What All Those Pinoy Construction Terms Mean
Here's a handy glossary to help you decode your contractor's or worker's lingo, from Asintada to Tambol
If you’re building or renovating your house, are you always “lost in translation” when talking to your contractor or finisher? It may sound like a secret construction code, but it’s quite easy to learn or remember (so you’ll know exactly what they’re doing).
Common Pinoy Constru Terms and Their Meanings
Alulod means 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.”
Why it matters: Proper maintenance of alulod is necessary to prevent water damage, especially during the rainy season.
This is a rough concrete wall finish (so-called because it looks termites ate through it). It’s achieved by flattening a rough concrete finish with a trowel (a flat-bladed hand tool), and was popular in the 1980s-90s.
Why it matters: It's a stylistic choice that was popular in previous decades and may be requested for aesthetic purposes.
Asintada is the alignment of the wall. “Wala sa asintada” means it’s not aligned. “Asintahin” is to align. Workers might say, “Natayo na ba ang asinta?” to ask whether the wall has been put up.
Why it matters: Proper alignment is crucial for the structural integrity and aesthetic appeal of a building.
Not hairiness, but rather, a wall defect that is the result of uneven plastering done by an inexperienced mason.
Why it matters: Identification of an issue like this one can help address structural and aesthetic issues even before the project proceeds to the next steps.
Length from tip of your thumb to the tip of your pinky finger (length depends on whose hand you’re using).
Why it matters: These terms are still used informally and understanding them can help you follow measurements being discussed on-site.
Another unit of measurement—the length of both arms stretched out (including torso).
Why it matters: Even if it's not an exact measurement, it gives you a rough estimate of the amount of area you're discussing with the other person. This gives you an idea of what to expect in the long run.
Dos Aguas and Quatro Aguas Roof
A dos aguas 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.”
Why they matter: Knowing these terms can help you specify the type of roof you want for your home.
Dos por dos, etc.
When specifying the sizes of wood for rough carpentry, refer to these terms: dos por dos is a 2”x2” strip of wood used in ceiling or cabinet framing; uno por dos is 1” x 2” wood, and de uno is a slim 1” x 1” piece. Suppliers sell these wood strips at 8ft (2.4m) in length.
Why they matter: Specifying the correct size of wood is essential for the structural aspects of your project.
Ducco or duko
When designers want a durable finish for wood, they specify ducco–a type of paint finish. Painters achieve this finish by applying putty, and sanding and painting in layers. This is more expensive than your typical paint finish.
Why it matters: Choosing a ducco finish can affect the durability and cost of your project.
Carpenters use wood for constructing the hamba, or jamb—a frame surrounding the door or window.
When masons put up a concrete wall, they check the hulog—the vertical straightness of a wall with respect to a plumb bob (a metal ball on a long string). Hulog has made its way to everyday lingo: “Wala sa hulog” means a person can’t think straight.
Why it matters: Ensuring walls are vertically straight is fundamental for the overall stability of the structure.
Plaster not bonding well with the wall produces a defect. Knocking on it creates a hollow sound—probably why this defect is called kapak (the word itself mimics the hollow sound).
Why it matters: Identifying kapak allows you to request proper repairs before they lead to more significant problems.
When a wall is going to be painted, masilya (putty) is applied first.
Why it matters: Proper application of masilya is crucial for a smooth paint finish.
A canopy over a window. 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.
Why it matters: It's a design element that can influence the look and function of your windows.
There’s reason to be concerned when a worker says, “May nagbubuntis dito,” and it doesn’t mean someone’s gotten pregnant! It means a concrete column is bulging due to weak formworks.
When masons finish a concrete wall, they first apply a rough coat of plaster—the rebokada, or scratch coat. This serves as a binder between the wall and the final layer of plaster, or the palitada. “Habulin na lang sa palitada yan” is commonly proposed when wall defects (like an uneven finish or a misaligned wall) need to be masked (by thickening the plaster).
S4S and S2S
These terms refer to the smoothness of the sides of the wood; they’re abbreviations for “smooth four sides,” and “smooth two sides.” S4S pieces are used for exposed members such as some rafters (roof supports). When sending your carpenter to buy wood, say, “Dalawa pang dos por dos, na S4S.”
A wood plank, usually 5” or more in width.
When unsightly pipes appear in areas like the underside of a bathroom it needs a tambol—not a musical instrument, but a covering made out of plywood or gypsum to hide the pipe or eyesore. Say, “Lumabas ang tubo sa pader. Tambulan mo na lang.”
This is a popular type of wood with a reddish color, fine-textured but with large grains. It is the most common wood specified nowadays for rough carpentry such as door and window jambs.
So, the next time you feel like complaining about shoddy work on a concrete wall, instead of just exclaiming, “Ang pangit!”, you can be more articulate and say, “Ang dami namang kapak nito. Balbon at wala sa hulog. Nagbubuntis pa yung poste. At kulang sa pahid yung pintura.” If the mason replies, “Habulin na lang natin sa palitada...” you can reply, “Huwag. Tibagin mo!”
Frequently Asked Questions on Pinoy Construction Terms
What is the signbuiificance of knowing Filipino construction terms?
Knowing these terms helps homeowners communicate clearly with construction professionals and oversee projects effectively.
Can I use these terms when purchasing materials from a hardware store?
Yes, staff at hardware shops are usually familiar with these terms and can assist you accordingly.
How can I ensure that my home's structure is properly aligned?
Discuss the importance of asintada and hulog with your contractor to ensure walls and other structures are aligned correctly.
What should I do if I notice a kapak in my home's walls?
Alert your contractor immediately to address the issue before it leads to further damage.
Are traditional measurement units like dangkal and dipa still relevant today?
While not used formally, they may still be referenced informally on construction sites.
Condensed from the original article "Say What?” in the May 2005 issue of Real Living Magazine. With reports from Nica Jose.
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