Rob Ainbinder - Digital Dad - Page 10 of 78 - Chronicling my adventures in DIY, Home Improvement, Barbeque and Fatherhood

Rob Ainbinder – Digital Dad

Chronicling my adventures in DIY, Home Improvement, Barbeque and Fatherhood

Congrats to Robert Goddard, “Father of Modern Rocketry”

March 16th, 2012

This being a blog from a Dad, I though it fitting to write about another “Father” who had another milestone today (as my amazing Wife reminds me). So, how do I know about this   “father” (Robert Goddard) and what do I know about him?

In the second grade at Central Elementary School in Methuen, MA we had a Science Fair. Central Elementary was the former district High School and I recall details of my two years there with some vividness.

Central Elementary School

Central Elementary School (Via Google Maps)

The Science Fair in those days had no restrictions (unlike the rules we experienced with our little one which included: no water,animal or human subject unless supervised by a Scientist). So, what was my experiment/project?
A model replica of Robert Goddard’s liquid propelled rocket.

Robert H. Goddard on March 16, 1926

Besides, how bad could a guy be whose name was Robert? I remember my science fair model’s details with some foggy precision: constructed of plastic straws and a pencil then, taped to a piece of carboard. Simple and to the point.
At this science fair I didn’t win any prize (the same fate befell our kid recently). But, due in large part to my Mom we have remembered his successfull development and launch of a liquid fuel rocket on March 16, 1926 in Auburn, Mass. every year since that second grade science fair. That’s a gift far greater than a ribbon or certificate. If you want to read more about Dr. Goddard check out NASA’s info here.

Installing IKEA Framsta Above Hoppen Dressers

March 13th, 2012


ikea framsta & hoppen

IKEA Framsta & Hoppen


We made a trip to our nearest IKEA recently… that means, more projects! We left IKEA with three new HOPPEN chests and FRAMSTA wall panel system. My Wife and I spent a few hours assembling the HOPPEN chests. Here’s what they look like.

Hoppen chests, assembled.

But…we weren’t done. No sir, there was still a Framsta wall unit to assemble and TV to hang. And another surprise my faithful readers… my first on camera appearance.

Video of the floppy Framsta “panels”

We never put this system together but, undeterred we pursued. The end result was motivation enough. But, what could you learn from us?

1.) The base unit is the TOP and the BOTTOM of one vertical run of panels. This wasn’t terribly clear in the pictograph instructions but, we muddied through it.

2.) Keep the “A” side of the frame facing up… we had to un-assemble and re-assemble several panels because we overlooked this in the instructions.

3.) The entire vertical run of panels is hung on the wall by two fastening points. See those two brackets in the picture below? Those are the only anchor point for a vertical run of Framsta. It was a little freaky….

Framsta anchor points

So what do you do?

Measure carefully, find the wall stud locations and mark them… we also marked the top of each panel location so we could get a visual for the height of the four panels. We used painter’s tape to mark everything.

Framsta layout

What do you anchor to the wall with? Well, I really, really like SPAX screws . And why? No pre-drilling  and very good shear strength (350 lbs for our application would be plenty.

SPAX screws


350lbs. of load… the wall system was going nowhere once anchored to the 16″ on center wall studs. And my loving Wife was there with me every step of the way. Here she is attaching the mounting clips to the Framsta frame.

This is a picture of the Framsta panels hung and the cables run. It was a little awkward getting the system fastened to the wall but, we got it done with a little muscle.

Tip: The cables must be run BEFORE you mount the TV and BEFORE you install the side caps.

Framsta detail. Side chases

Actually there is a small notch cut out of the end of each rail. And when you stack several panels togther a chase forms  running down the side of each panel end that has room for cables. But, getting the cables around the vertical posts connecting the panels together was a bit trickier. The directions actually show cables being run in a small space between the end of the vertical post and rail of the next panel. No way would a TV power cable fit under there!

Framsta cables run

I cut a hole for our cables for TV. All I had was a power cable and coax TV cable. The panel material cut pretty easily with a hand saw. I just cut a small upside down V shaped notch at the bottom of the panel. One tip I’ll pass along. Remember that the panel slips into a channel to hold it so you might need your hole a 1/8″ – 1/4″ taller.

Another Tip: When installing the side panel caps you are very close to wall. So, I used a scrap piece of cardboard to slip just behind the panel to give me an area to use my rubber mallet to coax the side caps on without leaving a mark on the wall.

The next step was to mount the TV. This was the moment of truth… would the wall system hold our modest 20″ LCD TV?

Why, yes it did!

