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

So you can name the Final Four.
How about the VINYL Four?

I must confess that I have not followed the NCAA basketball tournament, and won’t be watching the Final Four this weekend. Frankly, it hurts this old handyman’s eyes to stare for hours at hardwood flooring made of unstained maple (with a tasteless high gloss finish, no less!) when these high-tuition institutions could EASILY afford an upgrade to a nice matte-stained oak.

But just because colleges no one in St Louis ever talks about never do anything to improve their properties, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t either. Could these so-called institutions of higher learning be so busy preparing liberal arts grads for careers as Starbucks baristas that they haven’t noticed what’s been happening the last 50 years in plastics?

So, please allow Fix St Louis to serve as your higher learning institution, as we proudly present to you our answer to the Final Four – The VINYL Four. Below are the four best uses of vinyl in home repairs and remodeling, with “vinyl” loosely referring to any material made out of petroleum resin.

  1. Vinyl Shutters – If you have wood shutters that need painting or are falling apart, replace them with vinyl shutters. They generally cost only $50-100 per pair, come in a bazillion different colors, never need painting, and last “forever.” And I’d challenge any effete snob to determine they are not made of wood without touching them. And if they did, you’d be justified to scream at them for walking in your flower beds or being a peeping Tom on a ladder at your 2nd-floor windows.
  2. Vinyl Siding – I don’t care what those builders of higher-end homes say, many of whom claim that the best siding is made of cement reinforced with cellulose fibers, commonly referred to as “Hardie Board” or “Fiber Cement”. Handyman Science has never made a better siding material than vinyl. Unlike fiber cement, vinyl does not chip and it never needs to be painted. Yeah, every once in awhile vinyl breaks, cracks, or gets blown away, but Fix St Louis can always find very close matches and, if need be, paint to match the color. Incidentally, Masonite siding was also a breakthrough in its time, but only if you happened to be a product liability lawyer.
  3. Vinyl Decks – The use of vinyl in decks comes in 2 different forms, and honest people can disagree on which is better. Fix St Louis‘ deck refinishing preference is to neither stain nor paint a deck, but to COAT it with Sherwin-Williams’ Deck & Dock elastomeric coating. Unlike painting or staining, your deck won’t need to be refinished every couple of years – it ought to last 10-15 years. The other vinyl alternative is replacing all the boards in your deck with “composite” material, i.e. boards that are entirely synthetic. With today’s technologies, these look great, many exactly like wood, and they ought to last pretty much forever.
  4. Vinyl Flooring – You know how vinyl flooring, sometimes referred to as “linoleum”, was once considered downscale? I challenge you to visit your local Home Depot and look at the display of “vinyl plank” flooring. Yes, its wood-like or other appearance is totally fake, but it looks pretty much real and in the future will look even better. This flooring is waterproof, relatively indestructible, inexpensive to install, and has other good features like built-in padding.

So, there ladies and gentlemen are the Vinyl Four. Four home improvement products that last much longer than the materials they’re replacing – and much, much longer than the lousy brackets you chose this year. Next time, if you insist on trying to predict the future, think vinyl!

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

Why so few US gold medals?
A handyman’s view

I know many of you are disappointed, or perhaps even embarrassed, by America’s low medal count in the Winter Olympics. You’re perplexed how a nothing-burger country like NORWAY could end up with TWICE as many medals – a country with a population not much bigger than greater St Louis, and whose primary economic output isn’t human essentials like Bud Lite, Puppy Chow, and Weed-B-Gon, but slow-moving garage sale items like garden trolls.

But we at Fix St Louis, as keen observers of homeowner nature, know EXACTLY why our nation earned so few gold medals. It’s that Americans DON’T LIKE gold anymore. So, we have lost our motivation to “go for the gold.”

How do we at Fix St Louis know this? Because we spend a lot of time in other people’s bathrooms. And we can tell you, gold-colored fixtures are out, out, out! If you don’t believe us, just ask your nearest realtor. When listing agents spot gold fixtures in bathrooms, they act like Superman suddenly realizing there’s kryptonite in the room.

