The rain gods are sending Cardinals fans a message

Geez, what’s with all this rain? Someone needs to tell the rain gods that people in St Louis sing about APRIL showers, not those in January. Yeah, as if they’ll bring the flowers that bloom in … February.

Maybe the rain gods just like watching Cardinals games, and want to get all this rain stuff out of the way NOW, so they can suffer through fewer rain delays after the April season opener. Or maybe they just like us Cardinal FANS, and are giving us a 3 month warning, so we can prep our homes for the deluge to come later.

What CAN you do to keep all this rainwater from coming into your house? Sure, it would be nice to store a huge tarp against your back fence, all dressed-up in yellow to look like the world’s largest Post-Dispatch. And every time it rained, dozens of men, running as fast as they can, unroll the tarp over your house to keep the water out. But only the players themselves can afford a system like that.

So, why not use the rain coming down as an opportunity to learn where your home’s weaknesses are, so you can have Fix St Louis repair them before the real Spring rains come. Here’s where to look:

Basement Walls & Floors

If you see water leaking out of cracks in your basement foundation walls, or puddling-up at the base of your walls, that’s not a good thing. You’ll need those cracks filled, that’s for sure. But it would also be good if the water wasn’t right behind those walls in the first place. So, read on.

Ground Water AROUND Your House

A house is supposed to be built so that rain water does not collect around it. Water that hits your roof should flow into gutters, not overflow the sides of gutters or slip through gaps between the roof and gutters. From there, it should flow freely until it reaches the downspouts, unobstructed by leaves and debris. Then, it should pass through the downspouts without backing-up, and exit at the bottom onto sloping ground that directs the water away from the house, or into above-ground or underground drain pipes that carry it away from the house.

If your roof water is not flowing this way, the solution depends on the problem. Gutters can be realigned, secured, cleaned-out, and have gutter covers installed on them. Drain pipes can be added, lengthened, or repaired. And the ground can be re-graded so that water flows away from your house. Fix St Louis can help.

Ground Water UNDER Your House

It’s actually NORMAL to have ground water under your house — as long as the water level is low enough so that it doesn’t reach your basement floor. If it’s getting too high, and after first doing everything you can to minimize the amount of ground water around your house as discussed above, the next remedy is a sump pump system. If you don’t already have a sump pump, it’s a pretty big job to put one in, requiring among other things, jackhammering-out a channel around the perimeter of your floor, not to mention a big round hole for the pump itself. If your house has already been prepared for a sump pump, make sure there’s actually a sump pump in that big round hole, that it’s actually working, and that the water from that pump that exits your house is directed away from your home.

Ceilings With an Attic Above

If there are water stains on a ceiling that has an attic above it, like upstairs bedrooms and hallways, you now have, or once had, a roof leak. Usually these leaks don’t come from random holes in shingles, but from where other items meet the roofing — like vent pipes and chimney bricks. In this regard, you may hear contractors throw around the word “flashing,” which does NOT mean a naked person is running around on the top of your roof. It refers to metal used to fill the gaps between those items and the roof. Sealants like caulk are needed, too.

Windows and Doors

If you have water coming in around windows and doors, Fix St Louis can eliminate your problems by patching brick mortar, caulking inside and out, replacing or repairing rotted exterior trim, and replacing door weatherstripping, thresholds, and door sweeps.

So, good news. If you’ve got problems with water coming into your house this winter, you don’t have to move to a Florida training camp or a water-tight domed stadium. All you need is a capable ground crew. And that would be Fix St Louis.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

If your STORM door was worthless during the snow storm, why do you even have one?

Ever wonder why the flimsiest thing on the outside of your house, that combination screen/glass door blocking your real door, is of all things called a STORM door? Didn’t help much during the snow storm this week, did it? Wouldn’t you think something called a STORM door would look sturdier, like the hatch doors on Auntie Em’s storm cellar?

Those so-called Storm Doors are also not much help when you’re carrying-in a package, are they? They spring back to whack you in the you-know-where. Geez, like you REALLY needed that little extra bit of encouragement to keep walking that Amazon package into your house.

So, maybe it’s time to ask Fix St Louis to just REMOVE your nuisance Storm Door, patch-up the exposed damage left behind, and call it good. On the other hand, maybe there are actually good reasons to keep your Storm Door, fix it when it breaks, or even ADD a new one!

I’m sure you never imagined having to suffer through a history lesson delivered by a handyman, but this short one may prove helpful. Once upon a time there were these things called Storm Windows, another outside layer of windows, designed to insulate houses better from cold air than windows alone. Storm Windows had a cousin named the Storm DOOR designed to do the same thing for doors, because many doors had windows (glass panes) built-in.

