The Grammys, the Oscars, and now the Suburbies!

So far, it’s been a rough and controversial awards season, including an Academy Awards show that absolutely no one wanted to host. You wouldn’t think its purpose was to celebrate people whose main job is to entertain us and make us happy. Well, who cares about them and their lives, anyway? Despite their wealth and fame, they seem absolutely miserable. So, it’s time to announce this year’s Suburbies Award winners brought to you by Fix St Louis, recognizing outstanding performances by apparently MUCH happier non-celebrities living in everyday subdivisions in the St Louis flyover area.

Best Original Score by a Subdivision

Never gotten over the Beatles? Let me take you down, cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields, where Beatlemania is real. It’s located in the Penny Lane subdivision in St Peters, where other local streets include Long & Winding Road, Blackbird Lane, Sergeant Pepper Drive, Revolution Drive, and Kaleidoscope Lane. Parking is free, so you won’t have to worry about running into Lovely Rita Meter Maid.

Best Documentary Short Subject

This Cottleville home builder probably could not believe his great fortune upon discovering this statue of a head more than 7,500 miles from its brother and sister statues on Easter Island in the South Pacific. Nice touch that he built a front lawn around it so that it wouldn’t end up in the middle of a compost pile. Could a National Geographic Special airing at 3 a.m. be far behind?

Best Revival by a Subdivision

Last year was a big year for Hollywood revivals, including the 5th for “A Star is Born.” But, revivals in residential housing are MUCH less common, which is why we were so pleased to stumble upon the Stonehenge subdivision in High Ridge, roughly 5,000 years after the original Stonehenge was built. The folks who live there don’t seem to mind being associated with prehistoric homo sapiens and, if anything, proud they could build structures still standing after several millennia. Can your builder do that?

Best Foreign Language Entry

In some parts of the country, coastal elites pay architects lots of money to create buildings deliberately designed to look like they are falling apart, while local art critics dutifully gush over them with words like “the optical motif of the line-space matrix undermines the substructure of critical thinking.” But that kinda talk sounds like a foreign language to us plain, toasted ravioli-eating folks here in St Louis. We’d simply tell this homeowner to find a good mud jacker and an even better lawyer. Nevertheless, we bestow this award to recognize this Oakland homeowner’s courage, and to extend our empathy to someone longing to live someplace else.

Best Animated Feature by a Homeowner

It’s one thing to have a beer on your porch, but quite another to have on your Florissant front lawn a beer wagon equipped with driver, 8 Clydesdales, and a dalmatian. Only a true St Louis patriot would install this lawn display. It’s almost enough to bring a tear to this old handyman’s eyes.

Congratulations to all the Fix St Louis Suburbie winners who prove that you don’t have to move into a Beverly Hills mansion or Gone With the Wind’s Tara to live in a great home. Come to think of it, isn’t there a subdivision called “Tara” on Wild Horse Creek Road? Do you suppose its residents would rather their subdivision be named after Stonehenge than a slave plantation?

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

We were “Better Together” before it was a thing

I’m not making this up. As I am writing this, I’m sitting in a booth at the St Louis Bread Company in Kirkwood. To my left is a cup of Broccoli Cheddar soup, and to my right are 6 men seated at a table including, I’m thinking, 2 mayors, 2 police chiefs, and 2 city manager-types. They’re openly discussing what they can do to defeat this “Better Together” plan to merge St Louis City & County that’s been all over the news.

Now, I’m just a humble handyman who spends most of his time thinking about things like running toilets, rotted wood, and cracks in drywall. And I’ve long accepted that no politician will ever be interested in taking advice from a handyman on how to solve all the world’s problems — PARTICULARLY a handyman eavesdropping on their conversations.

