On the road with … Neil Gibbins, Hire A Hubby Gladesville and Ryde, Sydney

This week we’d like to introduce you to Neil Gibbins, our top ‘Hubby’ in 2012. Neil runs two Hire A Hubby businesses in Sydney’s north western suburbs around Gladesville and Ryde. Neil and his team work with a range of domestic, real estate and commercial clients.

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What is your background?

I learnt my handyman skills growing up in the country. My career led me into  corporate banking and operations management where I worked for 27 years with companies including ANZ Bank, Citibank and AMP. I joined Hire A Hubby in 2003 because I wanted to do work I enjoyed and found satisfying and that gave me the flexibility to see my sons grow up and participate in their school activities. I enjoy applying my corporate skills to my own business where I receive the direct benefit from my efforts.

How does your average day stack up?

Each day is different – that is one of the great things about what we do. Every day includes interacting with customers, working on the tools, preparing quotes and invoices, managing my staff, running and growing the business.  It is very satisfying when your customers appreciate what you do for them.

What are you working on at the moment?

Currently we are working on some large preparation-for-sale jobs, presenting people’s homes in the best way they can be to maximise the sale price. We also have regular work from our domestic, real estate and commercial clients.

What does it take to be a ‘Hubby’?

Success is driven by how you interact with people. Hire A Hubby is a repeat and referral business and we deal face to face with our clients and build long term relationships. We want to be the first point of contact for our clients for any property maintenance need, large or small. We always strive to do an excellent job so our clients will invite us back for more work and also tell their friends.

The reality of reality TV

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There’s no denying Australians love property and home improvements. In fact, home improvement shows like The Block, The Renovators and House Rules are very influential in encouraging home owners to attempt larger DIY projects on their own.

But it’s not as simple as buying a bunch of materials from the local hardware store and turning a profit after a weekend’s work. There is a side to DIY often left out of television shows that makes it look much easier than it actually is, and the last thing you want is to lose value on your home after botching a job.

Here are five tips to help steer your home improvement plans.

Experience counts

Engage professionals from the outset of your project for their experience, skills and product knowledge. While anyone can try their hand at home improvement, it’s important to remember certain tasks such as detailed carpentry work or large tiling jobs require certain tools, experience and the right products.

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Risks involved

There are a number of critical design features that many DIYers can overlook and by doing so compromise the integrity of the house. For example, most of the structural members of a building are under the floor and in the roof and removal of internal walls can be dangerous.

Small doesn’t mean simple

Seemingly easy jobs like hanging a door actually require quite good hand skills and if not done properly the finished product can look ugly. Likewise, patching a hole in the wall can look awful if you’re using the wrong product.

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Develop a timeline

Home improvement projects aren’t as easy as they appear on TV, so estimate time generously. Half-finished projects are often the result of frustration or lost interest after underestimating the scope of work.

Avoid injury

Renovators-to-be need to know the limitations of their abilities and engage professionals for highly-skilled work when required. The worst way to finish a home improvement project is with an injury.

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If you’re thinking about undertaking home improvements, call your local Hire A Hubby for an obligation free quote on 1800 803 339 or visit the website www.hireahubby.com.au.

Five tips to keep your energy bill cool this winter

Now that we’re in the middle of winter, there’s no better time to evaluate your energy use to see if there’s anything you can do to avoid a hefty electricity bill come the end of the quarter.

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Around a third of the average household’s energy consumption during the colder months is used to power heating appliances that keep the home at a comfortable temperature. This doesn’t have to be the case.

This week we have we come up with some ideas on how to stay warm while keeping a cool head with your energy use. How many of these tips are you following?

Between 18 and 21 degrees is plenty.

If you’re lucky enough to have a thermostat, keep it at a sensible level. Every one degree higher that you set a thermostat increases the energy usage costs for that appliance by up to 10 per cent.

Close doors and windows.

Simple to do and often forgotten, always close doors to unused rooms to prevent warm air from escaping. Likewise, close all windows. The laundry and bathroom are ‘hotspots’ for losing household warmth, so block them off.

Close curtains around the house.

By all means let the sun’s warmth in during the day, but close the curtains or blinds before the sun goes down to provide the room with insulation.

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What is your energy star rating?

Like many things, cheaper doesn’t mean better. Bargain heating appliances tend to be the most expensive to run and the least efficient at producing heat. Check your current devices and see if you’re due an upgrade.

Dress appropriately.

Be sensible. The best way to save money on winter heating is to wear warm clothes. Even some of our toughest ‘Hubbies’ have a few blankets or throws lying around the house.

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Want some more info about winter heating? Check out this great guide by Ausgrid.

Our very own Cronulla Hubby Greg Smith gets the job done

If you watched Channel 9’s Celebrity Apprentice this year, you may have noticed some of our very own stars. Greg Smith, who runs Hire a Hubby Cronulla, was invited to join the celebrities to manage a much needed makeover project for the Don Bosco House in Marrickville.

He was joined by a handful of our Hubbies who lent a hand on the three day project which included painting, landscaping, installing new blinds and curtains and removing old sheds and rubbish.

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The Don Bosco House represents a not for profit organisation, providing a safe place for young people requiring emergency care.

Here’s what Greg had to say about the experience…

“The celebrities put a massive effort into the project. Most put in a 16 hour shift in the first day.”

“Dawn Fraser was particularly impressive. At 75 years of age and still doing the hard yakka really showed me why she was an Aussie legend.

“All celebrity egos were also put aside. They were just a really down to earth bunch and everyone put in for the cause.

“Some of the celebrities had no renovation experience and some had never even painted before, yet they put a brush in their hand to help for a cause they believed in and at the end of the day it was a positive, eye opening experience.

