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Decent construction contractors in Davao?


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Hi All,

Apologies for the hiatus in posting. Have been busy with a new start-up venture with a friend in London. One of those things where you have to put months of work for revenue streams that may (or may not) materialise a full year later.

As of first week of February, C and I have finally taken the plunged and moved back to Davao for a few weeks (maybe 3 months?) to take care of the condo unit we bought here. Project is the notorious Aeon Towers. Notorious because of the massive 3.5 years delay in turning over the unit, notorious for the many owners who sued the developer (FTC) for deliberately dodging any kind of questions about completion dates, final specs for units and amenities, contracts, etc. 

Anyhoo, the residential part of the building is finally complete and a handful of owners has started the fitout/furnishing process. Some plan to live in, some plan to rent, some plan to try and sell and find out if the market value really went up 240% since the time units were bought off-plan, in 2015.

Needless to say, we have been head-first into the usual struggle many of you have gone through: finding contractors who

  1. won't do a sloppy, slow and/or lazy job unless micro-managed and supervised and scolded every working hour
  2. won't overcharge us just because of our Caucasian-looking facesA

What makes things at Aeon Towers particularly hideous is that, because of the self-proclaimed "luxury condo" status, the building management is very reluctant in allowing in the kind of solo tradesmen many here have been gainfully hiring. They prefer construction companies, usually fronted by a young engineer or architect, who can sign a contract, sign a notarized worker insurance policy, go through an official orientation by the engineering team, etc.

While, in theory, the process is in place for our own protection, in practice it's ends up filtering out any decent tradesman or group of tradesmen who can do labour only work for a decent price. It will then attract construction companies that only have a facade of quality and respectability. We had a few quotations for some electrical, basic "accent ceiling" building and painting and we were pretty shocked to see a 250K bill for a 3-week job for 3 or 4 labourers , who will continue to make 500 pesos a day, while the "architect" will pack the bulk of the profits.

All this leading to the typical question: any of you Davao residents know any general construction contractors who can work on a labour only, to decent quality with minimal supervision? Perhaps trusted traders who already worked for one of your homebuilding projects? Any advice would be very much appreciated. Please PM me if forum rules don't allow direct posting of phone numbers or email addresses.

Thanks very much in advance!
Vanni

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Perhaps Gandang Smile your generalizing a little here. We all from time to time get the run around and attempted small rip offs which we remember, do we likewise remember the suttle little good experi

Hey Tommy with your wealth of experience and answering this way the prospects look bleak indeed......

Nope! At least not from me. Sorry.

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2 hours ago, Gandang Smile said:

any of you Davao residents know any general construction contractors who can work on a labour only, to decent quality with minimal supervision?

Nope! At least not from me. Sorry.

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20 hours ago, Tommy T. said:

Nope! At least not from me. Sorry.

Hey Tommy with your wealth of experience and answering this way the prospects look bleak indeed......

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5 hours ago, RBM said:

Hey Tommy with your wealth of experience and answering this way the prospects look bleak indeed......

RBM... with my "wealth of information," I would have been broke long ago...:89:

Just my experience plus consultations with L, who had a building constructed a few years ago, plus hearing what others on this forum say... yes, I would agree that prospects look mostly bleak.

We recently have engaged a person who has history as a real electrician and as a plumber. We really want to have an on-call sort of individual for any issues we don't wish to deal with ourselves. This relationship is new (with the electrician/plumber...not with L!!!). We always have some hope and positive feelings, at least until proven otherwise...

Perhaps, if he really works out, we may recommend him to our new Italian friend, @Gandang Smile... But, if so, it would cost him dearly in authentic Italian recipes that I might try to emulate here! I would never recommend anyone who we don't think can or will do work at reasonable prices including follow through with any post-installation issues...

So far, our experience has shown that our contractor might be a good engineer? But she is a piss-poor manager. Her business is spread very thinly - and I am seeing that this is a common trend here - lots of demand, few, qualified contractors. Our contractor also hired or subbed non-qualified workers; masons who were not truly trained as masons professionally; so-called plumbers??? give me a break; one electrician who was mostly good with his basic work, but poor for follow-up and detail; carpenters who seemed to not know a nail from a hammer (and didn't own one of either!); welders? give me another break... In addition, she had at least four projects going besides our own home build and we ended up with short shrift as the construction wound down toward the end - even during the build, there were times that work virtually stopped...