So I turned back to my Broccoli Cheddar soup, and sipped and reflected. Fix St Louis has been running a “Better Together” program for years, and it must be successful because, to my knowledge, no St Louis Bread Company table has ever been populated by homeowners discussing how to undermine it. Here’s how we’ve brought Better Together to the St Louis area:

Better Together: One-Stop-Shopping

Homeowners are often not sure whom to call when something goes wrong in their house. A plumber? An electrician? Some nice, but hapless fellow who wears overalls, and does stuff like tinker with broken door knobs? With us, you can lump all your home repair problems together into one category — “Call Fix St Louis.”  And if it happens to fall outside our comfort zone, we’ll give you a referral to a contractor we can vouch for, which is just about the best referral you can get.

Better Together: All Home Repair Trades

Have you ever hired a plumber who had to cut open part of a wall? He fixed your leak, all right, but then he simply screwed the cut-out wall portion back into place, and left it for you to figure out how to patch the gaps around it, and how to paint or re-tile. The truth is, lots of home repairs require skills from more than one trade, and we can handle all these skills together with our OWN employees. Unlike most contractors, Fix St Louis can complete whatever repair we start.

Better Together: Small Jobs

Have you been living with small home repair issues because you thought no contractor would be interested in a job that small? Well, you were CORRECT — that is, for every contractor EXCEPT Fix St Louis. While we do handle bigger jobs, most of our business is small jobs, and that’s the way we like it. Actually, once folks realize that we like small jobs, we’re often asked to fix many things that have piled-up, together at the same time.

Better Together Customer Ratings

If you are still getting referrals for home repair contractors from neighbors and friends, it may be time to embrace more technology. No offense to your neighbors and friends, but chances are that the opinions of these 1-2 non-experts are based upon 1-2 experiences, limited to 1-2 required skills, and NO background checks in an industry where up to 20-25% of the handymen out there are convicted felons (yes, that’s what our recruiting efforts have found). We’ll take care of the criminal background checks, but we welcome you to find out what everyone on the web together thinks about us — >4.5 out of 5 stars on Home Advisor based on >100 consumer comments, Top 5% on Angie’s List, A+ rating by the BBB.

Well, the public servants at the table to my right are still at it. But, I’m afraid that this even more subservient public servant has to get back to their running toilets, rotted wood, and cracked drywall. Maybe I’ll just quietly drop my business card on their table on the way out.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

KOHLER Vortex poses a bigger threat than POLAR Vortex

Yes, last week was outrageously cold. And amazingly, it’s gone from 0 to 60 in four days, oddly similar to your humble correspondent’s first pick-up truck.

But that POLAR vortex was SO January, and now we’ve moved on. TODAY we must continue to grapple with a much greater threat to our daily existence, the disappearing KOHLER vortex. I’m referring to that swirling whirlpool of water you see in the toilet bowl after you flush, which over the years has become weaker and weaker. The result of this has been… well, you know.

Like allegedly so many of our problems, the Kohler Vortex problem is NOT a natural occurrence, but is man-made. More specifically, CONGRESS-man-made. Not satisfied that only 71% of the Earth’s surface is composed of the non-exhaustible resource, water, zealous federal regulators have driven toilet tank capacities way, way down – over the years, from as much as never-need-a-plunger levels of 8 gallons per flush to as little as forever-calling-Fix-St-Louis levels of 8/10 of a gallon per flush.

To be fair, you can’t really blame Congressional leaders like Mitch McConnell or Nancy Pelosi for not seeing this problem from their distant thrones, given that they don’t actually FLUSH, much less PLUNGE, their own toilets. Those functions are handled by unpaid interns.

Fortunately, we are Americans, and Americans will never sit still for tyranny, by toilet or otherwise. Manufacturers and consumers are now standing-up and defending the people’s “business.”

Toilets March On

Yes, it’s true that toilets don’t flush as well as they once did, and an unsightly toilet plunger has become almost mandatory next to every toilet (Martha Stewart, are you listening?). But there’s no question that today’s toilets work a whole lot better than when these federal regulations were first introduced, and they should continue to improve as, hopefully, more college students realize that opportunities in toilet engineering now exceed those in the liberal arts. In the meantime, you should not be scrimping by buying the cheapest toilet. As a rule, you should be selecting from among the best ones you can find that do not have fancy, designey-type styling or bells & whistles you believe to be silly or unnecessary.

