Test-driving Fountain, the apartment advice app

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We recently wrote about Fountain, an app that helps solve home- and garden-related problems by instantly connecting users to a live expert via smart phone. The idea is you get access to an architect, general contractor, plumber, appliance specialist, master gardener or interior designer for a 15-minute chat that, at $7 a consult, costs a fraction of an actual house call. (The first call is free.)

Intrigued, I decided to give the app a whirl. Turns out my just-barely prewar rental in the East Village is a goldmine of DIY fix-it possibilities: cracks in a doorjambs, windows that don’t close properly, a vanity that’s decaying in the humidity of the bathroom, several creaky floorboards, seemingly spacious but very poorly planned closets, to name a few.


I decided to start with the crack in the doorjamb of my sons’ bedroom, a problem I have deemed both unsightly and possibly dangerous were the jamb ever to collapse. (For the record, my super seemed less alarmed. When I pointed it out to him  months ago, he studied it for a few minutes then shrugged it off.) I typed the words: “crack in doorjamb” into the app’s search bar and waited (according to the site, the average wait time to speak with an expert is about two minutes), and then…nothing happened. It seems no expert was willing or able to take on my problem at that moment.


What to do with a single lonely window box accessible only via a window covered in permanent safety bars? This time I was successfully connected with Jeff C. While I snapped and sent him quick pics of the planter in question, he asked about its access to sunlight and water, plus any goals (something pretty and quick-growing that might teach my city kids about the wonders of nature and farming). Jeff quickly came up with a bunch of great stuff: Peas, kale, verbena, basil, petunias, impatiens, coralbells, all of which are hearty, grow quickly and, in some case, flower. We discussed when to plant the seeds (in the next week or so) and how often to water (depends on the amount of sun and wind). By the time I’d hung up, I had a game plan. All I had to do was execute it.


The master bedroom closet is tall, somewhat deep but quite narrow. It holds both my husband’s and my current season clothes (the rest are in the larger closet in the boys’ room). Beth W.—who appeared to work for a closet company called Closet Station—answered my call. She discussed some closet basics with me: in a two bar configuration, the top bar should hang 84” from the floor and the bottom bar, 42” (mine were too tall) and a hanger needs 20-24” of space to hang between the back wall and the closet door (I had much more). We discussed a few solutions, like moving the bars to make them more accessible and to free up a bit of extra space, plus some suggestions for storing shoes (cubbies vs. racks vs. shelves). Though there was no hard sell, I couldn’t help but notice that the system she worked with, in which all fittings hung form a single installed rail, looked pretty clever. I started dreaming of a fab new bedroom closet.

The bottom line: Video chatting with a loved one, let alone a stranger can be awkward (more than once I found myself gawking at my own disheveled image rather than focusing on the expert helping me) and much of the advice I received was available with some basic Googling, but the personal aspect of the service is definitely a plus—and encouraging to a DIYer. Now the trick is following through.


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