But then, Man created the double-paned glass window, which made the Storm Window obsolete, and then extinct, just like the dinosaur. Yet, Storm DOORS continue to walk the Earth, even though real doors ALSO now have doubled-paned glass. So for decades, homeowners have wondered why the double-paned-glass meteor that struck the Storm Window only grazed the Storm Door, merely giving it a flesh wound.

By the count of your humble correspondent, these are the four best reasons that Storm Doors have not met their maker:

  • If your entry door happens to be in a dark section of your house without windows, you can open that door and the Storm Door will let light in.
  • If you have one of those louvered fans on a hallway ceiling, you can open your door, and let the screen in a Storm Door provide a large opening for fresh air to be sucked into your house. Even without that fan, it’s a larger opening for fresh air than any window.
  • When those darling little boy/girl scouts or trick-or-treaters knock on your door, you can talk to them and get your money to pay them, all without slamming a door in their face, or having Fido or Felix run out of your house.
  • If you live in Minnesota, they’re great at keeping snow drifts away from your front door. Oh, I forgot. Minnesota is outside our service area. Never mind!

So, call Fix St Louis if you have a good reason to add or fix a Storm Door, or if you would prefer to have one our talented surgeons perform a Storm-Door-ectomy. But however you decide, don’t let that Storm Door hit you on your way out.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

Will Trick-or-Treaters Think that  YOU Live in a Haunted House?

It’s not surprising that ghosts live in homes that look haunted — keeping-up with exterior repairs is just not their thing. Look, I’m just a handyman who spends his days listening to gurgling noises coming from toilets, not listening to the dead. But I HAVE heard that ghosts are completely preoccupied obsessing over unresolved issues from their time on Earth — like strained relationships, unrequited love, or losing a close election for President.

Unfortunately, it’s all too easy for non-ghost homeowners to fall into this same trap, allowing the front of their homes to slip into disrepair simply by not paying attention. For instance, how many people these days return home when it’s dark, pull into their driveway, then enter their house from a door inside the garage? They might never notice the small things visitors see that make a house look neglected, if not haunted.

At Fix St Louis, we don’t get rid of ghosts, but we do remove the tell-tale signs that a house may be haunted, or suggest the inhabitants may either be recluses or stark-raving mad. Here’s how:

Non-Working Doorbell — When we at Fix St Louis visit a house, you may notice that we BOTH ring the doorbell AND knock. It’s not that we’re OCD, or neurotic, or anything like that. It’s that so many of you don’t have doorbells that work. You may already know about these new RING doorbells that alert you to folks at your door through your smartphone, and can even show you what they look like. Sure, we install those. But we can also fix the system you have right now and, if the wiring is hopelessly screwed-up, install a wireless unit.

Leaning Mailboxes — If a leaning tombstone tells you that a cemetery is really old, what does a leaning mailbox say about your house? Worse still, it’s the first thing visitors see as they’re reading all the street numbers on mailboxes trying to find your house in the first place! Fix St Louis can replant your mailbox post, but it’s probably time for us to simply replace it.

Tilting Sidewalk Slabs & High Step To Porch

The concrete slabs on the way to your front porch settle and, yes, it makes a house look old. But worse than that, they can create trip hazards, particularly when that last slab to the front porch has sunk really low and your visitors don’t notice they have to lift their foot higher-than-usual to reach it. If you don’t want to have your house haunted by someone who broke their hip and never recovered, let Fix St Louis help you solve this problem.

Dark Lights

There are many reasons front door lights don’t come on when it’s dark. Sometimes it’s because homeowners forget to flip the light switch, sometimes it’s because replacing burned-out bulbs is put-off because the bulbs are difficult to change, sometimes it’s a timer that wasn’t reset after a power outage, and sometimes the light fixture simply broke and was never fixed or replaced. One of our favorite solutions is installing dusk-to-dawn sensors that can operate one or more lights, and screwing-in long-lasting LED bulbs. That way, homeowners can pretty much stop thinking about their lights turning on and off when they’re supposed to. But whatever your issue, Fix St Louis can handle it.

Detached Shutters

If your shutters are slipping or pulling away from your house, Fix St Louis can repair them. We can also replace shutters entirely, which is less expensive than you think.

Cracked Window Glass

Maybe you’ve been ignoring small cracks in your windows. But, it’s good to have these broken glass panes replaced for reasons of safety, insulation, and what-will-your-visitors-think. A lot of folks think a crack means that the entire window needs to be replaced. Not true, it’s usually just about the glass. Fix St Louis can help.

