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Thread: Concrete Block vs. Wood Frame Construction

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    doromaner is offline DI Member
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    Default Concrete Block vs. Wood Frame Construction

    I am torn between building a concrete block home or a wood framed elevated home.

    I like the idea of the concrete blocks, but all around the Philippines I see cracked and crumbling block structures. I know that it is possible to purchase or make stronger psi blocks and use plenty of rebar, but I still think a good earthquake can really do damage to the blocks and the poured concrete foundation. Also the issue of flooding comes into play. I think that block homes are best against high winds, but are not the best against earthquakes and flooding.

    The advantage to wood frame is that it is easily elevated a few feet off the ground, so with flooding it is better. It seems that with a earthquake wood would be more forgiving also. I think if you constructed properly you could be fine against high winds. Then of course there are the termites. I am talking about using "good wood" not coco, and using marine plywood for the floor and the roof.

    I have tried to do some math on cost of both methods and I think there is not really that much difference, at least in the way my home is designed. I would appreciate any thoughts on this subject. What is the smartest plan?

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    Manzanita's Avatar
    Manzanita is offline DI Member
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    Are you building a single-story structure? Is this in an area prone to flooding?

    You might want to give this a good read through, for building here this guys blog is very, very helpful...


    Building our Philippine House – Index | My Philippine Life
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    OnMyWay is offline DI Member
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    good link Manzanita!

    I read that and can't help but to just shake my head. Guess it's just not for me.

    Constant reinforcement why I just rent here.

    Doromaner, good luck with your project....hope you get to eventually live your dream

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    xyzimgone is offline Lost in the Woods
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    We built our house in Valencia 2 years ago. It is made with blocks and has withstood both the recent earthquake (without even one small crack) and the flooding caused by tropical storm, Sendong. For flooding, the location of your home is obviously much more important than the materials. I have seen many wooden structures washed down the rivers during the recent flooding and I have also seen homes made with blocks, completely destroyed. Choose your location wisely. There are many dry river beds around here and eventually, they will fill up with water. Stay away from flat land; even a small slope will drain water faster. Look for areas with good drainage around the nearby roads. You can also elevate the main floor of your house, during construction by building a solid footing, placing the first few rows of blocks (I recommend 6 inch blocks up to floor level), then make a form around the outside of those blocks, backfill the center (make sure your fill contains lots of sand and gravel and is properly compacted), then pour your floor over the top of those blocks. The rebar from the footing up through the blocks must be bent and connected to the rebar in your floor. Rebar from any columns must also be bent into the floor to tie everything together. Building with blocks is cheaper, no termites, more resistant to theives and to fires, and you can still get good looks by being imaginative with your design.

    I would strongly suggest building a one storey house for both cost savings and earthquake protection. I spent about Php 13000 per square meter building a two storey house. I am sure I could build the same size house for 8000 to 9000 per sq mtr if I built it on one storey. If you take a 100 sq meter house, that means you can save 400,000 pesos. Even with the additional lot size required to put the extra 50 sq mtrs of house on one floor, you will save. Example, if you must buy an extra 50 sq mtrs of land, even at Php 2000 per sq mtr, you still save Php 300,000.

    Hollow blocks (CHB's) in the Dumaguete area typically run around 6 pesos each (4 inch blocks) and the manufacturer usually makes 70 to 80 blocks per bag of cement. I paid 2 pesos more per block, and had blocks that were made 40 per bag; strong enough to throw on the ground without breaking. Don't consider your blocks as structural or load-bearing members. The footings, columns, and roof beams are the actual structure of your house, not the blocks. Ensuring that you use adequate rebar in your walls, both vertical and horizontal, and ensuring that your roof beams are built to code, should ensure that your walls won't fall during most earthquakes, although they may crack (no matter the psi of the concrete in the blocks). I used a 1 - 2 - 3 mix (1 bag of cement, 2 bags of sand, 3 bags of gravel; called Class AA in the Philipppine Building code) for the concrete in footings, columns and beams. If you do decide to build two stories, you should consider using a steel deck under the upstairs floor. The decking material can be bought in Dumaguete (I bought mine at DN Steel) and I find it makes a much better floor than simply pouring concrete over a plywood form (I have attached a picture of the deck). I don't think it was more expensive than a normal floor either (I used less concrete, less rebar, less wood, and less labor).

    Good luck.
    Attached Images Attached Images

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    muddyfeet is offline DI Member
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    SteveB,

    Thanks for the info. Did you leave the metal decking, what gauge material is it, and did you have any structur to hold up the decking that also remained in the floor?

    Dean

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    xyzimgone is offline Lost in the Woods
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    The steel decking sits on top of the concrete floor beams and remains in place after it is installed. the beams permanently support the upper floor (decking). It comes in pre-cut sheets (the seller will come to your site and get exact measurements for each sheet and give you a layout plan) that overlap and are hooked into each other (I spot welded mine together and supported them temporarily with 2 X 3 coco lumber at every 4 to 6 feet to prevent sagging while the concrete dried. It is 0.80mm X 0.975mtrs. X your total cut lengths. I used 67 square meters or 68.9 linear mtrs. in my house for a cost of Php 35,000 plus delivery from Dumaguete pier (about Php2,000 to Valencia). Where the deck sits on the beam, you must make small plywood shapes to prevent the concrete from oozing out under the deck pieces while pouring. You can pour the beams and the upper floor at the same time then remove the pieces of plywood when you remove the forms for your beams. In my garage, I left the steel decking exposed and painted it with an epoxy paint. Here is a picture.
    Attached Images Attached Images

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    muddyfeet is offline DI Member
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    Default Metal decking

    Steve, Thanks for the pic, that looks good. I would like to hear and see more of your building project. What type roofing material did you use?

    I've not built in PI yet but have built hundreds of buildings in the states as that is my line of work. I will build with concrete contraction when the time comes as it only makes sense as termites and fire could be a problem there. As for the wood structure being better in earthquakes, I would suggest you look at pics of the Alaska earthquake in the 60's and any of the many earthquakes that hit California. The wood structures did not do so well. Of course the concrete structures probably won't fare much better either and being heavier when they fall could obviously be a problem.

    Dean

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    xyzimgone is offline Lost in the Woods
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    I used a steel roof as well as iron trusses. Bought the iron in Cebu and I got the roof locally. I built the trusses myself (correcting the drawing as I awent, haha), then welded the trusses directly to the rebar from the columns and had the roof installed by the company that sold me the roofing (they guarantee no leaks). I suggest sticking with light colours on the roof and good ventilation in the attic as well as lots of windows; anything to keep the heat down inside the house. If you go with a darker colour, you will definitely need insulation. I have a friend with a dark brown roof and no ventilation. When you touch his ceiling, it is like a stovetop. Inside his house is always like an oven.

    I didn't hire a contractor, but I did use a foreman with good experience to start the project, building the columns, floor beams, and the second floor since I knew nothing about concrete construction nor the layout required; although I have good knowledge about wood construction and plumbing and electrical. I got lots of information from some friends that really helped, especially building my confidence to take on the project. I also had time to do a lot of research. It was scary at the beginning but worked out well. I had read many comments from foreigners that said bad things about the Filipino workers, but in my case, I had no bad experiences. My workers were conciencious, hard working, honest, and knowledgeable (at least in their type of construction). It is amazing what they can do with only a few hand tools. Labour is cheap so no sense investing in power tools just to increase efficiency. The only problems I encountered were with translation and with my expectations. We have to remember that these people do not know how we like our houses built and most live in native houses made of bamboo and amacan. We cannot expect them to read our minds and guess how we want our houses built. This causes frustration for many foreigners building houses so they blame the Filipinos, not themselves. Therefore, when you are building, you may be required to spend much of your time on the jobsite, and explain and re-explain every detail. (Pictures will help).

    Electrical and plumbing may be an issue and you will have to keep a sharp eye on what is being done. I would strongly suggest that you install a grounded electrical system throughout your house due to the power fluctuations here. Buying your own transformer will probably increase your voltage by about 10 volts or more, depending where you are living. Make sure that your electrical system is properly grounded to the earth with copper rods, if you can find them. On the plumbing side, try to keep all the plumbing and drainage to one side of your house. Try not to embed that plastic piping under your floors or in the walls. I ran all my pipes outside then ran them into the house through sleeves, where needed, so, if something broke, I could simply slide a new pipe and fittings through the wall. Before you buy toilets, note that there is no real standard here so the distance from the wall to the waste pipe will vary from company to company. Even the bolt holes in the toilet from the waste flange probably wont line up and you will end up concreting the toilet to the floor. So, to avoid frustration, you may want to spend extra and buy American Standard or another brand that meets the standards that you are used to (i.e. 12 inches from the finished wall to the centre of the flange).

