Building & Renovating

Building 101: Carpentry Terms Decoded (Part 1)

Familiarize yourself with kapak, buntis, wala sa hulog, and other commonly used terms


Miscommunication is not uncommon during construction. If you’ve had a carpenter tell you, “Habulin nalang sa palitada yan,” and you had no idea what he meant, read on and get a translation of local shoptalk. Next time you hire a handyman, you’ll smoothly manage to “talk his talk.” 

Illustrations by Mikke Gallardo.

Read the original article ("Say What?") in the May 2005 issue of Real Living Magazine. Download your digital copy of Real Living on the Real Living App now! Log on to for more details. 

Parts of the House

Spanish words like dos aguas and quatro aguas (literal translation: “two waters” and “four waters”) describe the form of the roof. 

A dos aguas roof has two sides or slopes (a gable roof), and quatro aguas has four sides (a hip roof). Use either of the terms when you want to specify the type of roof, e.g. “Gawin nating quatro aguas ang bubong.” 

A canopy over a window is called media agua. In ancestral Filipino houses, the traditional media agua is a scallop-bordered cloth; in a bahay kubo, it’s a nipa push-out or awning. In modern houses, it could be as simple as a ledge shading the window.

You may be familiar with yero (any kind of metal roof—usually galvanized iron [G.I.] sheets) or alulod—the gutter. When preparing for the rainy season, tell your handyman: “Tingnan mo naman yung yero kung may butas. At linisin mo yung alulod—puno na siya ng dahon.” When there’s no gutter, or when it’s hidden, a wide strip of wood called senepa or a fascia board lines the edge of the roof.

Haligi, or posts, hold up biga, or beams. Kostilyahe, or ceiling joists, support the ceiling. Kornisa, or cornices, line the joint between wall and ceiling to hide the gaps and make the edges more decorative.

Carpenters use wood for constructing the hamba, or jamb—a frame surrounding the door or window. Bisagra sounds like Viagra but it refers to the hinge, which connects the door or window to the jamb. The window jamb sits on the pasamano, or windowsill.

All your waste and effluent go to the poso negro, or septic tank.

Bonus Tip: What is nagbubuntis? It means a concrete column is bulging due to weak formworks. Learn more about carpentry and concrete work terms tomorrow!

Tools and Measurements

* Barena or Drill

Here are common tool kit terms:

• lagare–saw               

• pla-es–pliers  

• liyabe–wrench

• turnilyo–screw

• pako–nail

• katam–plane used for smoothing wood

• paet–chisel (from which the town of Paete derives its name)

• disturnilyador–screwdriver

• martilyo–hammer

• palakol–axe               

• barena–drill



*Disturnilyador or Screwdriver

*Liyabe or Wrench

*Martilyo or Hammer

*Palakol or Axe

*Dangkal or Hand Width

Here are common measurement terms:

• pulgada–inches

• piye–feet

• dangkal–length from tip of  thumb to tip of pinky finger (length depends on whose hand you’re using)

• dipa–length of both arms stretched out (including torso)


Watch out for more terms and tips tomorrow.


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