Home Alone: Worthwhile Activities for the Self-Quarantined

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.

Defective Door Bells

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.

Defiant Doors

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.

Wicked Windows

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.

Cruddy Caulk

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.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

On the 12th day of FIXmas, my handyman fixed for me…

It’s FIXmas season again, when the reason for the season is getting your home repairs done before the guests arrive. So, let’s get in the mood by singing an old-time favorite. And this time, I wanna hear the voices of EVERYBODY, even those of you WAY BACK in the cul-de-sacs. On three — one, and a two, and a…

On the 12th day of FIXmas, my handyman fixed for me…
12 doors not latching
11 walls for patching
10 toilets running
9 sinks need plumbing
8 drains a-leaking
7 floors a-creaking
6 tiles a-laying
5 WAX TOI-LET RINGS…
4 falling shelves
3 French doors
2 lights above
and a door tra-ack on a pan-try…

Wow. That FIXmas classic never fails to bring a tear to this old handyman’s eyes. All those Fix St Louis memories. Repairing all those broken, rotted, dirty, and damp things in your homes. What joyous times we had.

But you know, many folks don’t realize the FIXmas season extends well past Christmas, and into the new year. FIXmas is also a time to make home improvement New Years resolutions, and take those first steps to guarantee you will keep them. What about that bathroom or basement you always wanted to upgrade, but it’s now too close to the holidays to get that started? Fix St Louis operators are now standing by, waiting to take your reservations for dates in January, to make sure these projects will actually get done, and you can enjoy them all year long.

Seems like you’re kinda busy, so we’ll put-off singing more FIXmas classics, like Little Plumber Boy and Chuck-ie the Handyman. Meanwhile, let us know if we can help this FIXmas season, either before or after the new year. From all of us at Fix St Louis, Merry Christmas and Many Happy Repairs!

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

The other, lesser-known 12-step process that can bring your house to order

Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of praise for AA’s 12-step process for recovering alcoholics, often touted as one of the most successful self-improvement programs of all time. So, I was curious and looked it up on the web.

Now keep in mind that this old handyman doesn’t spend his days immersed in the world of big ideas. As they say, when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. And when all you have is a plunger, everything looks like a toilet.

So, it’s not all that surprising that when I read AA’s 12 steps, I was astonished by how well they fit the situation our home-owning customers find themselves in. Not that there is a perfect analogy between homeowners and recovering alcoholics, but I ask you to indulge me for a moment.

Let’s have Fix St Louis make some minor modifications to AA’s 12 steps. Imagine you are giving a pledge, and watch what happens:


  • I admit that after living with the same home defects for months, I am powerless to get the repairs done, and my home maintenance has become unmanageable.
  • I have come to believe that a Power with handyman skills greater than my own, or of my well-meaning spouse, can restore my house to order.
  • I have made a decision to turn my home’s brokenness over to the care of a competent handyman as I understand Him.
  • I will make a searching and fearless inventory of the shortcomings of my home.
  • I will humbly ask an even humbler handyman to remove said shortcomings.

Not a bad fit, is it? Maybe Fix St Louis can help by making suggestions on that “searching and fearless inventory” of things that need to be fixed, especially before the holiday guests arrive. How about that bathroom door that doesn’t quite latch, so can never be locked for privacy? Or that folding pantry door that has fallen off its tracks? Or that ominous stain on your living room ceiling, just beneath an upstairs toilet? Or that mailbox that is leaning, or doorbell that hasn’t worked for years?

Now, let’s not take this translation of AA’s 12 steps TOO far. For instance, you probably don’t need to make a list of all the friends and family members you’ve hurt over the last few years by your lack of diligence in home repairs. Or apologize and make amends to each and every one of them. OK, so maybe it’s just an 11-step process.

But, however many steps there are, the last one ought to be “Contact Fix St Louis.” So, let’s get going. Let’s put your house in order.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

Outside Your House: A Small World After All or a GE Carousel of Progress?