    Have your engineer create a good storey pole with all elevations from septic tank to window heights, right through to the roof peak. This will reduce a lot of confusion when building and you must make sure all outside surfaces (driveway, dirty kitchen floors, sidewalks, etc) are properly sloped for getting rid of the water during heavy rains.

    Sorry for not putting up more pictures. I'm just too lazy to shrink them to fit the size requirements of this site. However, feel free to come and visit if you are in the area, and I will tell you everything that I have learned about building here, from the advice that I received to the mistakes that I have made.
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    Always use insulation under the roof, no matter what roof type you have.
    The best available is a kind of transparent bubble plastic on rolls off around 1 meter x 50 meter.
    I've never seen this in Dumaguete but they sell it in Cebu Home Builders in a speciality store.
    As preparation to built a house one should visit Cebu anyway, and Cebu Home Builders is a good start to compare prices.
    For roof deck a store opposite CHB ( used to be inside C H B) is good value and they sent a whole team to install the roof.
    One good advice is : take your time to compare prices before you start.
    About insulation, good quality Isomo 2" thick is a good alternative but more difficult to place in a metal construction.
    The worst insulation is the foam with aluminum layer they sell locally on rolls.




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    muddyfeet is offline DI Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by SteveB View Post
    I used a steel roof as well as iron trusses. Bought the iron in Cebu and I got the roof locally. I built the trusses myself (correcting the drawing as I awent, haha), then welded the trusses directly to the rebar from the columns and had the roof installed by the company that sold me the roofing (they guarantee no leaks). I suggest sticking with light colours on the roof and good ventilation in the attic as well as lots of windows; anything to keep the heat down inside the house. If you go with a darker colour, you will definitely need insulation. I have a friend with a dark brown roof and no ventilation. When you touch his ceiling, it is like a stovetop. Inside his house is always like an oven.

    I didn't hire a contractor, but I did use a foreman with good experience to start the project, building the columns, floor beams, and the second floor since I knew nothing about concrete construction nor the layout required; although I have good knowledge about wood construction and plumbing and electrical. I got lots of information from some friends that really helped, especially building my confidence to take on the project. I also had time to do a lot of research. It was scary at the beginning but worked out well. I had read many comments from foreigners that said bad things about the Filipino workers, but in my case, I had no bad experiences. My workers were conciencious, hard working, honest, and knowledgeable (at least in their type of construction). It is amazing what they can do with only a few hand tools. Labour is cheap so no sense investing in power tools just to increase efficiency. The only problems I encountered were with translation and with my expectations. We have to remember that these people do not know how we like our houses built and most live in native houses made of bamboo and amacan. We cannot expect them to read our minds and guess how we want our houses built. This causes frustration for many foreigners building houses so they blame the Filipinos, not themselves. Therefore, when you are building, you may be required to spend much of your time on the jobsite, and explain and re-explain every detail. (Pictures will help).

    Electrical and plumbing may be an issue and you will have to keep a sharp eye on what is being done. I would strongly suggest that you install a grounded electrical system throughout your house due to the power fluctuations here. Buying your own transformer will probably increase your voltage by about 10 volts or more, depending where you are living. Make sure that your electrical system is properly grounded to the earth with copper rods, if you can find them. On the plumbing side, try to keep all the plumbing and drainage to one side of your house. Try not to embed that plastic piping under your floors or in the walls. I ran all my pipes outside then ran them into the house through sleeves, where needed, so, if something broke, I could simply slide a new pipe and fittings through the wall. Before you buy toilets, note that there is no real standard here so the distance from the wall to the waste pipe will vary from company to company. Even the bolt holes in the toilet from the waste flange probably wont line up and you will end up concreting the toilet to the floor. So, to avoid frustration, you may want to spend extra and buy American Standard or another brand that meets the standards that you are used to (i.e. 12 inches from the finished wall to the centre of the flange).

    Have your engineer create a good storey pole with all elevations from septic tank to window heights, right through to the roof peak. This will reduce a lot of confusion when building and you must make sure all outside surfaces (driveway, dirty kitchen floors, sidewalks, etc) are properly sloped for getting rid of the water during heavy rains.

    Sorry for not putting up more pictures. I'm just too lazy to shrink them to fit the size requirements of this site. However, feel free to come and visit if you are in the area, and I will tell you everything that I have learned about building here, from the advice that I received to the mistakes that I have made.
    Steve, Thanks for the invite, I will take you up on that in September if you are still available.

    Dean

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