Would YOUR house hold up in hurricane-level rains?

At the time of this message, Florida is being tested by the awesome power of nature. In this unprecedented hurricane season, when fellow Americans are hurting, we at Fix St Louis add to your thoughts and prayers for minimal casualties and a rapid recovery.

Watching the news, it’s easy to get the feeling that NO place in America gets away without having its own particular brand of disaster. Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, drought, mudslides, wildfires. Seems like the only things Americans are spared from are deadly locusts and smiting of the first born.

Other than the occasional tornado in highly localized areas, St Louis’ regularly-occurring natural disasters are all about rain, sometimes in Biblical proportions. And we all know the unmistakable signs when one is upon us. It’s when getting to the other side of 141 at I-44 requires a catamaran, and when no one’s laughing anymore that we refer to a sleepy drainage ditch as the “River Des Peres.”

Which leaves our local homeowners with two choices – either build an ark and prepare for a reboot of mankind, or make some modest improvements to keep all that water outside where it belongs, such as:

Sump Pumps

Your home may or may not have one, but a sump pump is an electrically-operated water pump mounted in a lid-covered hole in your basement floor. It collects groundwater that gets underneath the perimeter of your house, and pumps it up and out, either back into your yard or into a sewer pipe.

First thing, you should make sure your sump pump works, that it turns on when water is collecting and turns off when it’s not. Fix St Louis can check it out for you and replace it if necessary. Also, we’re big fans of sump pumps that come with battery backups. These prevent flooding in the not-so-unlikely event the storm knocks-out the power your sump pump needs in order to operate. We also like sump pumps that come with alarms that tell you if your system isn’t working or keeping up.

If your house doesn’t have a sump pump, should you get one? Hard to say. Putting in a new sump pump system is a big and messy job involving jackhammering a channel around the perimeter of your basement, filling it with perforated drain pipes and gravel, then covering it up again with concrete. If your house has never had a problem, it’s on high ground, and not particularly on the path of water run-off from surrounding properties, it may not be worth the expense. Fix St Louis can help you figure that out.

Foundation Leaks

If you see water coming into your basement from cracks in your concrete foundation or from under your walls, or the floor or carpet below is wet, you should do something about it. Fix St Louis can refer you to a qualified foundation specialist, then return to repair any damage the foundation folks had to make to fix your problem.

Gutters & Downspouts

Gutters and downspouts are only doing their job if all the water that hits your roof works its way through the gutters into downspouts, and the downspouts release that water directly into drain pipes, or onto ground sloped away from your house. If you see water overflowing the gutters or leaking from places in the gutter, downspouts that are disconnected from drain pipes beneath them, or pools of water near your house, you might want to call Fix St Louis.

Mudjacking

If gaps are starting to form between your outside concrete porches or landings and the ground beneath them, these can create a passageway for rain and groundwater to sneak into your house. Fix St Louis can refer you to specialists called “mudjackers” who can fill-in those spaces with dirt. This will not only prevent the entry of water, but can also keep your porch from cracking or collapsing from lack of support.

Landscaping

Make sure that the soil around your house is touching the concrete foundation, and not the siding above it. Also, the ground should be sloping AWAY from your house, directing the water away. If not, you might want to add soil to create a slope.

As we hope for the best in Florida, it’s also a time to count our blessings that massive hurricanes are not something we need to deal with. But, while we may never have to deal with hurricane-class levels of rainfall, wouldn’t it be nice to know your house could?

Dr Steve

Fix St Louis

314-434-4100

Why We Wouldn’t Creep-out Hillary

This week on the news, we all heard some quotes from Hillary Clinton’s upcoming book. And like everything else in the world, it got me thinking about Fix St Louis and the handyman business.

Secretary Clinton is claiming that at the Wash U. debate Donald Trump invaded her personal space. “It was incredibly uncomfortable,” she said. “He was literally breathing down my neck. My skin crawled.” She wonders whether she should have said “Back-up, you creep, get away from me!”

Now in our line of work, it’s far more likely for customers to ‘literally’ breathe down our necks than the other way around. But still, we recognize that every time we work in your homes we are invading your personal space — a place where you rightfully expect privacy. You want folks like us to do what we need to do as quickly, quietly, and neatly as we can, and clean-up after ourselves as if we were never there.