“My highlights were:

  • Warrick Capper telling me at lunch on day 2 that he does not have an ego!
  • Having a chat with a living legend – Dawn Fraser – over a coffee at morning tea
  • Watching an Olympic gold medalist and world record holder Stephanie Rice taking hours to assemble a kids mini pool table
  • Being called upon with four minutes remaining to put together a ping pong table for Jeff Fenech which he’d spent the past hour trying assemble

Stay tuned for more stories from our Hubbies!

Hanging a heavy picture frame

A large piece of art or a feature mirror can look great in your home, but they can also cause damage to your home or person if not installed properly.

For anything that weighs more than 10kg you really need to start thinking about the hardware you use. Unfortunately the ‘hammer and nail’ approach doesn’t always cut the mustard.

Let’s take a look at what your options are.

Plasterboard walls:

For plasterboard (gyprock) walls the simplest way is to drive a screw directly into an underlying wall stud to support the weight. An electric stud finder is normally needed for this and unfortunately studs aren’t always where you want your hanging.

In this case, professionals will often use a plastic winged anchor to stop the screw from pulling out of the wall plaster. Sometimes heavy picture frames require two anchors for extra strength and stability.

Always take care when installing these anchors as too much force and over tightening screws can cause damage.

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For hangings that weigh 20kg or over you’ll need to consider attaching a plywood reinforcement board to your wall to secure the hanging and distribute the weight.

TIP: inserting nails and screws on an angle will make for a stronger hook.

Masonry walls:

Brick, stone, and concrete walls will require an anchor (or two for heavier frames) installed with a specialised masonry drill bit. Anchors for masonry walls are different to the ones used in plasterboard and it’s important to get one suitable for both the wall material and the weight of your hanging.

Professionals will normally wear eye protection when drilling into masonry surfaces and care needs to be taken to avoid cracks and costly mistakes. Be aware that any holes and mistakes in masonry materials are permanent so if you’re beyond your limits, call the experts in.

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For help or advice on hanging a heavy item, have a chat with your local Hire A Hubby on 1800 803 339.

What’s hot in home design in 2013

With Channel 9’s The Block kicking off again we have seen some great home décor ideas – and some wacky ones. If you’ve been inspired to update and re-style your home, here are four design trends to take you through 2013.

 1. Emphasis on art

This doesn’t mean you have to make the whole room the art piece as we saw in Kim and Matt’s Jackson Pollock inspired paint splatter room. A large piece of art is a great addition to a living space and using colours from the artwork around the room is one way to blend the room together. Pick one or two colours from the artwork to reflect in the paint or soft furnishings around the room. To really ‘hero’ your piece of art, consider installing a spot light.

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2. A ‘pop’ of colour

This is a trend we have seen on The Block before and it’s a great way to add style to your home. The key here is to choose neutral colours for most of the room and then pick one or two bright colours to repeat a few times around the room. The ‘pop’ of colour could be something large like a lounge or wall or could be something more subtle like cushions, vases, or rugs.

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3. A feature wall

Feature walls have been popular for years because they are a great way to liven up a room. This year it’s all about the patterned feature wall. For a subtle look try a textured wallpaper in similar colours to the rest of the room. If you’re feeling brave pick a bright colour or bold pattern to really up the design stakes. Don’t be afraid to use contrasting colours – if you stick to just a couple of colours the contrast can add interest and style to a room. Wallpaper can be tricky though, so it is important to get the right materials and technique to avoid having to restart.

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4. Comfortable kitchens

This year we are seeing a return to warm homey kitchens. The sleek, minimal look that has been popular over the last few years is giving way to a more natural and classic style. Materials like wood, slate, and weathered concrete that look ‘vintage’ make for a more lived-in feel. Tiles that look handmade or hand painted are a great way to inject some personal style and can be used on splashbacks, countertops or flooring. Using colour on splashbacks, countertops, and cupboards will also help to warm up a kitchen and move away from the all-white minimal look.

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How to get the most out of your backyard in winter

The great Aussie backyard: a second living room, a party venue, the heart of summertime fun. But as the days get shorter and cooler you may find your backyard isn’t getting as much use as it deserves. This week our Hubbies offer their thoughts on how to ensure the outdoor space is still inviting during the cooler months.

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Create a cosy space

This is the key to maintaining an outdoor lifestyle during winter. Consider adding a wall or fence to your deck, patio, or pergola to create a partially enclosed space that provides protection from the weather. Outdoor rugs, cushions, candles, and lounges are great ways to make your space feel more cosy and inviting.

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Outdoor heating will add instant appeal during winter and is great for outdoor dining and entertaining. There are many options for outdoor heating, including wall mounted heaters and fire pits. A built-in fire pit can be a stunning feature and what better way to enjoy your backyard during winter than around the fire with friends.

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Landscaping

Maximise precious winter sunlight by cutting back trees or plants that may be blocking the sun. You may find you only need to lop off a few branches but remember chainsaws and falling branches can be extremely dangerous if you are inexperienced, so consult a Hubby if you’re beyond your skill level.

Food tip: Don’t forget many healthy and delicious vegetables love the winter months and tending to a veggie patch is a great way to get the family outside. Broccoli, onions, garlic and spinach are perfect for a winter veggie garden, so give your local Hubby a call to bring your vege garden to life.

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Bring the outside in

Finally, you can enjoy your backyard even when you’re rugged up inside. Big windows help fight the winter blues and allow the sunshine entry. This may be a good time to have your windows and doors cleaned. High pressure cleaning will remove any grime build-up around window frames and sliding doors. Replacing windows and doors are also options to improve the outlook and French and bi-fold doors are a great way to frame the view.

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If you need help or advice please give your local Hire A Hubby a call for an obligation free quote on 1800 803 339 or visit the website www.hireahubby.com.au.