Sunday, June 22, 2014

How To Install Slip-on Grips, Harley Davidson

This article is not for those riders who think everything worth buying comes from (and is installed by) a Harley Davidson dealership. This is directed at those old school cropper, choppers & bobbers like me who do whatever they want to their bikes, whenever and however they want to.

That being said... *ahem*

Today I'm venturing even further off of the path that we've beaten at Focalpoint Renovations (if that's even possible at this point).
On a one night get-away trek to Laconia, New Hampshire's Bike Week event this year, I picked up a pair of chrome slip-on grip covers. I later discovered that the installation requires a minute of attention that, surprisingly, I couldn't find readily available via search engines.

So...I decided to post one.

 How To Install Slip-on Grips, Harley Davidson

FYI: There are two types of grip replacements... The more expensive requires you to open the throttle assembly and reconnect the throttle linkage into the new grips. Not particularly difficult but, what we're covering here is the more cost effective versions that in this case require you to cut the stock rubber grip away from the throttle for installation.

I found an aftermarket pair  that closely resembles the Drag Specialites Razor grip (which run about $110.00) up here in Laconia for $25.00/pair but only if you’re willing to take a razor knife to your stock rubber grips. If reading that scares you, you should probably stick with what you have or pay a dealer to swap your grips.

First things first... KNOW YOUR HANDLEBAR WIDTH. Most stock Harleys tend to run either 1" or 1 1/4". Mine is a '93 XLH 1200 which has a set non-original set of 1" bars (Thank you Chop Shop!). You obviously want to buy a set of grips that will fit over your existing handlebar size. Also, there are two sides to a set of bars, one being the stagnant (non-operational) on the left side and the throttle (operational) grip on the right.

The left is the easiest. 

Depending on the grip adhesive used, you can most likely twist off your existing grip with little effort. The factory adhesive isn't designed to weld the grip on, only hold it there securely. Using a steady force, it can be twisted off by working it back and forth while pulling outward. Installing the new grip requires little more brain power than doing the opposite. I cleaned my bars of residue and used a small amount of 100% clear silicone sealant to adhere the new grip. There are lots of grip adhesives so this is a bit of 'pick your poison'.

The throttle grip, on the other hand, is a little more of a pain-in-the-butt. Start by closing the petcock from your gas tank, twisting the throttle even when the bike is off can allow fuel into a carburetor. I have to admit that I should have taken more pictures during the removal process but all I did was to slice the original rubber grip 5 or 6 times lengthwise and pull it back towards the farthest point of the handlebar using vise grips. A utility knife helped cut away the rubber from the inner, harder plastic throttle core. Think of it like peeling the toughest banana you've ever encountered.
I removed the original rubber grip and then carefully scraped most of the excess with a sharp utility blade. Once I had most of the rubber grip off, it was pretty easy. 
It will look like this:

Before you start scraping, another important note is that there are ridges along the length of the inner throttle that allow the grip to maintain adhesion when you twist on it (accelerate). Below is the same image with one of the ridges circled in red. If you use a blade to clean the throttle like I did, try not to scrape those ridges off so that the new grip has something to grab onto.

Does that picture still look a little yucky to you?

Same here, but I also tried not to let my O.C.D. kick in too much while removing the original excess rubber and glue because I figured those lumps would actually help hold the new grip in place (which it did).
I just wanted to make sure the new grip slid on securely so, I used a 50/50 mix of dish soap and water to lubricate the new grip and slid it on a few times along the way for a test fit.
That's fairly important as well. You don't want to adhere a new slip-on grip without making sure it fits the way you want it to. Once I had it where I wanted it... I cleaned and dried both surfaces of throttle and grip and applied a small amount of 100% silicone sealant along the surface of the throttle, slowly twisting the new grip up into position and carefully making sure that no extra oozed its way out.

I let it set up overnight without touching it and....viola.

So, there you have it. A cost effective alternative to some of the more expensive Harley Davidson grips on the market.
Feel free to add any of your own personal experiences in the comments section below and try to remember to keep the rubber side down!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Can I Tile Over Hardwood Flooring?

We ran into this situation on a recent project and it seemed like a good time to talk about it.

