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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sometimes life just isn’t fair. Doesn’t it seem like if a house was built properly, and you don’t do anything crazy to abuse it, you should NEVER have to fix ANYTHING? Or worst case, if you DID have to fix something, it would STAY fixed forever and ever?
So what’s going on here? Are the Russians meddling? Can we blame that bruised and battered Mr Mayhem on those insurance commercials? Are manufacturers implanting timing devices so that everything they make eventually blows-up so you have to buy it again? (I swear, I am TOTALLY CONVINCED that IKEA does that!!!).
In search of answers, we assigned the Forensics Department of Fix St Louis to investigate why things in your home keep breaking. And possibly, to find solutions so that you could hire us once for one very thorough home repair job, then never have to hire us again.
What we learned is no less than SHOCKING! You are actually living with a number of “FRENEMIES” who are nice to you most of the time, but every once in a while turn on you and break things! Here are some of the prime culprits.
Sorry, I know you love Fido, and I’m sure he loves you, he means well, and blah blah blah. But he’s not just MAN’S best friend, but also HANDYMAN’S best friend. I once suspected that dogs, for whatever reason, liked handymen so much that they created work for them – after all, the doggie greeting we receive is as close that we handymen will EVER get to knowing what it’s like to be a rock star. But since then, I’ve decided it’s not HANDYMEN they love, but the front door we walk through, based upon the chewed weatherstripping and claw scratches on door slabs & surrounding casing trim. How do you keep your dog from doing that? I don’t have a clue, although it does seem that dogs, like most people, eventually stop doing stupid things when they realize they don’t work. When your dogs have reached that level of maturity, give us a call and we can fix that door damage forever.
They say that ‘the perfect is the enemy of the good’ and, at least this one time, “they” is right. So, you weed whipping cowboys out there, who feel an adrenaline rush whenever you have that powerful device in your hands, slow down and be careful when you’re up against vinyl siding, painted surfaces, or anything else that a whipping string can damage. Even if your spouse doesn’t agree, you do have OUR permission if you don’t eliminate every last offensively-tall blade of grass. But for those times you get carried away, we can replace cracked siding panels, and patch & paint pretty much any surface that’s gotten a whooping.
What could possibly be wrong with WATER? We bathe in it, it’s a zero calorie beverage and, geez, doesn’t it constitute most of our bodies? Hate to break this to you, but water has a dark side. It’s not only destructive when it gets into places it shouldn’t, but it’s also smart and sneaky, finding and penetrating even the SMALLEST openings that are around. While unlike fire, you can’t fight water with water, Fix St Louis can fight it with caulking, grout, flashing, and fittings. We can even substitute non-rotting substitutes for wood in outdoor house trim.
Just who are these insects and animals who have the misimpression that your casa is their casa? Yes, we can repair just about any damage woodpeckers, squirrels, raccoons, termites, carpenter bees, etc. etc. may create. But just as importantly, we work in conjunction with pest experts to make sure that these meddlers will never return, either because they can’t or because they have, ahem, met their maker.
That’s it for now. So, maybe we left out a few big meddlers like, I dunno, the Sun, wind, gravity, fire, locusts, smiting of the first born. While I guess some things are bigger than us to prevent, so far nothing has been too big for us to fix. Give us a chance, and Fix St Louis will fix just about anything any animal, vegetable, mineral, or spiritual-being throws at us.
We mourn the untimely passing of Aretha Franklin, one of the truly great voices of our time – someone who measured by today’s standards could even get Simon Cowell to stand up from his chair and hit the gold buzzer. Looking back, it seems like her 1967 hit “Respect” was perfectly timed, marking the end of an era in which Americans openly showed respect but didn’t talk about it, to our new era when Americans show a lot less respect, but can’t stop yapping about it.
So, we’re going to plead “guilty” to being dinosaurs, still following the pre-1967 rules for how to treat our customers. Sorry, but we at Fix St Louis just happen to think you deserve MORE than ‘just a little bit’ of respect:
No waiting, no wondering. We schedule FIRM, SPECIFIC times for our visits, not a time window, so you don’t have to sit around all morning or all day waiting for us to arrive. We also take away the wondering whether we’ll EVER show-up by sending confirmation emails and calling you when we are on our way, before the appointment time has arrived. After work begins, our technicians will “check-in” and “check-out” with you if they need to run out to pick-up a part, so that you can squeeze-in errands like a trip to Walgreens, the vet, or anywhere else. In fact, the only time we insist that you be present is at the very beginning to make sure there are no misunderstandings about the work you want done.
You will know EXACTLY what your job will cost in advance. Fix St Louis provides FREE estimates, and we provide FIRM prices. Since we don’t charge by the hour, you don’t have to take frequent nervous glances at your watch, worried about what it will all cost.
