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

The Non-Russians meddling in your home repairs

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.

Dogs
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.

Weed Whippers
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.

Water
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.

Pests
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.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Handymen owe you more than ‘just a little bit’

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:

R-E-S-P-E-C-T Your Time

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.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T Your Money

You will know EXACTLY what your job will cost in advance. FixSt 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.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T Your Home

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.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T Your Authority

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?

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100