Stairs and Pipes Forever! Presenting our Handyman Bill of Rights

When in the course of handyman events, the truth becomes self-evident that, while all MEN are created equal, all HANDY-men are not. 

It should also become self-evident that, while it’s unlikely any handyman will ever appear on Mt Rushmore without a hammer and chisel in hand, the country would LITERALLY fall apart without them.

As a highly-decorated handyman service, who has earned the coveted A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau and Best of Home Advisor award, Fix St Louis acknowledges the awesome responsibility upon our shoulders. 

We pledge to risk our lives (even on tall ladders), our fortunes, and our sacred honor to make your home great again. And, we demonstrate this commitment by providing every Homeowning-American with these certain unalienable and enumerated rights:

  1. Fix St Louis shall not abridge your right to FREE estimates, and your ability to schedule SPECIFIC appointment times shall not be infringed.
  2. A well-regulated workforce being necessary for proper repairs, our technicians shall be armed with at least 10 years of experience.
  3. Our work shall be GUARANTEED for one full year, and we will provide a full-time CUSTOMER SERVICE REPRESENTATIVE who may be petitioned for a redress of grievances.
  4. Homeowners have the right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, so Fix St Louis technicians shall undergo drug tests and criminal background checks, and their work shall be bonded and insured.
  5. Checks and Balances: Customers may write CHECKS to pay their BALANCES. But, that would be soooo 20th century. Thus, they may also use any major credit card, and pay either online or by phone.

As we say here at Fix St Louis, “E Pluribus Unum” which, if I’m not mistaken, is Latin for “One Stop Shopping for Professional Home Repairs.” So, next time you’re thinking of calling just some “Chuck-in-a-Truck” or “Pete-in-a-Pickup” please consider calling us instead, to seek a more perfect union.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

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

Make your house look more like Buckingham Palace

With the President’s visit to Buckingham Palace last week, we were all given a glimpse of how the Queen’s living accommodations compare to those of St Louisans. Sure, her place is real nice and all that, but before you lapse into Queen-envy, you might want to count your blessings. After all, she has a son who has now reached retirement age without ever holding a real job.

The good news is that there are many things you can do to close the appearance gap between your house and Buckingham Palace. Here are just a few ways Fix St Louis can help you live more like a Royal:

Crown Molding

Sometimes it’s the little touches that turn a room from good to great, and installing crown molding around a ceiling perimeter can do just that. Mostly, Fix St Louis is asked to install crown molding in dining rooms, living rooms, and master bedrooms. And if you really want to increase the “wow” factor, consider installing a style called “dentil trim” (see picture below). I suppose it was given a name similar to a dentist because the design looks like teeth, except the gaps between the teeth are about as wide as the teeth themselves. Why the big gap? I don’t know, but based on this handyman’s personal observations, it’s possible the British may not recognize good dentistry when they see it.

Dentil Crown Molding

Beneath the Crown

If you want to take this crown molding thing up a notch, there are ways Fix St Louis can complement this look on the walls below. The most popular request is adding a chair rail, which also provides a decorating option to paint or wallpaper the areas above and below the chair rail differently.

Now, you don’t have to go full-Brit to make things look right. Like hanging red velvet wallpaper. Or mounting shiny gold carvings of lions standing on their hind legs, facing and giving high-fives to each other. But you might want to consider adding beneath the chair rail something known as “picture framing,” white trim configured into a series of rectangles (see picture below).

Picture Framing

Doors

Many of you already know about spiffing up your interior doors by having Fix St Louis replace them with raised panel doors (see picture below). At the risk of sounding more like a hairdresser than a handyman, they can make your doors go from flat to fabulous.

Raised Panel Door

And there are all kinds of fancy-schmancy things you can do to your FRONT door. Frankly, these designs seem less British than French and Greek to me. But until Brexit happens, if all these nations want to act like they’re one big happy country, I suppose we can too.

For some mysterious reason, all of these decorative elements begin with the letter “p”. “Plinths” are the blocks at the bottom, and they are generally fairly plain. “Pilasters” are the column-looking elements sitting on the plinths, and often they are fluted, i.e. they have a series of curved channels in them. “Pediments” are the decorative element immediately above the door that spans its entire width. The most common designs are a triangular design that peaks mid-door, a curly, swirly French-looking design, and designs that mimic sunbursts, mantel shelves, and crown molding. See picture below.

