Home Alone: Worthwhile Activities for the Self-Quarantined

Was it just me? Or did it seem like the week started with experts telling us to wash our hands, and ended with them telling us to GO home, STAY there, and DON’T COME OUT ’til we SAY SO. Maybe they should be pacing themselves, because after one week all that’s left is “go to your room without dinner” and “wait ’til your father gets home.”

Now, I’m not sure about this, but I don’t think these rules apply to those of us in essential service businesses, like Fix St Louis and the Amazon delivery guy. So don’t worry about us — we’ve got plenty of stuff to do.

But, what are YOU going to be doing with all that time at home, when you can’t go to work, school, sporting events, concerts, or flee markets? What are YOU going to do after you’ve watched every last cat video on the Internet? Stare at the walls?

I say, YES, stare at the walls — only don’t forget the ceilings. Folks always talk about taking time to smell the flowers, but that’s just in your garden beds. Take the time to stare at your walls and ceilings looking for cracks and leaks. Take the time to sniff under the kitchen sink for mildew. Not to get carried away, but take the time to open (and close) EVERY door that comes before you, to see if they properly latch.

I know, I know. These words may be inspirational to me, your humble handyman, but they aren’t the kind of words-of-wisdom stuff that make it onto your teens’ wall posters. Still, that doesn’t mean it isn’t good advice.

So as a public service during these perilous times, let Fix St Louis offer for your consideration the following worthwhile activities for when you are self-quarantined and run out of things to do, And it’s just you and your house. And nobody else.

Defective Door Bells

Maybe you’ve never noticed or cared about whether or not your door bell works. But, that was before the day-before-yesterday, when the aforementioned Amazon delivery guy became the lifeline for your basic human needs. To paraphrase (and butcher) an age-old question about a tree falling in a forest, if a package is delivered on your front porch and doesn’t make a sound, does it do you any good? What’s more, if you have Fix St Louis install one of those new VIDEO door bells, you can even watch Amazon-guy run back to his truck.

Defiant Doors

If a door doesn’t close all the way, what good is it? It’s there for a reason. To keep people out, or to keep water out, or to keep cold air out. Do they keep viruses out? I suppose. Maybe that’s why they sent us home in the first place.

Wicked Windows

Do you have windows that drop like a guillotine when you let go, like something out of the French Revolution? Now, I’m not thinking you’re going to have much use for a guillotine — that the experts predict this stay-at-home thing will last so long that your subdivision neighbors will be violently scavenging for dwindling supplies of water and toilet paper. So, you might as well get these windows fixed by Fix St Louis.

Cruddy Caulk

Do you have brown or black stuff on the caulk around the ledge of your bathtub or base of your shower? Now, I’m no CDC microbiologist, but that gunk can’t be doing your body any good. Let Fix St Louis replace that dirty caulk with white or clear stuff that at least LOOKS like it might be sterile.

OK, that should be enough to keep you busy for at least a couple of hours, while also doing good things for your house and family. So, here’s a suggestion for when that’s done, and you’re tired of watching YouTube cat videos. Have you ever Googled for videos of animals with unusual best friends? You’re welcome.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

Drain the Cesspool! Bring the Super Bowl to St Louis!

Don’t mind me, please go right ahead to your Super Bowl parties this weekend. Your humble correspondent is saving his energy for a bigger celebration coming as soon as later this year, when a Super Bowl may come to St Louis, courtesy of the federal government.

You see, for decades there have been federal regulations that have forced manufacturers to make toilets work using decreasing amounts of water. And by saying “work” I am being generous, attested to by the presence of a plunger next to just about every toilet Fix St Louis sees nowadays. I dunno, it’s pretty easy to imagine we’re dealing here with a bureaucracy run by know-it-all Ivy League elites, who think they know best about everything, including how to dispose of our waste — and also think theirs doesn’t stink. But, maybe they sincerely believe they’re on a noble mission rather than a power grab to control our every movement, if you’ll pardon the expression.