Sad to say, but if we are going to make America competitive in the Olympics again, we are going to have to bring about a new world order, with medals that reflect America’s more sophisticated tastes:

First Place: Brushed Nickel

Among our design-conscious customers, this now seems to be the preferred finish for all household fixtures, including faucets, shower doors, door knobs, and even kitchen appliances, where its equivalent is called “stainless.” These fixtures are silver-colored with a dull, matte finish. It has a soft look that doesn’t call attention to itself, even if there’s a lot of it around. BONUS: It hides water spots and fingerprints, and doesn’t have to be shined to look good.

Second Place: Chrome

This classic, original style of bathroom fixtures is still very popular, even among the design set. It’s a shiny silver color and gives off a sparkling clean look. But it does need to be cleaned more often than brushed nickel to avoid looking dull and spotted.

Third Place: Oil-Rubbed Bronze

This finish is now “hot.” It’s a dark color, anywhere in the range from deep chocolate brown to dark gray, with thin highlights of bright copper. Yes, it would make a cool-looking Olympic medal, but this handyman’s take is we may be looking at a fad that may not last to the next Olympiad. But, what do I know? I’m just your lowly handyman, not some celebrated designer.

THIS JUST IN:

 I’ve just been alerted the US Men’s Curling Team has won the gold medal! Still, I’m not sure this changes anything. As an American, I look at that 40 lb granite stone sliding down the ice and think it’s a waste of what could have been a perfectly good kitchen countertop, and that a vacuum cleaner works much better than their brooms, no matter how fast they sweep them.

In any event, we’re America, so we don’t need no stinkin’ medals, anyway. Norway, you can have your 15 seconds of fame once every 4 years – we’ll have ours in all the time in between.

Dr Steve

Fix St Louis

314-434-4100

If your STORM door couldn’t even help you LAST WEEK, what is it good for?

With all that violent weather passing through our area last week, you’d think something calling itself a ‘storm door’ would have its opportunity to shine. So, what’s with that flimsy extra door, anyway? That gender-conflicted door that can’t seem to decide whether to self-identify as a window or a screen? That awkward, spring-loaded door that might possibly be the only product in America that actually OUGHT to have a government-mandated warning label, which would read “don’t let this door hit you on your way out”?

Since they don’t write history textbooks about storm doors, let me tell you what I think happened. At one time, most homes had removable glass storm windows to provide extra insulation to the then-standard single-pane glass windows. And in warmer weather, you could swap them out for window screens. But new technology made these storm window/screens obsolete, and they were replaced by better-insulated double-paned windows with sliding half-screens.

Now, storm windows had a cousin – storm doors – which similarly provided extra insulation for the single-pane glass panels on doors. So, storm doors could have just gone away, too. But some people found it was pretty handy to have a door opening that could be covered by a screen. And, storm door manufacturers came up with some excuses (pretty lame in my opinion) for still keeping a glass storm door. Like keeping snow drifts away from your front door, or providing extra insulation for the not-always-perfect weatherstripping around doors.

Personally, I kind of like storm doors, but just when they act like screen doors. They’re great for air circulation when you turn on a whole house fan at the same time, and can reduce the number of days you run your air conditioner. They’re also great when you want to talk to someone at your front door, but don’t want your pet to bolt outside, or to greet too enthusiastically your friendly handyman or others. But, you don’t really have to make a choice between your storm door being made of glass or screen. We can install a “self-storing” storm door that quickly converts between the two.

Incidentally, Fix St Louis can also FIX your storm door. We’re often asked to replace that door closer that looks like a bicycle tire hand-pump, or reattach it to the door jamb, or restore and paint the door jamb that it cracked. We can also replace that torn screen.

In a more logical world, a “storm door” would be the name for that hatch that Auntie Em, Hunk, Hickory, and Zeke climbed into as the tornado approached, but Dorothy & Toto didn’t reach in time. Nonetheless, while storm doors won’t save your life and can be a nuisance, there’s still reasons you might want Fix St Louis to install or repair them.


Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

Feeling all insecure inside about your security lights outside?

It’s getting dark a bit earlier these days, ESPECIALLY now that daylight savings time is over. So now those lights on the sides of your house are even more important. But, we find that most homeowners are always feeling a little insecure about their security lights.  They’re never quite sure whether or not their outdoor lights are working, or even what makes them turn-on.

They can never seem to answer some basic questions. Is there a wall switch somewhere that needs to be turned on and, if so, is it possible someone turned it off? When was the last time I checked to see if all the bulbs were on? Are the lights supposed to go on when it gets dark? Or when someone moves in front of them? Or when it is both dark AND someone moves in front of them? Or maybe it’s on a timer? And maybe that timer wasn’t reset the last time we lost power.

In all fairness, it’s NOT that easy to check whether your outdoor lights are working. When you’re checking an inside light fixture all you have to do is flip a nearby switch and see it with your own eyes. But for outside lights, if there actually is a switch, it’s not nearby and it’s inside, so you’d have to go outside after flipping the switch. And then, during the day how do you check a light fixture that only comes on at night? And, just what wild and crazy motion do you have to perform in front of your motion-detecting light to get it to turn-on? And, what will your neighbors think when they see you doing it?

The fact is that dealing with outdoor light fixtures is not a natural do-it-yourself project. To add an outdoor light fixture, would you know how to run wires through your walls and ceilings, then through an outside wall? How would you know the power is off before you touch the wires? And, do you really want to do all this stuff while standing on a ladder?

You can make this all quite simple by letting our bright technicians at Fix St Louis be your guiding light. We can diagnose your lights, fix them, change bulbs, add new fixtures, and give you sound advice on which lights should be timed, motioned, dusk-to-dawned, or simply just switched.

Don’t keep your prowlers in the dark. Let Fix St Louis help you send them scurrying!

Whole House Fan Vs Air Conditioning

Home showing cool and hot. Whole house fan vs air conditioning
Keeping your entire home at a comfortable temperature can often be a challenge.

Still running your air conditioner at night?

Well, you really don’t have to. And, you could be even MORE comfortable than you now are.

Running an air conditioner is expensive. Not only that, but the air just doesn’t feel as fresh or smell as good as the air outdoors — assuming you don’t live next door to an oil refinery or the Chicago Cubs.

Outdoor temps at night typically dip down to eighty degrees or less in the St. Louis area. Wouldn’t it be great if you could simply bring that cool air inside your house and shut-off that air conditioner from running all night?

Whole House Fan Vs Air Conditioning

There’s another way to cool your house other than just air conditioning! You can do so with a “Whole House Fan,” the thing that many ERRONEOUSLY refer to as an “attic fan” (more about that later). You’ve probably seen a whole house fan, but may not have known it. Ever been in someone’s hallway, and notice on the ceiling a big square vent-looking thing with louvers? Yep, you need one of those. When that fan runs, the louvers open up, it sucks in air through all the open windows and doors, pulls this air throughout the house, then pushes the house’s existing air through the vents in your attic. This keeps your home cool and comfortable, and at a fraction of the cost of running your air conditioner. For this reason, we recommend using a whole house fan to keep your home cool at night.

Now, you’d never want to run a whole house fan at the same time as your air conditioner. All that air you’d be paying to cool would be shot out of the house and into the atmosphere by the whole house fan!

However, an ‘attic fan’ is a completely different kettle of fish. That’s a fan that some people have in their roof or gables that sucks hot air out of the attic, not out of a home’s living space. It keeps the ceiling of your upstairs cooler so that your air conditioner doesn’t have to work as hard. So, you CAN run an attic fan at the same time as your air conditioner.

Here at Fix St Louis, we’re big fans of whole house fans. They cut down on our customers’ air conditioning bills, allowing them to start using their air conditioners later in the year (or just less in general)!

As you know, the best things in life are free. That includes not just the outside cool air I’ve been talking about, but also getting an estimate from Fix St Louis. Got heating or cooling questions?  Contact us today and find out how much it costs to put a whole house fan — and cool night air — in your home!