Next on Deck: Re-seal or Replace?

While the climate in our nation’s capital has been harsh this winter, our weather has been relatively mild. Many St Louisans are already venturing out onto their decks.

Unfortunately, many don’t like what they see. Rotted boards, washed-out stain, boards with cracks, wobbly rails, and a general sense that their decks are just yucky.

So, what can be done about your deck? Get it repaired? Re-stained? Replaced?

The good news is this: If you like your deck, you can keep your deck. You don’t have to tear it down a build a new one. That’s because Fix St Louis can:

  • Replace rotted floor boards, stairs, rails, joists, fascia, ledger boards, and every other part of a deck’s anatomy.
  • Replace all your floor boards with no-maintenance composite boards that will look great now, and will look just as great 10 years from now.
  • Repair or replace failing posts and the concrete piers they sit on, or at least should be sitting on if they were built right in the first place.
  • Stop leaks from your deck into the side of your house caused by missing or damaged flashing.
  • Powerwash and stain your deck – only this time with Sherwin Williams elastomeric coating which looks terrific, fills cracks, and turns staining your deck from an ongoing chore into something you’d only do as often as painting your house.

This season, make a pledge that you won’t be a do-nothing household. You’ve got the power, and Fix St Louis has the people, to make your deck great again!

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis

Our screen work also gets awards, but without the glamour

I hate to break it to you young people out there, but when you get to be my age you will come to understand that life is not fair. Like on tonight’s Academy Awards, for instance. You will watch people who are lucky enough to be born beautiful and happen to be good at making facial expressions while pretending to be somebody else in front of a camera, as they receive wealth, adoration, and accolades from millions and millions around the globe.

OK, so unlike THEIR screen work, our screen work at Fix St Louis won’t make you laugh, cry, be uplifted, or send you on a 100-minute mental vacation from your day-to-day life. And maybe our technicians don’t offer you helpful, unsolicited advice on what to think about all the world’s problems.

No, but our screen work does something much, much more important. It keeps bugs from crawling, flying, and building webs all around your house – some of which actually have the nerve to sting you while they’re there. Maybe that’s why they call them ‘pests.’

Screens have a tough life, being outdoors all of the time, but we at Fix St Louis make them all better. We can replace your torn screens. We can replace missing screens by building new ones, much less expensively than you might think. We can repair or replace your storm door and that damaged sliding screen door behind your patio doors.

We can even replace the screens that your knucklehead builder built right into the framing of your screened porch, so they could never be replaced easily — and make them so they can.

The folks who give awards have taken notice of our work, not just on screens but on everything else we do. A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, top 5% in Angie’s list, and an embarrassingly long list of awards from Home Advisor that would make a Hollywood diva blush.

Oh, and speaking of screening, our technicians are heavily screened. They have at least 10 years of experience and have passed criminal background checks.

So maybe we at Fix St Louis might not be counted among the beautiful people. We just treat our customers as if THEY are.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis

Fix St Louis declines to rule on Making America Grout Again

We here at Fix St Louis recognize that we do not work in a democracy, and we accept our fate. In our world, homeowners are the supreme leaders, who can issue one executive order after another, to which we gladly and gratefully comply. We don’t decide and we don’t judge.

But occasionally, homeowners seek our counsel on complex issues, like what should be on the walls surrounding their bathtub or shower base. To which we authoritatively respond, “Gee, I don’t know. What do you like?”

Since many homeowners are not satisfied with that inconclusive answer, let Fix St Louis lay out the 3 major choices, along with the most frequently cited arguments by opposing sides.

Wall Tile – This is by far the most common material we see on tub and shower surrounds. And, they’ve come a long way since the 4-1/4″ square Pepto Bismol Pink, Avocado Green, and Col. Mustard Gold tiles of the ’50’s and ’60’s. Tiles now come in all different sizes and shapes, including ones that resemble those on the NY Subway, which must appeal only to people who have never actually had the unpleasant experience of actually RIDING on the Subway. Some tiles are glossy, some are glassy, and some are stoney. But, all will eventually become grungy. Well, the grout between them, that is. So, if you’d rather not add scrubbing grout lines to your ongoing house cleaning chores, you might want to read on.