Virtually everyone who visits Disney World goes on the “It’s a Small World” ride, featuring hundreds of animated dolls dancing and singing to that same ear worm song you all know, as a tribute to today’s international unity and global peace. So it’s understandable why they had to locate it in “Fantasyland,” not far from the Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride.

But you need to go to “Tomorrowland” to see the favorite ride of Walt Disney himself. Originally launched as the “GE Carousel of Progress,” it’s a tribute to how electricity has made our lives better. The audience revolves around 4 stages, showing progressively more recent generations, as we follow the lives of a miraculously non-aging animatronic family. They sit amongst the newfangled electrical devices of their time, like horseless washing machines, sewing machines, and Victrolas, explaining how they can’t believe how good things are, and can’t imagine things ever being better.

The genius of Walt Disney was that he knew better than to locate that animatronic family OUTSIDE their house, where the so-called “Carousel of Progress” had pretty much stalled. Animatronic Granny would be complaining it’s too hot to sit outside during St Louis summers, and too cold during winters. Gramps would complain it was too dark to read the newspaper. Ma and Pa would be at each other’s throats fighting over whose turn it was to use that blasted weed whacker, with its unreliable 2-cycle engine, its stupid pull string, and that even stupider way to let out more trimming string by slamming its bottom on the driveway.

Yes, even the father of an imaginary mouse knew that opening such a ride might jeopardize his park’s credential as the “Happiest Place on Earth.” It would expose that lack of electrical progress has been confining homeowners to the small, small world of the inside of their houses.

It’s a shame that Walt did not live long enough to meet the folks here at Fix St Louis. Some might say we perform “magic” that brings outdoors the benefits of the electricity inside. That we are proverbial “Tinker Bells,” spreading pixie dust that allows homeowners’ outdoor life to take flight. OK, so nobody has ever said that. But still, here’s what we can do for you.

Sit Outside When It’s “Too Hot”

Installing a ceiling fan on a porch, or plugging a stand-up fan into an outdoor outlet, can make ALL the difference in being able to sit outside during our hot St Louis summers. Yeah, per the musical Cinderella, it may be impossible for a plain country bumpkin and a prince to join in marriage, and arguable that daft and dewey-eyed dopes keep building up impossible hopes, but at Fix St Louis impossible things are happening everyday! We can install outdoor ceiling fans and outdoor electrical outlets where none existed before, no problem. And it doesn’t require magic – or cost as much as you think.

Sit Outside When It’s “Too Cold”

And once you have that additional outdoor electrical outlet discussed above, you can use it when it’s cold out, too. Just plug in one of those inexpensive portable electrical heaters that provides direct heat to your body, not the kind meant to heat up an entire room. You’ll still want to wear clothes when you’re sitting on your porch for reasons I should not have to explain, but that heater can make sitting outside in the winter bearable, if not comfortable.

Trim Your Hedges

Using an electric hedge trimmer can be a real pain. Is there an outlet nearby? Do you have an extension cord long enough? Does that cord keep getting tangled in the bushes? Have you ever accidentally cut the extension cord with a trimmer? How do you wind-up and store an extension cord that may be more than 50 feet long?

These kinds of problems have already been solved for watering lawns and gardens. You buy a hose reel, store it near an outside faucet, pull out the amount of hose you need, and reel it back in when you’re done. Geez, wouldn’t it be nice to have a system like that for electricity, providing power for hedge trimmers and similar outdoor electrical devices?

Good news! In fact, an extension cord equivalent of the garden hose reel HAS been invented and has been available for years! Ever see an auto mechanic with a caged light bulb hanging from the bottom of an open car hood by a hook? Those are often connected to a reel, that the wire retracts into. You can buy one like the pictured model below, which has a 50′ long extension, with both an outlet and very powerful LED light at the end. Now, let’s say you have an electrical outlet just inside your garage door. You could mount this unit near that outlet, plug it in, and you would have a retractable extension cord that would reach a distance of two garage depths. For many folks, that’s enough to reach all their hedges.