Even though personally I would rather listen to Miley Cyrus talk about politics than to allow anyone tile over hardwood, the long and short of the answer is yes, you can.
The real question is; Why would you want to?
You have to remember that the same rules apply for tiling over hardwood as do for tiling over any suitable substrate.
Let me illustrate:

This is a picture from one of our jobs where ceramic tile had been installed over 2 1/4" oak flooring. We discovered it when removing the tile to install an updated tile.

ceramic tile over hardwood flooring
As you can see, the tiles came up with little of the thinset mortar still attached to the floor. This is a perfect example of a poor bond. When we look at the tiles themselves, you can see that the thinset had no problem staying attached to the back of the tile.

Floor tile over hardwood
After the tile had been completely removed from the area, this is what the floor looked like with no major scraping.

cleaning grout off of hardwood

Barely any real adhesion had occurred.

So let's talk about these "rules" for tile installation. There are three very important things you always want to be aware of when you are installing a tile floor.

Rule #1: Motion is your enemy. 

Anytime you install a tile floor, you want the surface you are tiling over to have minimal motion. If a floor moves, tiles can loose their bond and/or crack along with the grout lines.

Things that may cause your wood-frame floor to move:

  1. Undersized framing: Older homes may have been built smaller framing than code currently requires. It bounces and flexes more than the beefier framing of today.                                                                                           
  2. Wider framing layout:  Another situation we often find in older homes is that the framing is wider than 16" on center. This forces the subfloor to span a longer distance and allows it to flex more than in a newer home.                                                                                                                                               
  3. Unsuitable subfloor sheathing: In older homes you may find wide plank floor boards, newer homes usually require 3/4" plywood as their subfloor. When it comes to installing tile, the rule of thumb is to have at LEAST 1 1/4" of subfloor sheathing underneath to provide the necessary strength. That means that if you have 3/4" plywood, you need to add another 1/2" layer of substrate over it to create a thick enough subfloor (always run additional plywood layers in the opposite direction of the previous for added strength). I like to fasten additional layers with 1 1/4" galvanized screws at 6" on center, 2 1/2" screws along the framing lines. This gives the entire floor frame every opportunity to lock itself together tightly.                                                                                                 
  4. Improper fastening: Sometimes the subfloor is not properly anchored to the framing and can move which can result in tile bond failure. Don't be afraid to dance around on your subfloor before you tile. Spreading your legs apart and leaning side to side like your trying to tip a boat over is an easy way to spot creaks and squeaks which can often be cured with additional fasteners.
Plank (hardwood) flooring is more susceptible to motion because there are many more individual pieces which can (and will) expand and contract at different rates. The only way to minimize this is to make sure the hardwood flooring is fastened as securely to the subfloor as possible. This means you'll need to nail through the face of the flooring to make sure it has the best chance of staying in place.

Rule #2: Surface must be clean for a strong bond.

Hardwood flooring is usually finished with some form of polyurethane. The nature of this finish will tend to reject things that are trying to bond to it (including your tile adhesive). To tile over hardwood, you'd need to clean it first, preferably with mineral spirits to remove any build up you may have on the surface. Any waxes or soap that have been used to maintain the floor over the years will leave a build-up that is awful for adhesion.
Sanding the floor with a low grit sand paper (30 grit or lower) would create a better bonding surface. Rough wood makes for a much better adhesion. Also, the less porous a substrate is, the harder it will be for thinset to bond to. Another reason a finished hardwood floor isn't the best candidate for tile installation.

The natural surface of cdx plywood provides a rougher more porous surface to allow thinset to adhere to.

how to prepare a floor for ceramic tile

Rule #3: Use a premium modified Thinset mortar 

This is extremely important.  All your other steps will be for nothing if you don't use a high grade latex/polymer modified thinset mortar. These modifier additives help improve the bonding and flex characteristics of the mortar. You can purchase liquid additives though I've found the high end, pre-mixed powders have excellent bonding strength when properly applied. Make sure you don't mix your thinset too dry. A drier mix can have poor adhesion. You're looking for a consistency somewhere between pudding and peanut butter.