So, what I am saying here is, with our experiences, even if qualified tradesmen ("people" to be politically correct) are available, there is so much work available that they can - and do - flit from one job to the next, seeking more pay... I can sort of see it their way - who would not want to always seek higher wages for their work when possible? But the flip side is so much of the work is so shoddy that it defies description. Case in point is a new home being constructed next to L's apartment building. The hollow block work is really a joke. nothing is straight lined, there are chunks of block simply stuffed here and there and packed in with a minimum of "cement." It is much worse than that on our home... but then we came out for frequent  visits and both of us are "picky" according to our contractor. We encouraged better work as much as possible and rewarded it when we could. We also criticized it (only to the foreman) to suggest improvements... Much of those enticements/criticisms probably amounted to "not much," effect... but we tried...

At this point, I really have no idea if any of our actions helped or hindered... but I think they helped. Our home seems very solid and with few cracks anywhere, even after a few substantial earthquakes, a car crash into a wall (sorry, not me and I am not going there!) and simple heating and cooling plus humidity effects...

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2 hours ago, Tommy T. said:

RBM... with my "wealth of information," I would have been broke long ago...:89:

Just my experience plus consultations with L, who had a building constructed a few years ago, plus hearing what others on this forum say... yes, I would agree that prospects look mostly bleak.

We recently have engaged a person who has history as a real electrician and as a plumber. We really want to have an on-call sort of individual for any issues we don't wish to deal with ourselves. This relationship is new (with the electrician/plumber...not with L!!!). We always have some hope and positive feelings, at least until proven otherwise...

Perhaps, if he really works out, we may recommend him to our new Italian friend, @Gandang Smile... But, if so, it would cost him dearly in authentic Italian recipes that I might try to emulate here! I would never recommend anyone who we don't think can or will do work at reasonable prices including follow through with any post-installation issues...

So far, our experience has shown that our contractor might be a good engineer? But she is a piss-poor manager. Her business is spread very thinly - and I am seeing that this is a common trend here - lots of demand, few, qualified contractors. Our contractor also hired or subbed non-qualified workers; masons who were not truly trained as masons professionally; so-called plumbers??? give me a break; one electrician who was mostly good with his basic work, but poor for follow-up and detail; carpenters who seemed to not know a nail from a hammer (and didn't own one of either!); welders? give me another break... In addition, she had at least four projects going besides our own home build and we ended up with short shrift as the construction wound down toward the end - even during the build, there were times that work virtually stopped...

So, what I am saying here is, with our experiences, even if qualified tradesmen ("people" to be politically correct) are available, there is so much work available that they can - and do - flit from one job to the next, seeking more pay... I can sort of see it their way - who would not want to always seek higher wages for their work when possible? But the flip side is so much of the work is so shoddy that it defies description. Case in point is a new home being constructed next to L's apartment building. The hollow block work is really a joke. nothing is straight lined, there are chunks of block simply stuffed here and there and packed in with a minimum of "cement." It is much worse than that on our home... but then we came out for frequent  visits and both of us are "picky" according to our contractor. We encouraged better work as much as possible and rewarded it when we could. We also criticized it (only to the foreman) to suggest improvements... Much of those enticements/criticisms probably amounted to "not much," effect... but we tried...

At this point, I really have no idea if any of our actions helped or hindered... but I think they helped. Our home seems very solid and with few cracks anywhere, even after a few substantial earthquakes, a car crash into a wall (sorry, not me and I am not going there!) and simple heating and cooling plus humidity effects...

Exactly my experience so far, @Tommy T., which is why your concise and, well, bleak-sounding reply was appreciated.

Many Filipinos would be happy to recommend the sloppiest tradesman possible who is though their friend and out of work, so he can fill his days with a few extra thousands. That's why I thought about asking you fellow foreigners in Davao: no matter how many years you might have spent in Durianland, you are unlikely to have forgotten the meaning of professional ethics, quality, efficiency, attention to detail...that kind of stuff. :laugh:

 

 

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2 minutes ago, Gandang Smile said:

Exactly my experience so far, @Tommy T., which is why your concise and, well, bleak-sounding reply was appreciated.