Decorative Door Trim with Pediment and Fluted Pilasters

Coffered Ceilings

So far, we’ve been discussing walls and doors, but there are also some pretty dramatic ways that Fix St Louis can transform your ceilings. It’s not uncommon for homes to have exposed beams across their ceilings, sometimes looking like stained or painted wood. Now imagine running several beams across your ceiling at right angles, creating a grid pattern. Maybe even lining the perimeters of each cell with crown molding. See the picture below for an example of a “coffered” ceiling.

Coffered Ceiling

Your home is already your castle. Let’s work together to make home improvements that upgrade it to a palace, with Fix St Louis pick-up trucks as your carriages, and our technicians as your servants. Wouldn’t you be honored to have the Queen select your house as her St Louis home whenever she attends the Stanley Cup finals? I, for one, can imagine it. In fact, I think I just heard her ask for a beer.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

Each Blues game is TWO games in one

The way this old handyman looks at it, you’re actually watching TWO games every time the Blues play.

The first game, which takes place when the clock is running, never seems all that American to me. It features Blues players like Vladimir Tarasenko, Carl Gunnarsson, and MacKenzie MacEachern, who have similar names to Winter Olympics athletes who stand at attention on that 3-level podium while someone else’s national anthem is played. For recently winning the Western Division, the Blues were presented with the “Campbell Bowl,” which sounds like, and looks like, a gaudy, oversized soup tureen. Maybe the one used at Harry and Meghan’s wedding reception. And don’t get me started on the serving-ware they’re competing for next, named after LORD Stanley of Preston – a graduate of Eton, a prep school for over-privileged British boys, who possibly once held a hockey stick, but certainly never a toilet plunger or any other tool requiring manual labor.

No, the American part of the hockey game begins when the buzzer goes off signaling the end of the 1st period. Immediately rolling onto the rink is the ice-smoothing Zamboni machine, invented by and named after the son of struggling Italian-American immigrants. He used his newly-found freedoms to achieve the American dream by making something that makes ice hockey possible. Then, there are those ice rink walls and plexiglass, which have just endured a 20-minute period of being crushed, smashed, pounded, and scraped, while the audience cheered and laughed, humiliation that no building materials should ever be asked to endure. To handle that, folks pop-out with name badges sewn onto their uniforms that read “Chuck”, “Pete”, and “Zeke.” These hard-working Americans patch, paint, brace, and in all other ways make things new again. All done without hearing their names roared over the sound system, or accompanied by flashing lights, lasers, smoke, and foghorns. Now, that’s what I call America.

We at Fix St Louis like to think of ourselves as residential counterparts to that hockey game clean-up crew, except we ply our trade in similarly-damaged TEENAGE BOYS BEDROOMS. Someday, you just may need us for these:

Wall Repair

Fix St Louis is great at removing holes, dents, and dings from bedroom walls. Sometimes they’re just nondescript nicks, but other times the punched-out drywall is EXACTLY in the shape of baseballs, pucks, doorknobs, and fists, which can be pretty amusing to us, presumably less so to the parents. If your walls have some kind of sand texture, we can restore it in the patched area. And if you once tried to patch it yourself, and it still stands out because you couldn’t figure out how to smooth it or add that texture back, we can fix it.

Door Repair

Teenage boys can be pretty rough on doors, but we can remove all signs of abuse. Fix St Louis can put those sliding closet doors back on their tracks. We can repair the aforementioned doorknob-shaped holes in the adjacent wall. If the door “slab” (the part on hinges that swings) has been kicked and cracked, we can replace just the slab without swapping-out the entire frame. And, if the door “jamb” (frame around the door) has been split or cracked through forced entry, whether by an angry older brother, desperate parents, or the County SWAT team, we can handle that, too.

Painting

The key to painting a teenage boy’s room is doing the right prep work before the first drop of paint is applied. While the repairs above are a big part of it, they are not the only part. What about those posters on the wall that were mounted with tape, or rubbery white goop, or whatever sticky substance was immediately available when your teenager had the impulse to hang it? You may not like the way the walls look now, with a preening-for-the-cameras Yadier Molina, Ariana Grande, Metallica, or even Patrick Maroon. But you may like it a lot less after you see what’s behind them. Fix St Louis will make those walls paint-ready. And if your teenager went Goth, or through some creepy dark period you prayed he’d grow out of, so that everything is now painted black, we can prep the walls so they can be painted any color.

