Manila, Philippines

DIY Home Construction Basics

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Home construction, renovation and expansion can be expensive but at the same time, very informative and learning-filled. We’re nearing our 3rd anniversary here at the North East, and through the years I’ve personally overseen and financed certain home improvements and expansions.

I get the feeling that there’s this frustrated engineer / architect / carpenter / mason within me as I really enjoy watching the contractors, masons and piyons as they do their tasks. Along the way, I’ve learned a number of things related to construction techniques and materials. And you’ll also notice that carpenters and contractors (the small-time ones) usually recall the brand names of the materials and chemicals to use, but not really what the actual names of these are. So a friendly hardware store attendant comes in handy.

As follows are some of them:


Floor tiles (ceramic ones) have varying sizes, meant for outdoor and indoor. Then you apply tile grout to seal off the joints and spaces in between tiles. Varying brands too. If you have more budget you may also opt for laminated wood which are very classy and durable while for those with limited budget, vinyl flooring is also an option (this fades and easily gets chipped off from wear and tear). An even cheaper but less classy look will be to use linoleum as flooring.


There are various and differing paints for metal and wood (Enamel) and concrete (Latex). Then there’s roof paint. There are even subcategories like quick dry, semi-gloss, flat, elastomeric, etc. Base paint, double coating, top coat, etc. Crazy and mabusisi right? Then as part of the mixture, paint thinner or lacquer thinner.

And we DON’T just go straight to painting our walls and grills. Bare metals need to be treated first with red oxide. Fresh new concrete walls need to be treated with what they call neutralizer before applying base paint (usually flat latex). And new galvanized iron roofing need to be treated first with what they call ‘Turco’ which is a brand of rust converter, before being painted with multi-coatings of roof paint.

Sealants and Patching

Concrete cracks may be sealed with ‘masilya’ or boral + water mixture. Wooden joints and cracks meanwhile are applied with patching compound + latex paint mixture. For plywood ceiling  joints or hugpungan, carpenters also use ‘gasa tape’ prior to painting so that the paint becomes sort of flexible — it does not peel off even if the plywoods move in opposite directions. For steel windows and aquariums, the ‘putty’ is also different. For roof holes due to nailing, and drainage joints, there’s Elastoseal or VulcaSeal.

Wood and Nails

Of course very basic, there’s good lumber and coco lumber. Marine plywood, normal plywood, and Hardiflex (which is actually a brand name). There’s normal nail, concrete nail, and even hardinail. Varying lengths and varying thickness. For roofing, the usual ones are the text screw or roof screw. Roof nails (the ones with big heads) are from the old era.


There’s plain normal cement and then there’s adhesive cement if you are into tiling your floors, bathroom walls etc. Carpenters even mix ‘sahara’ into the cement for concrete areas more exposed to rains such as terrace flooring, and in case your roof is made of concrete.

Panel Doors and Wood Varnish

Panel doors have standard widths like 70cm, 80cm and 90cm and may be sold separately with the door jambs. And if you’re prefer wood varnish instead of plain paint for your doors and furniture, you don’t just apply varnish straight on and leave it exposed. There are wood stains available to highlight the wood lines and marks and somehow even out the varying natural wood shades. Then you apply sanding sealer to protect the stain / varnish. Rub some sand paper to smoothen the surfaces, then use glossy polyurethane varnish as finishing to show off its glossy color.

Concrete Hollow Blocks

CHB! They have varying thickness for varying purposes (walls, fence etc) like 4′, 5′ and even 6′ for thick walls.


Sand mixed into cement have varying names too. Blue sand for ‘palaman’(filling) in hollow blocks and for ‘buhos’ (concrete foundation and wall pillars) together with ‘graba.’ These are usually the less fine and granules are of bigger sizes. And well, they are really blue. While white sand or ‘bistay’ is used for concrete surfacing or ‘palitada‘, to smoothen the walls and flooring as these are the finer smaller granules of sand. This is different still from what you see in Boracay.


Flat bar, angle bar, purlins, steel bar, square bar, galvanized / black iron, aluminum tubes are long metals  with varying uses. Flat bar and square bar and galvanized / black iron / aluminum tube are often used for gates, grills and railings. While purlins and angle bars are more common in roof trusses and ceilings. For curtain rods, there are aluminum ones while cheaper ones are the chrome tubes.

So there. I hope you learned a few new things on carpentry and masonry. I hope you find these handy as you discuss your construction plans with your contractors / carpenters.


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4 Responses

  1. Dog Delivering Groceries says:

    I love reading blogs like this while enjoying an ice cold beverage.

  2. Energy Home Pros says:

    It is an important article through which we can know the best things considering at a time of making home. You can visit on energyhomepros to get the best Home improvement service by the Home improvement contractors.

  3. andrewwilson says:

    This is a excellent blog, would you be involved in doing an interview about just how you designed it? If so e-mail me! Paving Durham

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