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

Fix St Louis Announces its Person of the Year

This is the time of year when Time Magazine names its “Person of the Year.” And, it always comes as a big surprise. “Time Magazine?!,” I ask. “Are they still in business?”

So, as our fortunes continue to rise, while those of Time Magazine continue to fall, we at Fix St Louis felt an obligation to step in, to make sure that this great tradition of honoring a great person every year survives. And maybe even improve upon it, given that Time’s past recipients include Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Planet Earth.

Given that our name is Fix St Louis, we were looking for the person who did the most in 2016 to Fix St Louis. Determined to identify a remarkable local individual, we reached far and wide into the community. OK, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but we DID reach out far enough to pick-up our ringing phone to answer a call from KMOV-TV channel 4.

KMOV asked us if we wanted to participate as a donor in one of their ‘Surprise Squad’ stories. It’s a series in which they film a feature story on a St Louisan performing exceptionally good works, then surprise them mid-story with a cash gift from their station and a gift of significant value from a local company. In this case, their target recipient was a young woman named Maria Larsen from Charlack in St Louis County, who had taken in a large number of foster children, and as a result was having some trouble keeping up with her home repairs.

Expressing an interest, I asked KMOV exactly how many foster children she had taken in. “Oh, about 300 foster children,” they said, then said again after I told them we must have a bad connection because it sounded like they said 300 foster children. At this point, I thought maybe I should have gone with my instincts, not picking-up the phone, assuming that “KMOV-TV” on the caller ID meant just another sales call for TV advertising. I thought to myself, “how can my company afford significant home repairs on a house with one master bedroom plus 299 other bedrooms?!” Then, they explained to me that some of those foster children were taken-in for as little as one evening when there was a family emergency. Her house was normal-sized, not August Busch IV-sized.

So, as they say, the rest is history. Please view the link below, and watch KMOV do a much better job than I can describing the accomplishments of Fix St Louis‘ newly crowned 2016 Person of the Year. Watch Ms. Larsen get a very small part of the recognition that she truly deserves, and watch me get my fully undeserved, once-in-a-lifetime 15 seconds of fame.

KMOV Surprise Squad visits woman who helps foster families

Merry Christmas and Many Happy Repairs from Fix St Louis!

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis

On the 12th day of FiXmas my handyman fixed for me…

12 windows slamming
11 outlets sparking
10 pop-up drain plugs popping
9 faucets dripping
8 doors a sticking
7 smoke detectors beeping
6 mirrors hanging
5 wax toi–let ringssssss
4 falling shelves
3 French doors
2 chandeliers above
and a door track on a pan–try

Wow! That FiXmas classic never fails to bring to a tear to this handyman’s eyes. Well, we’re now well into FiXmas, the pre-Christmas home repair season, so:

Take out that to-do list, checking it twice.
Get those repairs done now, take our advice.
Christmas guests are coming to town.

Merry Christmas and Many Happy Repairs from Fix St Louis!

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis