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

Fix St Louis to Throw First Pitch at Season Opener

Yes, it’s true. Fix St Louis will be throwing the first pitch at the season opener, even though the Cardinal’s season opened last Thursday. But, who gave BASEBALL the right to name the seasons, anyway? THAT will come as news to those who celebrate the Harvest Season, the Lenten Season, and the Monsoon Season.

We at Fix St Louis have our own seasons, too. As a reader, you know we recently ended the “FiXmas Season,” that year-end time when homeowners get their homes repaired for holiday guests.

But looking at the Fix St Louis calendar, we see that we are quickly approaching the “Thermal Equinox,” after which the TEMPERATURE and SMELL of the fresh air OUTSIDE your home are better than anything your air conditioner or furnace can produce inside. (Unless, of course, you live in Sauget, Illinois.)

So, here’s the first pitch of the season: If you have a working “Whole House Fan,” use it. If it’s not working, let Fix St Louis repair or replace it. And, if you don’t have a fan, let us install one. Your house will be more comfortable and you’ll see big savings in your air conditioning bills.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about listen-up, and go to your hallway and look-up. There’s a good chance you’ll see something on the ceiling that looks like the thing below. Now look at your hallway walls. See a switch or rotary dial you never knew was for? That’s how you turn it on. If your Whole House Fan is working, you will hear a big “whoosh” sound, followed by the louvers slowly opening. Fresh air will be sucked inside through your open windows and doors, flow all through your house, enter these louvers, then be shoved outside through vents and openings in the attic above.

Lunar-powered unit

BTW, these Whole House Fans are often MISTAKENLY called “Attic Fans.” Attic fans are a thing, too, but they are not installed in hallway ceilings, and you cannot see them from inside the house. They are only installed in attics, either behind gable vents or beneath roof vents. Their purpose is simply to remove hot air from the attic so that the ceilings below don’t become so hot that they warm-up your house or make your air conditioner work harder.

So as you can see, we here at Fix St Louis have our own seasons, we have our own fans, and we throw our own pitches. Could Dr Steve bobble-head night be far behind?

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis

Hollywood Celebrities Should Consider Bribing Ranken

So now we learn that actresses Felicity Huffman of “Desperate Housewives” and Lori Loughlin of “Full House” used bribes to get their daughters into elite colleges. Of all the recent news stories, this one REALLY bothered me. As someone who hates seeing customers waste their money on things they don’t need, it irks me that they could have gotten SO much more value for their bribe money.

Now, as an old handyman who spends his days knee-deep in broken toilets and rotted wood, no one is likely to mistake yours truly for a member of the elite. But that doesn’t mean I don’t pick-up wisdom along the way from the often “desperate housewives” who I come across every day.

What I do know is that Fix St Louis is “desperate,” too – desperate to find skilled, responsible, and personable employees to fix our customers’ houses so that we can grow. Yet, here we have all this wasted bribe money churning out even MORE majors in 17th Century Belgian Gender Pronoun Studies, who can’t tell you which end of a toilet plunger is up.

If these actresses’ daughters are so interested in being worshipped and sought after, they should enroll in St Louis’ own Ranken Technical College, then attend a Job Fair, where hundreds of companies the size of ours and larger will slobber over them like paparazzi. Then, after Fix St Louis has hired them, we’ll send them to our customer’s houses where everyone from desperate housewives to the highest paid professionals will show great respect and gratitude for work that is extremely important to them, but they have no idea how to do.

And, if these actresses are concerned that their designer-name-conscious friends won’t think that the name “Ranken Technical College” has the same panache as Yale, USC, or Georgetown, they should be shopping for new friends rather than colleges. Ranken is a hidden gem, albeit increasingly unhidden. It is a 100+ year old, private, non-profit college that under its charter recognizes and promotes the “dignity of labor,” thinks of the trades as professions, and functions as a ‘boot camp’ to instill good work values. Think what you would have if TV’s Mike Rowe were a college, that’s what Ranken is. Automotive, carpentry, electrical, heating & air conditioning, machining, welding, you-name-it. Among other things, it’s where all auto dealers of all auto manufacturers send their auto mechanics to get trained and certified from several surrounding states. And, while Ranken doesn’t take bribes as far as I know, they do take donations from an impressive roster of companies.

But enough about these Hollywood elites, whom we spend too much time thinking about anyway. And enough about colleges. If you know someone who already has the skills we need at Fix St Louis, or know a young person who would like to learn them, please have them send us a resume. We may not be as desperate as these actresses, but we sure could use a few more technical professionals right now.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis

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

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

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