Dual Flush Toilets

And speaking of bells & whistles, are you aware that some of the toilets sold have TWO buttons for flushing, one with diminished water flow for #1 and the other at the government-mandated maximum flow for #2? Yeah, at first I thought it was a joke, too, but I’ve actually seen them in person! I don’t get the sense that these have really caught on – after all, it doesn’t make your toilet flush any better. I say, don’t buy one, you’re only encouraging the federal bureaucracy. Who knows? When the regulators dig deeper, just imagine how many classifications of human waste they’ll find? These dual flush toilets might go from 2 buttons to a full keyboard!

Dorothy and her Litte Toilet, Toto

Q. How can you tell if a homeowner owns a Toto toilet? A. Don’t worry, they’ll tell you. These toilets are made by a Japanese company, and they have a reputation for clogging less often. They have been said to have less convoluted piping below, and larger flush valves in the tank. However, Toto competes against at least two VERY strong and innovative companies, Kohler and American Standard. Sooner or later, if not now, I suspect whatever performance difference there is or was will disappear. We are already seeing signs that Toto is becoming just another high quality brand, not that there’s anything wrong with that. You once had to pay up to $1,000, and in many cases MANY thousands, for a Toto toilet, but Home Depot now sells some units with the Toto brand at standard toilet prices. So shop carefully, and beware of the hype.

The Future of Toilets

Looking into my “crystal bowl,” I’m going to predict that someday there will be an electrical outlet behind every toilet. That home inspectors will even write you up if you DON’T have one. These outlets will almost certainly be used for pumps to improve flushing performance in light of the onerous federal water capacity limits, but they will also be used for functions unimaginable, some of which you can see today at the Kohler showroom on Clayton Road west of downtown Ladue. Motion-sensing toilet seats that open when you approach, man-resistant seats that lower automatically when done, foot warmers, music, remote control by Blue Tooth, colored lighting, seat warmers, massagers, checking by smart phone to see if it is “occupied,” bidet-type features, and more. You have no idea.

As we approach the promise of adding electrical power to toilets, surely federal regulators must now be plotting to curb the energy use from those additional electric outlets. Must be frustrating to think they may never get us back to that waterless, powerless outhouse with the cut-out crescent moon.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

Why Gillette should have called us first

I just watched that controversial Gillette TV commercial, the one suggesting most men are violent, harassing, sexist, and condescending bullies. Maybe I should have been offended. But, I just assumed it was some sort of marketing gimmick, maybe to make men feel so depressed and ashamed of themselves they might consider using more of Gillette’s razor blades on more parts of their body, especially their throats or wrists.

But apparently, I was wrong. Gillette is out to change the behavior of every man in America, using the moral authority they’ve earned by being world-class experts on removing unwanted facial hair.

Look, I’m just a simple handyman in no position to judge the genius of Madison Avenue. Unlike Gillette’s ad agency, I couldn’t drive-off 30% of a best-selling brand’s customers even if I wanted to. But if I may be so bold, I’d suggest that rather than paint all men with such a broad brush, they might have done better to focus in on that subset of men who PARTICULARLY deserve the scorn of women (and men) — HANDYmen.

Yeah, I know, I know. It’s not fair to condemn the entire handyman industry, just because 95% make the rest of us look bad. And maybe it’s sexist to presume that all handymen are MEN. But to tell you the truth, while I have HEARD that handywomen do exist in REAL life, REALITY TV is the only place I’ve ever actually seen one. And even then, doesn’t it seem like the closest thing to a power tool Fixer Upper’s Joanna Gaines ever holds is a ballpoint pen? Not that you can blame sexism for the near absence of handywomen — after all, it’s not exactly every mother’s dream for her daughter to become one.