In conclusion: Why we don't recommend tiling over hardwood

Having read the steps it would take to even consider hardwood flooring as a suitable surface, it's usually just easier to remove and replace it with a decent cdx plywood or cementitious backerboard substrate. The grain of cdx plywood is perfect for creating a long lasting floor tile bond. There are those that would say using a tile backer board is preferable but when it comes to floors, I still prefer to put down a material with the ability to carry more weight. Although backer board has excellent moisture resistant qualities, I can snap most backer boards without a lot of effort. Backer board is much better suited for non-traffic tile installation in moisture heavy areas such as shower stall walls or counter tops in my opinion.

So in conclusion; Follow the three steps for any tile installation, don't tile over your hardwood because it's just silly and always remember to floss! (That has nothing to do with flooring but my 8 year old son can't seem to remember to do it so, I find myself constantly saying it.)

Do you have a flooring nightmare project on your plate? Drop us a line in the comments below and we'll see if we can help! 

Home-Improvement blog

Saturday, January 18, 2014

How To Make Restaurant Style Hot Wings At Home

Those of you who follow our blog know we occasionally stray from the usual remodeling tips & tricks and get a little crazy. Today is no different.

This weekend there is only one thing on my mind: Football, Hot Wings & Beer. 

I've got the football and beer parts taken care of but when it comes to wings, I'm pretty finicky. So finicky, in fact, that I started experimenting with making my own wings at home over the last couple of years. I've tried boiling, baking, broiling, frying.... but no matter what I did, they never came out as good as restaurant wings. Mine were always limp and lifeless, not crispy and delicious like the ones I got when I ordered out.

I had almost given up on trying to make my own wings until I discovered the "Double-Fry" method. It's pretty simple really but the results are spectacular! The trick is to fry the wings once at a lower temperature to cook them, let them cool in the refrigerator and then fry them again at a higher temperature to get them crispy.

Instead of babbling on about the process, I figured I'd just give the recipe & instructions and post a video of a batch I recently made. So, without further adieu....

Restaurant Style Hot Wings

  • 1 bag Frozen chicken wing pieces
  • 1/2 cup Barbecue Sauce (I prefer Sweet Baby Ray's, great taste and comes in a lot of flavors)
  • 4 Tablespoons Horseradish Sauce
  • 3 Tablespoons Hot Sauce (Cholula is my personal favorite)
  • 2 Tablespoons Crushed Red Peppers
  • 1 Tablespoon Minced Garlic 

(For traditional "Buffalo Style" wings, mix 3 parts Frank's RedHot sauce with 1 part melted butter)

The "Double Fry" Method
  1. Fry for 18-20 minutes at 275° F
  2. Let cool in refrigerator for 30 minutes
  3. Fry again for 8 minutes at 400° F

Mix all ingredients together well, toss with wings in closed Tupperware container and serve. Enjoy with your favorite frosty beverage.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

POST or PERISH! Link Building Etiquette.

I love our blog.  Maybe it's the holidays that brings out the love in me.

I know, I know... maybe our blog isn't as slick and fancy as TMZ's website or have the kind of traffic Perez Hilton does but, we do alright.
We have literally tens of thousands of visitors and we continue to grow daily. The bigger our audience gets, the more comments we receive. In our case, the comments people submit get sent to a sort of "blog purgatory" to await moderation.  This just allows me to read and approve them before they are posted up, it helps keep the nonsense to a minimum. Some nonsense I like, but mostly from myself.

Some people like to ask questions, some like to say thanks for something they've learned but there are those who have a more devious intent. What's happened in recent years is that some SEO freaks (search engine optimization) have conjectured that using the comments section of ranking blogs to post their own websites and products could actually help their own search engine rankings. The sites and products are often posted in the form of links along with the comments, something a reader can click on which takes them to another web page.

Sometimes links can be useful

Whether links help them or not t is a different subject, what's interesting is the way people go about trying to get them past our moderation.
Now, I know that people are going to try to get things mentioned in there sometimes and I'm sure I've dropped my company name in certain online conversations so, I understand. I only ask that people read some of the article, maybe have something at least partially relevant to say and at the end of the day,  I will usually let the comment post.

There is only one simple statement provided on our blog to give them guidance:

"If you're planning on dropping a link, be thoughtful about your comment or it won't be posted."

The REAL fun is getting to read all of these comments and seeing the many different methods people utilize to get their brands or items mentioned. Let me show you what I mean.
Here was a comment submitted in response to an article we posted about Cool New Tools and Gadgets:

"Nice post with good Gadgets mentioned. Similar Gadgets and much more are also available at iGadgetech"

-Imran39's Blog

Not bad. This individual gave us a small compliment and posted their own link. It wasn't completely gratuitous so, I let that one post up. I have to admit, it may have been that little bit of brown-nosing at the beginning that helped get them through.

