Scary, not Scary: Don’t try these home repairs at home

No, I’m not trying to fool myself. Your humble correspondent knows he’s just an aging handyman who’s reached the pinnacle of his career on the world stage. Yet even from my lowly perch, I feel a need to do SOMETHING to unite everybody in these troubling times when we can’t seem to agree on ANYTHING. It’s Halloween for gosh sakes, and we can’t even agree on what’s SCARY anymore. And the list is long and growing: the unvaccinated, global warming, open borders, men playing in women’s sports, even whether parents attending school board meetings are “terrorists.”

If CHARITY begins at home, maybe unity on what’s scary begins at home, too. And fortunately, that happens to be one of the disappointingly few areas in which I may qualify as an expert. So let’s see if I can build a consensus on what’s scary and what’s not scary in do-it-yourself home repairs.

Roofs: Scary

In all fairness to roofs, roofs themselves are not the problem — the problem is gravity and the way it pulls your body toward the ground below. Not that it helps that roofs have slopes. Nor does it help that many of you like vaulted ceilings, which might require the roof to have a slope steep enough to give a mountain goat pause. Sure, if you live in a one story ranch with a relatively flat roof, you might end up bruised rather than brutalized if you fall off. But in general, you want to leave roof work to the professionals, mountain goats, and others crazy enough to go up there.

Light Bulbs on Vaulted Ceilings: Scary

Q. How many home builders does it take to change a light bulb on a vaulted ceiling? A. None. They’re gone, that’s YOUR problem (Forgive me for indulging in a little handyman humor there). Yeah, I don’t know why they put can lights up there either, and what they expect you to do when a bulb burns out — other than call Fix St Louis, who actually, believe it or not, have the ladders (and occasionally SCAFFOLDING) needed to change those bulbs. But here’s an even better idea — have us replace those canned lights with bulb-less LED lights so that you never have to change a bulb up there again (maybe change the FIXTURE, sooner or later, but never a bulb). That’s OK, we don’t need the repeat light-bulb-changing business — we’re busy enough.

Attics: Scary (unless you’re a contortionist)

Regular readers know I sometimes equate the skills required for work in an attic to those of petite girls from a breakaway Soviet republic, competing on an Olympic gymnastic team. The ONLY places you can step on are those narrow 1-½” wide edges on those widely spaced joists. Otherwise, you are stepping on a flimsy ½” thick sheet of drywall that cannot support your weight, which is the flip side of a ceiling rising 8-9’ above the floor beneath it. If you crash down to THAT floor, that’s gonna leave a mark — on you and the house. Did I mention that the attic is dark, covered with insulation that hides the attic floor, is usually not tall enough for you to stand, and likely has a low lying roof with nails protruding downward pointed toward your head?

Sure, if you have an agile body and a lot of time to make sure you’re avoiding the dangers, you can do stuff like add insulation, replace damaged screens on your gable vents, add a junction box for a ceiling light or fan for the level below, add or replace an attic fan, or lay plywood over the joists so that you can walk like a hunched-over human being up there or use that space for storage. But if you do NOT have an agile body, have a busy life, and would rather not risk damaging your house as the price of learning new handyman skills, you might want to call the contortionists here at Fix St Louis.

Plumbing and Electrical: Scary & Not Scary

We at Fix St Louis don’t discourage folks from trying to do plumbing and electrical repairs themselves, as long as they do it safely. For instance, just as Alec Baldwin could have prevented tragedy by simply checking that his gun was not loaded, you can use an inexpensive electrical tester to make sure the wiring is not “hot,” and shut-off the water valve near the plumbing you are about to work on. And hey, if your home repairs don’t work out, you can always call Fix St Louis to make things right.

Now, if I had the misfortune of having a lawyer sitting next to me right now, I’m sure he’d be poking me, trying to stop me from giving advice on whether it’s worth the risk of bodily injury or property damage to do plumbing and electrical work yourself. I say, it’s your body, your house, and in my view your decision. But, think about it. Have you ever heard of anyone you know getting injured or worse by falling off a roof? Probably yes. How about getting seriously injured from do-it-yourself plumbing and electrical work? Probably not. How about serious damage to a house from plumbing or electrical work? Probably not, either. Just sayin’.