Onyx – This is actually a brand name, and if I could find that little “®” on my keyboard I’d use it (oh, guess I did). In any event, let’s just say “Onyx is the new cultured marble”, both of which look like polished stone (think granite countertops). Compared to cultured marble, Onyx is less fragile, looks more like granite (no rock-like streaks, though), and has a spiffy glossy shine. But most importantly when compared to wall tile, there is only one slab per wall – which means there are no grout lines to clean per wall. So, is it more expensive than wall tile? Not really – maybe in the low hundreds of dollars more. That’s because while the Onyx MATERIAL is more expensive than tile, it takes fewer Fix St Louis LABOR HOURS to install it. So, unless those few extra hundred dollars are important to you, or if you really, really like the way tile looks, Onyx is the way to go.

Molded Plastic Surrounds – If tub and shower surrounds were a family, these would be the neglected step-children. But, they shouldn’t be because they are a good choice in many situations. So, OK, when you’re selling your house, these surrounds are not going to impress buyers if they see one in your master bedroom, and may possibly turn them off if they see one in your hall bath. But what about a basement bathroom or a bathroom designed for kids? They’re very easy to maintain (no grout), and some come with nifty features that are rarely found in other surrounds, like plenty of shelves, washrag bars, and even foot rests for shaving legs.

So as you can see, at least when it comes to tub and shower surrounds, there is no right answer. You be the judge. Fix St Louis will honor your decision.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis

Build this wall! Tear down THAT wall! Sure, whatever.

Some days I get the feeling that while everyone else yakety-yacks for years about building or tearing down walls, we at Fix St Louis are the only ones who ever actually do something about them.

Geez, talk about not being able to compete with the Chinese. They built a really GREAT wall more than 2,000 years ago in the time it takes Americans to file an environmental impact statement.

We at Fix St Louis specialize in small jobs, so maybe building the Great Wall of China for you is out. But, here’s some other things you might want us to do:

  • Add chair rails, crown molding, wainscoting, or picture frame-configured trim to dress-up your dining room.
  • Fix that door knob-sized hole behind your door knob, and the more puzzling, random damage that dogs and teenage boys do.
  • Replace that Ozzie & Harriet-era paneling in your basement with drywall.
  • Convert your basement from a gray concrete-walled Soviet-style detention facility into a place you feel no urge to escape from.
  • Hang all kinds of heavy things from your walls, including TV’s. Even hide wires behind your walls.
  • Repair those settling cracks, like those angled ones that branch out from the top corners of your door trim.
  • Paint walls. And remove wallpaper, which every realtor in town will tell you is now “out.”

At least until realtors tell us that having any walls AT ALL is now “out,” Fix St Louis will be here to build and repair them – and even then we’ll be here to tear them down. Walls just seem easy to us, like no big deal. What’s everyone else’s problem?

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis

Why your neighbor’s referral of a handyman is Fake News

It’s common to ask friends for referrals on any number of services – babysitters, dentists, people who mow lawns when you’re away. But do you ever wonder if these friends really KNOW if the handymen they refer are any good? Can you give your friends’ opinions on handymen the same weight as, for instance, the indispensable guidance we regularly receive from famous, Golden-Globe-winning Hollywood actresses?

Hey, I’m sure your friends are great friends and great people, and all that, and far be it from me to get between you and your friends. So let me break this to you as gently as I can. At least when it comes to the issue of referring a handyman, chances are your friends do not know ‘diddly-squat.’ How do I know this? Because here’s what they would actually HAVE to know, to actually KNOW diddly-squat.

1. Can that handyman be trusted in your home? – You are about to let a stranger roam your house, giving him access to all your prized possessions, including your family members. Did your friend run a criminal background check? That’s too bad because when we at Fix St Louis do, we learn that about 1/4 of all handymen who apply to us for jobs are convicted felons.

2. Does that handyman REALLY have insurance? – If I showed you the bill that Fix St Louis pays each year for insurance, you would probably suspect “no.” And if you think this insurance is only to protect you against implausible events, like the handyman stubbing his toe, then retaining OJ Simpson’s legal team to sue you for millions, think again. One of our handymen once fell off a ladder bringing down a $30 open can of paint with him. And while the only resulting damage to my technician or the homeowner’s property was a small number of nearly invisible, microscopic flecks of paint deeply embedded in the grain of the hardwood floor, our insurance company paid out thousands to refinish all of the contiguous flooring throughout the main floor. Now, tell me the truth — under those circumstances, would your friend’s handyman similarly be able to make you whole?

3. How long will you have to wait? – If that handyman consists of one guy and a pick-up truck, and is available immediately, chances are he doesn’t have much of a practice. The best ones are tied-up for weeks or months at a time because they WANT to be. Big, long-lasting jobs sure beat scrambling around for small jobs. On the other hand, we at Fix St Louis SPECIALIZE in and are organized around small jobs, so we can typically fit you in within a week or two.

