Arthur Edwards, the owner of Ruben Homes, has built his reputation on the principles of honesty and integrity.
By Karin O’Donnell
Arthur Edwards works out of a perfectly neat ofﬁce, where there is a place for everything. A photograph of his parents looks down on him as he helps clients design their dream home. The wall opposite is covered with awards won in the Registered Master Builders competitions over the years. Descended from the proud Romanies – not tinkers, please note – Arthur believes in being straightforward: “I am big on honesty,” he says. “I consider it my biggest asset.”
Born in Bellevue, in industrial Manchester, Arthur was the middle of three children, with an older sister and a younger brother. His father owned some butcher shops and his mother expected him to follow into the family trade. Arthur, however, developed an early interest in an antique ﬁrm across the road from the shop, where he was offered an apprenticeship. While his father was happy for him to do this, his mother was not. Arthur left home at the age of 15.
He enjoyed his work, which included restoring and repairing old historic homes and making furniture. He learnt the arts of French polishing and upholstery, and many aspects of architectural draughting.
Soccer was a passion for him. He played at Huddersﬁeld where he was told by manager Bill Shankley that he would never make pro. Undeterred, Arthur, who describes himself as “a very determined person”, played semi-pro for Rochdale.
Around this time, the business where he was working was sold. With his soccer career not going too well, Arthur joined the army and spent time in Cypress, Malaya and Borneo. Demobbed in Darwin, he decided to stay in Australia. His knowledge of explosives came in handy when he found mining work at Coober Pedy.
He met “the wonderful Liz” in Melbourne and married her six weeks later. They have a daughter and a son, who is also a master builder.
In 1967, Arthur and Liz arrived in Christchurch en route to Vancouver to join Arthur’s sister. They have been here ever since. Arthur found a job making television cabinets, then at a butcher’s. It was a great time for the young couple.
Arthur was subsequently offered building work, and he received his Advanced Trade Certiﬁcate in 1968.
Arthur being Arthur, he got involved in the industry, doing work for the government and joining the Registered Master Builders Federation.
Then came the call of the soccer whistle. He played for Western, and started coaching. For 13 years he was a referee for the National League, and spent 11 years with the prestigious Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA).
Arthur has always had a strong belief in sharing experience with younger people. He and Liz moved to Hornby in 1969, where they both became part of the community. Arthur’s attitude was simple: “I had a story to tell about the difﬁculties in my younger life, leaving home early and having to become self-sufﬁcient. I have always been able to relate to young people in a way that they understand.” He served on the community board for sport funding and both he and Liz are still very much involved in the Hornby community.
Like many craftsmen builders of his ilk, he has a ﬁrm belief in training new apprentices in the building industry. Charles Luney was one of Arthur’s own mentors. “I base myself on what I learnt from him about mentoring.” The ﬁrm currently employs four apprentices. Staff range in age from 16 to 70 and all ﬁt into Arthur’s own work ethic.
“All our guys are trained to be, and are, craftsmen.” He appreciates what his people do, giving credit to ofﬁce manager Jennie and project manager Peter.
“Ruben Homes is growing from within. We have found that giving people some responsibility increases their self-conﬁdence and capabilities.” A former apprentice is thriving on his newfound responsibility.
But wait! There is yet another string to Arthur’s busy bow. For many years he has played in bands, showing almost the same dedication to his guitar and keyboard as he has to his building and his soccer. He collects guitars and counts well-known musician Charlie Jemmett as a good friend. His current band, Midnight, featured in Weekend Warriors at Al’s Bar. They do the “odd gig” and sometimes jam on a Sunday. As in everything else, Arthur is a perfectionist in his music. He comes from a musical family – his father was a singer who played the mouth organ – and started in his ﬁrst band at the age of 11.
Arthur also belongs to a folk club, and plays a lot of acoustic guitar in this style. “Music is important in my life,” he says simply, ﬁnding it a way to relieve stress.
Arthur and Liz are at present trying to take life a little simpler. “The lovely Liz” does craftwork as a means of relaxing, Arthur plays golf, and they enjoy walks on the beach together.
Arthur purchased Ruben Homes ten years ago, and has built a team of people who share the culture of the business. He now has agents in Nelson, Hanmer, Otago and Dunedin, and a franchise in Auckland.
Service is a huge part of what Ruben Homes offers clients. “It is a big thing. You have to do the best you can do and produce quality work.”
Where your house becomes a home, Ruben Homes’ motto, says it all. “We build houses around people”, Arthur explains. For him, it is all about people rather than proﬁt, and many clients have become good friends.
The company is renowned for its renovation work. Everything is built on site, and Arthur has trained all his apprentices to pitch their own roofs.
In this niche market, Arthur remains conscious of the issue of maintaining older homes, installing modern materials to keep or enhance their beauty and longevity. Experience played a part when the ﬁrm was approached by Dave Sturman to work with James Hardie Limited in understanding the tolerances of James Hardie Linea Weatherboard and fashioning the best outcome for that product – Ruben Homes installs James Hardie Linea Weatherboard precisely in accordance with speciﬁcations.
Arthur’s passion for building is evident: “I love doing this! I’ll be doing this until the day I die. It’s in my blood.”
Contact Ruben Homes 349 8675
M: 027 435 9032
Clyde couple delighted with workmanship
The new Ruben Homes cottage owned by Launa and Ernie McNaughton has distinctive old world charm that blends well in the historic town of Clyde.
The couple are “over the moon” about their new home and complimentary about the service they received from Ruben Homes’ managing director Arthur Edwards and McCrostie Builders’ staff.
“Arthur was just excellent and it was a very personal service, which we appreciated,” Mrs McNaughton said.
McCrosties, who built the house, were also great to deal with.
The cottage was exactly what the McNaughtons were after and the style suited the town.
“What we wanted was something that would blend in with the area, rather than standing out,” the McNaughtons said.
Their wish-list for the new home included a home large enough to entertain in and accommodate guests, but also easy-care to fit in with their busy lifestyle.
“Our building experience with Ruben Homes was stress-free and enjoyable from our first meeting with Arthur Edwards in December 2002 to the completion of our new home in September this year.
Arthur listened to our wish list and we worked on achieving this.
Before deciding on a Ruben home, we had looked at many designs, plans and styles and were unable to find the right combination for us. With Arthur’s expertise, we have achieved the balance of a plan that suits our lifestyle along with a design that complements our local area.
The house was build by McCrosite Builders in conjunction with Ruben Homes and we cannot speak highly enough of McCrosties and their staff. Communication was always excellent and we are delighted with the quality of the workmanship and finish throughout our new home” Launa and Ernie McNaughton.
Linea weatherboard gives homes low-maintenance, traditional look
Ruben homes use Linea weatherboard extensively to enhance the traditional look of its homes while providing home-owners with a low-maintenance weatherboard cladding option.
The unique properties of James Hardie Linea Weatherboards have produced a weatherboard that is strong, durable in both traditional and modern designs.
Made from James Hardie’s breakthrough fibre cement technology, Linea Weatherboard is a low maintenance cladding that offers unparalleled stability – it won’t crack, warp or split.
Paint life is extended and the weatherboards won’t shrink, warp or buckle in the sun, which means that it is stable enough to be painted dark colours.
The deep shadow lines created by Linea weatherboards are synonymous to the classic weatherboard look.
The James Hardie Linea Weatherboard is pre-primed with a smooth finish.
Once painted, Linea virtually becomes indistinguishable from traditional timber weatherboards, allowing Linea to blend in perfectly with older homes and villas.
“Our relationship with James Hardie has developed over the last six to seven years and helped James Hardie develop methods of installation for the Linea weatherboard,” Ruben Homes managing director Arthur Edwards said.
“We helped train an extensive number of builders with the installation of Linea weatherboards.
“We are grateful for the opportunities that have arisen from our association with Linea and James Hardie.”
Ruben Homes’ installation arm, Arthur Edwards’ installation Service, is the largest installer of Linea in Canterbury.
The latest renovation that was completed with Linea is the 1863 homestead in Doyleston, Leeston, where Linea was used in a variety of applications including fascia and trim detail.
Quality and Precision
Houses tailored to each client’s needs
Ruben homes specializes in designing and building homes, not just houses.
Traditional values go hand in hand with the personal approach taken by Ruben Homes and those are the vital elements in the company’s successes.
Although the company is based in Christchurch, it has a licensee in Central Otago, so anyone planning a new home in this district can benefit from the expertise of this registered master builder.
Traditional business principles of honesty, sincerity and integrity are at the heart of Ruben Home’s service, and managing director Arthur Edwards is known as a perfectionist and builder of quality homes.
He has been involved in the construction industry for 45 years; 35 years as the owner of a building company. Arthur started in the trade as a cabinetmaker and carpenter restoring homes in England.
The company is pleased to work in conjunction with McCrostie Builder in Central Otago and Arthur said the two firms shared the same traditional values.
"We value their integrity and ability to meet our requirements fuss-free.
McCrosties and their staff are genuine people and we share the same attention to detail and personalized service”.
McCrosties sale co-ordinator Paul Carden said the company was proud to be Ruben Homes’ preferred builder in Central Otago, and was pleased to act as project manager.
Relationships are important to Ruben Homes and the company values its association with McCrosties, with home-builders and with James Hardie Ltd.
"We take pride in the fact that we are able to meet our clients’ expectations and create family homes that the owners can not only be proud of, but also enjoy living in for many generations to come," Arthur said.
It’s not about being the cheapest or fastest, it’s about care, quality and attention to detail, and our clients and contractors have the same mindset.”
All of Ruben Homes’ new homes are designed specifically for each client and the company prefers to tailor its designs to meet the clients’ needs.
The personal approach certainly works, with about 80 percent of the people who approach the company following through to employ Ruben Homes as their preferred builder.
Traditional colonial-style homes are the firm’s specialty. Signature features of Ruben Homes’ designs include steep pitched gables, bay windows, coved ceilings, verandas, colonial bar windows, paneled interior doors and colonial architraves.
“It is important that the designs don’t compromise the authenticity of the colonial home, which has stood the test of time” Arthur said.
The latest building innovations and technology from overseas are used to create a superior, low-maintenance product.
As well as delivering top workmanship and service to clients, Arthur feels a responsibility towards training the future generation of builders.
He has trained 30 apprentices so far during his time in the trade and believes that apprentices need to also spend time working with bricklayers, joiners, plasterers and painters so they get a total understanding of all the skills involved.
To keep tabs on the quality and finish, every one of Ruben Homes’ projects is framed and built on site.
“By building everything on site we retain control over the quality.
“We’re not aiming to be the cheapest and fastest because that’s not what our clients are primarily concerned with.” Ruben homes is a family affair. Arthur’s focus on care, quality and attention to detail has been passed on to his son Scott. Scott is about to become a registered master builder and has joint responsibility for staff training.
Results exceeded couple's expectations
Alexandra couple Chris and Gai Aquilina-Roberts say their dream home has "more than lived up to expectations."
Their Craig Plc dwelling was designed specifically for the Aquilina-Roberts by Ruben Homes and more than two years down the track, they are still thrilled with their new home.
"It's faultless", Mrs Aquilina-Roberts said.
She was impressed with the "standard of workmanship, the way the whole place is put together and Ruben Homes' service from start to finish."
She and her husband had lived all around the world and decided to "semi-retire" in Central Otago.
"We couldn't find a house that came anywhere near to meeting all our needs, so ended up buying a section instead."
They were living in Christchurch at the time and viewed a Ruben Homes house, then struck up a conversation with Ruben's managing director Arthur Edwards.
"We liked the way he gave us information and also reminded us of the costs. He was very aware of the cost of construction and meeting our budget yet he was so accommodating and worked with us to develop the ideas we had."
Although Ruben Homes was based in Christchurch, Arthur was prepared to construct the house in Alexandra and the Aquilina-Roberts ended up with their dream home, completed to the highest standard.
"Arthur is a real stickler about how things are done. There are no short-cuts, no shoddy workmanship," Mr Aquilina-Roberts said.
"All his employees and subcontractors have to meet his exacting standards and every little detail is attended to."
Arthur had endless patience and offered advice, based on his many years of experience in the industry, about building materials and design features which would cope with the extremes of temperature in Central Otago.