So let’s imagine for a moment, Gillette had a 2nd lapse of common sense, and made the questionable decision to turn over its entire advertising budget to yours truly, Dr Steve. And let’s say I immediately changed their campaign from “The best men can be” to “The best HANDYmen can be.” Wouldn’t these common failings of handymen ring true?:

Toxic Unreliability

If you’ve worked with Fix St Louis, you know that, unlike everyone else, we set firm, scheduled appointments — an exact time, an exact date, and we confirm it by email. We don’t say things like we’ll show-up “sometime between 8 and 12 noon if we’re running on time” or “someday next week depending on when we finish our last job.” That’s not fair to you because it leaves you tied-up at home for hours, unable to leave for work or errands, while constantly glancing at your watch and calling your handyman who never picks-up. In fact, it’s not uncommon for handymen to never show-up and never contact the homeowner.

HandyMan-splaining

Trust me, every handyman with the sole exception of us does NOT want your SMALL jobs. The more tied-up they are on big jobs, the better — more total dollars, more continuous work without gaps in their schedule, less time chasing new jobs, less need to deal with customer service issues, etc.

But they’re not going to tell you that. Instead, they’ll tell you that if you knew as much as they did about home repairs, you’d realize that a bigger job was needed. For instance, they’ll “HandyMan-splain” that it can’t be fixed, so it must be replaced. Or that, “yeah that window can be replaced, but frankly all of your windows are pretty old, so you really need to replace them all.”

An even worse practice is the handyman giving you an estimate 2-3 times higher than they would normally charge for that small job. If you turn it down, no loss because they didn’t want that job anyway. But if you accept it at that price, they’d be happy to do this job that does not take them much time, but gives them a good profit.

Micro-Deceptions

These are the often little, and sometimes big, untruths handymen tell to smooth over the situations from the items above. If your handyman is in the middle of a project, and would rather work on a bigger project than finish yours, you may suddenly hear something like he has to be “out-of-town next week for a few days to attend an aunt’s funeral.” By design, you’re not going to feel like challenging that excuse because it’s about a death in the family, even though no one in human history, with the possible exception of the British Royal Family, has ever had more than a week’s notice of a funeral, much less had to spend several days out-of-town to attend one for an aunt.

So, hey Gillette! Doesn’t this make Fix St Louis “the best a HANDYman can be?” Wait, don’t answer that! On 2nd thought, maybe you should just stick to unwanted facial hair.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

A Handyman’s Guide to Surviving the Shutdown

With the government shutdown now underway, we all brace for the imminent catastrophe Washington claims is about to befall us. Accordingly, we the non-non-essential employees of Fix St Louis are stepping forward, and we pledge to do everything in our power to minimize the threat posed by the loss of 25% of our federal government.

Homeland Security

We will keep you safe by installing those cool new video doorbells, and repairing or replacing your smoke alarms, CO2 detectors, and entry door locksets. And, we will re-secure all those off-track doors and detaching shelves so that they don’t fall on the heads of your loved ones or fellow Americans.

Critical Infrastructure

We are here to ensure that the lumber that keeps your home from collapsing is replaced and braced as needed. This includes rotted deck posts that are sinking into the ground, front porch posts with deteriorated base trim and bottoms, bowing floor joists, water-damaged boards at the base of your walls, and termite-damaged boards that rest on your foundation walls. As one of our greatest Presidents once said, a house subsided will not stand.

Unauthorized Leaks

We will ruthlessly end all leaks in your house, whether arriving by air or “sea.” We at Fix St Louis can weatherstrip your doors to seal-off the outside air, and stop the water dripping from your sink/shower/tub faucets, down below in your sink cabinets, or from your outside faucets. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “a small leak will sink a great ship.” (He MUST have said that. I read it on the Internet).

Regulatory Control

Perhaps the greatest hardship of all will be the loss of the regulatory guidance we all need to live our day-to-day lives. Plastic straws will continue to be available. The march toward barely-operating toilets that require only a teaspoon of water to flush will be placed on hold. If your sink drains too slowly, it will not immediately be declared a wetland, so you may unsafely be continuing to use it. And you might find that the highly-regulated light bulb aisle at Home Depot will look EXACTLY the same if you visit the store twice in the same week.