But I’ve gotta say, based on the stories you guys tell me every day in my travels around your subdivisions, it sounds like the scariest Halloween costume would be a kid dressed-up like the last handyman you hired. But of course, that costume would be silly, because it would mean that handyman actually showed-up when he was supposed to. Guess that leaves it to Fix St Louis to take the SCARE out of home repairs.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis

Are LEANING fences & mailboxes giving your yard that “abandoned ghost town” look?

A lot of towns west of the Mississippi went through “boom” times when gold or something else was discovered, followed by “bust” times of decay and neglect.

Back in the olden days, when your humble correspondent was just a handy-boy, I learned that our big boom came when folks migrated here to trap furs.

But they must’ve taken all the good stuff with them, because all we have left are a bunch of rodents, an occasional groundhog, and — are those really dead armadillos I see by the side of the road? We should all be thankful for that community-minded genius who is trying to lure back the trappers, by reintroducing the bear to Kirkwood.

But it’s now been almost two centuries since our area went “bust.” So, why do so many yards display features from that period — the leaning fences, leaning sheds, leaning mailboxes, everything but the leaning tombstones? You asked, so I’ll tell you why.

It’s that homeowners have no idea who to call, to make these leaning things go straight. Call a fence company? HA! They’ll just tell you that you need to spend those extra multi-thousands of dollars you just happen to have lying around to build a whole new fence. Call a mailbox post contractor? A WHAT?! Call a GENERAL contractor? Sure, m’am, we’ll get back to you in about 6 months.

Fortunately, there IS a company you can lean on to un-lean your fences, sheds, and mailboxes. And by sheer luck, and the “slanted” content in this newsletter, it just happens to be Fix St Louis.

1. Leaning Fences

The only parts of your fence that are anchored in the ground, and would be causing the lean, are the posts — those square vertical boards you see every 6-8 feet. Just ask Fix St Louis to replace only those posts that are leaning or wobbly, and magically your fence will once again stand at attention.

So, why did those posts start leaning in the first place? Chances are, it’s because the fence’s installer didn’t know that you also need to pour CONCRETE into the hole dug for that fence post, or didn’t pour in enough. There are other reasons, too. Like the bottom of the post rotted because it absorbed water from the ground. Or the installer was lazy, and didn’t dig the post hole deep enough. Any which way, our skilled Fix St Louis technicians know the difference between a cup of Ted Drewes Dutchman and a sack of Quikrete. We’ve got concrete, and we know how to use it.

2. Leaning Mailboxes

If you think of your mailbox post as just a fancier version of a fence post, you already know why it’s leaning and how we can fix it. But you might also be interested in speaking with our highly experienced mailbox design consultant (oh, guess that’s me), who can tell you what options we can provide beyond what’s at Home Depot: 1) Various colors, metallic finishes, or artwork; 2) Wood, metal, or plastic-sleeved posts; 3) Personalized name and address plates; 4) Fancy grille work, horse heads, etc.; and 5) Mailboxes so strong that you will pity that fool who tries to play drive-by hockey with it.

3. Leaning Sheds

If you have a wooden shed that is leaning one way or another, Fix St Louis can use a collection of rarely-used and oddly-named tools to crank it back into position, including winches, pulleys, cables, and “Come Alongs.” And so it won’t just collapse back into position when we hit the tools’ “release” buttons, we will permanently brace the structure using lumber.

And even if you’re not the type who embarrasses easily, and are not particularly bothered by the unkempt appearance of your property, there are other, very practical reasons to make these repairs. If your neighbors don’t share your appreciation of our region’s charming “bust” period, your trustees might slap a lien on your leans. Or, if the neighborhood kids decide your house is haunted, you might find them daring each other to peak into your bedroom windows.

But, you know in your heart of hearts that if fences, sheds, and mailbox posts were meant to lean, they would have been built that way. Call Fix St Louis today, and we’ll set you straight.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis

Go ahead, fight fire with fire. But fight water with plastic.

You might have guessed that, as a busy handyman, your humble correspondent doesn’t spend much time pondering the teachings of the great philosophers. But, I do grab wisdom wherever I can get it.

Like from that late 20th century philosopher, Madonna, who famously said “We are living in a material world, and I am a material girl.” Or the Mr McGuire character in the movie “The Graduate”, with his succinct career guidance to recent grad Dustin Hoffman. “I just want to say one word to you … Just one word … Are you listening? … Plastics … There is a great future in plastics.”

