Fact-checking the handyman debate.
Who’s telling the truth?

Another round of Presidential candidate debates, and another round of wondering who, if anybody, is telling the truth. But, is it really all that different from when you’re debating which handyman to hire, and they’re all saying things that don’t quite add up?

So as a public service, Fix St Louis offers this handy guide to handyman lies. We were inspired by the political fact checkers at the Washington Post, who use a rating system that assigns a specific number of “Pinocchios.”

3 pinnochios
“For us, no job is too small”

I’m going to let you in on a secret. EXCEPT for Fix St Louis, no handyman wants your stinking little small jobs. They’d much rather be tied-up for a couple of months remodeling a kitchen so they can make money without the hassle of running around to find new jobs, or deal with customer service issues like call backs for repairs gone wrong. As a result, you might find some handymen using unsavory techniques to shake-off small jobs. Like try to up-sell you from a smaller job to a much bigger job (e.g. “yeah, this window is broken, but all your other windows are not much better and ought to be replaced, too”). Or double their price in the hope you’ll either reject it or make it worth their while.

5 pinnochios
“Can’t come next week, I’m going to my great aunt’s out-of-town funeral”

Don’t want to sound cold, but has ANYONE EVER been so close to a deceased great aunt that they were willing to sacrifice several days of wages to attend her funeral? What this means is that your handyman wants to spend time working for a customer he thinks is more important than you – one he thinks is worth YOUR inconvenience. Worse still, it often means you’ll never see that handyman again.

3 1/2 pinnochios
“Boy, that LAST handyman you hired REALLY screwed-up”

Homeowners fall for this one all the time. One of the least endearing aspects of the normative handyman is a willingness to falsely trash a previous contractor’s work for their own advantage. Yes it’s true that handymen screw things up all the time – it actually generates a lot of work for Fix St Louis. But, you’ll know it when you see it, without another handyman needing to point it out to you. Otherwise, if you hear this from a handyman, run away and don’t look back.

4 pinnochios
“Yeah, sure, we have insurance, even workers comp”

No, most handymen do NOT carry insurance, and even fewer are willing to pay the high cost of workers comp. This makes YOU vulnerable to paying the costs if the handyman damages your house, or gets injured on your property, or steals from you. And you will likely never be made whole. Look, I’D be the one lying to you if I told you I enjoy paying the high costs of general liability, employee bonding, and workers comp insurance. But these are almost entirely for YOUR benefit, and we view them as a necessary cost to US for the privilege of entering your home.

5 pinnochios
“I’ll need 100% of the cost upfront before I begin work”

This is an unreasonable request, and a red flag indicating you have hired the wrong handyman. By paying the entire cost upfront, you have removed all the incentives for the handyman to show-up, do quality work, finish the work on a timely basis, or finish the job at all. For residential work, I can think of only one exception – if an agreed-to repair between a house buyer and seller cannot be completed before the closing date, the best practice is to complete the financial transaction between the handyman and seller before the closing, then transfer the responsibility of the handyman to the buyer.

So, as Oprah’s spiritual advisor and presidential candidate Marianne Williamson might say, “what can we do about this dark psychic force of collectivized lying that leads to very dark work days?” To tell you the truth, there is no debate. It’s time to vote with your jobs, and nominate Fix St Louis as your preferred handyman.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

Don’t build that ARK yet! We can keep the water out.

It’s time for someone to name names. Who in the St Louis area invoked God’s wrath, leading to more than 40 days and 40 nights of rain? Could He be THAT MUCH of a Boston Bruins fan? Did the failure of the City-County merger spoil some vast eternal plan? And why instead of a plague of locusts are we seeing these little hoppy green suckers all over the place? They MUST be falling from the sky because not even rabbits can breed that fast!

As handymen, we at Fix St Louis accept it is not for us to answer questions that stump the most learned members of the clergy. But it is well within our calling to deal with the very worldly issue of how to keep these rains of Biblical proportions from entering and damaging your house.

Sump Pumps

Your home may or may not have one, but a sump pump is an electrically-operated water pump mounted in a lid-covered hole in your basement floor. It collects groundwater that gets underneath the perimeter of your house, and pumps it up and out, either back into your yard or into a sewer pipe.

If you’ve got one, make sure it works. If you’re afraid it may stop working in a power outage, Fix St Louis can install a unit with an alarm, a backup battery, or both. If your house has NOT been prepared for a sump pump — that is, it does not have a hidden below-floor channel around the basement floor perimeter and a hole someplace in the concrete floor for the pump itself — it can still be retrofitted to accommodate a sump pump (though not inexpensively).

