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

Monday, January 14, 2013

5 Cool New Tools You Probably Don't Have

     As a contractor, I'm always keeping an eye out for new things on the market. Usually, I try to find stuff to make my job a little easier, sometimes I just like finding things that I'm surprised nobody thought of sooner. In that quest, I've found a few new toys that you may or may not have seen.
Here they are in no particular order and all of the titles are clickable links if you want to learn more:

1: Homax Tarp Clips

     Anyone who's ever thrown a blue tarp over the bed of a truck or a trailer knows that those preset eyelets just never seem to be in the right location for securing it once it's in place. Either that or they've completely blown out from so many uses. This little handy clip from Homax allows you to grab any part of a tarp, bite down on it like a gator and bungee it to.... well, whatever you feel like bungeeing..... bungying? bungening... um, hooking it on to.

2. Spyder Jigsaw Blades

     This double sided blade makes your average jigsaw perform like a scroll saw. The toothed back side of the blade removes material behind it allowing the blade to move through tight patterns without binding up. It can also cut in reverse. This allows not only for much tighter turns and cuts, but for a much cleaner cut which doesn't require nearly as much sanding.

3. Board Buddies

     Kickbacks aren't just for politicians and sometimes they can be downright dangerous (ask the tip of my thumb, it lost an argument with a table saw two years ago). These anti-kickback, hold down rollers attach easily onto your table saw fence for added protection. Anyone who has ever had a saw spit a piece back at them can tell you: When it's you vs. the saw..... the saw usually wins.

4. Point-N-Measure Digital Tape Measure

     Digital tape measures have been around for a while but this one is cool because it measures up to 50 feet and the price tag is only around $20.00. Also, this little puppy does the math for you. It calculates volume & area in square footage or cubic feet.

5. The Versacut

     This is a simple idea but may possibly be the most versatile saw ever. The Versacut saw utilizes multiple types of blades and comes with three: A 24T Carbide Tip blade for wood, a 44T HSS blade for cutting through aluminum and thin metal sheets and a diamond tip blade for cutting ceramic tile and cement. Try that with your ordinary circular saw.

Wow, is that five already? Geez! Ah hell, I'm adding one more. It's my blog and I can do what I want... you're not the boss of me.

6. KG's Boot Guard

     Okay, so technically this isn't a tool but boots are one of the most important things a contractor can own. In my own experience, the first thing that goes on mine is the toe. I'm always kneeling down, bent over or somehow scraping the toe of my boots along the ground. Inevitably they get worn through a lot faster than the rest of the boot, especially when I'm wearing steel-toed boots.
     This magic elixir will extend the life of your boots by adding a layers of protection to your boot tips. The applicator can be cleaned with mineral spirits for future applications (1 bottle typically can handle three pairs of boots).

     And there you go! My 2013 list of top 5 6 cool tools you probably don't have. Know of some other cool ones? Drop me a line at Focalpoint Renovations or leave a link here in the comments.

As always, I'm Daniel and I'm a general contractor! <---- And wouldn't you guess it? That's STILL a link!


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Kitchen Design: Layout, Location and Flow

   Kitchens... such a simple word.    

Kitchens are places we used to sit around as kids while Mom whipped up some of the fondest food memories of our lives.

Kitchens are also places you could run into right from the school bus, throw your back-pack on the counter, whip open the fridge hoping to find something better than the left-overs of last night's "fondest food memory" (Let's be honest, even Mom got it wrong sometimes)


Now, as a homeowner, kitchens are... well, they're a nightmare.

Everybody wants the perfect kitchen, you know, a place where your close friends can hang out when you have those impromptu casual Friday night dinners? Where they all can't stop complimenting you on how open, spacious and inviting your kitchen is? And how wonderful all the food you prepared looks under the perfectly dimmed lighting of the seemingly limitless counter space you have? And how your kitchen was obviously built to prepare the finest Cuisine... not 'Quiz-ine'... 

(Please stand by for a word from Wiki-Focal-pedia)

1. A style or method of cooking whereby guests are mystified as to what it could possibly be.
2. Food cooked in a certain way, usually lacking intention, skill or the necessary tools to prepare it with.

mystery meat - frat house fricassee - sh*t-on-a-shingle  

(Now back to our blog)

Well all of that comes at a price and when it comes to renovations, kitchens are usually at the top of the budgetary food chain. So how do we take our kitchens to the next level? And how do we do it without completely breaking the bank?

We start with the layout.

A big mistake I see a lot of designers and contractors make is feeling the need to move EVERYTHING around. Now, in some circumstances that might be the correct answer but often things make sense right about where they were originally intended to be, give or take a couple of inches.
Let's take a look at a project that we here at Focalpoint Renovations just completed. The original kitchen wasn't really bad it was just... (here comes my favorite word)... Dated.

Take a look:
Kitchen cabinets before demolition

Here's another view looking through the kitchen into the adjoining living space.The hardwood flooring was actually installed in the opposite directions as the two rooms met making each room feel even more separated. That bothered my sense of flow from the beginning and as those who know me will tell you, "Know your flow!"

Island before remodeling

There is a bank of cabinets on the left there that was half a desk area combined with an awkward wine bottle display above. Let me show you that.

Original kitchen

Lord knows I understand sitting down to pay the bills could drive a person to drink but, I wasn't quite sure exactly what was happening here with this half desk/half wine cabinet area. What I did know was that we had some dated white thermofoil cabinets, Corian countertops and walls that were painted... um, I don't know. What are we calling that color, Blandberry? Mauve-itov cocktail? 
This kitchen spoke to me, but it spoke in the Microsoft language of Windows 98. It said things like, " Re-elect President Clinton" and "What's this new eBay thing I keep hearing about?"