Frankly, I didn’t pick up on their wisdom right away, but eventually I had my Aha! moment. PLASTICS! That MUST have been the material in Madonna’s prophecy! This handyman’s really got to hand it to that girl who knows her materials.

Think about it. What’s the one thing that does the most damage to houses? It’s water. And what material frustrates water the most when it goes about its devious plan to damage your home. Yes, it’s plastic.

Haven’t you noticed all the things in your home that are now made of plastic? If all “plastic” means to you are those small Lego blocks that hurt like hell when you step on them, you’re not thinking big enough. Plastic comes in many disguises, and is now found all throughout your house. Here are some of the best places Fix St Louis can install plastics to keep water from damaging your stuff:

Deck Boards: Fix St Louis can replace all the wood on your deck with boards that look just like wood, but don’t rot and never need staining. These “composite” boards are usually made by combining a variety of materials, that are held together and sealed with a petroleum-based resin, i.e. “plastic.”

Doors, Windows, and Front Porch Columns: Have you ever seen rotted wood outside on the wood trim around an entry or garage door, on the base trim of a porch column, or on a window ledge? Fix St Louis can replace these with PVC or composite trim that will never rot. Or we can fill holes with a plastic-based, rot-resistant patching material if the damaged area is small.

Floors: There are several areas in your home that, sooner or later, are likely to have an unfortunate water event — particularly bathrooms, kitchens, and basements. Water can ruin a floor made of hardwood, laminate flooring, or carpeting. You might want Fix St Louis to replace these floors with “vinyl plank,” a floor made of plastic, but with today’s technologies can be made to look just like wood.

Shutters: Unless your home is on the historical register, there is no good reason to replace deteriorating wood shutters with new wood shutters. Since they’re covered with paint anyway, what difference does it make what they’re made of? Go with a material that won’t rot and that you may never need to paint again. Vinyl shutters are what most homeowners choose. But if you want something more sturdy and more resistant to fading, composite shutters are a good choice.

The “great future in plastics” has brought different benefits to different people. For Madonna, judging from what I have seen, it’s been mostly in the form of injections. For Mr McGuire, it’s been in the form of investments that provide a comfortable retirement.

But for you as a homeowner, while I’m no Mr McGuire who can offer his best advice in just ONE word, maybe I can do it if you’ll give me THREE words plus ONE abbreviation… Are you listening?… Call Fix St Louis.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis

Go ahead, fight fire with fire. But fight water with plastic.

You might have guessed that, as a busy handyman, your humble correspondent doesn’t spend much time pondering the teachings of the great philosophers. But, I do grab wisdom wherever I can get it.

Like from that late 20th century philosopher, Madonna, who famously said “We are living in a material world, and I am a material girl.” Or the Mr McGuire character in the movie “The Graduate”, with his succinct career guidance to recent grad Dustin Hoffman. “I just want to say one word to you … Just one word … Are you listening? … Plastics … There is a great future in plastics.”

Frankly, I didn’t pick up on their wisdom right away, but eventually I had my Aha! moment. PLASTICS! That MUST have been the material in Madonna’s prophecy! This handyman’s really got to hand it to that girl who knows her materials.

Think about it. What’s the one thing that does the most damage to houses? It’s water. And what material frustrates water the most when it goes about its devious plan to damage your home. Yes, it’s plastic.

Haven’t you noticed all the things in your home that are now made of plastic? If all “plastic” means to you are those small Lego blocks that hurt like hell when you step on them, you’re not thinking big enough. Plastic comes in many disguises, and is now found all throughout your house. Here are some of the best places Fix St Louis can install plastics to keep water from damaging your stuff:

Deck Boards:

 Fix St Louis can replace all the wood on your deck with boards that look just like wood, but don’t rot and never need staining. These “composite” boards are usually made by combining a variety of materials, that are held together and sealed with a petroleum-based resin, i.e. “plastic.”

Doors, Windows, and Front Porch Columns: Have you ever seen rotted wood outside on the wood trim around an entry or garage door, on the base trim of a porch column, or on a window ledge? Fix St Louis can replace these with PVC or composite trim that will never rot. Or we can fill holes with a plastic-based, rot-resistant patching material if the damaged area is small.