Foundation Leaks

If you see water coming into your basement from cracks in your concrete foundation or notice that floors near walls are wet, you should do something about it. Fix St Louis can refer you to the real experts in water entering your house – qualified foundation specialists. When their work is done, Fix St Louis can repair the damage created by BOTH them and the water.

Gutters & Downspouts

Gutters and downspouts are designed to direct all the water that hits your roof into drain pipes or onto ground sloped away from your house. Call Fix St Louis if you see water overflowing your gutters, leaking from beneath a gutter, spewing from the bottoms of downspouts that have become disconnected from drain pipes at their bases, or pooling near your house.

Mind the Gaps

If water is entering your house from gaps around windows and doors, call Fix St Louis to replace the caulk, inside and out, and repair the damage to the inside of your home. We can also fill the gaps between concrete patio floors and the house.

Look, I’m just a humble servant to homeowners, not a prophet. But, I’m still going to predict these rains are not a signal we have reached the end times. So, let’s all just wait it out. But thanks to Fix St Louis, you don’t have to wait it out wet.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

Stairs and Pipes Forever! Presenting our Handyman Bill of Rights

When in the course of handyman events, the truth becomes self-evident that, while all MEN are created equal, all HANDY-men are not. 

It should also become self-evident that, while it’s unlikely any handyman will ever appear on Mt Rushmore without a hammer and chisel in hand, the country would LITERALLY fall apart without them.

As a highly-decorated handyman service, who has earned the coveted A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau and Best of Home Advisor award, Fix St Louis acknowledges the awesome responsibility upon our shoulders. 

We pledge to risk our lives (even on tall ladders), our fortunes, and our sacred honor to make your home great again. And, we demonstrate this commitment by providing every Homeowning-American with these certain unalienable and enumerated rights:

  1. Fix St Louis shall not abridge your right to FREE estimates, and your ability to schedule SPECIFIC appointment times shall not be infringed.
  2. A well-regulated workforce being necessary for proper repairs, our technicians shall be armed with at least 10 years of experience.
  3. Our work shall be GUARANTEED for one full year, and we will provide a full-time CUSTOMER SERVICE REPRESENTATIVE who may be petitioned for a redress of grievances.
  4. Homeowners have the right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, so Fix St Louis technicians shall undergo drug tests and criminal background checks, and their work shall be bonded and insured.
  5. Checks and Balances: Customers may write CHECKS to pay their BALANCES. But, that would be soooo 20th century. Thus, they may also use any major credit card, and pay either online or by phone.

As we say here at Fix St Louis, “E Pluribus Unum” which, if I’m not mistaken, is Latin for “One Stop Shopping for Professional Home Repairs.” So, next time you’re thinking of calling just some “Chuck-in-a-Truck” or “Pete-in-a-Pickup” please consider calling us instead, to seek a more perfect union.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

DEXIT: On deck staining, are you a Remainer or a Leaver?

It is not widely appreciated, but throughout history the humble handyman has provided wisdom and inspiration to some of our greatest moral leaders. Examples range from the Bible’s “a wise man builds his house upon a rock”, to Abraham Lincoln’s “a house divided against itself cannot stand”, to Dorothy’s “there’s no place like home.”

But every once in a long while, there are things us handymen can learn from politicians. That’s the case today on the issue of BREXIT, on whether Britain should leave the European Union. “Remainers” want to hold onto this post-WWII arrangement that seemed mostly designed to keep Germany from invading everyone else, and everyone else from letting them. On the other hand, British “Leavers” want out of the European Union because they’re not thrilled with the idea of countries who recently invaded them writing their laws and telling them what to do.

The equivalent issue in the handyman world of Fix St Louis is “DEXIT” — homeowners breaking away from the ongoing need to stain their deck, freed-up from being a serf with their DECK as their master. Most decks are tyrants, demanding they be stained every couple of years under the threat of becoming uglier, more decrepit and, when replacement is required, expensive.

The “Remainers” in the DEXIT question are those with a cedar deck and a traditionalist disposition, who insist on maintaining a deck composed of cedar lumber with a natural wood look. While it’s true that cedar DOES resist disintegration better than most other woods, if not sealed every couple of years the ends of boards start splitting, knot holes enlarge, and the wood turns an ugly gray color. Why does it have to be sealed so often? Because the translucent stains that maintain the look of the wood don’t protect against water & temperature changes as well as solid stains/sealants.

