Our Philippine House Project: Windows

Our Philippine House Project: Windows

Windows – the heart of the house and a key part of our Philippine house building project.  Our plan is to try to live as much as possible without air conditioning in this steamy tropical climate.  Therefore, our eight main windows are unusually big, 2.4 meters wide (almost eight feet) and 1.6 meters (over five feet) high.  We decided on casement windows because we theorized that almost 100% of the window opening is really open, whereas with sliding windows, only half of the opening can be open.  Big windows also cut down on the thermal mass of the block walls which heat up in the hot sun of the day and re-radiate the heat into the house at night.  We also have high ceilings, over ten feet, will have ceiling fans in every room and our property is naturally very breezy because it’s located in an open agricultural area about one kilometer from the sea.

Casement v. Sliding Windows.

  • Ventilation. After living with the windows for a year we have reconsidered our functional objection to sliding windows, at least where we live, because we have found that we generally open only half the sash on our big windows and so, for us, at our very breezy location,  there is really no practical difference between casement and sliding windows as far as letting in breezes.
  • Cost. We discuss the cost of our casement below.  We were able to make our own casement windows and save money.  It’s hard to imagine that we could buy and install 5 x 8 foot sliding windows for anything like P8,000 each.
  • Security Grills.  Remember too that our casement windows include very robust security grills.  That would be a significant extra cost  for sliding windows.  Further the security grills for sliding windows are located outside the window sash and so are exposed to the weather and require maintenance. The security grills on our casement windows are on the inside and protected from the weather.
  • Window Screens.  Are a bit of a difficult problem for casement windows.  Screens can’t be on the outside because the casement sash open out.  So, the screens have to be on the inside, but the screens must be open able so you can have access to the window handles to open and close the windows.  In our small house we have four out-opening sash per window so a potential of 44 sash to open or close, so convenient access through the screens is important.  There seem to be three options; sliding screens, hinged screens and screens with small screened doors in them to allow access to the casement window handles.  With sliding windows simple outside screens are a possibility.  See our experimentation with hinged screens HERE. See the photo of a casement window with sliding screens below. 

Cross Ventilation.  Whatever type of windows you choose, keep the big and try to have two in each room on separate walls for cross ventilation.  We only have one of our four bedrooms with a single window and it’s much hotter than the bedrooms with two big windows.

Window Size. On the other hand we love the very large size of our windows.  We still prefer the traditional appearance of casement windows to the more modern look of sliding windows.  Big windows let in lots of light and breeze and give the house a wonderful bright and airy feel, not the claustrophobic feel of a room with too small windows.  We live in a beautiful rural area.  We can be inside but be very connected to our lovely green surroundings, even on the gloomiest rainy day.

A friends of ours in Iloilo had their casement windows made by:

Denis Jaleco, denisjaleco@gmail.com, 0929-772-8699

Here’s a photo of the Jaleco casement windows in our friend’s bedroom.  These large windows give a light, airy feeling to this fairly small room.

Bedroom window 2m high and 2.5m wide (on a 3m ceiling and 3.5m wall).  Also note sliding screens.  These windows were custom fabricated.

Bedroom window 2m high and 2.5m wide (on a 3m ceiling and 3.5m wall). Also note sliding screens. These windows were custom fabricated. Sliding window screens.

The Jalecos (Denis is an architect and his father makes the windows) gave us a quote for all of our windows (12 in all) of about P90,000 installed but not glazed.  We thought this was a very fair price but since we already had a welding shop set up, our welders said they knew how to make windows, and they were running short of welding projects, we decided to try to make our own windows.

In the U.S. we’re used to windows being pre-made with fancy insulated glass, plastic cladding, smooth opening and locking hardware and big prices.  In the Philippines it’s quite common to weld up windows at the job site, especially for less expensive homes.  Here is a photo of a steel casement window in a big house in one of Iloilo’s swanky subdivisions. You can see the security grilles behind the glass panes.  Our windows will be just about the same, with three pairs of sash per window, each having three panes of glass.  Our windows are bigger so the glass panes will be quite large — about 50cm high and 35cm wide.


Our welders beginning the fabrication of casement windows

Our welders beginning the fabrication of casement windows

Because steel window-making is common in the Philippines, the larger construction supply outlets stock the necessary materials; Z-bar, T-bar, I-bar, hinges and latches.  The problem is that such windows usually go into cheaper houses, so the materials are aimed toward affordability rather than quality.  This is so often the case in the Philippines.  The z-bar is the main problem.  Standard z-bar is very flimsy.  It was hard to find better z-bar.  We found somewhat better z-bar at Far Eastern Hardware on Quezon Street.  The cheap z-bar is P189, the better is P520.  We bought the better stuff, but it’s easy to see why the cheap stuff is the best seller.

"Premium" 7/8" z-bar from Far Eastern.

“Premium” 7/8″ z-bar from Far Eastern.

The z-bar constitutes the main item in window construction.  It is used to make the exterior of each sash.


This is the quite heavy I-bar stock.  It is used as part of the frame, separating the sashes.



This is the the T-bar which separates the panes in each sash.