Framsta TV bracket with TV mounted


And here’s a picture of the finished project? What do you think?

Framsta over Hoppen complete

Holy Hollies Batman! A Landscape Inherited and Transformed

March 5th, 2012

Our First Project: The Landscape

6/10/2011 from the archives…

What we learned from previous homes was that if you wanted to enjoy the landscape in future years and not shell out thousands you must plan and plant very early on. So, that’s what we did.

The landscape we inherited when taking over ownership and care of this house was overgrown and in my opinion ill suited for the southern facing side of the house. My Wife completely agreed. You can take a look at the photo below.

Front landscape – view from the street as purchased.

The Fortis Homes installed shrubs had all but, taken over the front windows of the house (to the left of the front door) hiding much of one of the home’s better points… the brickwork. Also, the shrubs along the driveway made for a very inhospitable welcome for guests exiting their cars. The driveway grade is not flat but, it was something we were willing to sacrifice in exchange for other factors (proximity to shopping, movie theater, preferred school district). In addition, this choice of shrub and it’s lack of pruning led the plant material to become very woody. The downside of this is that on the right side of the door air circulation was in adequate and causing some sidingand drainage issues.  What did we do and and how did we get those 20 year old hollies out of the ground? Good questions.

Removing the Old Landscaping

How do you remove 20yr holly bushes and not break your back, or resort to calling a professional? I was very surprised to find the answer was quite simple: Old fashioned hand tools. In fact, a very simple yet effective tool. My first attempt with a shovel and lopers was pointless. So, I searched for some answers and found this webpage.

Now, I readily admit to being more “city” than “country” but, I am also not above good advice (regardless of the source) and it turns out that Michael was right. So, where did I find this mystical tool with powers to remove 20 yr old shrubs? At Big Blue.

Me with my landscaping bar… last shrub. Big grin ;-)


 Installing the New Landscaping

We referred to our favorite local nursery for some planting advice/foundation materials and between them and Big Blue we completed the front planting bed.

Landscape Replanted 6/10/2011


















That’s one BIG project off the list!


The Laminate Floors are Installed (Hostages in Our Own House)

February 27th, 2012

Having new laminate flooring installed in the entire house was way beyond the time and our DIY abilities but, that doesn’t mean we didn’t work at all. In fact, preparing to have flooring removed and installed  (including fixing some floor squeeks, removing the 1/2 bath toilet and stashing electronics out of the way) was a fairly large project.

During the 2.5 days we started to feel like hostages/hoarders with everthing pushed into weird areas including the master bathroom, attic and garage.

Laminate Floor Installed by Carpets by Direct

The Columbia laminate flooring was installed by Carpets by Direct. We were extremely pleased with the entire process. The sales person we visited at their showroom was knowledgable and friendly. The 3 man installation crew were excellent. They even returned days after the flooring was installed to install some thresholds at the doorways leading to tiled floors and at our newly installed front door. The crew worked for 2.5 days and always worked without a break (except for lunch). They worked until 6:30 pm each of the first two days and without a complaint. What they accomplished in the time was far more than what we could have done. I don’t regret the decision to let someone else undercut all the door jambs, install a sound/moisture barrier, install the flooring, all transitions and all the base shoe moulding. They even installed new curved base shoe around our stair in the entry (something Big Blue wouldn’t even do).

Pictures from the laminate floor installation in progress…

Pictures from the completed laminate floor project

Search for Columbia laminate flooring 

So, would you install 1500 sq feet of laminate yourself? Or,would you hire some professional help? Let me know in the comments below.

Of Floors & Dust Bunnies

February 24th, 2012

 The Original Flooring

Our research and other projects indicated that the flooring we had in the house was original. The original flooring choices were:

  • Carpet: in the family room, dining room and formal living room, upstairs bedrooms and hallway
  • Engineered Wood: in the kitchen, downstairs half bath and hallway
  • Vinyl: in the laundry room, and up stairs bathrooms.

All the floors were well past their prime with stains, cracks and other signs of aging.


Dust Bunnies

We aren’t hoarders and we aren’t extreme neatnicks…probably somewhere in between. But, since we moved in we noticed an absurd amount of DUST in the house. Dust on the furniture, dust on the mouldings, picture frames, dust on furniture and dust on dust…dust just about everywhere! It was driving my Wife crazy…she would dust and by the next week it was back… and them some!
So, where was all this dust coming from and can we do something about it?