But sometimes we get comments like this one in the comments to our blog about sealing masonry:
"Interesting Blog!!! Keep up the good work. STONERA Systems – Sealers for Stone & Tile are proud Indian manufacturers that produce a variety of excellence sealing products to protect and enhance surfaces including natural stone, marbles & stone. Sealer for stone"-Chandra Dsp   

Um.... okay, so you already know I'm a sucker for a compliment but, seriously? A couple of nice words followed up by a paragraph about how wonderful your masonry sealer company is, links included?
Yeah, sorry. That's just a little too much SPAM for me.

But it gets worse, some people don't even bother trying to kiss up to me! (I know, right?)
Don't try coming to this party without bringing at least a bag of crappy chips or stale beers!
Take a look at this brazen party-crasher:

"Are you facing to plumbing problems?"
-Plumber Ipswich

How DARE you!  Trying to lure away my customer base without even so much as a nod or a handshake?! That's some double D size SPAMitude. 
You're are the Spamela Andersen of SPAM, mister 'Plumber Ipswich'.

Oh, and it doesn't stop there. These folks know more than one way to shish-kabob a kitten (I'm bad at euphemisms). Sometimes they attempt even more stealthy methods of getting their voices heard:

"How can i find remodel contractors ideas ,to make home look beautiful with bathroom remodeling, kitchen reconstruct etc.?"
-Mark Roger

This is the next level of sneakiness. Notice the words "remodel contractors" are a little different color? Well, that's because it was a link to a construction website and he's using those keywords in an effort to drive more traffic his way. He wants his company to show up in search engine results when people Google those terms. Does it work? Maybe or maybe not, but he broke the cardinal rule (no gratuitous compliments) and it looks like he didn't even read our blog.
(*Note: If you click it now it goes to our website. I wasn't going to give this guy any of my traffic. He didn't even bother to tell me how wonderful and awesome he thinks we are.)

That being said, THIS GUY's comment got posted:

"Great article! haha I love it. I'm not much of a do it myself kind of guy. I've been checking out  toilet repair in Prescott AZ so I don't have to be in the same room as that horrible smell! Thanks!!"
-Spencer Shawn

Yes,  'toilet repair in Prescott AZ' was a link to whatever lump of dog crap he wanted us to scoop up BUT.... he actually read the article about bathroom toilet repair and gave me a very nice compliment so...You're welcome, Spencer Shawn! (Does that name sound backwards to you too?)

Hey I have an idea, let's play a game. It's time for another stimulating round of.....  *trumpets playing*

Medieval trumpets


(I don't know how to make trumpets play in the background while I blog so, just make that sound your head like I did..... or you can click on the picture and magic will happen. Seriously. Try it.)

See if you can spot which of these posts had just enough of the right stuff to slip into our comments section and which ones were banished straight to the recycling bin with the rest of the trash.

Here's our first contender:
"Hey there! Thank you for sharing your thoughts about masonry in your area. I am glad to stop by your site and know more about masonry. Keep it up! This is a good read. You have such an interesting and informative page. I will be looking forward to visit your page again and for your other posts as well. CMUs can be manufactured to provide a variety of surface appearances. They can be colored during manufacturing or stained or painted after installation. They can be split as part of the manufacturing process, giving the blocks a rough face replicating the appearance of natural stone, such as brownstone. CMUs may also be scored, ribbed, sandblasted, polished, striated (raked or brushed), include decorative aggregates, be allowed to slump in a controlled fashion during curing, or include several of these techniques in their manufacture to provide a decorative appearance. Whether you have a specific design in mind, or are just looking to spruce up your property in general"

-Jackie Champion

Did you guess PERISH? Yeah... I had to. Jackie started off with a lot of ass-kissing and boy, I sure was tempted. Unfortunately for Jackie, that full-on description of a product combined with sneaking in some links to boot proved to be his downfall. I believe there's such a thing as dropping a hint and then there's beating someone over the head repeatedly with it until they begin to make animal sounds.