Floors:

 There are several areas in your home that, sooner or later, are likely to have an unfortunate water event — particularly bathrooms, kitchens, and basements. Water can ruin a floor made of hardwood, laminate flooring, or carpeting. You might want Fix St Louis to replace these floors with “vinyl plank,” a floor made of plastic, but with today’s technologies can be made to look just like wood.

Shutters:

 Unless your home is on the historical register, there is no good reason to replace deteriorating wood shutters with new wood shutters. Since they’re covered with paint anyway, what difference does it make what they’re made of? Go with a material that won’t rot and that you may never need to paint again. Vinyl shutters are what most homeowners choose. But if you want something more sturdy and more resistant to fading, composite shutters are a good choice.

The “great future in plastics” has brought different benefits to different people. For Madonna, judging from what I have seen, it’s been mostly in the form of injections. For Mr McGuire, it’s been in the form of investments that provide a comfortable retirement.

But for you as a homeowner, while I’m no Mr McGuire who can offer his best advice in just ONE word, maybe I can do it if you’ll give me THREE words plus ONE abbreviation… Are you listening?… Call Fix St Louis.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

About Us

Fix St Louis  is the professional alternative to hiring “Chuck in a Truck” or “Pete in a Pick-up”. Our technicians have at least 10 years of experience, are bonded, insured, and show up at firm, scheduled times. We provide full customer service and guarantee our work for a year!

Are LEANING fences & mailboxes giving your yard that “abandoned ghost town” look?

A lot of towns west of the Mississippi went through “boom” times when gold or something else was discovered, followed by “bust” times of decay and neglect.

Back in the olden days, when your humble correspondent was just a handy-boy, I learned that our big boom came when folks migrated here to trap furs.

But they must’ve taken all the good stuff with them, because all we have left are a bunch of rodents, an occasional groundhog, and — are those really dead armadillos I see by the side of the road? We should all be thankful for that community-minded genius who is trying to lure back the trappers, by reintroducing the bear to Kirkwood.

But it’s now been almost two centuries since our area went “bust.” So, why do so many yards display features from that period — the leaning fences, leaning sheds, leaning mailboxes, everything but the leaning tombstones? You asked, so I’ll tell you why.

It’s that homeowners have no idea who to call, to make these leaning things go straight. Call a fence company? HA! They’ll just tell you that you need to spend those extra multi-thousands of dollars you just happen to have lying around to build a whole new fence. Call a mailbox post contractor? A WHAT?! Call a GENERAL contractor? Sure, m’am, we’ll get back to you in about 6 months.

Fortunately, there IS a company you can lean on to un-lean your fences, sheds, and mailboxes. And by sheer luck, and the “slanted” content in this newsletter, it just happens to be Fix St Louis.

1. Leaning Fences

The only parts of your fence that are anchored in the ground, and would be causing the lean, are the posts — those square vertical boards you see every 6-8 feet. Just ask Fix St Louis to replace only those posts that are leaning or wobbly, and magically your fence will once again stand at attention.

So, why did those posts start leaning in the first place? Chances are, it’s because the fence’s installer didn’t know that you also need to pour CONCRETE into the hole dug for that fence post, or didn’t pour in enough. There are other reasons, too. Like the bottom of the post rotted because it absorbed water from the ground. Or the installer was lazy, and didn’t dig the post hole deep enough. Any which way, our skilled Fix St Louis technicians know the difference between a cup of Ted Drewes Dutchman and a sack of Quikrete. We’ve got concrete, and we know how to use it.

2. Leaning Mailboxes

If you think of your mailbox post as just a fancier version of a fence post, you already know why it’s leaning and how we can fix it. But you might also be interested in speaking with our highly experienced mailbox design consultant (oh, guess that’s me), who can tell you what options we can provide beyond what’s at Home Depot: 1) Various colors, metallic finishes, or artwork; 2) Wood, metal, or plastic-sleeved posts; 3) Personalized name and address plates; 4) Fancy grille work, horse heads, etc.; and 5) Mailboxes so strong that you will pity that fool who tries to play drive-by hockey with it.

3. Leaning Sheds

If you have a wooden shed that is leaning one way or another, Fix St Louis can use a collection of rarely-used and oddly-named tools to crank it back into position, including winches, pulleys, cables, and “Come Alongs.” And so it won’t just collapse back into position when we hit the tools’ “release” buttons, we will permanently brace the structure using lumber.

