Building & Renovating

20 Common Construction Terms, Decoded

Don't get lost in translation with your foreman and avoid mistakes with this handy, on-site guide by a project manager

Photography: Pexels

If you've done a few home improvement projects with the help of a trusted carpenter or contractor, chances are, you've heard words that may seem "alien" to you. Are you familiar with kapak, nagbubuntis, and wala sa hulog? Knowing these terms by heart can help you oversee a renovation as well as save on cash. Get started with this list:

Medya—commonly understood in inches, it means a half-inch, a half-foot, or 0.5. Workers say this when they do measurements and surveying on-site.

Porma—or formwork is a structural term that refers to the (usually) phenolic plyboard that is used to mold concrete structural beams and posts. The plyboards are kept in place by a temporary wooden substructure until the concrete dries.

Clebe—refers to the slope of the drain on the wet areas of your home; usually in the bathrooms and kitchen. This slope allows the water to run straight to the drain. 

Kapak—the hollow sound that you hear when the tile adhesive and cement were not applied properly during the installation of tiles (ceramic or porcelain); this means there are air pockets underneath the tile. Keep this from happening by tapping the corners and middle part of the tile with a coin. If you hear the kapak, you have to re-install the tile.

Hulog or Nasa Hulog—when the walls are vertical and aligned. To check this, carpenters use a level bar and plumb.

Tansi—the nylon used to ensure that the wall and architectural finishes like tiles and cladding are properly installed and aligned. 

Tambol—means a board-up or false wall to cover imperfections on the application. It’s also used to hide the mechanical, plumbing, and electrical pipes on the soffit (the underside of an architectural structure like an arch or balcony).

Cerrujo—the wastage from the tiles, stone, and other architectural finishes and materials.

Kanto-Mesa—is the miter joint. A miter joint is formed when two pieces of wood or other material is cut to an angle of  90° and the line of junction bisects this angle, forming a corner or kanto. 

Rodelang Bakal—the metal trowel used for finishing on the walls. This tool is also used to smoothen the applied plaster. 

Ampao—the honeycomb air pockets that appear on the surface of the concrete if it’s not applied correctly. If your floor has ampao, then they have to re-apply the concrete and smoothen it out properly. 

Salansanin—to put everything in order and/or in-place. This usually happens before a turnover, or before the workers pack up and go home for the day. 

Palitada—the application of plaster to the walls; can also mean skim-coating. 

Gabay—the vernacular term for the railing and balustrade of the stairs.

Punsol—refers to the nailhead of the common carpenter's nail. 

Anilyo—these are rebar ties, which are used to tie together the reinforcement bars which will be poured with concrete. 

Masilya—means putty that is used to fill the holes and cracks of a surface to ensure a smooth finish.

Risalte—the unevenness of the surface when it's supposed to be flushed and even; normally used in concreting works.

Kamada—means piling of materials in a pallet to keep the materials organized on-site. 

Plantilla—means pattern for cutting. This term is commonly used by furniture manufacturers.

More on

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A Step-by-Step Home Construction Guide for Pinoy Homeowners

10 Filipino Carpentry Terms that You Need to Know


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