And that’s why we at Fix St Louis have very deliberately put in place policies to make things a whole lot less creepy. We’d like to believe that even in the unlikely event we received a service request from Chappaqua, whether to swap out a bathroom sink or server, absolutely no one’s skin would crawl.

Some of these policies for our technicians include:

  • Addressing our customers as “Mr” or “Ms” unless asked to use first names.
  • Uniforms and vehicle signage that clearly identify we are a serious, professional company.
  • Ensuring that every employee has passed a criminal background check.
  • Technicians who follow ‘Check-In/Check-Out’ procedures so you always know when we are in your home or not.
  • Work habits that minimize the ‘footprint’ of the work area, and keep it orderly.
  • Employees who are bonded and insured.
  • Leaving your home at least as clean or cleaner than when we arrived.

In fact, at Fix St Louis, you might say we run our operations as if we are always ‘ready for Hillary.’ But more importantly, we are always ready for YOU.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

Sun, Moon plan rare daytime test of your outdoor security lights next Monday

We are pleased to announce that Fix St Louis has teamed-up with the Sun and the Moon for an unprecedented daytime test of your outdoor security lights. The test will begin next Monday, August 21st at 1:17 p.m. and end about a minute and a half later.

Test Phase I

To prepare for the test, at about 1:15 p.m. walk around the inside of your house and flip every light switch that might control an outside light to the “on” position.

Test Phase II

At 1:17 p.m., take a position outside your front door. Next, we need to do SOMETHING to keep you from being distracted by the thing everybody will be talking about the next day or two. I’m a humble handyman, not a licensed ophthalmologist, but geez, I’d think you could safely take a good, hard, short 5-10 second look at the Sun at this point without squinting through a red piece of cellophane that looks like it’s straight out of a Happy Meal. But, what do I know? As they say at the end of virtually every TV ad these days, “ask your doctor,” but not Dr Steve.

Test Phase III

Now, turn your attention to your front wall lanterns and lamp post. If their lights had been off in the morning, but are now on, they are functioning properly. This means they are being controlled by dusk-to-dawn sensors, which have earned the Fix St Louis seal of approval as the correct light controls for the front of your house.

Dusk-to-dawn controls are the right ones for your front lights because they make your house look best at night, make would-be burglars think someone might be home, assure your neighbors that you are not a recluse, and avoid mixed messages between a doormat that says “Welcome!” and a lighting scene that says “Scram!” Timers are wrong because they go out of sync with the seasons and power outages, creating an additional maintenance task you don’t need. Manually turning your lights on and off every morning and evening is wrong because this is the 21st century.

There are only 3 known ways to get your front wall lanterns to do dusk-to-dawn. The first is to install outdoor lanterns with built-in dusk-to-dawn sensors, the second is to screw-in an aftermarket sensor between the socket and the bulb (if it doesn’t make the bulb too tall to fit), and the third is to install an outdoor, standalone sensor somewhere in that light’s electrical circuit. Fix St Louis can help you with all of these options.

Test Phase IV

In what’s left of the minute and a half that began with Test Phase II, we’re going to do a lap around your house to see which, if any, outdoor security lights turn on when you walk past them. But be careful — remember, it’s dark. Those that DO turn on pass the test. They’re controlled BOTH by motion detectors and dusk-to-dawn sensors, so they only turn on when it’s dark AND when creepy people and large animals might be lurking about. For those that DON’T turn on when you walk past, Fix St Louis can often fix them, or replace them with fixtures with the appropriate built in sensors, or sometimes just add sensors to them. Oh, and we can ADD outdoor security lights pretty much anywhere.

Plan B

For those who can’t be at home for the test, you’ll be happy to learn that we’ve already booked the Sun and the Moon for an encore test on June 3rd, 2505. But, why put it off? Call Fix St Louis today!

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

Do Your Windows Need Obedience Training?

When you give a command to a dog (or spouse), you don’t necessarily expect it to obey without years of careful training. But not so when it comes to your windows. When you try to open and shut them, you have a right to be treated like an alpha dog (or alpha spouse).