Powerwashing

At Fix St Louis, we see a lot of dirty vinyl siding, particularly on the walls of covered front porches. That’s because in many cases porch siding never gets any sun, so stays moist and provides a good place for mold to grow. Keep in mind that Fix St Louis specializes in small jobs, so there’s no reason to think we’ve got to powerwash your entire house. And while you’re thinking about it, check-out the siding on the north side of your house which, like your porch, may be getting very little sunlight.

Hey, you’re contributing heavily to your community this Halloween — in over-the-top front lawn decorations, messy pumpkin-carving, mini-Snickers bars, and in so many other ways. Why create all that goodwill among your neighbors, only to have trick-or-treaters dish to their parents about THAT house on the street that just so happens to be yours? When it’s light outside, spend a couple of minutes in front of your house, and think about how your house looks to others. When you’ve recovered from the shock, call Fix St Louis. There’s nothing to be afraid of.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

Dare to go out in public keyless

Well, you can now add home repair to the list of industries in which so-called “smart” products have been introduced, insinuating that everything and everyone that came before were “dumb.” Not that anyone ever referred to humble handymen like yours truly as geniuses, but still.

The latest thing is keyless door entry locks. The newly-disparaged “stupid” lock and key, that has served mankind faithfully for millennia, is being replaced by electronic combination locks that communicate with the Internet.

Is this a great leap forward for homeowner-kind? Is it time to ask Fix St Louis to install them? You be the judge:

Kid Management

Back in my day, kids were forced to wear their house keys around their necks so they wouldn’t lose them, a practice that today would lead to parent arrests for felonious violation of self-esteem. But with these new keyless locks, you don’t have to worry about them losing their keys, just about them losing their minds and forgetting the combination. Another advantage is that you can give all your family members separate codes, and set-up text alerts, so you can know that your kids got home safely each day without making those daily phone calls.

Irrational Fear Management

Wondering whether you locked the front door before you drove away ranks second only to wonder whether you left the oven on, as the greatest cause of ruining the first 30 minutes of a workday or vacation. Now you can check and lock the door from your smart phone.

Spreading Keys All-Over-the-Place Management

Seems like it would be a good idea to leave a set of keys with the neighbors in case of emergency, but what if your neighbors are just plain creepy? And what about giving keys to just about every home contractor (other than Fix St Louis), who have not run criminal background checks and are not insured for theft? And giving keys to that housekeeper you’re never quite sure isn’t dipping into your jewelry box or liquor cabinet? And giving keys to those lovable, but absent-minded house guests? Instead of keys, you can give them their own temporary combination, then erase it when they don’t need it anymore.

Beefing-up Your Security System

Supposedly, you can now do cool things that link the act of entering the wrong lock combination too many times to actions by your other security systems. Maybe you can, I dunno, flood them with lights, take pictures of them, send video to the police department, play Barry Manilow music at ear-splitting volumes, hit them with a taser, deliver a non-lethal electrical shock, or whatever else tech geeks can think-up these days. But be careful – the tumbler-fumbler is more likely to be your kid or elderly parent than an intruder.

Maybe this is progress. But, I think it’s debatable that a child being greeted by a lock-deactivating electronic signal from a parent, instead of a steaming bowl of SpaghettiOs, represents human progress. Either way, for lock installation, it’s still a smart choice to call Fix St Louis.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

Make your house look more like Buckingham Palace

With the President’s visit to Buckingham Palace last week, we were all given a glimpse of how the Queen’s living accommodations compare to those of St Louisans. Sure, her place is real nice and all that, but before you lapse into Queen-envy, you might want to count your blessings. After all, she has a son who has now reached retirement age without ever holding a real job.

The good news is that there are many things you can do to close the appearance gap between your house and Buckingham Palace. Here are just a few ways Fix St Louis can help you live more like a Royal:

Crown Molding

Sometimes it’s the little touches that turn a room from good to great, and installing crown molding around a ceiling perimeter can do just that. Mostly, Fix St Louis is asked to install crown molding in dining rooms, living rooms, and master bedrooms. And if you really want to increase the “wow” factor, consider installing a style called “dentil trim” (see picture below). I suppose it was given a name similar to a dentist because the design looks like teeth, except the gaps between the teeth are about as wide as the teeth themselves. Why the big gap? I don’t know, but based on this handyman’s personal observations, it’s possible the British may not recognize good dentistry when they see it.

Dentil Crown Molding

Beneath the Crown

If you want to take this crown molding thing up a notch, there are ways Fix St Louis can complement this look on the walls below. The most popular request is adding a chair rail, which also provides a decorating option to paint or wallpaper the areas above and below the chair rail differently.

Now, you don’t have to go full-Brit to make things look right. Like hanging red velvet wallpaper. Or mounting shiny gold carvings of lions standing on their hind legs, facing and giving high-fives to each other. But you might want to consider adding beneath the chair rail something known as “picture framing,” white trim configured into a series of rectangles (see picture below).

