Here in the Philippines there are a lot of tradesmen in the building and renovating trades. Some are good and some are not as high quality. How do you know? It is not like in America where there are licenses, Better Business Bureau or even reference lists.
Then there is the cost of the work. Many times a Filipino sees a foreigner and he thinks, “He is a rich foreigner, I can charge more.” It does not happen all the time but it happens a lot.
So, how do you get quality work? You can hire an architect and have him hire the workers. But then you need to pay the architects fee too.
I am lucky, through my past work here and from people I have met, I have gotten to know someone who is a Construction Manager. He either does the work himself of has the quality people contact.
Now, you find the people you need. How does the work and payment go from there? There are different was to hire.
You can get a bid for the total job, labor only, or by day fees.
If you are buying the materials, and you have a tradesman who you are comfortable with, use him to bring you to the suppliers. They know what store has the best prices and he can get the lower contractors price, not retail as you would get at the large retail hardware stores.
As I wrote about in my article “Busy Lately” I was helping a friend set up a Carenderia. My Construction Manager sent me a good electrician. When we went to the electrical supplier, he introduced me to the manager and set it up where I can buy at contractor’s price by myself. I have also found small hardware stores where you can get most items lower than the big retail stores.
For electrical, in Davao, make sure he is certified with Davao Power and Light. This will mean he is knowledgeable and can sign the inspection forms if you need a meter or main wire repairs.
If you hire for labor, and he will bring his workers, make sure he is responsible for his workers costs. A day laborer needs money for transportation, meals, and snacks. Filipinos do not eat a lot, but eat often. They eat a breakfast, then about 10am a snack. Lunch is about 12 noon, then at 3pm a snack again.
Also, every few days you will be asked for advances to pay his workers. They have a home and family and need money to take care of them.
You might think this is a tedious way of life, but remember, there are so many people here and so much unemployment, and there are a lot or quality people who do not work every day.
For me, it is amazing and interesting to see workers with the basic tools able to do quality work. Miters cut with a hand saw. Level counters using a long plastic tube with water to make moldings and counters level. Shaped metal to put cornice trim out of concrete mortar.
With the different levels of understanding English, you need to explain slowly and ask for them to repeat what you ask. Or else have someone proficient in English with you to translate your needs.
Do not be a pest, but it is also to be there watch the construction. Be there to point out misunderstandings, correct differences and to keep the job running smoothly. That was my job. I would ask if there are problems, run and get materials and to give a kind word at times. But you need to know when to step back and let them get things done. I was also in contact with the owner to let him know when he was needed to make decisions and get money.
From my live here and these experiences, I am lucky to have met many good Filipinos to assist me when such a project comes along.
If you have any experiences like these, please share your comments. Also if you need me to assist you in getting tradesmen, do not hesitate to contact me.