After all, there are some places in the country, like California, where voters might actually LIKE these blasted water-stingy toilets. Water seems to be scarce there, although it may be by choice. Many live in deserts, and voters have put in place lawmakers who have placed additional restrictions on water usage, halted construction of new reservoirs, and diverted fresh water into the ocean on behalf of fish no one has ever heard of, much less eaten.

But, there are other places, like St Louis, where people have a more water-friendly attitude, who even endure thunderstorms, tornadoes, and flooded basements to get the water they need. If I did my middle school math correctly, every INCH of rain we get in the greater St Louis area provides enough water to flush the toilet of every man, woman, and child 10x per day for 9 years.

If Californians really like these toilets, or even want to regulate them down to the point where they operate on their own SPIT, that’s fine with me. But if St Louis has the water to provide our toilets with enough to do the job without harming others, that should be fine with Californians and everyone else.

If we’re going to be stuck with these low water-capacity toilets, at least you can count on Fix St Louis to fix them. We can solve all the problems they come with by repairing, replacing, and adjusting all of a toilet’s components, whether it is leaking, suffocating from lack of water, or it’s running and won’t stop.

But, we’re excited by the prospect of a new “Super Bowl”, well-functioning toilet coming to town as early as this year. Maybe the type of toilet Americans enjoyed in the 1950’s, a 6-7 gallon tank that unleashes a gusher that takes everything down with it, except for an occasional ashtray the kids threw in – but nobody even has those things hanging around anymore. If America can send a man to the Moon, surely we can send a you-know-what to a sewer lateral.

The reason for our optimism here at Fix St Louis is that the President recently ordered the EPA to review relaxing water regulations on toilets, claiming “people are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times as opposed to once. They end up using more water.” Geez, I don’t know what happens in public rest rooms a billionaire might visit, but the ones I go to don’t have toilets that need to be primed like water well pumps. Nevertheless, I welcome the President’s initiative in what I hope blossoms into a growing “poop-ulist” movement.

Look, I’m just a humble handyman, who can’t match the soaring rhetoric of a Martin Luther King Jr. But I, too, have a dream, when an American can attend a cocktail party at Martha Stewart’s, use the hall bathroom, close the lid, flush, then walk away confidently without ever looking back. Some may say I’m a dreamer, but apparently I’m not the only one.

But until that glorious day arrives, we at Fix St Louis will proudly continue to fix your toilets. Don’t worry about us, we’ll still have plenty of other work to do.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

The rain gods are sending Cardinals fans a message

Geez, what’s with all this rain? Someone needs to tell the rain gods that people in St Louis sing about APRIL showers, not those in January. Yeah, as if they’ll bring the flowers that bloom in … February.

Maybe the rain gods just like watching Cardinals games, and want to get all this rain stuff out of the way NOW, so they can suffer through fewer rain delays after the April season opener. Or maybe they just like us Cardinal FANS, and are giving us a 3 month warning, so we can prep our homes for the deluge to come later.

What CAN you do to keep all this rainwater from coming into your house? Sure, it would be nice to store a huge tarp against your back fence, all dressed-up in yellow to look like the world’s largest Post-Dispatch. And every time it rained, dozens of men, running as fast as they can, unroll the tarp over your house to keep the water out. But only the players themselves can afford a system like that.

So, why not use the rain coming down as an opportunity to learn where your home’s weaknesses are, so you can have Fix St Louis repair them before the real Spring rains come. Here’s where to look:

Basement Walls & Floors

If you see water leaking out of cracks in your basement foundation walls, or puddling-up at the base of your walls, that’s not a good thing. You’ll need those cracks filled, that’s for sure. But it would also be good if the water wasn’t right behind those walls in the first place. So, read on.

Ground Water AROUND Your House

A house is supposed to be built so that rain water does not collect around it. Water that hits your roof should flow into gutters, not overflow the sides of gutters or slip through gaps between the roof and gutters. From there, it should flow freely until it reaches the downspouts, unobstructed by leaves and debris. Then, it should pass through the downspouts without backing-up, and exit at the bottom onto sloping ground that directs the water away from the house, or into above-ground or underground drain pipes that carry it away from the house.