So, next time you’re watching a Blues hockey game, at the end of each period – sure, go ahead and take that bathroom break – but be sure to return for the All-American between-time show of the Blues’ rink-repair heroes. For all those Chucks, Petes, and Zekes out there, this Bud’s for you! Oh, and almost forgot. Let’s Go Blues!

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

They should have known better on “Better Together”

Seems like that “Better Together” plan to merge St Louis City and St Louis County has gone bust. Which comes as no surprise to your humble correspondent.

You know, I think I missed my calling. This aging handyman should have gotten into the polling business, and sold politicians the results of the daily “Dr Steve Subdivision Chit-Chat Serial Focus Group” that captures what dozens of random homeowners tell me each week. I could have told them that those believing this plan was “better” consisted almost entirely of the folks who came up with the idea, plus one County Executive who just resigned after being charged with bribery. And that the much larger group of together-believers was not “together” in any way they would find helpful.

So coming out of the ashes, let me see if Fix St Louis can do its part in finding an issue that unites our community on things that everyone can agree ARE better together. And, we’ll start on the ground floor. Literally.

Dining Rooms + Hardwood Flooring

Fix St Louis customers’ favorite flooring for dining rooms seems to be hardwood flooring. This is a room for more formal get-togethers, holiday celebrations, and guests, so it should be beautiful and warm. It’s also a room where you don’t want a floor that absorbs spilled drinks and hides fallen crumbs. Easy decision, hardwood floors.

Kitchens + Vinyl Plank

This flooring option is just catching on, so let’s say this is Fix St Louis‘ pick. I know, I know – vinyl has a reputation for looking cheap. But, if you haven’t seen vinyl flooring lately, you haven’t seen vinyl flooring. You see, there’s this new thing out there called “technology” that’s been applied to vinyl flooring. So now, its appearance can be surprisingly similar to wood or stone. And, it’s now got padding built into its layers that absorbs shock, and makes it comfortable to walk on and easy of the legs if you spend a lot of time standing-up in your kitchen. If you drop a glass or cookware on it, there’s a better chance that it won’t shatter. It can withstand anything your kids spill, drop, or scrape all over it. And it’s very easy to clean, with no cracks that trap dirt, or grout that turns icky.

When you visit the store, you may hear these products referred to by awkward words that only a floor salesman, not a normal person, would use. Terms like “Luxury Vinyl Tile” and “Engineered Vinyl Planks” were developed by not-particularly-good marketing types at flooring manufacturers trying to overcome the stigma of the historically cheap and lousy peel ‘n stick, linoleum, and sheet vinyl products. Just ignore these terms – you’ll know these products when you see them, and if you ask for “vinyl plank” the sales clerks will know what you’re talking about.

I know that many of you watch those home improvement shows and dream of putting a beautiful hardwood floor in your kitchen. As someone who sees what happens to these floors everyday, I say “don’t.” Sooner or later, there will be a “water event” in your kitchen – a leaking drain, a leaking faucet, a leaking garbage disposal, a leaking water shut-off valve, a leaking dishwasher, or a leaking ice maker water supply line. These can harm a hardwood floor in a way that makes it impossible to make the damage invisible at a reasonable cost. Fix St Louis advises you to avoid this heartbreak by avoiding hardwood.

Bathrooms + Ceramic Tile

While vinyl plank is also a great choice for bathrooms because of its water-resistance, if you like the look of ceramic tile here’s the best place to put it. It’s also the cheapest place to put it because bathrooms have the smallest floors in your house. A lot of folks like to have matching or complementary ceramic tile on their bathroom walls and tub/shower surrounds, too.

Bedrooms + Carpeting

Carpeting gives bedrooms a warm and cozy feel. And while you wouldn’t believe what we’ve seen some kids have done to their bedroom carpeting, you’re probably less likely to have spilled drinks and dropped food here.

Who knows? Maybe if we can all learn to agree on flooring choices, someday we can all agree on how to draw lines on a map so that all voters get exactly what they want. Come to think of it, wasn’t that mentioned in John Lennon’s song “Imagine”?

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