Another key part of the window is the security bars.  Practically all windows in the Philippines are protected with security grilles. If you see an area where nice houses have no window security grills, it must be pretty crime free.

With casement windows, the bars forming the grilles are welded to the interior of the steel window frame.  They are spaced to create a grid which the smallest child cannot climb through. You can see the grilles in the photos above.   This is because children are sometime used as part of a break-in.  If the children can squeeze through, they can then make their way to an entrance door and unlock it to allow the rest of the team to get in.  That would not work at our house because our exterior door locks require a key to open from both the inside and outside.

The windows themselves are welded to reinforcement bars embedded in the concrete walls.  The windows are then mortared into the wall openings making a very secure window.

Handles and security bars

Handles and security bars

We were able to find good quality window handles at Far Eastern Hardware in Iloilo City.  They have at least three grades of handles for those making their own casement windows.  These are the deluxe models at P45.  This photo also shows the 13.5mm security bars.

The first window being installed 3-12-10

The first window being installed 3-12-10

and adjusted....

and adjusted….

and welded to the rebar in the wall.

and welded to the rebar in the wall.

This makes for a fairly secure window.

This makes for a fairly secure window.

The building looks a little more finished with windows installed.

The building looks a little more finished with windows installed.

house_fire_escape The security grill in each bedroom has a fire escape secured by a padlock.

COMMENT:  The materials available for window making, especially the z-bar — even if you buy the premium material, is still not that sturdy.  Perhaps heavier material is available in Manila, but I suggest welding up your own z-bar and t-bar from angle bar and flat bar.  This is going to involve more labor, but the reality is that labor is inexpensive in the Philippines.  Welding your own stock (say 3mm flat bar) means you can make really sturdy windows, something not really possible using the stock that was available in Iloilo City.  Our windows are fine, but if we had it to do over again, we would weld our own stock.

March 18, 2010.  The windows are now complete except for final painting and glazing which will be done as part of the finishing of the interior.  The two welders took 19 days to construct the twelve windows.  They were paid P280 per day each for a total of P10,640 ($US 230).  The welders sometimes had to help with other work so the real cost of labor is a bit less.  The materials were about P70,000 so the total cost of the windows before glazing is about P80,000 or $US 1,750.

Another great thing about making your own windows is the complete flexibility to choose whatever thickness, color, energy efficiency of glazing (glass) you want to use.

Finally, we learn from the New York Times that casement windows are all the rage among the avant garde see http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/28/realestate/28posting.html?hp

COMMENT:  June 6, 2010.  Now we are finishing (plastering) the interior walls of the house.  This includes making cement window sills.  Another thing we’d do differently is to add a slightly larger steel frame around the outside of the window assembly.  As it is, the cement finishing comes quite close to the sash.  More space would be better.  You can see the narrow gap between hollow block and the windows in the photo above.

Don’t forget to have you workers make the outside window sills with a slope away from the house.  Our workers were prepared to make them flat.  Had they done so we probably would have had water seeping into the house during heavy rain storms.

Another coat of Boysen epoxy primer and a finish coat of Boysen “Mahogany” enamel got the sash ready for glazing.

Installing 3/16" glass.

Installing 3/16″ glass.

We used about 27 tubes of Corning silicone caulk (made in Korea) to install the glass.

ALERT: (after three years)  We try to show things that we did wrong so that others can avoid our mistakes.  The z-bar that we used to make our sash has a concave profile.  This is not a problem at the top or side of the sash, but at the bottom of each pane of glass, this concavity allows some water to accumulate during a rain storm.  When we built the house, we were not sure whether it would be better to try to fill in this concavity with the same silicone caulk we used to glaze the windows, or to just leave it alone.  Here’s the answer:

no rust

After three years, here is a window where the concavity was not filled. No rust.


Concavity filled with silicone caulk after three years

The problem with the silicone was that rain water seeped under the silicone into the concavity.  It could not quickly evaporate and so rust started under the silicone.  The water in the open concavities evaporated quickly and so no rust formed.

We bought the glass from Iloilo Glass Service, 439 Iznart Street, phone 033-335-0768.  They gave truly superior service.  There were some minor problems, partly our fault.  Iloilo Glass made things right with no hesitation.  188 panes of 3/16″ glass cost us P16,640.  The Iloilo Glass quote was one-half the quote we received from another Iloilo glass shop.

Completed and glazed windows.

Completed and glazed (but not washed!) windows.

Window in bedroom

My estimate of the total cost of our eleven windows is about P120,000 or about P11,000 per window.  Aside from the size of the windows, we used more expensive, higher cost materials; 14mm security bars, the best Z-bar we could find, epoxy primer, brass hardware, thicker 3/16″ glass and Corning silicone.

Living room and kitchen

How the windows look in the finished house

Window outside


After three years we had to touch up the windows on the SW side of the house.  That’s the direction from which we get typhoons and, although we are one kilometer from the ocean we still get salt spray during typhoons.  With salt spray, boring insects, heat and mold, home maintenance is an unending task in the Philippines.

See our post on window screens HERE

The finished house

Updated 6-24-13

Read all about our Philippine House building Project at /building-our-philippine-house-index/