If your roof water is not flowing this way, the solution depends on the problem. Gutters can be realigned, secured, cleaned-out, and have gutter covers installed on them. Drain pipes can be added, lengthened, or repaired. And the ground can be re-graded so that water flows away from your house. Fix St Louis can help.

Ground Water UNDER Your House

It’s actually NORMAL to have ground water under your house — as long as the water level is low enough so that it doesn’t reach your basement floor. If it’s getting too high, and after first doing everything you can to minimize the amount of ground water around your house as discussed above, the next remedy is a sump pump system. If you don’t already have a sump pump, it’s a pretty big job to put one in, requiring among other things, jackhammering-out a channel around the perimeter of your floor, not to mention a big round hole for the pump itself. If your house has already been prepared for a sump pump, make sure there’s actually a sump pump in that big round hole, that it’s actually working, and that the water from that pump that exits your house is directed away from your home.

Ceilings With an Attic Above

If there are water stains on a ceiling that has an attic above it, like upstairs bedrooms and hallways, you now have, or once had, a roof leak. Usually these leaks don’t come from random holes in shingles, but from where other items meet the roofing — like vent pipes and chimney bricks. In this regard, you may hear contractors throw around the word “flashing,” which does NOT mean a naked person is running around on the top of your roof. It refers to metal used to fill the gaps between those items and the roof. Sealants like caulk are needed, too.

Windows and Doors

If you have water coming in around windows and doors, Fix St Louis can eliminate your problems by patching brick mortar, caulking inside and out, replacing or repairing rotted exterior trim, and replacing door weatherstripping, thresholds, and door sweeps.

So, good news. If you’ve got problems with water coming into your house this winter, you don’t have to move to a Florida training camp or a water-tight domed stadium. All you need is a capable ground crew. And that would be Fix St Louis.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

If your STORM door was worthless during the snow storm, why do you even have one?

Ever wonder why the flimsiest thing on the outside of your house, that combination screen/glass door blocking your real door, is of all things called a STORM door? Didn’t help much during the snow storm this week, did it? Wouldn’t you think something called a STORM door would look sturdier, like the hatch doors on Auntie Em’s storm cellar?

Those so-called Storm Doors are also not much help when you’re carrying-in a package, are they? They spring back to whack you in the you-know-where. Geez, like you REALLY needed that little extra bit of encouragement to keep walking that Amazon package into your house.

So, maybe it’s time to ask Fix St Louis to just REMOVE your nuisance Storm Door, patch-up the exposed damage left behind, and call it good. On the other hand, maybe there are actually good reasons to keep your Storm Door, fix it when it breaks, or even ADD a new one!

I’m sure you never imagined having to suffer through a history lesson delivered by a handyman, but this short one may prove helpful. Once upon a time there were these things called Storm Windows, another outside layer of windows, designed to insulate houses better from cold air than windows alone. Storm Windows had a cousin named the Storm DOOR designed to do the same thing for doors, because many doors had windows (glass panes) built-in.

But then, Man created the double-paned glass window, which made the Storm Window obsolete, and then extinct, just like the dinosaur. Yet, Storm DOORS continue to walk the Earth, even though real doors ALSO now have doubled-paned glass. So for decades, homeowners have wondered why the double-paned-glass meteor that struck the Storm Window only grazed the Storm Door, merely giving it a flesh wound.

By the count of your humble correspondent, these are the four best reasons that Storm Doors have not met their maker:

  • If your entry door happens to be in a dark section of your house without windows, you can open that door and the Storm Door will let light in.
  • If you have one of those louvered fans on a hallway ceiling, you can open your door, and let the screen in a Storm Door provide a large opening for fresh air to be sucked into your house. Even without that fan, it’s a larger opening for fresh air than any window.
  • When those darling little boy/girl scouts or trick-or-treaters knock on your door, you can talk to them and get your money to pay them, all without slamming a door in their face, or having Fido or Felix run out of your house.
  • If you live in Minnesota, they’re great at keeping snow drifts away from your front door. Oh, I forgot. Minnesota is outside our service area. Never mind!