Many Filipinos would be happy to recommend the sloppiest tradesman possible who is though their friend and out of work, so he can fill his days with a few extra thousands. That's why I thought about asking you fellow foreigners in Davao: no matter how many years you might have spent in Durianland, you are unlikely to have forgotten the meaning of professional ethics, quality, efficiency, attention to detail...that kind of stuff. :laugh:

 

 

So sorry to send you those observations, Gandang... but I felt it was best to be honest and forewarned.

Of course, not all are like that but, so far, my experience and learning from others bear out my impressions, unfortunately.

In most cases - not all - our "Western" ethics do not apply or have not made the transition here... According to L - a full blooded Filipina - it is irritating and bothersome. She points out poor quality masonry to me sometimes, that I don't even notice while we are driving through town.

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17 hours ago, Tommy T. said:

Case in point is a new home being constructed next to L's apartment building. The hollow block work is really a joke. nothing is straight lined, there are chunks of block simply stuffed here and there and packed in with a minimum of "cement."

Tommy on my limited trips to Davao one thing is very noticeable which is the prolific use of cement slabs in place of hollow blocks. Here Bacolod, also Cebu  even the high rises are using the old fashioned hollow blocks, not so i believe in Davao.

These factory processed slabs really improve the pace of construction and appear to be far more less labour intensive. There is a  massive low cost subdivision being constructed not so far from our place using the slab method, think the only one in the city. Amazing how quick its going up.

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37 minutes ago, RBM said:

Tommy on my limited trips to Davao one thing is very noticeable which is the prolific use of cement slabs in place of hollow blocks. Here Bacolod, also Cebu  even the high rises are using the old fashioned hollow blocks, not so i believe in Davao.

 

I hate to disagree with you, RBM, but I must in this case...

I have not seen even one instance of pre-fab cement slabs used here. Of course, I can be wrong. But then I don't get around much these days either.

Everywhere I turn, the masonry is always the hollow blocks laid in a seemingly haphazard fashion with broken chunks stuffed into some places and the cement bedding just sort of slapped into place. The "masa" or cement packing drips down the walls and is not consistently applied. The blocks, themselves, are not set level and so "wander" up and down like small roller-coaster tracks.

When preparing to construct our home, we asked about slab construction and were met with blank looks - same as when asking about installing a sewer drain field. Sure, the technology is here, but not the substance. Perhaps - and likely - it is used on the high rises but, looking at residential and small, commercial construction, all I see around here is low-quality, cheap, poor workmanship hollow block walls and foundations.

Additional comment:

I waited for L a number of times to pick her up from her school and take her home. During several months, I watched while I waited, and observed "masons" laying hollow block for new buildings at the school. It was frightening, to say the least. I told her that, any time there might be an earthquake, she should run and get as far from these buildings as possible. Three story high school buildings constructed like that should be illegal. But then, it will likely only be after a collapse or serious damage or injury, that repercussions and fault will be applied?

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2 hours ago, RBM said:

There is a  massive low cost subdivision being constructed not so far from our place using the slab method, think the only one in the city. Amazing how quick its going up.

The subdivision I lived in (Sibulan) was built like that.  Goes up fast.  I did not like how they joined the slabs but it seemed to work.  It was quite hard to drill holes through but it could be done.

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15 hours ago, Tommy T. said:

So sorry to send you those observations, Gandang... but I felt it was best to be honest and forewarned.

Of course, not all are like that but, so far, my experience and learning from others bear out my impressions, unfortunately.

In most cases - not all - our "Western" ethics do not apply or have not made the transition here... According to L - a full blooded Filipina - it is irritating and bothersome. She points out poor quality masonry to me sometimes, that I don't even notice while we are driving through town.

Of course @Tommy T., like I said in the previous reply I appreciate your honesty. The romantic veneer or being back to my former home, after almost 3 years, is gone.

No offense to L and your loved ones, but spending these first few weeks here and dealing with Davaoenos again is just reminding me why I left Davao in the first place. It's almost shocking that so many people praise Filipinos abroad for their hard work, dedication and discipline when their folks back home tend to be the polar opposite of all that. Then again, it's precisely the same in Italy. The Italian diaspora in London, or in the US, behaves very differently from Italians in Italy. Yet, as a friend of mine nicely put a few years ago, if the best leave, are the "not so good" enough to guarantee their own country a good future? 

 

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