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Commencement Address to the Lockdown U Class of 2021

Well, in 2021 you made a lot of sacrifices, put in the effort, and now just LOOK at you! After months of spending more time in your home than you ever wanted to, you now know SO MUCH MORE about what can go wrong with your house and what to do about it.

Just one year ago, most of you didn’t know your astragal from your elbow. You couldn’t identify a “fascia” if it was staring you in the face. And NONE of you with those fancy-schmancy front doors with the curlicues on top and fluted trim on the sides could recite the 3 P’s of exterior front door trim – pediments, plinths, and pilasters. Let me tell you, based on what I observed last year in your homes, your KIDS’ education might have suffered, but not YOURS!

We at Fix St Louis are so proud of this Lockdown U class of 2021 that I’m inspired to give you all a commencement address. Sadly, your humble correspondent has been waiting all his life to be invited to give one, but for some inexplicable reason no one seems to want to hear “how to navigate the treacherous waters of life” from a handyman – even though I’ve spent half my life with my head in toilets, both literally and figuratively.

Since we have no budget for caps and gowns, why don’t you just grab a bathrobe, and we’ll navigate the waters starting in your bathroom.

Electronics and Plumbing Don’t Mix

Here are the 7 stages of grief for those who own whirlpool tubs:

  • Stage 1: I’ve always wanted a whirlpool tub, we finally have the money, so let’s get one.
  • Stage 2: I’ve really enjoyed using the whirlpool tub every single day since we had it installed just 2 weeks ago.
  • Stage 3: It’s been 2 years since I last used the whirlpool tub. I’m going to fill it with water and turn it on.
  • Stage 4: It doesn’t work since I haven’t used it in 2 years.
  • Stage 5: The repair person says he’d have to rip out the entire tub because the folks who installed it did not include an access panel.
  • Stage 6: Anger and depression.
  • Stage 7: Acceptance: That’s OK, I’ll just use it as a bathtub.

You see, plumbing is forever, and that’s good because it can be pretty expensive to change. Motors aren’t forever. Electronics aren’t forever, and become technologically obsolete. Replacement parts aren’t forever, and will become unavailable in a surprisingly short number of years.

Keep Hardwood Floors Out of Rooms with Water

I know, I know. Hardwood floors can look beautiful in a kitchen. And they look terrific in bathrooms, particularly in older homes. But, sooner or later – trust me – you will have a “water event.” The fridge icemaker will leak. The drain under the kitchen sink will leak. The toilet will overflow. Something’s gonna happen and it’s gonna damage your floor.

And even if the boards themselves don’t need to be replaced, making things look right again almost always requires sanding and re-staining the ENTIRE CONTIGUOUS FLOOR. This messy and often expensive process is something you would want to avoid even if it’s a small room with a floor that has clear threshold or transition strip boundaries limiting the floor to that one room. Now imagine if your floor is continuous throughout your entire downstairs, winding through hallways, dining rooms, living rooms, and family rooms.

Ceramic tile and linoleum were once the only waterproof options, although they never looked like wood. But now, plastics/vinyl technology has advanced from the days it looked really cheap, to today when it can pull-off a very respectable imitation of wood. Fix St Louis likes vinyl plank, which can have a wood look better than the real thing, is totally waterproof, and requires relatively low labor costs to install because it snaps together like a jigsaw puzzle. Laminate flooring can also be good because the top part that looks like wood is actually a photographic image printed on plastic, and it also installs easily like vinyl plank. But, beware that some laminate flooring consists of that top plastic image mounted to PARTICLE BOARD, which when wet swells and absorbs water like a sponge!

Solve the Problem of Toilet Capacity Change

Graduates, I’m sad to say that previous generations have failed you. Congress has forced a reduction in the amount of water used by toilets by more than 80% since 1995 in a gesture of worship to mother nature, making tripping the lever an oft-times meaningless gesture.

Short of forming a single-issue “Potty Party” to reverse this arbitrary tyranny upon the pooping public, we need future inventors and leaders to develop technological solutions to end this self-inflicted drought. One innovator has suggested building a pipeline that begins off the coast of California, is fed with the unlimited salt water from the Pacific Ocean, passes across the continent to flush toilets in St Louis, then passes the drain water along, dumping its contents just west of Washington DC, where the water runs-off into the Potomac River. OK, that innovator was me. But we do need MORE ideas, and more minds working on it, particularly solutions that might actually be ratified by Congress.

Even if, as we hope, the lockdowns come to a complete end, never to be seen again, we at Fix St Louis plan to work with the Class of 2021 on your continuing professional development. For instance, we are in the early stages of planning a Home Short-Coming Weekend in the Fall. Meanwhile, if your kids’ formal education continues to be stymied, you might want to try homeschooling them on home repairs. We’re hiring!

Happy New Year from Fix St Louis!

Dr Steve

Fix St Louis