There are 5 commands every window should obey without giving you any lip:

  1. Open! – Does you window slide open easily, without fighting with you every inch of the way?
  2. Stay! – When you lift open your window, does it stay in place or does it impersonate an 18th Century French guillotine?
  3. Shut! – When you close it, does it shut all the way, without any sunlight peaking in from above or below?
  4. Tilt! – If you have sliding switches at both ends of the top of the sash, do they slide easily, still have unbroken tips at their ends that poke into the window jamb so they actually DO something, and allow the window to tip toward you without the sash falling out of its track and dropping on your foot?
  5. Lock! – When it’s closed, can you easily flip or rotate that little lock on the sash, or do you have to slam the window sashes up and down until it fits into the slot?

You know, many homeowners call us thinking they need all new windows, until we tell them their existing windows can be repaired. Think of the savings!

So, if any of your windows cannot comply with the simple commands above, call the window whisperers at Fix St Louis. Who says you can’t re-teach your old windows their old tricks?

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

The Final Jeopardy answer IS: This fan is wrongly known by another fan’s name

Watching Jeopardy recently for the first time in many years and trying to come up with the answers (or is that questions?), I started feeling pretty good about myself. That is, until I realized that bell going off the split second the board was revealed wasn’t synced to the answer’s appearance, but to a contestant signaling they ALREADY KNEW the answer.

So, maybe I will never be accepted as a Jeopardy contestant until hell freezes over or Alex Trebec starts introducing categories like “Handyman” and “Toilet Bowl.” But, I can at least pretend to be Alex for a single episode of “Dr Steve’s Tips.” So, here goes:

The category is “Air Circulation.” And the answer is “This fan, commonly found on the ceiling of hallways, is best known WRONGLY by another fan’s name.”

Five seconds pass. Buzzzzz. “I’m sorry,” I say in a sad voice, “the answer is Whole House Fan.” I then sing a few bars from a song that includes the lyric “whole house fan,” while contestants sigh in recognition they should have known that.

Those few of you out there who actually got this answer (question?) may not know that everybody BUT you mistakenly calls this an “attic fan,” another real and useful thing, but not the same thing at all.

An attic fan is designed to keep your ATTIC cool, and only indirectly makes your house cooler. A whole house fan DIRECTLY makes your house cooler. More specifically:

  • An Attic Fan is NOT mounted on hallway ceilings — it’s installed in a roof or side wall of an attic (a gable). It’s there to suck hot air out of an attic, so that a warm ceiling of your top floor doesn’t keep the inside of your home from cooling off.
  • A Whole House Fan IS the one mounted on hallway ceilings. It sucks cooler air from the outside through open windows and doors, displacing the hotter air inside your home, which is then blown out, into and through the attic, passing through gable or roof vents in your attic.

But, you don’t really need to know any of that. If you’re new to any of this, here’s the biggest improvement you can make:

  • If you don’t already have a whole house fan on your top floor hallway ceiling, have Fix St Louis install one.
  • Whenever your house is too warm, and the outside air is about the temperature you’d want your house to be, especially on summer nights when outside temperatures dip below 72 degrees, open 1 or more windows or doors with screens, turn the whole house fan on, and turn-OFF your air conditioner.
  • Your home will be more comfortable, you will save on electricity, and the outside air will make your home smell fresher (that is, unless you live in Sauget, Illinois).

OK, just one more Jeopardy question/answer. The answer IS: “This company with an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau provides one stop shopping for professional home repairs.” Maybe that one was too easy. OK, Alex, back to you. But, we’ll see you next time on Dr Steve’s Tips!

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

July 4th Proclamation of Handyman Bill of Rights

Sometimes in the course of handyman events it becomes necessary for homeowners to dissolve the bands connecting them to those who previously fixed their homes, seeking a more perfect union. Because while all handymen might be CREATED equal, everyone knows by now they sure don’t TURN OUT that way.

So, be it resolved on this 4th of July 2017, Fix St Louis:

  1. Shall make no policy prohibiting homeowners from exercising their right to free estimates, and their ability to schedule firm appointments shall not be infringed.
  2. Shall provide a full-time customer service representative to whom they may petition for a redress of grievances.
  3. A well regulated workforce being necessary to perform repairs properly, our technicians shall have at least 10 years of experience.
  4. Checks and balances: Homeowners may pay their invoice balances by cash, personal check, or any major credit card.
  5. The right of homeowners to be secure in their property and personal effects shall not be violated, so our technicians will be bonded and their work insured.

So, go forth and pursue happiness this Independence Day, comforted in the knowledge that Fix St Louis will always be there to protect your homeland.


Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100