Building Construction, Renovation, Maintenance & Advice

Translation of Indonesian Building Terms

“Bahasa Gembala Kambing”

If you rent or own a property in Bali it is highly unlikely, although there is a slight possibility, that something might one day go wrong and a wee bit of maintenance will be required. On the other hand you may be feeling either very brave, naïve or drunk and decide that you wish to scratch that “I want to build my castle in paradise” itch, an urge that should be resisted at all costs.

Here in Indonesia there are many very capable people; architects, engineers and builders; who can achieve incredible things. Sadly there are a small number who do not have the skills and expertise required for the work they are doing and can cause you problems. The trick is to check them out to make sure they know what they are doing.

Either way when you are attempting to communicate with a man who last week was herding goats and this week is pretending to be a highly qualified building professional it may be useful to know a few of the technical terms in order to attempt to convey a vague sense of technical understanding. That having been said, if you say to him “kambingmu menginjak kakiku” and he understands you somewhat better than when you say “pompa sumur saya mati” then perhaps you would be better finding someone else.

It is likely that you will find that some of the words you may require do not appear in that famous tome “Learn To Speak Indonesian While Having A Poo” or even in the more august publication “A Larger Lout's Guide To The Best Spewing Spots in Kuta” and so, to render you some assistance, I humbly offer a few of the more commonly used terms that may allow you to describe your problem to an ever so obliging landlord who mysteriously doesn't speak a word of english whenever the words “house maintenance” are mentioned.

Let us hypothesise for a moment that you really are going to consider the ludicrous task of building something.

First you will need a piece of land (tanah) the size of which is measured in units of 100 square metres (are) and valued in squillions of rupiah. You'll need to build (bangun) a boundary wall (tembok pagar) around your land to keep the goats in. If you are thinking clearly you may remember you need a gate (pintu gerbang) so you can get in and out.

You can now fill the site with fill (urugan), this is important if you are building on former rice fields (sawah) where the ground is usually clay (lempung) and mud (lumpur).

We'll start on the house itself by digging (galian) for the foundations (pondasi). Foundations for houses here are usually walls (tembok) or small vertical columns known as piers (setempat) built (di bangun) from riverstone (batu kali).

Reinforced concrete (beton bertulang) beams (balok) known as a sloof are cast along the top of the foundation (pondasi) walls to spread the weight of the house on the walls and to hold everything together.

Concrete (beton) is normally made from 3 parts of aggregate (kerikil or koral), 2 parts of sand (pasir), 1 part of cement (semen) and 1 part of water (air). If we add reinforcing steel (pembesian) it becomes reinforced concrete (beton bertulang).

Reinforced concrete columns (kolom) are cast onto the sloof to support the walls (tembok or dinding), the roof (atap) and the upper floor (lantai atas) if there is one. Reinforced concrete ring beams (balok ring) are cast along the top of the walls to lock the columns together at the top and make the building structure strong.

The walls (tembok of dinding) of the house may be built from lightweight concrete or breeze blocks (batako) or red brick (bata merah) and mortar (mortar) which is made from sand (pasir), cement (semen) and water (air). The walls will usually be finished using smooth (aci) cement render (plester) on the inside and out.

We will now build the roof which may be a gable roof (atap pelana – lit. a saddle roof) with a horizontal (mendatar) ridge (bubungan) and usually two, but sometimes only one, sloping sides. The gable (gewel) itself is the triangular part of the top of the wall under the roof. The roof might also be a hip roof (atap limasan – lit. a pyramid roof) which is a roof with triangular ends that slope the same as the sides. Where the end slopes meet the sides slopes these are also known as ridges (bubungan)

First we build the roof trusses or the roof frame (kuda) of either wood (kayu) or lightweight galvanised steel (baja) on the top of the concrete structure.

Onto the roof frame we build the rest of the supporting roof structure with beams that come down from the ridge of the roof to the top of the walls, these are the rafters (kasau or usuk). Across the rafters are smaller pieces of wood known as lathes (reng) which will support the roof tiles (genteng).

The area where the roof overhangs the walls is known as the eaves (overhang - yes the english word) of the roof.