All the Aquilina-Roberts' requirements were met and they particularly like the "signature" features of Ruben Homes, such as the grooved skirting boards and windowsills made from Southland silver beech.
Because she suffers from various allergies, Mrs Aquilina-Roberts is pleased the house is constructed from as much "untreated" wood as possible.
Building a home has been an enjoyable experience, thanks to Ruben Homes, and they have no hesitation in recommending the firm to other people thinking about building.
"What we have is a quality home, at a reasonable price, and we're absolutely delighted," they said.
"Both Chris and I have lived all around the world.
Now it was time to build our own semi-retirement house to see us through the rest of our days, my ill-health playing a large role.
We were exceedingly lucky, after five years of quietly looking around Christchurch in preparation, to met up with Arthur Edwards, of Ruben Homes - a man of integrity.
He met all our expectations of what a good building should be. As well:
• he listened;
• paid good attention to detail;
• builds substantially, well-finished homes;
• took note of all the little details we needed, that is, good quality fittings and yet worked within our price range, accommodating but careful of overruns.
And we ended up with our beautiful country cottage in Alexandra, a dream, exceeding all our hopes and after two years of living in it, we cannot fault the comfort, dimensions and capability of our Ruben Home."
Gai and Chris Aquilina-Roberts
Advances in building materials have opened up exciting new opportunities for owner of new homes. Canterbury’s Digest introduces a building company achieving great results with a new-generation weatherboard product.
Most new home-owners place a high priority on a building design that achieves low maintenance. As a result, brick veneers and monolithic-type plasters have become the dominant materials for exterior cladding. But with the development of the new Linea weatherboard, manufactured in New Zealand by James Hardie, new home owners are able to achieve the classic look of a weatherboard home without the high maintenance costs associated with an all-timber exterior.
One company that has embraced the potential of Linea weatherboard is Ruben Homes, a Christchurch firm specializing in new traditional style weatherboard homes and restorations.
Ruben Homes’ managing director Arthur Edwards says the new Linea product, made from low density cellulose fibre, cement and ceramics, has opened up a whole new set of options.
“Linea was the product we’d been waiting for”, says Arthur, who trained as a cabinetmaker and carpenter restoring grand old homes in England. “People love the authenticity of the designs and the detailing in a weatherboard home, but they are also looking for low maintenance. Now, with Linea, they can have both.”
One of the major advantages of Linea is its ability to hold much darker colours. Repainting is required less often and requires less preparation.
Ruben Homes is a firm of “traditional builders” with a focus on care, quality and attention to detail. Much of what Arthur Edwards has learned about craftsmanship has been passed on to the firm’s apprentices. The company’s 18 staff and contractors are skilled in all of the major building trades. “I make sure that all my apprentices spend time working with brick-layers, joiners, plasterers and painters, so they get a real understanding of all the skills involved.”
The company has deliberately avoided the industry norm of using pre-cut and pre-nailed framing, preferring to build everything on site. “By building everything on site we retain control over the quality. We’re not aiming to be the cheapest and fastest, because that’s not what our clients are primarily concerned with.”
Major Restoration Project
Ruben Homes largest project with Linea to date has been the restoration of the historic home of the Osborne family, at Leeston. Completed over a period of 18 months, the project includes a complete recladding and recreation of much of the home’s exterior detail. “Restoring the Osborne home was a dream job for us because we were able to use all of our traditional building experience and be creative and experimental with the use of Linea, at a time when it was still new to the market. The working relationship we established with the owners, and with Roger Buck the architect, meant that we have been able to preserve the Osborne home for many years to come."
An an installer for James Hardie Products, Arthur and Scott Edwards have taken an active role in application of traditional methods and the developments of new methods for working with Linea. This includes off-site experimentation with alternative adhesive materials, which has enabled the use of Linea for building details such as corbels, plinths and sills. These techniques have been documented by James Hardie and used in the development of specifications and guidelines. Ruben Homes has also provided training and instruction for staff in the building products industry, to share their expertise with the industry.
In addition to its expertise with timber and Linea weatherboards, Ruben homes is skilled in the use of high quality monolithic-type solid plaster surfaces, also manufactured by James Hardie. Ruben Homes has franchises in Auckland, Nelson, Central Otago and the West Coast.