Whip Your Weeds

FINALLY, someone has invented a practical replacement for the 2-cycle gas engine on weed whippers. New, rechargeable battery units provide plenty of power to slice-off weeds. And, there’s a slick way to handle all this without dragging your weed whipper and battery all through the house. Just mount the recharging unit near an outlet in the garage. Put the battery in it when you’ve finished the weed whipping, and reinstall the battery in the weed whipper when you are ready to do it again. No solution yet for extending that stupid trimming string. Guess that’s for the next time they update that last station on the Carousel of Progress.

Forgot to mention, Disney’s Carousel of progress has its own ear worm song, played every time the audience is revolving to the next stage. For some of you, the song “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” may still be reverberating in your head after several decades. I don’t know about the “great big beautiful part,” but as for “tomorrow,” a call to Fix St Louis can make your life outdoors a whole lot better. Right, Gramps?

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

Fall Edition:
What to do when things fall off your house

Sometimes it’s beautiful when things fall, like autumn leaves, Niagara Falls, and falling in love. For some falls, folks think better things came after, like the fall of Rome, the Berlin Wall, and Man’s fallen nature. But for most things that fall, it’s not good – you just want to get it fixed right away, and move on.

In the fallen world we at Fix St Louis live in, we see homeowners every day who are particularly rattled that something fell off their house. For starters, they struggle to figure out who to call, e.g. is there really any such thing as a “shutter-person”? And when they think they figured that out, they can’t imagine what contractor in their right mind would want to be bothered with such a stinkin’ small job.

Now, I’m not sure this is anything to brag about, but Fix St Louis is the ONLY contractor in town that specializes in these stinkin’ small jobs that nobody else wants to do. No job is beneath us! Geez, that didn’t sound too good, did it? But still, it’s something to keep in mind the next time you hear a thud, then find that one of the things listed below has plopped onto your lawn, or is precipitously dangling above it.

Shutters

Yes, Fix St Louis is pretty much the only place to call when a shutter has fallen off or is dangling from your house. But, why wait for that? Why not look-up at your shutters now and see if any of them are bowing away at a corner, or beginning to pull away from your house.

“There’s a thin sheet of something hanging from my roof, and I’m afraid it’s gonna fall and kill somebody”

It is not your fault, it’s ours, that you homeowners can never tell us what that something is. You see, we handy-people are really good at DOING WORK, but really bad at USING WORDS – you might say the exact inverse of a college professor. So, there are no good shorthand words for what you’re trying to describe. That thing homeowners are looking at is actually a very thin sheet of white aluminum that had been wrapped around lumber on an angled edge of their roof. It’s there to protect that lumber from rotting despite the intense sunlight, water, and temperatures it’s exposed to, and it’s a better alternative than paint, which would not hold up as well.

The short answer here is just call Fix St Louis then, like playing a game of charades, give us as many clues as we need until we figure out what you’re talking about, and we’ll take care of it. If you insist unnecessarily in speaking to us in handyman crypto-speak, we call that lumber the “roof fascia.” And we call the aluminum material either “trim coil,” which is a better description of what’s in the box it comes in, or “brake metal,” which is a better description of the machine we use to shape it. But “something hanging from my roof” is just fine. And BTW, it’s so light that if it falls it wouldn’t even crush a ladybug clinging to a blade of grass below.

Siding

Panels of siding can start detaching from a house, or even fall to the ground. If you can find them on your lawn or in your garden, that’s ideal for us – we’ll just put them back up. If you can’t, but happen to have a couple of extra siding panels in your garage, that’s next best. If you don’t, we’re actually very good at the additional stinkin’ small job of finding identical or very similar siding from a manufacturer, and painting it to match if needed. And in those very rare cases where the new siding is negligibly different in its shape profile, we can transplant siding from another part of your house that’s invisible, like behind a bush, and put the new stuff there.

People

The WORST thing that can fall off your house is you or a family member from a ladder, which may be the BEST reason to call Fix St Louis. And in the highly unlikely event that WE fell off a ladder, we protect you by carrying insurance and workers comp.

Just think of Fix St Louis as your “fall guys.” We’ll fall all over ourselves to make you a satisfied customer.