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.

Spend your Andrew Yang $1K bonus HERE to fight climate change

After watching the Democrat debate, in which candidate Andrew Yang promised every American $1,000 per month, I had trouble falling asleep. As I laid in bed awake, counting drips from a leaking bathtub spout instead of sheep, I imagined what it would be like if we handymen formed our own political party – I dunno, maybe called the “House Labor” party. And we ran our OWN candidate for president. Is this so crazy?

After all, who understands the American household better than a Fix St Louis handyman? Well, at least the part of the household that is LITERALLY the house. And, who LITERALLY acts more like a “servant,” us handymen or so-called “public servants”? And who LITERALLY bends over backwards to serve our fellow Americans, a politician or our guys tightening the cold water faucet under your kitchen sink?

I guess I’ve got to accept that we handymen just don’t have much clout. A politician can say a computer model has now predicted it’s gonna be a COUPLE OF DEGREES warmer a HUNDRED YEARS from now, and it’s met with the rending of garments and the gnashing of teeth. But when we handymen humbly advise that the average temperature in St Louis will drop by FORTY DEGREES in the next FOUR MONTHS, it’s met with a shrug.

So anyway, if you’ll humor me for a moment, let me present the climate change platform of the House Labor party for the next few months.

1. Whole House Fan

We’re now entering a season in which the outside nighttime temperature will be a comfortable 72 degrees or less. So wouldn’t it be nice if you could turn-off your air conditioner at night, and instead bring that COOL, CLEAN air into your house (no, obviously we’re not talking to you, our beloved customers in Sauget, Illinois).

Well, there’s actually an easy way to do this. Ever see on the hallway ceiling of a house, maybe your own, a large metal square with louvers? That’s a “whole house fan” (BTW, not an “attic fan,” but that’s for another time). When you open your windows and turn it on, cool air flows right into your house. Fix St Louis can install and replace whole house fans.

2. Insulation

Have you ever seen that pink fuzzy stuff on the floor of your attic? If it’s less than 9″ deep anywhere in your attic, you need some more. Fix St Louis can handle that.

3. Weatherstripping

Can you see daylight around the sides or bottom of any of your outside doors? If light can get through, so can cold air. Fix St Louis can do a bunch of things to fix that. We can realign your door, which might also make it easier to open and close. We can replace the rubbery strips on the door frame sides, known as “weatherstripping.” We can adjust the threshold that sits beneath the door. And we can replace the rubbery strip attached to the bottom of the door, known as a “door sweep.”

Look, we at Fix St Louis are simply your humble servants. We’re not going to fine, use force, or imprison you if you DON’T do these things, unlike some other public servants we might mention. But if these small projects can help you adapt to the imminent climate change, and some nice young man named Andrew Yang says he’ll give you the money to pay for it, what’s not to like?

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

There’s no reason to suffer though labor pains

On behalf of all of our fellow persons of labor, Fix St Louis wants you to know how humbled we are by your decision to celebrate us, of all people, this Labor Day weekend. I mean, I think we can all agree that VETERANS have earned their own day for celebrating their accomplishments. And I’m not going to say that fixing toilets and stuff is not ALSO important to preserving our unalienable rights. But anyway, golly gee, thanks.

To tell you the truth, based upon Fix St Louis‘ daily chats with homeowners, I have to wonder if Labor Day Weekend might have been invented so there would be at least 3 days out of 365 in a year when homeowners DIDN’T complain about their home repair contractors. The unreturned calls, the no shows, the rip-offs, the botched jobs, and the jobs that seem to go on forever-and-ever. Believe me, we hear it all.

But I’ve always sensed that much of this disgruntlement comes from homeowners’ frustrations from being at the mercy of a home repair contractor industry, whose work, and the way it is organized, they never fully understand. So as our Labor Day gift to you, let Fix St Louis help you overcome your labor pains by sorting it all out.

“Chuck in a Truck”

You know these folks, and probably even hired one at one time or another. These are the guys, sometimes with helpers, that drive up and down your subdivision all day long, who seem to do every type of home repair. Some are actually quite good – you’ll know who they are by how long they say you’ll have to wait for their services.

But hiring a Chuck in a Truck is high-risk, even if your neighbor Sally swears up-and-down about what a nice young man he was, and what a good job he did hanging her mirror. Did she perform a criminal background check on this nice young man (in my experience about 25% are convicted felons)? Can she tell if his work was done correctly to professional standards, or how well he could do your job if it’s anything other than hanging a mirror? Did she check to make sure “Chuck” had insurance so that if her house were damaged she would be made whole? Did she find his customer service rep to be responsive, and find helpful customer ratings on the Internet (sorry, I just threw those in as a joke)? To ask these questions is to answer them.

“The Tradesmen”

OK, now we’re moving-up another notch in the professionalism area. Here, I’m talking about individuals and companies that SPECIALIZE in a single trade, the big ones being plumbing, electrical, carpentry, roofing, siding, and heating & air conditioning.

You gotta be careful in this area because it is VERY EASY to draw wrong conclusions. Let’s say you ASSUME that SPECIALISTS are always better. And you’ve got a visibly obvious problem with a leaky pipe near or within a wall. Is it really best to hire a high-priced plumbing company to fix a leak any repairman could handle, then find someone else to repair your water-damaged drywall, or the cuts the plumbers needed to make in drywall, tiles, and floors to get access to the plumbing problem?

And, let’s say you ASSUME that the MOST CREDENTIALED tradespeople are always the best. There is not enough space here to explain what credentials like “licensed” really mean. And how the system can make it really, really difficult for even the best practitioners to get those credentials, while many lesser practitioners can. And how a license in a broad area like plumbing does not mean that the individual has experience with a broad range of issues within plumbing. And how when you hire a company that claims to be “licensed” it usually doesn’t mean that the person they send to your house is. Now, it’s not like these credentials don’t mean anything at all, but if you lean toward the view that, as in many other industries, these credentials were originally put in place by existing practitioners trying to increase their wages and protect their own interests, and they are kept in place by politicians who like their donations, you will swerve closer to the truth.

“General Sub-Contractors”

You’ve heard the term “General Sub-Contractors” that describes companies that handle larger projects, haven’t you? Uh, no you haven’t, because I just made up that term when I typed the last sentence.

Just be aware that most of the companies that handle large jobs and call themselves General Contractors, or Roofing Companies, or Siding Companies, or Whatever Companies, consist of a skeletal staff of sales and office staff employees, who subcontract out their work to who-knows-who, who are NOT employees, are likely not background-checked like employees, and can’t be controlled like employees. In other words, the folks working at your house are who-knows-who, who are employees of who-knows-what. Gee, what could POSSIBLY go wrong?

“Fix St Louis”

The last category of contractors is called “Fix St Lou…”. Hey, wait a minute – THAT’S US! Geez, I swear, I did not see that coming! We’re in a category all by ourselves. One-stop shopping across all trades, for all your home repairs. Technicians who are our OWN employees. So we know all about their non-existent criminal and drug histories, their skill levels, and their easy-to-work-with personalities, at least when we actually pay them on payday (just kidding).

Well, I’m sorry if I took time away from your time to celebrate us, on Labor Day weekend. At least you spent a part of it reflecting on the true meaning of Labor Day, whatever that might be. But, we graciously give you our blessings if you want to think good thoughts about Fix St Louis the other 362 days of the year.

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