There was some evidence to support HVAC duct sealing as I learned from the Fed’s Energy Star website that unsealed HVAC ducts could pull in unfiltered air bringing dust/dirt along for the ride with the conditioned (e.g. heated or cooled) air. I also found a Reader’s Digest article “8 Smart Strategies to Make Your House Dustproof” of some help. What was interesting to me in this article is what the RD article stated about carpet:

“carpet is by far the biggest dust reservoir. It’s a huge source of fibers and absorbs dust like a giant sponge. Even the padding underneath holds dust, which goes airborne with each footstep.”

So, would the carpet go? Maybe….

Tile, Carpet, Hardwood, Laminate and What About Bamboo?

We debated the merit (style, longevity, wearability, and seasonal underfoot feel) of different flooring… wavering between hardwood, bamboo, vinyl planks, carpet, tile and laminate.

I can’t tell you how many trips we made to flooring retailers both on and offline.  It was a lot! They included:


Tile was a longwearing choice but, was only a partial solution to our flooring needs. We intially envisioned tile in the kitchen, laundry room and guest 1/2 bath. We wavered on running it throughout the entire 1st floor but, shelved that idea because when winter comes to North Carolina, although mild compared to elsewhere, the floor would be cold. So, we opted for tile in bathrooms and laundry room as a future project replacing vinyl “tiles”.
Which tile?

StonePeak Ceramics TrueLife Tarvertine in Noce

The tile is StonePeak Ceramics Travertine in Noce available at Big Blue.

Why we like this floor?

  • Made in USA (Production facility is in nearby Tennessee.)
  • Accurate color rendition of travertine without the maintenance.


Carpet was inexpensive, soft underfoot and would probably be the easiest to replace. But, we had several reasons for ultimately NOT selecting carpet. For us the reasons were:

  1. Our cat would without warning expel furballs and food onto the well worn carpet at odd hours (often in the middle of the night). These stains were (despite the use of Dang Oxygen Activated Stain and Odor Remover Gal) permanent and an attractant to our dog who found these “treats” irresistible .
  2. Necessity of another replacement in a relatively short time.

Hardwood Flooring

flooring jatobá wood

Image via Wikipedia


Hardwood (engineered and solid) were expensive and based on previous installations not the best wearing. In fact, we were opposed to wood flooring on that basis alone.

Aside from that, the original engineered wood floor in the house was also wearing very poorly, cracking and the adhesive used to adhere to the slab was failing.

Although we really liked Jatoba/Brazilian Cherry for it’s excellent Janka rating.


There are two camps in the Bamboo battle. Those that love it and those that don’t. We experienced biases in both directions during our shopping trips. Some salespeople proclaimed it’s strength. Others panned it with statements about potential warping. We decided against bamboo on a cost per sq basis. We also have a small bias against imported products. In the case of bamboo flooring we weren’t entirely confident that the resin used for strain woven bamboo flooring wouldn’t be something we found out later about like we did with the Chinese Drywall and Melamine Dogfood issues.

Vinyl Planks/Sheet Vinyl

Armstrong has some impressive vinyl flooring, particularly the planks. But, we knocked this off our list due to another consideration. An entire home in vinyl (in our minds) just looked too cheap.


We surved a variety of laminate choices and decided that our key factors were:

  • Wear rating (expressed as n AC rating)
  • Realistic look compared to hardwood (e.g. low luster, no phelonic click when stepping, reasonable grain pattern)
  • No eased edges which are notorious for dirt and call for additional square footage to install correctly.
  • Total installed cost
  • Warranty

We looked at the Pergo Lifetime finish lines at both Big Orange (Pergo XP) and Big Blue (Pergo Max). And laminates at other retailers.

The Big Blue estimate was $9,000 to install Pergo Max and remove hardwood, carpet and base shoe moulding (excluding curved base shoe for the stair). If we had done some of the work (remove the carpet, tack strip and guled down engineered wood floor) we would get the price down to $7,000. But, Big Blue could not supply the curved base shoe moulding for our staircase.

Our Final Laminate Flooring Choice

Columbia Flooring Traditional Clickette in Oregon Walnut Fog 2-Strip

We picked Columbia Floor’s Traditional Clickette in Oregon Walnut Fog. We liked that this floor was

  • Made in the USA (nearby Virginia, actually)
  • Finished to an AC rating of 4 (AC hardness ratings are a standardized measure adopted by The Association of European Producers of Laminate Flooring (ELPF) . Very tough.
  • 20 year warranty
  • Sold and installed by Carpets by Direct

Search for Columbia laminate flooring

Next up the laminate floor is installed and some final pictures.

Rob Ainbinder – Digital Dad

Chronicling my adventures in DIY, Home Improvement, Barbeque and Fatherhood