From fridges to Flymos and microwaves to mixers, our homes are full of electrical appliances that we take for granted until they stop working. No amount of switch-flicking or plug changing will do the trick and we are left with a choice: replace or repair. Repair is the sustainable and often much cheaper option and definitely the right one for a cherished piece of equipment which has served you well for many years. And in Dublin, the place to go for most things in your home with a plug attached is the Carrick Hoover Centre in Monkstown.
Founded in 1971 by former Hoover repair agent Joe English, the Carrick Hoover Centre staff can repair almost any electrical appliance, regardless of brand or age. Washing machines, fridges, ovens, lawnmowers, microwaves, right down to small appliances like kettles. As long as it can be opened up and spare parts are available, they'll have a go at fixing it. Tel 01 2800610
You've still got the vinyl record collection, early Dire Straits CDs and those mix tapes which hold the soundtrack to your youth. But they don't really sound the same when they're not played on the original music system. Sure, you can buy new turntables in most electrical shops now and some even have cassette decks, but nothing can really match the sound of the supersized speakers and heavy cabinets that first brought the music to life. And you don't have to say goodbye to it. The HiFi Hospital in Dublin repairs just about every make you can think of and prides itself on being able to repair systems manufactured before 1960. thehifihospital.com
Fix the oven
There is nothing quite as irritating as an oven which doesn't cook evenly – cakes come out soggy on one side and burnt on the other. But you don't always have to go to the trouble and expense of buying a new appliance – an old one can be repaired for a fraction of the cost. Appliancefix.ie sends engineers to people's homes fixing a range of problems from faulty fans to ill-fitting doors and malfunctioning grills and heating elements. And if you want to get your oven gleaming like new again, Oven.ie offers a full valet treatment. appliancefix.ie
Renew a leather armchair
Simply send Brian Sinclair of LeatherTech.ie a picture of your distressed leather armchair and he'll send you a quick estimate for repair. He's been looking after leather since 2002, so he can tell pretty quickly what needs to be done. If it's a tear that's too close to a seam he'll pass you on to an upholsterer but if it's simply worn from sun, bums or animals, he's your man.
Pets are among the worst offenders. “Dogs scratch them by going round in circles to get comfortable while cats dig their claws in,” he says. In most cases the varnish goes first, followed by the colour.
It's not about making it look like it's straight out of the shop, he cautions. "We don't want a 10-or 20-year-old sofa looking like new, because it shouldn't. My job is done when the sofa isn't remarkable one way or another, when it doesn't look old and worn and it doesn't look brand new." It's worth doing because if you bought your leather furniture a decade ago, you'll struggle to match the quality today, he says. leathertech.ie
Freshen up the front door
The finest brickwork and prettiest windows won’t make up for a dingy doorway. With new front doors of any real quality costing a fortune many people have had to hope an occasional lick of paint will mask the worst of the problems. But you can have a door repaired and restored to its original glory without the need to shell out for a new equivalent.
For people lucky enough to live in a period home, the best option is probably The Period Door Company which restores original, high-quality wooden doors while retaining the important fixtures rather than needlessly replacing them. There are many other companies offering repairs to more standard doors including Door Doctors (doordoctors.ie). theperioddoorcompany.ie
In many housing estates the dawn chorus of birdsong has been replaced with the midnight choir of house alarms, many of them false. Faulty sensors, damaged control boxes, frayed wiring and a host of other issues can lead to spontaneous activations or, worse still, complete failure when needed. Many companies recommend ripping out and replacing these old systems, usually at vast cost, but there is an alternative. Companies such as Safenet Systems (safenet.ie) and Amsecurity (amsecurity.ie) are expert in alarm repair and restoration and can get most systems back to working order.
Keep the conservatory
The typical problems with conservatories relate to leaks – either through the door or glass panels or where the structure connects to the house. The usual response is to put down a few newspapers to soak it up and hope the problem miraculously goes away by itself. When that doesn't work it's time to call in the experts. Conservatory Services Ireland (conservatoryservicesireland.ie) can turn a tired and old-fashioned room into something stylish and contemporary and carry out repairs to get rid of those dreaded leaks and draughts. conservatoryservicesireland.ie
Mend a leaky shed
How well named is Cian Fleetwood? Being both fleet of hand and good with wood, he is simply ace at restoring old wooden sheds, the kind found in more gardens now that fewer people have garages. He’ll help you find the cheapest option too. “In many cases where there are rotten pieces of wood, the easiest and cheapest thing to do is to simply clad over them,” says Fleetwood. Once patched up and repaired, you can extend their lifespan significantly but it’s important to remember the shed equivalent of a stitch in time applies too.
