They should have known better on “Better Together”

Seems like that “Better Together” plan to merge St Louis City and St Louis County has gone bust. Which comes as no surprise to your humble correspondent.

You know, I think I missed my calling. This aging handyman should have gotten into the polling business, and sold politicians the results of the daily “Dr Steve Subdivision Chit-Chat Serial Focus Group” that captures what dozens of random homeowners tell me each week. I could have told them that those believing this plan was “better” consisted almost entirely of the folks who came up with the idea, plus one County Executive who just resigned after being charged with bribery. And that the much larger group of together-believers was not “together” in any way they would find helpful.

So coming out of the ashes, let me see if Fix St Louis can do its part in finding an issue that unites our community on things that everyone can agree ARE better together. And, we’ll start on the ground floor. Literally.

Dining Rooms + Hardwood Flooring

Fix St Louis customers’ favorite flooring for dining rooms seems to be hardwood flooring. This is a room for more formal get-togethers, holiday celebrations, and guests, so it should be beautiful and warm. It’s also a room where you don’t want a floor that absorbs spilled drinks and hides fallen crumbs. Easy decision, hardwood floors.

Kitchens + Vinyl Plank

This flooring option is just catching on, so let’s say this is Fix St Louis‘ pick. I know, I know – vinyl has a reputation for looking cheap. But, if you haven’t seen vinyl flooring lately, you haven’t seen vinyl flooring. You see, there’s this new thing out there called “technology” that’s been applied to vinyl flooring. So now, its appearance can be surprisingly similar to wood or stone. And, it’s now got padding built into its layers that absorbs shock, and makes it comfortable to walk on and easy of the legs if you spend a lot of time standing-up in your kitchen. If you drop a glass or cookware on it, there’s a better chance that it won’t shatter. It can withstand anything your kids spill, drop, or scrape all over it. And it’s very easy to clean, with no cracks that trap dirt, or grout that turns icky.

When you visit the store, you may hear these products referred to by awkward words that only a floor salesman, not a normal person, would use. Terms like “Luxury Vinyl Tile” and “Engineered Vinyl Planks” were developed by not-particularly-good marketing types at flooring manufacturers trying to overcome the stigma of the historically cheap and lousy peel ‘n stick, linoleum, and sheet vinyl products. Just ignore these terms – you’ll know these products when you see them, and if you ask for “vinyl plank” the sales clerks will know what you’re talking about.

I know that many of you watch those home improvement shows and dream of putting a beautiful hardwood floor in your kitchen. As someone who sees what happens to these floors everyday, I say “don’t.” Sooner or later, there will be a “water event” in your kitchen – a leaking drain, a leaking faucet, a leaking garbage disposal, a leaking water shut-off valve, a leaking dishwasher, or a leaking ice maker water supply line. These can harm a hardwood floor in a way that makes it impossible to make the damage invisible at a reasonable cost. Fix St Louis advises you to avoid this heartbreak by avoiding hardwood.

Bathrooms + Ceramic Tile

While vinyl plank is also a great choice for bathrooms because of its water-resistance, if you like the look of ceramic tile here’s the best place to put it. It’s also the cheapest place to put it because bathrooms have the smallest floors in your house. A lot of folks like to have matching or complementary ceramic tile on their bathroom walls and tub/shower surrounds, too.

Bedrooms + Carpeting

Carpeting gives bedrooms a warm and cozy feel. And while you wouldn’t believe what we’ve seen some kids have done to their bedroom carpeting, you’re probably less likely to have spilled drinks and dropped food here.

Who knows? Maybe if we can all learn to agree on flooring choices, someday we can all agree on how to draw lines on a map so that all voters get exactly what they want. Come to think of it, wasn’t that mentioned in John Lennon’s song “Imagine”?

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis

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