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Handyman prep for your U.S. Supreme Court nomination

Just another one of those humbling weeks when your humble correspondent was reminded of his limitations in life. This week I had to finally accept that this old handyman will likely never be nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In her confirmation hearings, Supreme Court nominee and Harvard Law School graduate Ketanji Brown Jackson was asked, “Can you provide a definition of a woman?” For a moment, I felt like a viewer of Jeopardy, feeling really good about myself for finally knowing a correct answer. But then the nominee answered. “No, I can’t. I’m not a biologist.” My heart sank. Well, at least I THOUGHT it was my heart. I’m not a biologist, either.

To someone like me, who never got the opportunity to sit through a class at Harvard Law School, what she said sounded a lot like, “No, I cannot provide a definition of a toilet. I’m not a handyman.” And I’m thinking, are there really any Fix St Louis customers out there, when they need to go to the bathroom, instead just wander around in an uncomfortable and befuddled state because they can’t tell the difference between a toilet and Aunt Fannie’s prized vase? And all because they weren’t all handymen?

Well, that’s a risk I’m just not willing to take. Just like a faculty member at Harvard Law School, I want my students (that’s you) to be totally familiar with the handyman lexicon so they won’t embarrass themselves if they ever find themselves testifying before Congress during their U.S. Supreme Court nominations. Let’s start with the definitions I see most of you struggling with.

Attic Fan vs Whole House Fan

Ever look up at your hallway ceiling and see a big metal square with louvers? That’s called a whole house fan, NOT an attic fan. Yeah, yeah, I know it’s sticking out of your attic, but that’s where most folks get this wrong. When you turn it on (HAHA, as if most people have ever used it and it still works), it will suck into your house the cooler outside air through your open windows, and blow all your home’s hot air into the attic and out through your roof and gable vents.

Attic fans are completely different. They are located either on the roof or behind a gable vent, and all they do is remove hot air from the attic so that the rising hot air inside your house can escape. We at Fix St Louis are big fans of whole house fans as a more pleasant and less expensive alternative to air conditioning in the Spring and Summer, and would be happy to install or replace one for you.

Fascia vs Soffit

Now look at the edge of your roof on a side that doesn’t have gutters. That board on the edge, which may be at an angle pointing to the peak of the roof, is called a “fascia.” It is often covered by a thin sheet of white aluminum to prevent the wooden fascia board beneath it from rotting. If wind ever blows that aluminum off, call Fix St Louis and we will replace it.

On the other hand, the underside of that part of the roof that’s sticking out from your house is called a “soffit.” When you look up at it from down below, you’ll either see panels of vinyl or aluminum, painted wood or, in the case of a house built by a cheap builder, raw lumber with nails sticking out. Fix St Louis can handle all soffit problems, which include reinstalling soffit panels that have been displaced (often by animals), painting faded wood soffit planks, and we can even finish the work your crummy builder didn’t, by installing all new soffit panels.

Hardwood vs Engineered Wood vs Laminate vs Vinyl Plank Flooring

Hardwood floors have planks that are made of solid wood, so you can refinish them again and again. On the other hand, Engineered Wood consists of a veneer of wood on top of less expensive plywood or other substrate. It’s a way of cutting down the cost, but beware these floors can usually be refinished only once or twice before the substrate is exposed.

Laminate flooring is similar to Engineered Wood, but the top surface is made of plastic, which these days can look pretty darn wood-like. But since the top is plastic and not wood, it is more durable, i.e. won’t get scratched. Vinyl Plank has no wood in it at all, so it is perfect for all the rooms in which an unfortunate water event may ruin a floor – particularly bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, and basements. The better vinyl plank products have a cushiony feel that is easy on the feet. Think of vinyl plank as having the top surface of a laminate floor, with squishy, plastic-y stuff beneath. Did I mention that Fix St Louis can install all these floor types? If I didn’t, now I did.

Caulk vs Grout

A lot of folks use the words caulk and grout interchangeably, much like a Harvard Law School grad might use the terms man and woman interchangeably. But they’re really totally different. Grout has only one purpose, which is to fill the spaces between tiles, mostly to keep the tiles from shifting. It is hard when it dries because you DON’T want or expect any movement. Caulk is designed to create waterproof seals that can flex with shifting or expansion/contraction, in places where one material abuts with a different material. These materials might include drywall, wood, glass, porcelain fixtures and yes, even tile.

And that’s where it gets confusing. If you have tile on your shower walls and shower base, there will be grout between the tiles, but possibly caulk at the wall-base and wall-wall junctions. In any event, we at Fix St Louis can tell the difference so you don’t have to, so call us when you have grout and caulk problems.

To tell you the truth, we have always preferred to hire graduates from Ranken Technical College rather than Harvard Law School because, frankly, they just seem a whole lot more useful. Thankfully, since I’m guessing that upwards of 100% of Ranken grads feel certain they can define the word “woman,” Harvard is not particularly interested in plundering my pool of potential employees. And for the same reason, you can rest assured in knowing that we at Fix St Louis will never be plucked away to sit on a judicial bench, and will always be here to fix your toilets and do all the other useful stuff U.S. Supreme court nominees won’t do.