Well, I gotta run. I need to find a temp agency to handle my diplomatic needs because the State Department is closed, and to handle my crony capitalism needs to fill-in for the Commerce Department. You know, if the nation’s suffering goes on too long, and the two parties can’t find the money to build the wall, Fix St Louis may just volunteer our OWN services. We build walls all the time.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

‘Twas the night after FIXmas. Not a faucet was dripping, not one in the house.

It’s hard to be nestled all snug in your bed, while visions of a flooded basement dance in your head. We get it. Amidst your pre-holiday schedule there arose such a clatter, you had to defer a few home repair matters. Yes, you INTENDED to get those dripping faucets fixed during the pre-Christmas FIXmas season, but that time flew-by faster than Cupid, Donner and Blitzen.

So, why not make your FIRST New Year’s resolution one you can cross-off immediately – a resolution that will give you great tidings of comfort and joy for all of next year. Shutdown that drip-drip-drip on ALL of your faucets. Every last one of them. Not just some phony PARTIAL shutdown like from our perpetually-leaking Federal government, but a REAL TOTAL shutdown.

Kitchen Sinks

Don’t mean to laugh, but it’s funny listening to homeowners describe the stages of denial and grief they go through before they finally accept they need our help to stop their kitchen faucet leak. At first, they try to convince themselves it only happens sometimes, then they convince themselves it will go away by itself. Then they go through a sort-of “bargaining” stage where they put their lever handle through a choreographed set of movements with an unusual ending position to make the dripping stop.

Yes, we can fix those leaks. But honestly, among our happiest customers are those who learn in the process that newer faucets don’t have a separate spray handle because it’s built right into the faucet stem, and as long as we’re out there they’d rather have us install one of those.

Bathroom Sinks

These faucets drip, too, and we can fix them. But could this be a sign from the heavens that it’s time to replace that crummy faucet, which you never much liked in the first place? Folks are often reluctant to call us for this dripping because they think it’s too small a problem to bother a contractor with. Well, that may be true for everyone else, but NOT for Fix St Louis. Remember, we SPECIALIZE in small jobs.

Exterior Faucets

What about those faucets sticking out from the sides of your house, usually low to the ground? These faucets are probably the MOST susceptible to leaks. Not just dripping from the spout, but also spraying all over the place when you turn them on. Sometimes, they even leak within the wall!

The two most common causes of these exterior faucet leaks are: 1) VERY low temperatures freezing the water inside, until it expands and bursts the pipe walls; and 2) Since these faucets tend to be used very rarely, gaskets that have become hard, dried, and compressed, so they no longer do their job.

Sometimes we can fix these faucets from the outside. Other times we can replace them easily with a new frost-resistant faucet if there’s an unfinished room or drop ceiling on the other side. Worst case, we can make the replacement by cutting-into the finished/painted drywall on the inside, then either cover the cut area with a plastic access panel (to make repairs easier the next time) or patch and paint the area. BTW, a specialized plumber, who will not provide one-stop shopping like we do, is more likely to leave you with a hole in your drywall, maybe with the cut piece of drywall screwed back in place. Instead, we’ll leave you with a fully-restored wall – mudded, taped, properly-textured, and painted.

Water Shut-offs

Ever notice those hard-to-reach faucet handles behind your toilets, beneath your sinks, or in various places in your unfinished basement? Sometimes they’re handy if you want to shut-off the water to a particular fixture, but not shut-off all the water in the house. Well, those can drip, too, and Fix St Louis can fix and replace them. Folks seem to like it when we offer to replace them with the new ones that have a lever that just needs a quarter turn to shut it off, instead of turning a circular handle round-and-round-and-round.

Look, we get it. “Faucets that don’t drip” is not the reason for the season. We reluctantly acknowledge that Mariah Carey wouldn’t have gone platinum with “All I Want for Christmas is a Faucet that Doesn’t Drip.” But after all the holiday craziness is all over, and you get around to it, give Fix St Louis a call. You deserve a few silent nights.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100