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.

DEXIT: On deck staining, are you a Remainer or a Leaver?

It is not widely appreciated, but throughout history the humble handyman has provided wisdom and inspiration to some of our greatest moral leaders. Examples range from the Bible’s “a wise man builds his house upon a rock”, to Abraham Lincoln’s “a house divided against itself cannot stand”, to Dorothy’s “there’s no place like home.”

But every once in a long while, there are things us handymen can learn from politicians. That’s the case today on the issue of BREXIT, on whether Britain should leave the European Union. “Remainers” want to hold onto this post-WWII arrangement that seemed mostly designed to keep Germany from invading everyone else, and everyone else from letting them. On the other hand, British “Leavers” want out of the European Union because they’re not thrilled with the idea of countries who recently invaded them writing their laws and telling them what to do.

The equivalent issue in the handyman world of Fix St Louis is “DEXIT” — homeowners breaking away from the ongoing need to stain their deck, freed-up from being a serf with their DECK as their master. Most decks are tyrants, demanding they be stained every couple of years under the threat of becoming uglier, more decrepit and, when replacement is required, expensive.

The “Remainers” in the DEXIT question are those with a cedar deck and a traditionalist disposition, who insist on maintaining a deck composed of cedar lumber with a natural wood look. While it’s true that cedar DOES resist disintegration better than most other woods, if not sealed every couple of years the ends of boards start splitting, knot holes enlarge, and the wood turns an ugly gray color. Why does it have to be sealed so often? Because the translucent stains that maintain the look of the wood don’t protect against water & temperature changes as well as solid stains/sealants.

The “Leavers” in DEXIT have, if you pardon the expression, “splintered” into 2 groups. There is a “Pressure Group” that likes to replace rotted cedar lumber with much longer-lasting and much less expensive pressure-treated lumber, then make the new boards blend in by staining the entire deck with a solid stain or an even better-protecting “deck & dock”-type coating. Then there is a “Composite Group” that prefers to replace all of the floor boards with good-looking, WOOD-looking boards made of plastic-like materials.

So, which deck party is right, the Remainers, the Leaver Pressures, or the Leaver Composites? Well, in the decisive opinion of us here at Fix St Louis, it all depends.

The Remainer Party may be right for you if you are a top 1-percenter who doesn’t mind the cost of staining your deck every couple of years, and haven’t noticed the uncanny resemblance between the deck attached to your beautiful house, and the raft Huckleberry Finn floated down the Mississippi River. Of course, we recognize that there are “honest Remainers” out there who may hold a different point of view, and have decks that everyone can agree are stunning.

The Leaver Pressure Party may be right for you if you don’t like the effort or expense of staining your deck every couple of years, and think if solid-color exterior lumber is good enough for the rest of your house, it’s good enough for your deck. Solid stain should last 2-3x longer than the translucent stain discussed above, about 4-6 years in total, but you can boost that up to 10+ years by using a “deck & dock” coating instead.

The Leaver Composite Party is for those attracted to the appearance of these deck boards, which often look better than real wood right from the start. And also for those who never, ever, ever want to stain their deck again. And also for those who would take pride in the fact that archeologists 10,000 years from now will find only their deck and the Cahokia Mounds. And also for those willing to pay the extra cost.

In any event, Fix St Louis brings the good news that with DEXIT, unlike BREXIT, everyone can plot their own course, and be a master of their own fate. Remainers may remain, and leavers may leave. No one will be tarred, feathered, and run out of town on a rail. Oh that reminds me, we didn’t talk about deck railings. Let’s leave that for another day.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

Baby, there’s mold outside

Is it just me or does it seem like, all of a sudden, America is now eliminating more music than it’s producing? In the past few weeks, Michael Jackson has been pulled from playlists, a professional hockey team BOTH banned Kate Smith’s “God Bless America” AND hauled her statue away, and the popular song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” took a great deal of heat.

Thankfully for now, Fix St Louis has managed to stay under the radar. Our cult hit “Baby, There’s Mold Outside” has yet to be targeted for being offensive to Fungi-Americans. So while I’ve got the chance, let me tell you what you can learn from this educational little number.

Go outside and look at the siding on your house. Do you see areas where’s it’s covered with a grayish, maybe even greenish coating of dirt and/or slime? No? Then figure out which way is north, and go to THAT side of your house. See it now? It’s probably some kind of mold, or another member of the fungus family.

Fix St Louis can powerwash that dirt and slime away, a process that blasts your siding with 3,000-4,000 pounds per square inch of pressure, 2-3 gallons of water per minute, and vegetation-safe cleanser. The difference in how clean and bright their houses look is always a lot more dramatic than homeowners expect.

Have you ever thought maybe someday you’d buy a pressure washer yourself, so it would always be available? Well, all we can tell you is what we at Fix St Louis see among homeowners who have had that dream. Generally, the units they bought are less than half as powerful as our equipment, since they are never serviced they often don’t operate at all, they aren’t used with ladders and wands to handle the upstairs siding on the house, and they just add to the clutter in the garage.

Oh, and did I mention that they were only used once, then never again? If MC Hammer were a handyman instead of a rock star, he’d taunt them by pointing at their houses singing “Can’t Wash This.”

So, call us at Fix St Louis to powerwash your house until it’s bright and shiny. To paraphrase another group that chose to be rock stars instead of handymen, all in all it’s just some ick on your walls.

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