And even if you’re not the type who embarrasses easily, and are not particularly bothered by the unkempt appearance of your property, there are other, very practical reasons to make these repairs. If your neighbors don’t share your appreciation of our region’s charming “bust” period, your trustees might slap a lien on your leans. Or, if the neighborhood kids decide your house is haunted, you might find them daring each other to peak into your bedroom windows.

But, you know in your heart of hearts that if fences, sheds, and mailbox posts were meant to lean, they would have been built that way. Call Fix St Louis today, and we’ll set you straight.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

About Us

Fix St Louis  is the professional alternative to hiring “Chuck in a Truck” or “Pete in a Pick-up”. Our technicians have at least 10 years of experience, are bonded, insured, and show up at firm, scheduled times. We provide full customer service and guarantee our work for a year!

Storm Door: Love it or Lose it

A long time ago, when your humble correspondent was just a handy-boy, I watched a scene from the Wizard of Oz that both shaped and distorted my thinking. Remember when the tornado was coming, and Auntie Em and the farmhands ducked into the cellar from an outside hatch, and two mostly flat-lying doors closed behind them? It’s no wonder that when I first heard the term “storm doors,” I figured those must be them, right?

But later, I learned that “storm doors” are those flimsy half-glass/half-screen doors that are installed in front of other outside doors. Geez, what protection from a storm or tornado would THAT have provided to Auntie Em and the farmhands? Maybe that was the home improvement mistake made by the Wicked Witch of the East, which she paid for dearly by ending-up on the receiving end of a flying house.

So you have to wonder, how did these doors that don’t seem like they could withstand a toddler-pelting of marshmallow Peeps get to be known as “storm doors”? It’s a sad story, actually. Storm doors started out as the door-counterpart of the well-accepted storm WINDOW, which were separate window-type units installed outside of regular windows, to provide supplemental insulation to the ineffective single-pane windows of their time. But when windows transitioned from having a single pane of glass to an integrated double-pane, storm windows became obsolete.

Storm doors suddenly found themselves to be orphans like Dorothy, only without an Auntie Em as a fallback. They lost their entire storm-window family, and were rejected by doors that no longer had any use for their insulation properties.

So, storm doors plummeted into a gender-identity crisis, from which they’ve never fully recovered. Do they identify as providing extra insulation to doors that no longer need them? Do they identify as windows for the times the doors they cover just happen to be open? Or do they identify as door-sized screens that keep bugs out?

Now, I don’t want to be canceled for being a storm-door-a-phobe, but just between you and me, you don’t REALLY need to welcome storm doors into your home. You may be tiring of that blasted thing tripping you up when you bring-in groceries or Amazon packages, and further humiliating you immediately after someone yells “don’t let the storm door hit you on your way out.”

So if you want to LOSE your storm door, call us at Fix St Louis . Our highly trained surgeons will perform a Storm-Door-Ectomy, that includes restoring and painting the screw holes, unpainted areas, and other damage left behind.

On the other hand, you may justifiably LOVE your storm door, even if its helpful properties have no relationship whatsoever to any of the original reasons God invented them. Like these:

More Sunlight: if you have a front or other entry door in a dark area of your home, sure, you can open the door and pretend your storm door is a window. With the exception of large picture windows, it’s likely to be the widest and tallest window in your house.

More Fresh Air: Now THIS one is really a good idea. If you have a whole house fan on the ceiling of a hallway, turn it on, and open the entry door that has a storm door. Fresh air will come whooshing through your house, saving you air conditioning-running time and providing a gentle, fresh-smelling, and comfortable breeze, particularly on summer nights. Although you might want to think twice about doing this if your storm door leads to those exhaust fumes in your garage, or you live in Sauget, Illinois. (Incidentally, Fix St Louis  installs whole house fans, too).

Keeping Toto from Running Outside: Talk to your neighbors, buy girl scout cookies, or let your pet enjoy a ground-level view of the outside without them running out or away.

So always remember. Whether you want to fix, remove, or upgrade your storm door, as Dorothy herself would have said if she had ever left Kansas again — there’s no place like Fix St Louis .

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

About Us

Fix St Louis  is the professional alternative to hiring “Chuck in a Truck” or “Pete in a Pick-up”. Our technicians have at least 10 years of experience, are bonded, insured, and show up at firm, scheduled times. We provide full customer service and guarantee our work for a year!