The “Leavers” in DEXIT have, if you pardon the expression, “splintered” into 2 groups. There is a “Pressure Group” that likes to replace rotted cedar lumber with much longer-lasting and much less expensive pressure-treated lumber, then make the new boards blend in by staining the entire deck with a solid stain or an even better-protecting “deck & dock”-type coating. Then there is a “Composite Group” that prefers to replace all of the floor boards with good-looking, WOOD-looking boards made of plastic-like materials.

So, which deck party is right, the Remainers, the Leaver Pressures, or the Leaver Composites? Well, in the decisive opinion of us here at Fix St Louis, it all depends.

The Remainer Party may be right for you if you are a top 1-percenter who doesn’t mind the cost of staining your deck every couple of years, and haven’t noticed the uncanny resemblance between the deck attached to your beautiful house, and the raft Huckleberry Finn floated down the Mississippi River. Of course, we recognize that there are “honest Remainers” out there who may hold a different point of view, and have decks that everyone can agree are stunning.

The Leaver Pressure Party may be right for you if you don’t like the effort or expense of staining your deck every couple of years, and think if solid-color exterior lumber is good enough for the rest of your house, it’s good enough for your deck. Solid stain should last 2-3x longer than the translucent stain discussed above, about 4-6 years in total, but you can boost that up to 10+ years by using a “deck & dock” coating instead.

The Leaver Composite Party is for those attracted to the appearance of these deck boards, which often look better than real wood right from the start. And also for those who never, ever, ever want to stain their deck again. And also for those who would take pride in the fact that archeologists 10,000 years from now will find only their deck and the Cahokia Mounds. And also for those willing to pay the extra cost.

In any event, Fix St Louis brings the good news that with DEXIT, unlike BREXIT, everyone can plot their own course, and be a master of their own fate. Remainers may remain, and leavers may leave. No one will be tarred, feathered, and run out of town on a rail. Oh that reminds me, we didn’t talk about deck railings. Let’s leave that for another day.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

Make your house look more like Buckingham Palace

With the President’s visit to Buckingham Palace last week, we were all given a glimpse of how the Queen’s living accommodations compare to those of St Louisans. Sure, her place is real nice and all that, but before you lapse into Queen-envy, you might want to count your blessings. After all, she has a son who has now reached retirement age without ever holding a real job.

The good news is that there are many things you can do to close the appearance gap between your house and Buckingham Palace. Here are just a few ways Fix St Louis can help you live more like a Royal:

Crown Molding

Sometimes it’s the little touches that turn a room from good to great, and installing crown molding around a ceiling perimeter can do just that. Mostly, Fix St Louis is asked to install crown molding in dining rooms, living rooms, and master bedrooms. And if you really want to increase the “wow” factor, consider installing a style called “dentil trim” (see picture below). I suppose it was given a name similar to a dentist because the design looks like teeth, except the gaps between the teeth are about as wide as the teeth themselves. Why the big gap? I don’t know, but based on this handyman’s personal observations, it’s possible the British may not recognize good dentistry when they see it.

Dentil Crown Molding

Beneath the Crown

If you want to take this crown molding thing up a notch, there are ways Fix St Louis can complement this look on the walls below. The most popular request is adding a chair rail, which also provides a decorating option to paint or wallpaper the areas above and below the chair rail differently.

Now, you don’t have to go full-Brit to make things look right. Like hanging red velvet wallpaper. Or mounting shiny gold carvings of lions standing on their hind legs, facing and giving high-fives to each other. But you might want to consider adding beneath the chair rail something known as “picture framing,” white trim configured into a series of rectangles (see picture below).

Picture Framing

Doors

Many of you already know about spiffing up your interior doors by having Fix St Louis replace them with raised panel doors (see picture below). At the risk of sounding more like a hairdresser than a handyman, they can make your doors go from flat to fabulous.

Raised Panel Door

And there are all kinds of fancy-schmancy things you can do to your FRONT door. Frankly, these designs seem less British than French and Greek to me. But until Brexit happens, if all these nations want to act like they’re one big happy country, I suppose we can too.

For some mysterious reason, all of these decorative elements begin with the letter “p”. “Plinths” are the blocks at the bottom, and they are generally fairly plain. “Pilasters” are the column-looking elements sitting on the plinths, and often they are fluted, i.e. they have a series of curved channels in them. “Pediments” are the decorative element immediately above the door that spans its entire width. The most common designs are a triangular design that peaks mid-door, a curly, swirly French-looking design, and designs that mimic sunbursts, mantel shelves, and crown molding. See picture below.

