7 Life Lessons from a Subdivision Warrior

truck

Some people dream of the free and open road. But yours truly spends his life meandering through one-lane, unstriped streets and circling cul-de-sacs, ’round and ’round. All of which have the same names, just in different combinations – pine, oak, maple, forest, river, place, terrace, etc. And occasionally, caught-up in a suburban reverie, thoughts come to mind. Not deep thoughts. Maybe not even interesting thoughts. But, here is what passes as wisdom from this subdivision warrior:

  1. The probability of a handyman being bitten by a dog is inversely proportional to the size of the dog. (Smaller dogs also make better ‘doorbell extenders,’ if you know what I mean).
  2. Most under-rated home improvement: Whole house fans (almost always mistakenly called ‘attic fans’). Those louvered fans on ceilings cut summer air conditioning bills without sacrificing comfort by sucking in cool outside air when the temperature dips every night.
  3. Most over-rated home feature: Cedar deck. Save yourself some money and get better wear by replacing rotted cedar boards with pressure-treated lumber, then staining it with a solid color so it lasts even longer. Hint: using Sherwin Williams elastomeric deck coatings means you’d only be refinishing your deck as often as you’d paint your house.
  4. The homeowners most likely to apologize for the tidiness of their homes are those with the least reason to, and vice versa. (In case you’re wondering, we don’t notice, we don’t care, we don’t judge, and even if we did we don’t remember. What happens in your house stays in your house).
  5. About 25% of handymen that homeowners let into their homes, where they come into contact with their families and possessions, have been convicted of at least one felony (source: our recruitment interviews and criminal background checks). Strange, but true: When the subject of their felony conviction is brought up, the most popular explanation is an ex-girlfriend who refused to return his TV upon break-up, creating a moral obligation to break into her apartment to retrieve it. (Well, who among us WOULDN’T do that?!)
  6. Wood and water don’t mix. From what we’ve seen, you should keep hardwood floors out of bathrooms and avoid it in kitchens. Sooner or later you’ll have hard-to-repair water damage.
  7. By far, our best source of employees is a unique, under-appreciated, 100+ year old, private, non-profit college that promotes the “dignity of labor,” thinks of the trades as professions, and functions as a ‘boot camp’ to instill good work values. It’s a mystery why more people don’t know about Ranken, and more high school grads don’t consider it as a job-certain alternative to a liberal arts education.

Not that you ever asked me for career advice for your kids.

Would love to stay to chat, but the leafy roads of suburbia are calling. But while I may spend my life on the road, you can always reach us at our office. Hope to hear from you soon!

Dr. Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

Who’s better at stopping outside leaks? Us or the federal government?

Sure, outside leaks can jeopardize the security of our nation. But on an admittedly much, much more trivial level, have you ever thought what outside leaks can do to your home? Didn’t think so.

In fact, we bet you never even think about that faucet on theoutside. The one you can hook-up a hose to, for watering your lawn and garden. Or to give your car a cold bath. Or to spray at your neighbor’s bratty kids to get them off your newly seeded lawn.

Never thinking about that faucet is a known dysfunction, what the Psychiatric Services Department at Fix St Louis refers to as “avoidance.” Because we know that many, if not most, of you now have some kind of problem with that faucet. Do any of these symptoms sound familiar?:

  • It drips from the spout after you turn it off, making that one square foot of grass beneath it the fastest growing grass in your lawn.
  • When you turn the handle, water sprays all over the place from the faucet stem, soaking you with water.
  • Worse yet, maybe when you turn it on water starts dripping into your basement or you get water stains on your basement ceiling and wall.

Fortunately, Fix St Louis is a whole lot better at fixing outsideleaks than the federal government, who these days is about as good at keeping secrets as Yenta the matchmaker (BTW, saw Fiddler at the MUNY Saturday – your handyman gives it 5 stars).