We’re there to FIX your home, not make ourselves AT home. We will minimize the “footprint” of our workspace so that we intrude as little as possible. And, we will haul away all debris and clean-up after ourselves. Also, no need to worry about your possessions – our technicians have passed criminal background checks and drug tests, they are bonded, they are covered by workers comp, and we carry liability insurance.
So, here’s a throwback from an earlier era. We won’t call you by your first name unless you request it. To us, you are Mr. Jones or Ms. Smith. It’s a small way for us to express that we are honored you selected us, that we fully acknowledge you are the boss, and that you deserve more than just a little bit of R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
There’s a line in the “Respect” lyrics that goes “Take care, TCB” which, thanks to the miracle of the Internet, I now know is short for “Taking Care of Business”. So, maybe Fix St Louis should change its slogan from “One Stop Shopping for Professional Home Repairs” to “R-E-S-P-E-C-T…that’s our way of T-C-B”. Hmmmm. Maybe Aretha had a gift that I don’t have. What do YOU think, Simon?
If anyone in the national media is guilty of producing “fake news”, I swear they must have learned it from the handyman industry. Fact of the matter is, my industry is so good at spreading falsehoods, we don’t even show-up on those Internet lists of least trusted professionals – even though by speaking to all of you, I KNOW handymen must be ranked somewhere between Members of Congress and OJ Simpson.
So as a public service, let me shine the light of truth on some of the drivel and balderdash you may hear from handymen, so you are better prepared in the future, should you make the questionable decision to hire anybody other than Fix St Louis.
I need to take a few days off to attend an uncle’s funeral
This usually means one of two things. Either your handyman would rather spend his time at a job more important to him than yours, or you will never see him again. It NEVER means he had an uncle who, like, died, or that he even ever HAD an uncle. Best advice is to immediately put yourself in a position where you won’t feel ripped-off if he never returns, which you probably wouldn’t want him to do anyway.
I’ll need full payment in advance (alt.
I need some more money to buy supplies)
No handyman should receive full payment, or excessive advance payments, until the job is completely done – it’s unnecessary and removes all incentives to complete the job fully, properly, and quickly. On the other hand, it is appropriate to make a partial, advance payment so that your handyman doesn’t need to go out-of-pocket on needed materials and to confirm your commitment so he can reserve the manpower needed. Be sure payment requirements are understood in advance, and don’t let yourself be talked out of them after work begins.
I broke into my ex-girlfriend’s apartment when she wouldn’t return my TV
You won’t hear this song-and-dance unless you ask a handyman why he has a felony conviction on his record, which is something we at Fix St Louis actually HAVE done. I couldn’t imagine why an ex-girlfriend’s revenge-of-choice would be to hold onto her ex-boyfriend’s TV, so I was skeptical the 1st time I heard this story, and a whole lot more skeptical when I heard this story REPEATED by 3 MORE candidates as a way to dance around their felony convictions. You start out by thinking, “sure, who WOULDN’T break into their ex-girlfriend’s apartment to retrieve their misappropriated TV” and end-up “hey, wait a minute! NO ONE would do this.” We spare our customers the trouble of handyman interrogation by running our own criminal background checks, and by not hiring convicted felons nor giving them access to your family and personal possessions. We wish these folks well, but we also know ourselves well – we’re in the handyman business, not the redemption business.
No job is too small
Unless you are talking to Fix St Louis, you can assume whenever a handyman tells you ‘no job is too small’ it is fake news. EVERYONE BUT US secretly wants BIG jobs, not small ones. So if you DO have a small job, you are likely to hear suggestions to make it bigger, though it will not be said exactly that way. Instead you will hear things like “That [blank] can’t be repaired, you need a new one” or “yeah, your [blank] is broken but you really need to replace all your [blanks]” or “the cost of doing that will be [3x what it should cost] in the hope that you would either be foolish enough to pay that amount or just reject it outright.
So, what is NOT fake news? You can start with our headline, “One Stop Shopping for Professional Home Repairs.” With Fix St Louis, at least there’s SOMEBODY in the handyman business who tells it like it is.
“When in the course of handyman events it becomes necessary to dissolve the commercial bands that have connected you the homeowner with THAT handyman, whom you originally THOUGHT was great, but who now has your money, won’t return your calls and, now that you mention it, didn’t do such great work, either.”
OK, so maybe I can’t write like Thomas Jefferson. But based on the stories you tell us every day, the truth is self-evident that while all handymen may be CREATED equal, by the time they actually arrive at your house, they sure don’t turn out that way.
That’s why we the handy-persons of Fix St Louis hereby pledge our fortunes and sacred honor in offering this Handyman Bill of Rights:
Fix St Louis would never think to impinge upon your freedom of association with other handymen, in your search for a more perfect union. But when it comes to “E Pluribus Unum” (aka ‘One’)-Stop Shopping for professional home repairs, we try hard to be the shining city on a hill.