Decorative Door Trim with Pediment and Fluted Pilasters

Coffered Ceilings

So far, we’ve been discussing walls and doors, but there are also some pretty dramatic ways that Fix St Louis can transform your ceilings. It’s not uncommon for homes to have exposed beams across their ceilings, sometimes looking like stained or painted wood. Now imagine running several beams across your ceiling at right angles, creating a grid pattern. Maybe even lining the perimeters of each cell with crown molding. See the picture below for an example of a “coffered” ceiling.

Coffered Ceiling

Your home is already your castle. Let’s work together to make home improvements that upgrade it to a palace, with Fix St Louis pick-up trucks as your carriages, and our technicians as your servants. Wouldn’t you be honored to have the Queen select your house as her St Louis home whenever she attends the Stanley Cup finals? I, for one, can imagine it. In fact, I think I just heard her ask for a beer.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100

Each Blues game is TWO games in one

The way this old handyman looks at it, you’re actually watching TWO games every time the Blues play.

The first game, which takes place when the clock is running, never seems all that American to me. It features Blues players like Vladimir Tarasenko, Carl Gunnarsson, and MacKenzie MacEachern, who have similar names to Winter Olympics athletes who stand at attention on that 3-level podium while someone else’s national anthem is played. For recently winning the Western Division, the Blues were presented with the “Campbell Bowl,” which sounds like, and looks like, a gaudy, oversized soup tureen. Maybe the one used at Harry and Meghan’s wedding reception. And don’t get me started on the serving-ware they’re competing for next, named after LORD Stanley of Preston – a graduate of Eton, a prep school for over-privileged British boys, who possibly once held a hockey stick, but certainly never a toilet plunger or any other tool requiring manual labor.

No, the American part of the hockey game begins when the buzzer goes off signaling the end of the 1st period. Immediately rolling onto the rink is the ice-smoothing Zamboni machine, invented by and named after the son of struggling Italian-American immigrants. He used his newly-found freedoms to achieve the American dream by making something that makes ice hockey possible. Then, there are those ice rink walls and plexiglass, which have just endured a 20-minute period of being crushed, smashed, pounded, and scraped, while the audience cheered and laughed, humiliation that no building materials should ever be asked to endure. To handle that, folks pop-out with name badges sewn onto their uniforms that read “Chuck”, “Pete”, and “Zeke.” These hard-working Americans patch, paint, brace, and in all other ways make things new again. All done without hearing their names roared over the sound system, or accompanied by flashing lights, lasers, smoke, and foghorns. Now, that’s what I call America.

We at Fix St Louis like to think of ourselves as residential counterparts to that hockey game clean-up crew, except we ply our trade in similarly-damaged TEENAGE BOYS BEDROOMS. Someday, you just may need us for these:

Wall Repair

Fix St Louis is great at removing holes, dents, and dings from bedroom walls. Sometimes they’re just nondescript nicks, but other times the punched-out drywall is EXACTLY in the shape of baseballs, pucks, doorknobs, and fists, which can be pretty amusing to us, presumably less so to the parents. If your walls have some kind of sand texture, we can restore it in the patched area. And if you once tried to patch it yourself, and it still stands out because you couldn’t figure out how to smooth it or add that texture back, we can fix it.

Door Repair

Teenage boys can be pretty rough on doors, but we can remove all signs of abuse. Fix St Louis can put those sliding closet doors back on their tracks. We can repair the aforementioned doorknob-shaped holes in the adjacent wall. If the door “slab” (the part on hinges that swings) has been kicked and cracked, we can replace just the slab without swapping-out the entire frame. And, if the door “jamb” (frame around the door) has been split or cracked through forced entry, whether by an angry older brother, desperate parents, or the County SWAT team, we can handle that, too.

Painting

The key to painting a teenage boy’s room is doing the right prep work before the first drop of paint is applied. While the repairs above are a big part of it, they are not the only part. What about those posters on the wall that were mounted with tape, or rubbery white goop, or whatever sticky substance was immediately available when your teenager had the impulse to hang it? You may not like the way the walls look now, with a preening-for-the-cameras Yadier Molina, Ariana Grande, Metallica, or even Patrick Maroon. But you may like it a lot less after you see what’s behind them. Fix St Louis will make those walls paint-ready. And if your teenager went Goth, or through some creepy dark period you prayed he’d grow out of, so that everything is now painted black, we can prep the walls so they can be painted any color.

So, next time you’re watching a Blues hockey game, at the end of each period – sure, go ahead and take that bathroom break – but be sure to return for the All-American between-time show of the Blues’ rink-repair heroes. For all those Chucks, Petes, and Zekes out there, this Bud’s for you! Oh, and almost forgot. Let’s Go Blues!

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis
314-434-4100