 

Unlike our betters in Washington, Fix St Louis can immediately discover the source of leaks and shut them down within an hour or two. Then, not only can we restore whatever was damaged, we can make the situation even better than before by installing frost-proof faucets that keep your pipes from freezing & cracking when it’s cold outside. We can even install additional water shut-off valves to keep water away from the outside walls, and access panels so you can reach these shut-offs even if you have a finished ceiling.

It’s no secret to Fix St Louis that many of you have problems with that leaking outside faucet. The first step is admitting you have a problem. And the next is calling us.

 

Dr Steve

Fix St Louis

314-434-4100

Help Us ‘Make America Grout Again’

Ever notice how styles in home decorating, like hem lines, change every once in awhile for no apparent reason? Wallpaper was once in, and now it’s way, way out. And, have you ever watched realtors react when they see shiny brass fixtures in bathrooms? You’d think they’re Superman and your fixtures are made of Kryptonite.

To say that wall and floor tile are now undergoing a renaissance is technically a bit of a misnomer given that mosaics have been around for at least 5,000 years and the Renaissance was a bit of a low point. But, best I can tell, the most recent previous peak in their popularity was in the 1950’s and 60’s, at least based on the large quantities of Pepto Bismol Pink, Avocado Green, and Col. Mustard Gold ceramic tiles I see in all your homes. Geez, can’t imagine why people got tired of them.

But it seems like Big Tile recently made a big, albeit unremarkable discovery. Tiles did not have to be solid-colored shiny objects that only come in 4-1/4″ x 4-1/4″ squares! Who knew? They could be much larger, shaped like rectangles, or even come in brick shapes like on the NYC subway system. (Honestly, having grown-up in NYC, yours truly is incapable of getting this new tile craze, associating the subway with graffiti and bad smells that shall go unspecified).

Well, OK, if you’ve seen tile lately you know they’ve made a few more discoveries than that. They’re now making ceramic and porcelain tiles that look like just about anything, like stone, glass, and wood. If you haven’t wandered the tile aisle lately, you just won’t believe it.

There are some places in your home where tile is really the ONLY answer. Anyone who has ever put carpeting in their bathroom has made that mistake only once. And hardwood floors look great in a bathroom, but only until that inevitable day when water leaks from your toilet or sink drain pipes, and you’re faced with the dilemma of trying to make the floor look good again. And, given that we see just about everything, I have no doubt that someday we will run into someone who has tried to use carpeting or hardwood on their kitchen backsplash, but I’m hoping that’s not soon.

So, unless you’re trying to re-create the dome of the Cathedral Basilica on your vaulted ceiling, we at Fix St Louis are the folks to call. Join us as we help Make America Grout Again!

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

1st Brexit, Now Dexit:  Break free from ongoing deck staining

Britain has voted to become independent of the European Union, displaying that same spirit we inherited from them that led to our own independence.

Like the British, we’re just not that keen on letting other people tell us what to do. So I ask you, my fellow Americans, how could we have allowed our decks, who are not even people, to force us to do things we would rather not do. Like stain them every couple of years. Whose crazy idea of the pursuit of happiness is THAT?!

The sad truth is, we have become slaves to the preservation of our decks at the hands of a lumber-stain-handyman industrial complex. They reap windfall profits while you are caught-up in a repetitive and expensive task, not to mention a staining job that truth-be-told never looks all that good anyway.

So, we hope you will join Fix St Louis and Sherwin Williams in our crusade to make the ongoing staining of your deck something of the past – something you’ll do only about as often as you’d paint your house – virtually NEVER.

Let Fix St Louis apply Sherwin Williams’ elastomeric deck product, an alternative to deck stain or paint (actually, it’s a coating). The elastomeric technology fills small gaps in your deck lumber, and the coating expands and contracts with the temperature to resist cracking.

It comes in all sorts of shades and colors, and looks much better than standard stains and paints – I can show you samples on real wood. And it doesn’t cost a whole lot more than applying regular deck stain or paint.