Picture Framing

Doors

Many of you already know about spiffing up your interior doors by having Fix St Louis replace them with raised panel doors (see picture below). At the risk of sounding more like a hairdresser than a handyman, they can make your doors go from flat to fabulous.

Raised Panel Door

And there are all kinds of fancy-schmancy things you can do to your FRONT door. Frankly, these designs seem less British than French and Greek to me. But until Brexit happens, if all these nations want to act like they’re one big happy country, I suppose we can too.

For some mysterious reason, all of these decorative elements begin with the letter “p”. “Plinths” are the blocks at the bottom, and they are generally fairly plain. “Pilasters” are the column-looking elements sitting on the plinths, and often they are fluted, i.e. they have a series of curved channels in them. “Pediments” are the decorative element immediately above the door that spans its entire width. The most common designs are a triangular design that peaks mid-door, a curly, swirly French-looking design, and designs that mimic sunbursts, mantel shelves, and crown molding. See picture below.

Decorative Door Trim with Pediment and Fluted Pilasters

Coffered Ceilings

So far, we’ve been discussing walls and doors, but there are also some pretty dramatic ways that Fix St Louis can transform your ceilings. It’s not uncommon for homes to have exposed beams across their ceilings, sometimes looking like stained or painted wood. Now imagine running several beams across your ceiling at right angles, creating a grid pattern. Maybe even lining the perimeters of each cell with crown molding. See the picture below for an example of a “coffered” ceiling.

Coffered Ceiling

Your home is already your castle. Let’s work together to make home improvements that upgrade it to a palace, with Fix St Louis pick-up trucks as your carriages, and our technicians as your servants. Wouldn’t you be honored to have the Queen select your house as her St Louis home whenever she attends the Stanley Cup finals? I, for one, can imagine it. In fact, I think I just heard her ask for a beer.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

Was your front entrance super-creepy BEFORE the Halloween decorations went up?

For many homeowners, Halloween serves as a once-a-year reminder of a couple of things. First, that they actually HAVE neighbors (and strangely, every one of them seems to have kids). And second, that they HAVE a front door. The rest of the year they enter through the garage, and would never think to ANSWER the door because it might be an axe murderer.

So, it’s not surprising that by the time Halloween rolls around, their front entrances show the same level of neglect, and about as much charm, as an abandoned haunted house. Fortunately, there’s Fix St Louis, and we can exorcise many of the disrepair demons that might scare away small children.

  1. Doorbells – Let’s start with the most basic Halloween need – a doorbell for trick-or-treaters to ring. As someone who spends his days wandering subdivisions and visiting homes, based on my daily unscientific sample, I swear nearly half of homeowners have doorbells that do not work. Many even have a hole at the place you should put your finger, sometimes making me wonder if it’s not some sick plot to administer a lethal electric shock to unwelcome solicitors. Fix St Louis can fix or replace your doorbell. We can even install one of those fancy new “RING” doorbells that sends an image of the button-pusher to your cell phone, so you can make an informed decision on whether or not this person actually IS an axe murderer.
  2. Outdoor Lighting – Many people still have their house’s original tinny wall lanterns at their front doors, and inelegant lamp posts in their yards. Are yours rusty, dusty, and only come on (if they come on at all) when you flip an inside light switch, which you never do? Replacement lights are surprisingly inexpensive and often come with dusk-to-dawn sensors so they function like they should – on when it’s dark, off when it’s light – without you ever having to think about it.
  3. Wood Rot – Look down – at the bottom of the white trim around your front door, and at the base of your porch columns. Are they rotted? Fix St Louis can fix that.
  4. Front Porch Floor and Walkway – Cracks in your front porch concrete floor? Have your sidewalk slabs shifted like leaning tombstones in an old graveyard, so they no longer line-up and have created trip hazards? Has the concrete step up to your front porch sunk so much that you have to put a little spring in your step to reach the porch, creating yet another trip hazard? These are all fixable.
  5. Holiday Decoration Lighting – Do you have electrical outlets on the front of your house for plugging in holiday lighting? Or do you end up with a bunch of extension cords strung throughout your porch and yard, then poking into a slightly opened door or window? Fix St Louis can clean this all up by adding outlets on the outside of your house, your porch, and your yard.

So this Halloween, make those costumed (or real) little monsters and their parents feel welcome at your door. Or at the very least, prevent them from talking about your house as THAT house, where the people must be cranky, penniless, and lonely hermits who don’t keep their house up. Let’s face it – for better or worse, you’ve got neighbors, and you’ve got a front door. You might as well make the best of it.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100