The roof (atap) may be covered with thatch (alang alang), roof tiles (genteng), wood shingles (sirap), asphalt shingles (sirap aspal) or corrugated iron (seng gelombang)
It may also have aluminium foil insulation (insulasi aluminium foil) under the roof covering to reflect heat and keep the house cool.

To finish the job and make the roof look tidy along the bottom edges there will be a fascia board (lis plank) and up and down the edges of gable ends will be barge boards (also lis plank).

There is a new phenomenon sweeping Bali and people are installing these magical things that collect rainwater as it falls on your roof and they are called gutters or troughing (talang) .

We will have to leave holes (lubang) in the walls for the windows (jendela) and doors (pintu) which will be hung on hinges (engsel) and may contain glass (kaca).

The rooms of the house may need ceilings (plafon) and outside, under the roof overhang or eaves, we might install a horizontal ceiling called a soffit (plafon overhang). The ceilings may be of thin plywood (triplex), waterproof fibreboard (Kalsiboard) or, these days, plasterboard, drywall or gyprock (gypsum).

The floors (lantai) will usually be covered with ceramic tiles (keramic lantai) or, if you have a penny or two, you might use marble (marmer) or wood (kayu) which could be teak (jati), mahogony (mahoni), merbau, bengkirai, meranti, kamper, ulin or kelapa (coconut).

In the bathroom (kamar mandi) and kitchen (dapur) you will probably have wall tiles (keramic tembok).

Your water (air) will usually come from a well (sumur) or bore (bor) although if you are really lucky you will have water supplied by PDAM (Perusahaan Daerah Air Minum).

The water will be pumped from the well with a water pump (pompa air). We usually rather surprisingly call this the well pump (pompa sumur) which may pump the water through pipes (pipa) to a water tank (tangki air). These days we use plastic pipes (pipa plastik) but older houses used galvanised steel pipes (pipa galvanis) but these do have a tendency to rust (karat).

The water is fed to your bathroom taps or faucets (kran) in your washbasin (wastafel), shower (shower) bath (bathtub) and toilet which might be a western sit down toilet (toilet duduk) or a squatter (toilet jongkok). Waste water will usually flow to your septic tank (tangki septic or tangki kotoran).

Your electricity (listrik) will come from PLN (Perusahan Listrik Negara) who are responsible for the power installation to your meter (listrik meteran). From here it becomes your responsibility and will go to a distribution panel (panel) which has contact breakers (mcb) in it. From the panel electric cables (kabel) takes the electricity round your house to plug sockets (stop kontak) and lights (lampu). It is also fairly useful to have light switches (saklar) so we can switch them on (hidupkan lampu) or switch them off (matikan lampu).

Here are some additional terms you may find useful. We'll start with a very common one in Bali, my roof (atap) is leaking (bocor). We are, of course, stating the obvious here.
Rusak means not working, broken or knackered.
If something is worn out it is buruk.
If something electrical such as a water pump is not working it is usually described as mati (dead).
If the pump or a cable is burned out it is bakar.
If you have a blocked pipe then your pipa is buntu.
If on the offchance something is actually functioning properly then you can proudly say it is baik (good).

If total frustration has set in and you are going to attempt to do such things yourself you might needs some tools (alat) such as a hammer (palu), screwdriver (obeng), drill (bor), saw (gergaji), tapemeasure (metran), spanner (kunci pas), chisel (pahat), ladder (tangga) or even a wheelbarrow (kereta sorong).

Paint (cat), varnish (vernis), nails (paku), nuts (mur) and bolts (baut), screws (sekrup) are also useful as is glue (lem) and, of course, duct tape (pita bebek).

It is highly likely that all this is of little interest to you and you can say “no, what, what” (tidak apa apa) which is probably the most useful phase in the indonesian language after “pergi, saya tidak mau your frigging transport”.

Copyright © Phil Wilson 2013
This article or any part of it cannot be copied or reproduced without permission from the copyright owner.

8 February 2017 Copyright © Mr Fixit,
Jl Bypass Ngurah Rai, Gg Penyu No 1, Sanur, Bali 80228, Indonesia
Telephone: +62-361-288-789, Fax:+62-361-284-180