You’ve now spent a 3-day weekend thinking about how great it is to have independence. Now, let’s go out there and do something about it. Let Fix St Louis stain your deck one last time, then let freedom ring

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

Did your handyman disappear? Maybe he’s just not that into you.

I swear, some weeks I feel like an investigator for the missing persons bureau, handyman division. Homeowners say things about their previous handymen like “I just don’t understand it – everything was all set up and he didn’t show-up” or “he started the job, the materials he needs to finish it are still here, but I can’t get a hold of him.” And, of course the ubiquitous “he never picks-up the phone” and “I can’t leave a message because there’s no voicemail.”

Now, no one has ever mistaken me for someone who gives good relationship advice, but maybe in this case I can help.

It’s not you, it’s him. And to understand it you have to think like one of these guys, or at least what passes for thought.

In the handyman’s pecking order, your worth is directly related to three things: 1) how much money he can make on your job — only this one job; 2) how long your job will take, so that during that hopefully prolonged period he does not have to be bothered with scrambling around to find new customers; and 3) whether another customer has just popped-up that ranks higher than you on #’s 1 or 2.

But at Fix St Louis, we’re just not like that. We seek meaningful relationships. To let you in on a secret, our success is based upon repeat business – people being happy with our work, service, and pricing, then calling us back later to do even more.

That’s why we hire the best folks we can find (most trained at Ranken Technical College, BTW), have a full-time customer service rep, show-up at firm scheduled times, guarantee our work for a year, and communicate with you diligently through phone, email, and text messages.

So, why mess around with some “Chuck in a Truck” who will dump you for the next better job? Call Fix St Louis, a handyman company you’d be comfortable introducing to your own mother.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

Don’t let the (storm) door hit you on your way out!

Hey, what’s with that flimsy extra door that’s right in front of your front or rear doors? The one that’s got a screen in it (or was that glass, or both, or neither?). That often ugly door that visually blocks your front door’s curb appeal, making your investment in a good-looking front door seem pretty silly. That door that either doesn’t close all the way or closes way too fast, giving you an undignified public spanking whenever you enter your house.

They call it a “storm door,” although what it has to do with a “storm” is anyone’s guess. How could it be of any use in a storm? Is this your front door’s equivalent of slipping-on a windbreaker? Or maybe the storm door is a vestige from the days when houses used to have storm windows, before double-paned glass on windows made storm windows obsolete. Is it possible that similar technological advances indoor construction and weather stripping have made storm doors obsolete, but storm door companies have no particular interest in telling us that?

Do you really need a storm door? Honestly, in all our years in business we can only recall ONE request for a storm door where one did not previously exist, and even then it was a townhouse where adjacent units had one. A case of storm door envy? In every other case, it’s all been about repairing or replacing a storm door that was already in place.

But, let’s give the storm door industry its due and brain-storm all the reasons you might actually want a storm door:

  • Maybe it’s because they provide an extra layer of protection from wind, rain, and snow from penetrating your front door, especially if you don’t have a porch roof above it.
  • Maybe people like them because they keep pets from running out (or jumping on your friendly handyman!) when you’re talking to someone at your front door. A handy feature, but clearly not the reason they were invented, or they would have named them something like “Fido Doors”.
  • And maybe people like them because they let in a lot of fresh air, particularly when you’re running a whole house fan. They do provide a larger opening for fresh air than windows. Some people may even like the way they let in sunlight to a normally dark section of their house.

So for those of you who find the above arguments for storm doors compelling, bully for you. You know who to call to repair or replace them. Oh, that would be us, Fix St Louis.

But for those of you who view your storm doors as more of a nuisance, we bring you good news. Our skilled technicians regularly perform storm-door-ectomies, in which we not only unfasten, detach, and haul away old storm doors, we also restore whatever holes, mortises, cracks or unpainted-areas are left behind, so no one would ever suspect you even had a storm door there.

OK, inviting us over to your house to repair, remove, or replace a storm door may not be the most exciting thing to happen to you that day. But it sure beats a smart whack in the backside from a storm door.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100