4. Other than your friend, are most of that handyman’s customers satisfied? – Your friend may have had 1-2 successful experiences with that handyman. But, there isn’t a handyman out there who screws-up or goes AWOL every single time. Yet, there are PLENTY (if not most) who create unhappy customers on every 3rd, 4th, or 5th job. So, maybe your friend confirmed that the handyman can hang a shelf, but what else does that handyman know how to do among the dozens of possible handyman projects (e.g. plumbing, electrical, drywall, carpentry)?

With Fix St Louis, you don’t have to wonder whether we make customers happy because you can look it up on the web: A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, top 5% on Angie’s list, 4.5 out of 5 rating on Home Advisor (also, be sure to read the comments).

I’m deeply sorry you may now have to add your friends to the growing list of folks these days we’re told we cannot fully trust. That’s OK, maybe your friends can just stick to what they’re best at, like being friendly to you. But at least in regard to handyman services, you now know that we at Fix St Louis aren’t faking it — we’re the real thing.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis

Should Auld Home Maint’nance Be Forgot?

Last night, they played that song again that – truth be told – NOBODY knows the lyrics to, particularly after one too many ‘cups of kindness,’ if you know what I mean. Best I can tell, the first line is in the form of a question. Should we forget our old friendships? The implied answer is ‘no.’

OK, so you might not expect your handyman to be a scholar of late 18th century Scottish drinking songs set to poetry. But, we at Fix St Louis DO pride ourselves on being experts on things people would rather FORGET. All the broken, yucky, cracked, deteriorated, stuck, leaking, stuffed, and falling things around their house that we at Fix St Louis fix.

So to kick-off this new year, here are some ideas to transition your house to things that once fixed, stay fixed so you can more-or-less forget about future maintenance or repairs:

1. Decks – Whose crazy idea was it anyway to attach something that looks like Huck Finn’s raft to the side of our houses? A structure made of wood that needs to be stained every couple of years? Let’s stop the madness. Next time you have your deck repaired, ask us to stain it with Sherwin Williams solid color elastomeric coating, which lasts as long as house paint. Or replace the boards with composite materials that, these days, now look even better than wood and last ‘forever.’

2. Exterior Trim – If you look closely at the bottom of the side trim on the outside of your doors, or around your outdoor window ledges, you are likely to see rotted wood. That’s because water tends to pool-up in those places, then is wicked into the wood. The answer is to buck what passes as wisdom today and “go UN-natural.” We can patch those areas with the same plastic-type material used for auto body repairs, and in many cases replace the rotted boards with solid plastic-based materials. Sure, the rest of your house may someday fade away, but at least those parts will outlast the Cahokia Mounds!

3. Toilets – Don’t get me started. Oh, was I the one who brought this up? We are a 1st world country with 3rd world toilets only because our betters in Washington seem to think that anything that isn’t regulated doesn’t belong in the utopia they’re kindly creating for us. Water is the power supply for toilets, and our government keeps limiting it – THAT’s why toilets now fail so often. So now there’s a toilet plunger next to every toilet, when in the past there never was, and Fix St Louis customers need to have us on speed dial. And, it’s not just toilets, it’s all your water-based devices and appliances as you can read here. We’ll keep fixing your toilets, but maybe people need to start driving around with bumper stickers that read “I flush and I vote.”

4. Flooring – The good news about solid hardwood flooring is that it can always be sanded and re-stained. The bad news is that it needs to be. We strongly discourage people from installing hardwood in bathrooms because sooner or later a leak will damage it, and somewhat less strongly discourage it for kitchens for similar reasons. We’re also not thrilled with any laminate or engineered wood flooring for kitchens and baths that contains fibers inside that might absorb water and puff-out like a sponge. The most practical, best looking surfaces for these rooms these days are ceramic or porcelain tiles. Vinyl tiles and sheet vinyl have traditionally been considered to be cheap-looking, but we’ve been kinda impressed lately with what’s now being offered under the rubric “luxury vinyl tile.” I know, I know, it sounds like a joke. Like calling something a “luxury sow’s ear.” But they’re doing impressive things these days with graphics and texture, and if you keep an open mind, it might be just right for you, and very economical.

Well, I suppose if you were looking for life-changing advice to start-off the new year that would make you a better, kinder, more effective, problem-free, pain-free, or better-looking person you now realize you came to the wrong place. So, maybe Fix St Louis can’t help you make the world a better place, but making your home a place where you can every once in a while forget about maintenance is at least a start. Right? Of course, right.

Happy New Year!

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis