price. We all want the maximum return on our hard earned cash in our wallet. In fact, recently Angela and I wanted to put a hand carved stone in front of our place with the name of our house. We came up with what we thought it was a clever name…
Casa de carteras vacías Or House of Empty Wallets
You pour your life and soul into saving up or working hard so you can one day build your dream house. Then you pour out your hard earned cash into it. We all want a return on what we are paying in. The fact is its more like bleeding our own blood out to someone and hoping you dont run out during the transfusion… it seems like it never ends. Especially when you hear from a contractor “Oh by the way sir, we need another item we forgot to tell you about” During the last month of construction i almost lost it during one of these episodes. The workers all fled to the backyard as i howled on how could they not have told me 3 hours ago before i went down the hill to Alabang for the last trip! Needless to say the construction supervisor had a little high blood pressure from all of my ranting in the end.
I can’t count how many trips i made during construction after hearing those words. My wallet cried for mercy at times. My credit card was literally worn out from the swipes it made through Point of Sale machines swiping for all those purchases. And the amount of receipts could fill a Balikbayan box before it was all over.
But in the end, i got twice the house for half the money I would have paid a developer for some “All constructed for you with the highest quality” junk i have seen on the market. 2 and a half years later i can tell you my house is just as good or better than when i built it.
Here are some things to consider:
- Price does not equal quality. Not everything is cheap. And not everything that has a high price tag is the best you can get.
- Name brands arent always the best. Carrier Air con vs Panasonic for example. However Tubs and Faucets stick with US Brands. Chinese stuff is junk and the guts wear out in no time here. I have zero toilet and faucet problems. Just about everyone i know that bought HCG and a few others have issues. Cheaper lines in Kohler, such as Ponzi, have ceramic that discolors in no time. American Standard tends to last and last. Go figure that one out.
- Floor tiles have varying quality but some cheap ones can be used in areas not on the floor for dramatic effects. Be creative and you can get some bang for your buck!
- Have some creativity and build the house of your dreams instead of paying some developer to give you junk. I built twice the house for ½ the money. Take a look and see. Still a work in progress but coming along nicely.
- Shrubbery can be had for ¼ of the vendor cost when you shop around. And landscape outfits here swish a number out of the sky when coming up with a price when determining a price for a landscaping job.
- When landscaping can cost anywhere from 500 PhP to 2m PhP depending on what you want, I say shop around! You will be surprised. It all adds up when you get to the bottom line.
- PVC Windows can last longer and not have the maintenance issues of cheap Aluminum ones.
- 8. Don’t ship appliances over. Buy inverter ones here.
Here are some examples.
I have a bias against Tile from Southeast Asia. While it has some fantastic colors and patterns, most is completely junk. People tend to play it safe with large 80 x 80 or 100 x 100 cm tiles in white. You see them all over houses because frankly… its cheap and covers a large area. Why not use large tiles and save money on a large floor area?
An example of cheap tile. My kids bathroom that faded over 2 years of use. If i had to do it all over again i would skip it. This was taken during construction showing toilet installed and the tile itself. Pardon the dirty tile, that is not the tile itself.
Well there can be a couple reasons. One is that if your floor is uneven before you lay the tile, you can have very noticeable bubbles in your floor when you are done. This means either you end up tripping over the tile because the edge is standing up in a particular area, or the tile cracks because the surface underneath it will not support the wear and tear.
Have some creativity. You can find some excellent tile for trim. Most of the colored tile (orange, purple, etc) can and will fade dramatically over time. The Philippine tile (Mariwasa) and Indonesian tile is especially prone to this. It also cracks easily if your floor is not even or you drop something heavy on it. It is much like owning ceramic plates instead of tiles, due to the thickness of the material. The Chinese tile is even worse in this regard. I recommend staying away from it unless your wallet can’t afford it.
However there are great finds out there. If you want to give some excitement to your living space, go to somewhere like Wilcon Home Depot and look for tile kits. My bathroom has an insert with some patterns in it that dressed up the space. I also found some nice tile with leaf patterns i used for around my tub. In things like mirror wraps, I built a plywood frame and put decorative glass tile around it. Examples shown below. Very cheap to do. The insert was a total of 5000PhP, the mirror wraps were an expenditure of around 2000 PhP. Nice return on investment. I put backlighting behind them. LED tubes of course.
Example of Bathroom Mirror Trim that was constructed. Note sinks, they were all of 600 PhP apiece. Backsplash trim and mirror trim was all purchased and fabricated in one day.
This is what i was copying, my dream bathroom from Four Seasons Hotel Singapore
This is what i ended up with (and still a work in progress) Hey, the bathtub is the same and the fixtures are better quality haha. Okay so the sinks aren’t quite the same but the room is larger. I can’t keep the kids out of my tub when i am taking a bubble bath. Yep, former bad guy killin Marines like a quiet moment in the tub too ya know?
