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

Could it really be the FIXmas season, already? Those few weeks before Christmas when the reason for the season is getting your house in shape for holiday guests?

No time to waste! Let’s kick things off, turn to page 12 in your FixSt Louis songbook, and this time I want to hear EVERYONE singing, even those of you way back in the cul-de-sacs:

On the 12th day of FIXmas, my handyman fixed for me:
12 toilets running,
11 dryers venting,
10 drains a-leaking,
9 mirrors hanging,
8 doors weather-stripping,
7 outlets sparking,
6 tiles a-laying,
5 wax toi-let ri-ings,
4 falling shelves,
3 French doors,
2 pendant lights above,
And an off-track do-or on a pan-try.

Wow, I’m going to need a minute to compose myself. That FIXmas classic never fails to bring to a tear to this old handyman’s eyes.

But, there’s work to be done, so let’s wrap-up with one more timeless favorite. Let me hear you on 1, 2, 3…

It’s beginning to look a lot like FIXmas,
Everywhere you go.
Take a look at the caulk and grout,
’round your shower and bathtub spout,
And clogged drains causing sinks to overflow.

It’s beginning to look a lot like FIXmas,
Cracked tiles on every floor.
But the best thing there is to know,
there’s still time before guests show,
At your own front door!

Merry Christmas and Many Happy Repairs from Fix St Louis!

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

Gain Control of the House that Matters Most

As your humble handyman who drives round and round through your cul-de-sacs every day, I pick-up some unique takes on life. For instance, occasionally my pick-up truck gets chased by dogs, but once they catch up they have NO IDEA what to do with it. Now, not to equate politicians with dogs but — OK, so let’s go ahead and equate politicians with dogs — after these horrible every-two-year chases to gain control of the House, does either party ever remember why they wanted it in the first place, and do much of anything differently? So, what’s the point?

So, I’ve got a modest proposal. Instead of spending all that time, anxiety, anger, hate, and dirty special interest money on elections to the U.S. House of Representatives, why not spend it on your OWN HOUSE, to benefit the best special interest there is — you and your family. There’s no need to feel guilty or selfish — this country was founded in part so you could “pursue happiness,” like living in a nice home. On the other hand, how much “happiness” did you see from anybody in the latest pursuit to control Congress?

So, where do you begin to gain control of YOUR house? Well, it makes no sense to call politicians for the answer because they don’t know anything. Hey, let’s call the police! You see, years ago, they invented a program called “Zero Tolerance” that seems to work everywhere it’s tried. The idea is that you fix even the smallest problems, like a crack in a window. This sets a new higher standard for what is acceptable in your home maintenance — that even the smallest problem must be fixed. Next thing you know, the bigger problems REALLY get noticed and stand out, and they get fixed, too. And they keep getting fixed in the future.

Based on our experience repairing homes like yours, here’s a suggested list of small things that may need fixing:

Ten Biggest Small Repairs for Zero Tolerance Program

  1. A door bell that doesn’t work.
  2. Cracks in your walls.
  3. Water stains on your ceilings.
  4. Interior doors that don’t click shut.
  5. Front door with light peeking-out along sides and bottom.
  6. Rotted outside trim at the bottoms of entry or garage doors.
  7. Sliding or bi-fold closet doors that don’t stay on their tracks.
  8. Windows that won’t stay open.
  9. Wetness from leaky drains below kitchen and bath sinks.
  10. Yucky caulk around your shower base or bathtub ledge.

Zero Tolerance is a good game to play this time of year. Imagine that your nosiest, most fastidious, and most critical relatives will be coming over for Thanksgiving. Now imagine your house the way THEY see it. How would that make you feel? If that doesn’t work, imagine that the Attorney General has just hired a Special Prosecutor to dig into the state of your home maintenance, and can potentially embarrass you, destroy your career, and maybe even put you in jail. Got it? It’s OK, everything will be all right. Here’s our phone number at Fix St Louis, 314-434-4100.

Now, go forth boldly, ignore every single self-help guru who has ever lived, and SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF! Your house will be in better shape and you and your family will be happier. One exception — technically, the US House is small stuff. They should just be ignored.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

The Undocumented Migrants Now Heading to YOUR House

While you have been watching the TV drama play-out, thousands of Hondurans and Guatemalans marching toward our borders, you may have been missing a different type of invasion that is literally happening all around you – one that may impact you much more directly.

As someone who’s had the privilege of living the American Dream of home ownership, you may not realize that YOUR home IN PARTICULAR is the envy of literally thousands. And as the weather has gotten colder, these individuals have become MORE emboldened, and are ready to cross your borders, penetrate your walls, and move in with you without your permission.

But there’s good news. In this case, nobody will accuse you of being a racist, bigot, or xenophobe if you refer to them as “pests,” fortify your walls, or even call for their extermination! So, let’s get to work:

Woodpeckers
Notice any perfectly round holes, maybe a couple of inches in diameter, cut into the sides of your home – sometimes accompanied by a soundtrack of repetitive knocking sounds? Looks like you’ve taken on a woodpecker as a tenant, living the good life without the burdens of rent or a mortgage. Now it’s not enough to call Fix St Louis to simply patch that hole because, once we’re done, the freeloader is likely to return, this time carving-out another entrance just a few inches away. So, we’ll work with you in conjunction with a pest control company (we like ASAP All Seasons All Pests at 314-757-6846) to trap the woodpecker first, then relocate him to a place far, far away where he can fully live out the remainder of his adult life (or at least that’s the story you can tell your kids!).

Squirrels
Sure they’re cute, but beneath those pleasant demeanors lurk aggressive, persistent, and surprisingly strong creatures that are fiercely protective of their families. They chew holes in roofs and siding, and poke their way into those under-hanging soffits beneath roofs, before turning your attic into a penthouse for their families. Once again before Fix St Louis fixes the damage, like with woodpeckers, they need to be transported to VERY remote locations, including squirrel “heaven” (yes, that’s the story to tell your kids).

Carpenter Bees
You know, I feel a little bad about dishing on carpenter bees given that they, like Jesus, chose to associate with our profession. But frankly, I’m not all that impressed with their carpentry work, which mostly consists of drilling holes in decks and interior trim that house their baby nests, and are used during hibernation. Sometimes these holes are elongated horizontally by woodpeckers who either think they can improve upon the bees’ artistry or like to snack on nested bee babies. We can patch these holes, which often seems like enough to make them relocate themselves, but if you’ve got a lot of them you might want to consult a pest specialist for treatment.

Termites
Now THESE are the ISIS terrorists of the pest world, and they must be shown no mercy. They sneak into homes undetected, then start EATING your floors and structural framing of your house, for gosh sakes, with their work often going undetected FOR YEARS! The visible traces of their work on exposed surfaces are often pretty subtle, like a thin mud-colored line or puffed-out surfaces. But once the underlying damage is exposed it’s usually shocking.

First step is to bring in a pest control company to map-out the damage (doing even more damage to your house just to fully expose the problem). Then, they’ll treat your house for termites. After that, call Fix St Louis to plug the holes and gaps in your exterior walls through which they entered (often ironically near the front door as if they’re dissing you for not having been invited). Then, we’ll restore your house to normal.

Spiders, Ladybugs, Boxelder Bugs, Stink Bugs
These guys often enter houses in September, and hibernate through the winter. They usually enter through the gaps in and around doors, windows, and siding. You should consider asking your pest control company whether having Fix St Louis patch holes or caulk gaps around your doors, windows, and siding might help.

Fully Documented Migrants
Unfortunately, there are also creatures who damage houses who are FULLY documented. Like dogs and cats. When it comes to their damage – we’re not proud – go ahead and think of Fix St Louis as the guys with the push brooms at the end of elephant parades. We can restore whatever they destroy.

Sorry to be pests who ruined your weekend, pointing out problems you didn’t know you had. But maybe we’re just the pests you need to protect and restore your home.

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

You need to hurricane-proof your house even though we’ll never get one

Watching Houston and now the Carolinas being pounded by hurricanes I’ve had two reactions. The first is I’m thankful it can’t happen here – we’ll never get their direct hurricane experience sitting out here in the heartland. But the second is that sometimes we DO get that type of weather, just dished out differently – shorter bursts of heavy downpours and powerful winds, and days instead of hours when the groundwater builds up to levels that can flood a house.

So the bottom line is, St Louisans need to hurricane-proof their homes even though we’ll never get one. But, where do you begin?

The first step is to go around your house to personally thank all the water stains, swelling drywall, wall cracks, and rotted wood along your outer walls. They have been trying to get your attention to tell you something important – water is entering your home around here and you’ll be sorry if you put off stopping these leaks until it’s too late. Here’s where to look first.

Windows
Check the tops of your window sills, the drywall on the sides and top, plus the corners on the side of each window ledge. See any water stains, peeling paint, rotted wood, or bulges in the wall? If you do, call Fix St Louis to stop the leak by caulking and flashing (no, not that kind), then restoring the damaged areas.

Entry Doors
On the outside, check the outside frame of your doors at the bottom for rotting. On the inside, look for water-stained floors and drywall damage at the bottom of the door frame on each side. Then call Fix St Louis to fix any leaks using the same techniques as for windows, plus realigning your door, and possibly replacing the weatherstripping, door sweep, and/or threshold.

Top Floor Ceilings
See any water stains on the ceilings of the rooms that are just below your attic? Call a roofer to fix your roof leak, then call Fix St Louis to restore and paint your damaged ceiling.

Basements
Has water been leaking through small cracks in your basement walls, or has your floor or carpeting next to finished walls been getting wet? Call a basement/foundation company to investigate and/or get that leak fixed, then call Fix St Louis to restore the damaged areas. You might also have to call a landscape company to change the slope of the ground so it directs water away from your house, or call us to clean your overflowing gutters.

So, beyond making donations, and hoping & praying for our fellow Americans in the Carolinas, let’s add a couple of things. Listen to the wet and damaged parts of your house and, when it comes to repairs, don’t wait for a rainy day.

Dr Steve

Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

Labor Pains: How contractors should REALLY be categorized

It’s Labor Day weekend, when we all relax and turn our attention to “labor” — although I’ve never been sure what exactly that requires us to do. Just as I’ve never been sure who or what we should be reflecting upon on “President’s Day.” For some reason, Labor Day just seems to make me think of eating a hot dog.

Well, just in case we’re supposed to be reflecting on “labor”, let us here at Fix St Louis tell you about something you should understand, but probably never did – how to categorize the laborers who fix homes like yours.

“Chuck in a Truck”
This type of home operation usually consists of a handyman and a pickup truck, plus a helper who sometimes tags along. Even though these folks individually might have VERY small businesses, collectively they do more home repairs than anyone else.

While some of these handymen are quite good, the list of their problems is quite long. Hardly a day goes by when homeowners like you don’t tell me about them. The problems begin the moment you are given a word-of-mouth referral from that well-meaning neighbor, friend, or relative, who told you about that nice young man who fixed something in their house.

So how much does this well-meaning individual KNOW about the handyman you are about to let into your home, and expose to your personal possessions and family members? Did they run a criminal background check or drug test? Do they know whether he has insurance to cover damage he might do to your home? (BTW, the answer is almost always “no”). Do they know what skills he actually has, across which trades, and the relative quality of their work in each? Do they know whether this handyman would even WANT your small job, letting bigger jobs from others get in the way? Do they know how consistently this person shows-up on time or shows-up at all? What they don’t know could hurt you, and often does. ‘Nuf said.

“The Specialists”
This category consists of companies organized around a single trade or area, usually plumbing, electrical, and HVAC (heating & air conditioning).

In my opinion, the reason so many repair companies are specialists has more to do with workers’ desire for higher wages and job security than what consumers actually ever wanted. It all started with some reasonable government regulation to ensure safety in home repairs. But as a segment of the workforce became organized. they began to exert influence over lawmakers based on good intentions, but also understandably out of their own self-interests. As a result, the government mandated recognition of specific, segregated skill areas, and protection from competition for skilled workers through a series of credentials and regulations. So now, for instance, if you call a plumber for a leak that has damaged your ceiling or walls when the plumber leaves, you will still need to call someone else to fix that damage.

“General Sub-contractors”
You may have heard the term “General Contractors” used to describe companies that can handle an ENTIRE large project, including all trades needed – e.g. plumbing, electrical, carpentry, painting, etc. But if you peek behind the curtain, most of these companies are really General SUB-contractors because they consist of a small skeleton sales and administrative staff who subcontract-out the work to others.

There are real downsides to homeowners that are baked into this standard company structure. For instance, think about what might go wrong simply because these contractors do not personally hire the actual workers entering your home – they do not personally check-out workers’ backgrounds, or screen them for things like their skills, temperament, immigration status, or criminal record. Also, let’s say something goes wrong in your job. These contractors don’t have the power to make things right by commanding these workers to return immediately and handle the problem without generating additional costs for you.

“Fix St Louis”
The last category of contractors is called “Fix St Lou…”. Hey, wait a minute – THAT’S US! Geez, almost forgot. We’re in a category all by ourselves. One-stop shopping 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.

Yup, you might say Fix St Louis has eliminated most of the labor of finding labor to fix your home. More good news – you have now met the minimum requirements for reflecting on labor on Labor Day. My apologies if your hot dog is no longer hot.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100