To Be or Not To Be ( A Contractor’s Tale)

After settling down in Iloilo in 2010, we had this dream of  owning our own roof. But we didn’t have a million in the bank.  So, we counted our CAT: Capability, Ability, Time.


Capability means money. Can we pay a contractor? This is a no-brainer. If you contract your whole house, you need money.

Basically, the cost would be: square meter of the house x 20 -25,OOO (for Class A materials). The multiplier would vary depending on your contractor or the materials to be used.

Plus, if you change something, like “ Oops, I want a terrace instead of a roofed garage.” Another computation.

No, we could not afford a contractor at that time.


These are my daughter’s friends having fun outside the masters bedroom window. They are standing on cantilevered/protruded cement walls which are built-in cabinets in the inside. This was one of the changes made. 


I am not an engineer. But I could read and do basic math. And I was willing to learn. I went to the library to read on structural foundations, but oops, too techy for me. I looked for a book which was something like “construction in the Philippines for dummies ” but i did not find one.  In my internet search, I came upon one helpful site where the author extensively talked  about his experience during his house construction in Iloilo.

Upon its recommendation, I read the construction books by Max B. Fajardo. I have 5 of his books which are available in National Bookstore: 1) Simplified Construction Estimate (A must! It teaches you how to estimate many bags of cement you need for the foundation, columns, beams, etc. How many steels bars, hollow blocks, tiles, etc. you need for your project. Para maiwasan ang nakawan. ) ; 2) Plumbing Design and Estimate ; 3) Simplified Methods on Building Construction, 4) Electrical Layout and Estimate; and 5) Project Construction Management ( It’s for big time contractors. But the network diagram part was still a little helpful for me. It lists the activities for contruction and about “Early Start”, “Late Finish”. I wanted my foreman to do a network diagram for me so we would have same expectations for how soon the job will be done. But no, he could not do a network diagram. So to simplify things, I would always ask him how soon would a specific job be done.)

So, what does a house contractor do?

  1. Plan the workflow.  I tried to make my own network diagram, after consultation with my architect and others who have been a contractor of their own house. I wanted my 160 sq.meter 2 storey-house done in 4 months. Yap, not realistic. I extended the time frame to 6 months. Construction started September 23, 2014. We moved in July 15, 2015. After 9.5 months! Of course, because there were holidays, rainy days and changes made. 🙂
  2. Select and buy the materials. Initially difficult but manageable afterwards. At first, I went to the hardwares to canvass. I did not go to every hardware I could find in Mabini and Quezon Streets. I asked for referrals. After establishing a client –customer relationship, I would just call for the materials and pay them in delivery. Best if you have a credit account.


That was the sand, gravel and boulder (left to right). I would call the supplier and leave the money to my site manager. Upon delivery, they were supposed to measure the truck and its contents. If the delivery was really 6 cubic meter or 5.85 cubic meter. This way, you pay for what was actually delivered. Per cubic meter, I paid P440 for sand, P640 for ordinary gravel and P1000 for boulder. (Actually, my list showed that I paid P480 for sand and P650 for ordinary gravel in my first order)

  1. Responsible for the labor force.

Putting up the structural part is usually the most tedious job. For the structural part, you have two options: 1) assemble your own team, or 2) subcontract it to a structural engineer. The roof, plumbing, electrical, tiling, may also be and usually subcontracted.

Option1. Assemble your own team. And of course, pay them weekly, too.

All you have to do is get a foreman. Usually, the foreman has already his own team of mason, panday and labor. Then, you pay them their daily wage. My foreman was 500. Assistant foreman 400. Panday and mason 350. Labor 250. But I heard that others have different rates.

Major Con: Mahirap magbantay ng tao. But I have my Uncle who was employed to be on the site everyday, and check on them and the materials. He gave their bale or cash advances on Wednesdays and remaining salary on Saturdays. Some workers would try to borrow any day. You just have to be strict with the Wednesday and Saturday schedule. Initially I had a weak heart and would give them their bale any time they would request. But my daughter’s yaya advised me, Ano na man. Sa construction, ang balihay, kung miyerkules gid na ya. Hindi nga pinagusto sila. I listened to her since her husband has long worked under an engineer in the construction of Sta. Lucia subdivisions like the Centro Verde.


That was the bunkhouse to the right.  I asked a list of materials from the foreman. He gave me a long list. Lesson learned: Don’t buy all the listed materials all at once. Or you are going to break the bank. Evaluate which ones are needed for the task at hand.

And yes, that yellow-orange thing is a cement mixer. Nope, he did not include the cement mixer in the list. They were to do it mano-mano lang dok, he informed me. They would mix the cement manually with the use of shovel. I had a 6- month time frame, I thought. And the cement mixer would pour a more consistent concrete mix. I tried to borrow one, but at the critical time when they were to pour the foundations, none was available. So there, I bought one.

Option 2. Subcontract the labor of the structural part. Subcontract it to a structural engineer. For me, the structural part is best subcontracted to a structural engineer.

I talked with a structural engineer. The computation for labor cost submitted to me was  40% of cost of construction(total floor area x 10,000). Included are: site clearing, lay-out and construction of bunker, foundation works, columns, beams, floor slabs, interior and exterior walls, roof framing, interior and exterior plain cement finish, provisions for plumbing, provisions for electrical,  and septic vault.

Uhmmm, not bad, considering the labor-related stresses it would free you. But there was also another fee per month for supervision. Oops, again, we could not afford the added monthly fee. And the architect was already contracted for supervision.

So, for ability, check! Yes, I was able ( with lots of support).  We took the hard route. Got Option 1. Although sometimes, I wonder if I got Option 2. Maybe in my next house. 🙂


Managing house construction requires time. If you are a doctor and have a busy practice, maybe being the contractor of your own house may not be a good option. They say, you can make more money with your time than managing your construction.

For me, I had the time. I made time.  Months, which stretched to 15 months, prior to construction, we rented an apartment just 4 lots away from our own. How convenient was that?

We also talked with family and friends. It was not uncommon with our circle that they built their own houses. And their houses  still stand proud and strong! They were supportive with our plan. That we hire no contractor and build our own house. “Amat-amat lang,” they advised. They promised to help us. And they did! Even our neighbors helped us.Screeny Shot Sep 14, 2015, 7.14.11 PM

Our stairs made of hard wood on steel.

I am writing this post almost a year after I started on the job. If you ask me how was it? I think being the contractor of our own house was one of the most fulfilling jobs I took. It was moderately difficult but doable. And the greatest part was: I was able to build the house that well-suited our family because I had free reign on the project. Well, almost. Whatever changes made from the bluprint were conferred with my husband and the architect.

So, to be the contractor, or not to be?

Evaluate your resources. Plan ahead. Enlist all the help that you can. Be brave. And always remember to:

               “Entrust all you do to Yahweh and your plans will be realized.”      Proverbs 16:3, Christian Community Bible

2 Replies to “To Be or Not To Be ( A Contractor’s Tale)”

  1. You write so eloquently and did i enjoy your piece! Hahaha. From your former editor, good job! And from a friend’s point of view, the feat was amazing! Grabe ka ev, ikaw na! Dream house, dream job!:) condo pa lang akon nahelp ibuild, maybe when i get to build my own dream house, you will be there to mentor me. 🙂


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