"You have to maintain them. If you've a painted one, keep painting it. If it's not painted, leave it alone, they look lovely as they age," he says. Just make sure to restore any rotten boards. ionagardenservices.ie
Fix a phone
What happens when your phone battery dies or screen shatters, or if a pet gnaws their way through some crucial wiring in the home? The phone company will charge a hefty fee for inspection, or simply suggest replacing the handset. Fortunately, most shopping centres now have a mobile repair shop which will have you up and running again pretty quickly, frequently using salvaged parts from old phones making the job cheaper as well as more sustainable.
For more serious problems, there are specialists including GSM Solutions (gsmsolutions.ie) who take on work on a no fix, no fee basis. For in-home problems Lynch Telephone Services (telephone.lynch.ie) is worth a call, if you can borrow a phone of course.
Yellowing, curling and cracking roller-blinds can spoil the look of any room and turn even the prettiest of views into an eyesore. The hasty answer is to take them down and dump them, but that leaves you with the expense of replacing them. The much cheaper and more sustainable option is to get rid of the tatty old fabric and replace it while holding on to the expensive barrels. This service is offered by a number of firms such as Castle Curtains & Blinds in Sandyford Industrial Estate, Dublin and Acme Blinds (acmeblinds.com) which has branches around the country.
Recover a sofa
Brian Brennan of Sofa Reupholstery used to manufacture sofas but the recession knocked the stuffing out of that business. It did however encourage more people to keep what they had and get it reupholstered instead, he points out. The economy may have recovered but environmental awareness means the trend remains. "People are much more green-oriented than before and mindful about sending items to landfill," says Brennan. Most of the work he does is on 20-year-old "good" suites or older.
"You could probably buy a cheap sofa for the same price [as it costs to reupholster] but if you have a good one that hasn't given you any trouble for 20 years, it's not going to give you any trouble for the next 20 either." sofareupholstery.ie
Restore a floor
People put a huge amount of thought and money into flooring. What they don't do so much, according to Gerry Connolly of Floor Doctor Ireland, is maintain them. Yet every floor needs maintenance, he says. Floor Doctor Ireland specialises in all sorts of stone and tiled flooring, from ceramics to natural stone such as limestone, slate, marble and terracotta. Many homes built or renovated in the past 20 years have massive kitchens that double up as family hubs, he points out, "which means they are areas that get an awful lot of wear".
He can bring tiled floors in poor condition back to life with a once-off major restoration job, or he can provide a regular service, such as buffing, designed to keep your floors looking like new. floordoctorireland.ie
Revive a tired kitchen
Canny cooks know you don’t need to change the units to upgrade a kitchen, just change the colour. Kitchen Respray has 14 vans on the road and currently provides a makeover to about 25 kitchens a week. Most of the units it works on are in good nick but simply in need of a new colour, says owner Philip McKinney. His crew takes the doors off-site for two days, resprays them and then returns for a third day to spray the frames, before putting everything back in place.
"Most of the kitchens we work on are really nice and designed well and in good condition; essentially the owners just want a change in colour," says McKinney. It doesn't do stone work but can respray laminate countertops, making them good as new too. kitchenrespray.com
Fix a wonky table
Kevin O’Reilly of Restorationcentre.ie will work on any style or period of furniture and has more than 40 years’ experience bringing them back to life. He will often point out to clients that a restoration job might cost more than simply replacing the piece with a cheap alternative, but he says, if you have something good, or that is of value to you, nothing will replace it.
"It might be something that was their late mother's so will have sentimental value," he says. While he has seen that sustainability is a growing trend among younger people, older customers always had a "waste not" mentality, he says. He'll give a range of options for tables and chairs, from simply fixing that one wonky leg to, perhaps, replacing that broken hinge on the drop leaf or restoring its sheen with French polishing. You decide what suits you and he'll do the rest. restorationcentre.ie
Re-stitch a rug
It's fitting that Liz Mansergh lives on Killiney Hill in south Dublin because she is at the pinnacle of her career as a rug restorer, with 30 years of expertise behind her. Her craft traces its roots to a childhood spent crocheting and sewing, thanks to the encouragement of her mother. Today she has a top-notch reputation for her restoration work on valuable antique rugs and carpets, though that is not all she does. She specialises in helping anyone with any rug "that has meaning for them" to bring it back to life. It could be a souvenir from a special holiday in somewhere like Morocco or something handed down through the family.
Ireland is full of good old rugs just waiting to be restored, she says. Older rugs are often of higher quality than newer ones, with dyes that don’t run so that you can wash them, and colours that don’t fade as fast in the sun. If you send her a picture, she can tell you what’s possible. Tel: 086 817 5431
Re-enamel a bathtub
Karl Burke of Renubath has been re-enamelling baths for 40 years and prices start from €245 for a standard bath, rising depending on depth, the state it's in, and whether or not it's freestanding. Typically a job takes three hours, is done on site, and requires another 48 hours curing time. After that, it's good as new. "Just don't use abrasives to clean it. Use washing-up liquid or a small amount of Cif. Some of the new cleaners, people just throw them at it, without realising it eats away at the enamel," he says. Renubath.ie