In any case, the homeowner actually really liked white cabinets and wanted to stick with that look. 
So here was our challenge:  
Update the space without making it feel like we rebuilt the same kitchen... all over again. 

Oh, and we needed the budget to stay as trimmed as possible (that always seems to be the case, doesn't it?)

Step 1: Figure out what the customer wants and how much of the existing layout we can work with. 
Customer requests:

  1. Bigger island for entertaining
  2. More cabinet space
  3. Relocate Cook-top area
  4. Update lighting design
  5. Update fireplace

Existing locations:

  • Sink: Yup, that bugger sits nicely under the window looking onto the enclosed deck. You stay put.
  • Dishwasher: To the right side of the sink. This works great for the water & drain hook-ups and that's exactly where we will leave that little guy.
  • Oven: We have an updated, electric double oven that isn't very old, if we can utilize the relative location, we'll have our power requirements pretty much where we need them.
  • Cook-top: Sorry... you're in the island and we don't like you there anymore. You take up too much space and you have to go.
  • Refrigerator: You're in a tight spot too to the right of the double oven. If only we could find a new home for you so that everything wasn't sitting on top of each other.

The last request was to address the cobblestone fireplace in the adjoining living area. She never liked it because she felt it was bland, had a massive limestone mantle & hearth and she really wished she could somehow get a flat screen T.V. up there.

Beyond just the cabinet design, it becomes obvious they've set these two rooms up independently of each other. There is even a breakfast table with hanging light smack dab in the middle dividing the two rooms. Even though these rooms have no walls separating them, it sure seems that someone drew a line in the sand and never wanted the two to play together. If we could somehow stretch this kitchen towards the living area and make the living area feel more like an extension of the kitchen... well then, we just might have something!

 Here's where we begin to see opportunity

We have two entrances to the enclosed deck, a 6' sliding glass door in the kitchen and a 36" french door around the corner in the living area (you can see the slider in the second picture posted above). If we sacrifice that sliding glass door, we could extend our kitchen cabinets along that wall towards the living area and even get that bigger island she wanted. That would probably give us even more room to create a new Cook-top area somewhere along the wall instead of the island where it was. Heck, why don't we just relocate the fridge as well while we're at it?? 
Well, we did. (Notice I cut right to the chase, no drama. I'm no Steven King)

With the help of our friends at Cyr Lumber we utilized DeWils Cabinetry and here's what we came up with:

Built-in Thermador refrigerator

A beautiful built-in, Thermador stainless steel refrigerator and a gas cook-top with a cabinet enclosed hood vent. (We can't mention the cook-top without thanking our good friends at Tech Welding/Mad Mounts for punching out the custom stainless steel flange adapter to pop that puppy in place).
What about that sink area? We left it right where it was with a couple of fancier options such as instant hot water, water purification and in-counter mounted soap dispenser to clean away the memories of the previous kitchen design.

Cooktop and hood

Not everything got bigger, with the additional cabinetry, we were able to shrink the wine display area down to a more appropriate size, lose the desk feature and tie it together with a marble backsplash and beverage refrigerator below. Using varying depth sizes in the upper cabinets made the areas more interesting and got away from what I call, 'the bowling alley effect' where everything follows one continuous visual line.
Finally, this area says 'Entertainment' not 'Sit here and pay your insurance bill'.

Wine storage area

Another upside of having moved the refrigerator is that we were able to slide the double oven a few feet to the right of its original location, incorporate a microwave into the upper cabinetry and open up even more counter and cabinet space.

Double oven cabinet
All of these changes allowed us to build the real Focalpoint ™  of the kitchen (like what I did there?):
Our massive 4 seat, 10' 4" x 30" island. Fantasy cream granite offset in an antiqued black finish give this kitchen the much desired seating area that it was lacking.

Here is a view looking back into the kitchen from the living space:

Kitchen Renovation

The granite counter tops, stainless steel appliances and hardware, carefully located recessed lighting and pendants, and updated hardwood flooring (installed in the same direction as the living area) all helped to bring this room to life.

But there was still one element we wanted to take advantage of and that was the fireplace. It was a very interesting cobblestone but it was tall and narrow. The hearth felt very plain and the mantle was big and set fairly high.
We wanted to allow this fireplace to maintain some of it's original charm but I personally wanted it to feel wider and have more visual weight. We also needed to incorporate the ability to install a flat screen television so we came up with a fairly simple solution. Remove the mantle and the hearthstone, then build a surround that had some of the same character of the kitchen cabinetry. Installing an absolute black granite hearthstone helped make the other fireplace features pop.
The ultimate goal was to help draw the two rooms together and make them feel like one continuous larger room and less like two separate spaces.

We also smoothed out the ceilings. That circular swirl may have been fancy 15 years ago but now it just made me dizzy and anxious. Here's the fireplace before and after:

Fireplace before and after

And here's what the two rooms now feel like when you enter through the kitchen:

Kitchen Island

Adding a dropped light fixture and moving the breakfast table into the bay window area of the living space made for better views and comfort.

Living room renovation

Overall, we managed to make a lot happen by allowing elements of both rooms to compliment each other and taking advantage of what was already there. Part of me misses the 'Blandberry' paint? But then again, part of me still misses Nintendo and Doogie Howser, M.D.

Long live the 90's.