So, call Fix St Louis if you have a good reason to add or fix a Storm Door, or if you would prefer to have one our talented surgeons perform a Storm-Door-ectomy. But however you decide, don’t let that Storm Door hit you on your way out.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

On the 12th day of FIXmas, my handyman fixed for me…

It’s FIXmas season again, when the reason for the season is getting your home repairs done before the guests arrive. So, let’s get in the mood by singing an old-time favorite. And this time, I wanna hear the voices of EVERYBODY, even those of you WAY BACK in the cul-de-sacs. On three — one, and a two, and a…

On the 12th day of FIXmas, my handyman fixed for me…
12 doors not latching
11 walls for patching
10 toilets running
9 sinks need plumbing
8 drains a-leaking
7 floors a-creaking
6 tiles a-laying
5 WAX TOI-LET RINGS…
4 falling shelves
3 French doors
2 lights above
and a door tra-ack on a pan-try…

Wow. That FIXmas classic never fails to bring a tear to this old handyman’s eyes. All those Fix St Louis memories. Repairing all those broken, rotted, dirty, and damp things in your homes. What joyous times we had.

But you know, many folks don’t realize the FIXmas season extends well past Christmas, and into the new year. FIXmas is also a time to make home improvement New Years resolutions, and take those first steps to guarantee you will keep them. What about that bathroom or basement you always wanted to upgrade, but it’s now too close to the holidays to get that started? Fix St Louis operators are now standing by, waiting to take your reservations for dates in January, to make sure these projects will actually get done, and you can enjoy them all year long.

Seems like you’re kinda busy, so we’ll put-off singing more FIXmas classics, like Little Plumber Boy and Chuck-ie the Handyman. Meanwhile, let us know if we can help this FIXmas season, either before or after the new year. From all of us at Fix St Louis, Merry Christmas and Many Happy Repairs!

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

The other, lesser-known 12-step process that can bring your house to order

Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of praise for AA’s 12-step process for recovering alcoholics, often touted as one of the most successful self-improvement programs of all time. So, I was curious and looked it up on the web.

Now keep in mind that this old handyman doesn’t spend his days immersed in the world of big ideas. As they say, when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. And when all you have is a plunger, everything looks like a toilet.

So, it’s not all that surprising that when I read AA’s 12 steps, I was astonished by how well they fit the situation our home-owning customers find themselves in. Not that there is a perfect analogy between homeowners and recovering alcoholics, but I ask you to indulge me for a moment.

Let’s have Fix St Louis make some minor modifications to AA’s 12 steps. Imagine you are giving a pledge, and watch what happens:


  • I admit that after living with the same home defects for months, I am powerless to get the repairs done, and my home maintenance has become unmanageable.
  • I have come to believe that a Power with handyman skills greater than my own, or of my well-meaning spouse, can restore my house to order.
  • I have made a decision to turn my home’s brokenness over to the care of a competent handyman as I understand Him.
  • I will make a searching and fearless inventory of the shortcomings of my home.
  • I will humbly ask an even humbler handyman to remove said shortcomings.

Not a bad fit, is it? Maybe Fix St Louis can help by making suggestions on that “searching and fearless inventory” of things that need to be fixed, especially before the holiday guests arrive. How about that bathroom door that doesn’t quite latch, so can never be locked for privacy? Or that folding pantry door that has fallen off its tracks? Or that ominous stain on your living room ceiling, just beneath an upstairs toilet? Or that mailbox that is leaning, or doorbell that hasn’t worked for years?

Now, let’s not take this translation of AA’s 12 steps TOO far. For instance, you probably don’t need to make a list of all the friends and family members you’ve hurt over the last few years by your lack of diligence in home repairs. Or apologize and make amends to each and every one of them. OK, so maybe it’s just an 11-step process.

But, however many steps there are, the last one ought to be “Contact Fix St Louis.” So, let’s get going. Let’s put your house in order.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100