Here is an example of what you can find for tile inserts very cheaply. This was found at Wilcon for 5k, Nice Spanish Ceramic tile. Comes as a kit, you just put it in the measured space. No trimming was done. Just made sure i had space on the floor and dropped it in and grouted.
LED Lighting – Not for Everyone but if possible, Pays itself off Quickly
Next is an example of LED Lighting Units.
These were 6 inch diameter ones you put in ceiling. There are plenty of other types and sizes.
You can get them in Bright White or Soft White. This is Soft White which is better for interior areas. The light isnt as harsh when you are walking around late at night.
LED lights are more expensive, I agree! However with power costs being 20.5 cents per Kilowatt Hour, you want to protect your wallet. The calculation on investment for LED lights was they were paid off in 9 months from power savings alone. I put them in all over my house.
The average life is 8 YEARS. I generally believe that for the larger units. The little LED pinlights are about 2 years life, but if you have surges they will pop like corks i have found. However the small LED pinlights (3 or 6 watt type) keep getting cheaper and cheaper and will eventually replace CFL in most houses here. They are also available in screw in bulb types, which i use for outdoor fixtures. I have no CFL in my house.
BEWARE. You must have stable power in your area. If you are prone to brownouts, they will suffer damage. Putting in a larger load panel in your house when you build it will protect you from ½ of the impact during brownouts. My house has a 300 amp panel. Standard builds are 100 amp service.
I have had 2 of the larger ones fail in 2 years. However none of the others have. The large ones are 18w, and you dont need a lot to cover a room and they are to me a lot more attractive than Compact Flourescent Bulbs (CFLs).
DC Inverter Air Conditioning Units will save you a TON of Cash
Also, you can save money with Air Conditioning. Go with DC Inverter Air Conditioning Units. These step 220v power to 12v Power to run compressors and systems in them. Savings for me was 40 percent of a typical air conditioner. Yes i have overkill. My total expenditure, including installation and brackets was 7k USD for my house.
The reality is i can cool an individual room instead of having a large unit sitting in the corner chugging away doing a poor job air conditioning a large house. I lived in one in Alabang and my power bills for it was higher than my current house, which is larger. Tell me if i made the right decision. Payoff on investment was quick compared to traditional aircon units.
Recommendation: Do NOT use CARRIER. More expensive, less reliable. Here is a case of name brand being poor quality.
Use Panasonic EcoNavi Inverter units. If you need a supplier up here drop me a line. They are available pretty much all over the Philippines and i haven’t had one problem with them. I was turned on to them by a friend and it was a wise decision.
Example of Split Unit on Wall. Compressor is outside. My apologies for packing bag sitting on top of unit. Lazy installers didn’t remove it when they originally installed before i took photo 2.5 years ago.
Example of Compressors outside. They come in all tonnage sizes up to 2.5 ton. I have mine sized by room. Your vendor can do the calculation for you and do it to get the right sized unit. The power savings for correctly sized units is enormous!
Also the windows i have are PVC. The trim looks wood grain but its not. These never rust and never warp. You can get them with single, double, and triple pane glass (your choice). You can get privacy tint so you cant see in from the outside but you cant tell from the inside. Saves on shades and curtains (currently estimated it would be 2k for curtains for all windows in my house)
Very happy with them and dont have to worry about replacing them in a couple years, like Aluminum frame ones do, because of the wind from Typhoons and regular wear and tear. They dont rattle and all lock securely.
I also have concrete frames around windows. These dont deteriorate over time and can be fabricated on site with some 2 x 4 frames and a few sacks of cement. They are bolted to my house and the holes are filled with cement then painted.
Water Systems can payoff themselves with lower electricity usage
As stated previously, getting a high pressure tank, a large water tank and a decent size pump saves you electricity costs from not having a pump work so hard to maintain water pressure. Its the electricity that is the cost, not the tank or water! Electricity is very expensive in the Philippines, about 3 to 5 times what it is in the US.
The return on investment in a proper pump and pressure tank is critical. I recommend AO Smith products, made in USA and found over here. Besttank is so so as far as water tanks, but get a stainless one. I think personally the plastic ones leach some chemicals and flavor to water, so I stay away from them. Remember Besttank is a series of dealers with a head office, so the ones that sell you the pump and tanks are not the ones that install, so be prepared for a clueless crew ending up on your site.
A 1.5 HP pump is better than a 1HP. The pressure tank will pressurize quicker and less power to do so. Return is about 6 months on investment.
An example of this is below: The tank is on the right, the pump is inside the green box to protect it, it fills the 85 gallon pressure tank. It gives me 70 psi of pressure at the faucet in all rooms, so you dont get scalded if someone flushes a toilet in another room.
So dealing with quality suppliers can save money. If you go into Wilcon and find the manager and want to deal with large purchases, they will give you a personalized deal, looking at all the invoice line items you are going to purchase and then discount it, more than the frequent purchase deals they are offering to their customers.