Try this one:

"Can I just say what a relief to discover somebody that genuinely knows what they are discussing online. You definitely know how to bring an issue to light and make it important. A lot more people ought to read this and understand this side of your story. I was surprised you are not more popular given that you surely possess the gift. Wachovia 
Also see my website :: bad credit payday loans

-the guy

POST, right?..... nope, PERISH!

Seriously? Clearly 'the guy' didn't read my article. He doesn't even seem to know what the heck the article was about. He just a dropped slew of very vague references to the subject matter calling them "issues" and a very odd sentence about understanding 'this side of your story'.
What the hell? My side of the story... am I on trial here?
This wasn't testimony, it was an article about kitchen remodeling. If that wasn't weird enough, the bugger even had the chutzpah to say he's surprised we are NOT more popular?! How does HE know how popular WE are!!

He wraps it up with a lame link to his crappy 'bad credit payday loan' site!
Sorry, 'the guy'. Why don't you go post your comments to a more 'popular' blog that attracts bad credit laden jury members in need of a payday loan, you sonova...

*Deep breaths*....Sorry.

In contrast, here was a much more concise and relative question posted to what we wrote regarding tile installation:

"Can someone help me to discover more details about how to find a way to decorating my floor with tiles?"


You think we posted this one, right? Did you guess we also answered the question?

Well, you'd be CORRECT!
But, maybe not for the reason you might suspect. Forget the bad grammar, which sometimes gets a comment thrown out because it's too difficult to decipher ("find a way to decorating my floor"?.... yikes.)
See that massive space after his comment and at the bottom, just the word "tiles" underlined? Yup, you guessed it. That was the link to his own tile installation website. He not only tried to pass himself off as an innocent reader looking for some answers, but he conveniently posted a link to answer to his very own question. It's still a link to tile work, ours... not his.

That being said, I felt I had no choice but to post it up just so that I could respond to his request to 'help discover more details about decorating my floor with tile'

"Maybe try clicking the link you dropped into your comment? Yeah, I caught you."
-Daniel Batal

Oh, speaking of grammar, could someone help me with this one?

"I'm gladsome to mature so more serviceable and informative assemblage on your website.  
travertine flooring"
-Rafael Oliveira

I.... hold on... what?... Nope, I'm not even going to try to figure that one out.
One could argue that this might conflict with my decision to let a similar comment through. He left what I think was a nice compliment before his 'travertine flooring' link but, seriously... "Gladsome"? That word sounded too much like 'Flotsam' or 'Jetsam' and I'm not sure I actually know what those words mean either.

Okay, last one. POST or PERISH:
"Hey! I am glad to stop by your site and know more about kitchen remodeler. Keep it up! This is a good read. You have such an interesting and informative page. I will be looking forward to visit your page again and for your other posts as well. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about kitchen remodeler in your area. Granite, cherry, stainless, tile… so many options… 
we make it happen with you with a kitchen remodeler in Manchester"

-Jackie Champion

Alright, this person said some nice things and actually may have read at least some of the article...  tossed a small link in at the end... it kind of within the guidelines for getting posted so I guess it's... PERISH!

Did you NOT see the signature? It's our old pal Jackie again! You know, I'll give Jackie credit for not having the full paragraph of product description from the previous attempt but I KNEW that name looked familiar and let me just say; I'm onto you, Jackie... I'm onto you.

Well, there you have it. That's the ridiculous late night game I get to play except there aren't any cool prizes to take home, only the satisfaction of knowing I kept the internet a little more SPAM-free than I found it.

In case I made it seem as if  all blog comments are just people trying to sell or plug something, that's just not the case. Here's one from our Paint Color Ideas article just this past week:

"OMG.. this is wonderful. I always knew that Pottery Barn had a "look" but was hard pressed to translate it. And you use photos! Exactly what I needed (I'm a visual learner). Thank you for doing so! I'm painting my living room now (yes, 14 days before Xmas) and will follow every word!
Thank you Thank you Thank you"

Yup. That's what makes it all worthwhile.

Happy Holidays! ...(I'm watching you)

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Brick Fix

Here's a simple and cost effective fix we came up with for a gnarly brick entrance!

Pay close attention because this goes by fast.
The customer wanted to find way to fix this crumbling front entrance and make it safe without breaking the bank. We decided our cheapest route was to repair what was there and then build over it with something that was a little more pleasing to the eye.
Sometimes you have to be creative in order to get a little more lifespan out of what you have.

