Was it just me? Or did it seem like the week started with experts telling us to wash our hands, and ended with them telling us to GO home, STAY there, and DON’T COME OUT ’til we SAY SO. Maybe they should be pacing themselves, because after one week all that’s left is “go to your room without dinner” and “wait ’til your father gets home.”
Now, I’m not sure about this, but I don’t think these rules apply to those of us in essential service businesses, like Fix St Louis and the Amazon delivery guy. So don’t worry about us — we’ve got plenty of stuff to do.
But, what are YOU going to be doing with all that time at home, when you can’t go to work, school, sporting events, concerts, or flee markets? What are YOU going to do after you’ve watched every last cat video on the Internet? Stare at the walls?
I say, YES, stare at the walls — only don’t forget the ceilings. Folks always talk about taking time to smell the flowers, but that’s just in your garden beds. Take the time to stare at your walls and ceilings looking for cracks and leaks. Take the time to sniff under the kitchen sink for mildew. Not to get carried away, but take the time to open (and close) EVERY door that comes before you, to see if they properly latch.
I know, I know. These words may be inspirational to me, your humble handyman, but they aren’t the kind of words-of-wisdom stuff that make it onto your teens’ wall posters. Still, that doesn’t mean it isn’t good advice.
So as a public service during these perilous times, let Fix St Louis offer for your consideration the following worthwhile activities for when you are self-quarantined and run out of things to do, And it’s just you and your house. And nobody else.
Maybe you’ve never noticed or cared about whether or not your door bell works. But, that was before the day-before-yesterday, when the aforementioned Amazon delivery guy became the lifeline for your basic human needs. To paraphrase (and butcher) an age-old question about a tree falling in a forest, if a package is delivered on your front porch and doesn’t make a sound, does it do you any good? What’s more, if you have Fix St Louis install one of those new VIDEO door bells, you can even watch Amazon-guy run back to his truck.
If a door doesn’t close all the way, what good is it? It’s there for a reason. To keep people out, or to keep water out, or to keep cold air out. Do they keep viruses out? I suppose. Maybe that’s why they sent us home in the first place.
Do you have windows that drop like a guillotine when you let go, like something out of the French Revolution? Now, I’m not thinking you’re going to have much use for a guillotine — that the experts predict this stay-at-home thing will last so long that your subdivision neighbors will be violently scavenging for dwindling supplies of water and toilet paper. So, you might as well get these windows fixed by Fix St Louis.
Do you have brown or black stuff on the caulk around the ledge of your bathtub or base of your shower? Now, I’m no CDC microbiologist, but that gunk can’t be doing your body any good. Let Fix St Louis replace that dirty caulk with white or clear stuff that at least LOOKS like it might be sterile.
OK, that should be enough to keep you busy for at least a couple of hours, while also doing good things for your house and family. So, here’s a suggestion for when that’s done, and you’re tired of watching YouTube cat videos. Have you ever Googled for videos of animals with unusual best friends? You’re welcome.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.