They will send a person around with you and get all the prices too, just ask. It takes a bit longer because you have to shop around in there and know what you are buying before you get the discounts on a large order but once you have a relationship just let them know at the register and he they will call a manager over and he will put an override code in a register, you will see the discount and see how much you actually save.
Let me take you through before and after. First this is my yard when i started, just before i moved in. I wondered to myself “What the hell do i do with this mess?”
And later when i put in a walkway and some landscaping. The company that delivered my stones wanted to provide me labor to do it at 70 USD per day for the labor alone, for 5 days, so to lay the stone in would be 350 USD. By the way the walkway and landscaping cost me 300 USD, including the LED walkway lights and landscaping. I still am going to put concrete on those repurposed stones… Like i said, a work in progress. The patchwork is the old walkway i covered up with sod and it will fill in within a month.
Hunt down the source
Find local suppliers for plants, flowers etc. Those guys on the road with the beautiful flowers in Tagaytay along the road seem like a good deal at 50 PhP per pot, but less than a mile away you can deal with the guys and gals that supply them at 5 to 8 PhP per pot… boy was i steamed when i found out the markup.
I have found Lemon trees (small like 2 foot ones with fruit already on them) for 100 PhP apiece. I have found shrubs at 50 PhP that start at 350 in the big name shops. I have over 150 shrubs for borders on my property because i dont believe in walls. In another 6 months they will be 5 feet high and give me privacy for my new A/V room. Yep, im expanding things and want to sit out back with a 75 inch TV or 140 inch projection system (my choice im wired for both) to look at.
Other ways to Save – Inverter Appliances and Washers / Dryers
If you are coming over from the US, ditch your appliances and buy over here. If you have the A/V system of your dreams, check and see if the input power source is 110 – 240v AC, 50/60 Hz. If so, you can plug it in. If not, buy a cheap Automatic Power Converter rated for your amps you are going to draw.
However why pay for shipping anything electrical over here when you can buy better on the market right now? Shipping containers cost money and you dont gain anything by shipping those bulky items. Buy great furniture from the US and ship over. Its expensive here if you want Ethan Allan or Broyhill and try to find it.
Inverter washers and dryers are available from all Manufacturers. They are ½ the electricity usage of conventional ones. Payoff in less than 6 months in electricity usage if you do clothes loads every day. Dryers are a necessity in Tagaytay because it is cool and wet most of the year, which means hanging clothes out on the line wont get them dry.
So, does your Flaming Hot new Purchase look quite as shiny now?
Can you have the house of your dreams? YES. Do you have to pay ludicrous rates the big developers charge for minimal fixtures and fittings? NO
And one more thing… I have a larger lot for less money.
The so called Good Deal
18 to 28K per sq m for a hollow block house and HCG Toilets and Chinese faucets, local tile, small water pump, small piping, perhaps water heaters in each bath that break down. The higher range of 24 to 32K is where things are out here for the lot right now unless you are in a starter home of 1.5m / 37 sq m, which is not my market. My lot is 750 square meters at 3750 per sq/m. 37 sq m gets you room for a picnic table in your backyard, and that’s about it for space.
Or if you wanted to take an example such as Solen Residences over in the Eton area, they have 155 Sq M lots for your footprint. Avida Estates over in Nuvali is 155 Sq M to 309 Sq M with selling prices for the lot alone of 4.3M PhP to 8.7M PhP… for the lot alone. Luscara launched in January at 17K per SqM for 600 plus SqM lots. Splendid location, I love Ayala.. but not enough that i want to buy that lot.
Let’s do a little math for lots. So okay 600 at 17K, thats 10.2M PhP… I paid 2.7M, oh and you still have to build the house. Darn those details.
Hope you are related to an Ayala.
Sometimes you can get a nice location at a price that will make you cringe, or a cheap location and neighbors outside your window. You can pass the sugar from your kitchen window to theirs.. literally.
Examples for you comparison shoppers looking for Good Deals:
Me: 350 Sq/ M size, 2 story. Could have built in range of 16K to 32K per sq m, and thats with CAT 5 wiring in all rooms, Sound wiring in all rooms, 300 Amp GE Breaker Panel, 85 Gal pressure tank, 1600 Liter Water Tank, Solid Concrete Construction including lot. Spanish tile throughout house. Maid and Driver Room, Dirty Kitchen and Modern Clean Kitchen, Modular Cabinets, Washer / Dryer Area, Balconies, LED Lighting throughout house. Inverter Aircon in all rooms. Name brand fixtures. Ok, you get the point.
My lot was 2.7 M PhP for 750 Sq M. About ½ what they were doing over at Avida for small lots. You want mine, i gave the comparison at Luscara, where that size of lot is. Plunk that money down today haha
So I got more house for less money. And no junk. Not one single thing shipped in from the US via Amazon.
Next time you are shopping for new houses, take a look at what they offer. Suddenly you will be noticing what they use and remember what i said. While they are talking about developments and what they are close to, im sure you will be thinking about “look at the crap they are building with” haha.
Enjoy your purchases. I did.