Be sure to keep up with our other renovation projects at


Sunday, July 28, 2013

How To Pull A Nail

I know what you're thinking, "Oh come on, this is common sense! I don't need some supposed expert contractor to teach me how to pull a nail out of a piece of wood! I'm missing Rosie O'Donnell's latest puppy picture tweets for this??"

Well, you'd be right. It isn't rocket surgery... or brain science, or ... whichever dyslexic analogy you prefer to use but my point is this:  Most people do it backwards.

Let me explain:
Here is an innocent piece of pine baseboard trim that was removed with the finish nails still attached.

I have to admit, just looking at that picture makes my feet hurt. I'm surprised I was able to capture that image without somehow stepping on it and puncturing through my work boots. One would think I have magnetic soles with my impalement history.
In any case, what most people do when they want to remove these nails is to pull out a hammer and bang the nails back out. Kind of makes sense, they were hammered in so doing the opposite would be the best way to get them back out, right?


This is what happens when you hammer them back out

Focalpoint Renovations

See how the wood around the nail head has exploded outward as the head of the nail pushes back through? This happens because wood is porous. It has an inherent moisture content and when the head of the nail passes into it, the wood itself constricts and closes back around the head of the nail. Adding moisture laden products such wood filler for the nail holes and paint afterwards only makes it worse when you try to remove nails using this method.

Here is the CORRECT way to remove those pesky nails

Place the board face down on a clean surface that won't scar it and get yourself a pair of pliers or nippers. My personal favorites for this application are called Bullnose Dykes (It's okay to laugh, the name would make even Rosie O'Donnell giggle).

Here's what mine look like, all rusty and abused.

Focalpoint Renovations

They have a rounded face and sharp teeth (much like Rosie O'Donnell) perfect for grasping a nail shank.

Now, if any of you have ever seen Clint Eastwood in Two Mules for Sister Sarah or any Rambo-style action movie where someone was impaled with an arrow or similarly shaped instrument of doom, you'll probably remember what inevitably has to happen...


Right...You have to pull it through.

This is exactly what you want to do with a finish nail. Grasp the nail tightly and apply pressure against the surface of the wood where it penetrates. What you want to do is use the rounded face of the dykes to roll and pull the nail through the trim board until it comes out the back side.
I will now attempt to use a series of pictures to demonstrate how that is done. (view very slowly, I need to go get another cup of coffee)

Focalpoint Renovations

If done correctly, when the board is turned over, this is what you'll see...

An old piece of  painted wood with a stain on it! 

Well...yeah but, I mean there are no visible marks from the nail being removed. In fact, you can still see the the dimples from the nail filler and paint as if the nails were still in the board. Pretty nifty, huh?
As always, there are a couple of things I should mention so read the disclaimers carefully.

Disclaimer #1:
This method doesn't work with framing nails or those with large heads (*ahem*....Rosie O'Donnell) but it's your safest bet when removing finish nails from door & window casing, baseboards or any moulding/trim boards that you plan on re-installing.

Disclaimer #2:
Rosie O'Donnell is a wonderful and talented individual. Any references to her were purely to make pulling a nail more interesting than, um.... pulling a nail.
Be sure to catch her cinematic genius in such films as Another Stakeout.

Disclaimer #3:
Before anyone dissects my analogy, if you are ever shot with an arrow? Don't pull it through. Also, don't pull it out. Call 911 immediately and seek emergency medical assistance... unless of course you are Rosie O'Donnell in which case, pull it through with your teeth.

Oh, and always remember...  If you hate it? RENOVATE it!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

2 For You! Possibly Our Greatest Promotion Ever!

Possibly Our Greatest Promotion Ever!

Any existing Focalpoint Customer who refers a NEW customer to us is eligible for 2% of the total contract price for the new work referred.

Here are the rules:
-Only one eligible recipient per new contract work order 
-Can't be combined with any other offers
-Percentage awarded at completion of new project
-All payments made in the form of pre-paid VISA gift card
-Recipient must sign Proof of Delivery form upon delivery of payment
-Focalpoint Renovations reserves the right to deny any promotional claims deemed fraudulent

Visit us online at for more information or to contact us about this promotion