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17 Divinity St
Bristol, CT, 06010
United States

8605895155

Since 1975, O'Donnell Bros has been providing greater Bristol and Central Connecticut with residential and commercial remodeling solutions. We specialize in roofing, siding, windows, doors, gutters, downspouts and so much more. We look forward to helping you with all your remodeling needs. 

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Articles

O'Donnell Bros President, Bob O'Donnell, is a regular contributor to The Bristol Press. Read his home improvement articles here.

 

Filtering by Category: General Remodeling

Waterproof Your Chimney Now to Avoid Costly Repairs Later

Chelsea O'Donnell

You may have never thought about exterior chimney maintenance unless you’ve had a problem, but because chimneys come up above the roof line, they are more susceptible to harsh weather than any other part of your home. That’s why spending a little time and money to waterproof and protect the area can save you thousands of dollars and plenty of potential headaches down the road.

If you plan on waterproofing your chimney, the first thing you’ll have to do is measure the surface area. Take care to measure all sides and add the measurements together to find the total surface area. This will help you to determine how much material you will need.

Now, it’s time to clean. Your chimney will most certainly have mold, dirt, rust, and stains on it, and you’ll want to remove them before starting the waterproofing process. I like Chimney RX Safer Brick and Masonry Cleaner which you can use instead of muriatic acid for the same cleaning power without the harsh fumes or risk of burns. Applying the solution is easy: just use one part cleaner with four parts water and apply to the area with a pump sprayer. You can then either scrub the surface or use a power washer to remove the debris. Let everything dry for at least 24 hours before moving on to the next step.

Next, you can start to prepare the area for any potential repair work. You don't want to damage your roof and shingles when waterproofing your chimney, so use a canvas drop cloth to cover the area as plastic can get very slippery. Make sure to cover over any windows or skylights that are in reach as well. Once waterproofing overspray has been applied, it will be incredibly difficult to remove.

If you have minor cracks in the chimney, now is the time to fill them. Chimney RX makes a Masonry Crack and Joint Sealant that works really well on small cracks up to one-eighth of an inch. It simply paints on and then dries a milky white color. However, if you have larger cracks or if you need any part of the chimney rebuilt or tuckpointed, I highly suggest calling a professional to manage the repair.

Once minor work has been completed, you’re ready to apply the waterproofing agent. Again, ChimneyRX makes a great product for the job. No matter what you use, be careful. Most people don’t realize that there is a difference between water repellent and sealant. A sealant will form a hard surface, trapping water inside and making the area susceptible to leaks, whereas a repellent will still enable the porous bricks to breathe and move the way they are supposed to.

Applying the sealant is as easy as the cleaning step - all you’ll need is a pump sprayer with a fan nozzle. The product that you use will give instructions for the amount that you’ll need, so just go by your surface area and the directions provided. I always suggest starting from the base and working your way up, applying heavy coats using a side to side spraying motion. Unlike painting, it’s a good idea to apply a “flood coat” first and then top it up with a second coat within just a few minutes to even it out. For areas that feel oversaturated, have a soft bristle brush handy. Also, be sure you’re working in good weather - while waterproofing products do dry quickly, you’ll want to give them a good six hours in the sun to fully set before a bout of bad weather.

Finally, just like any job on a roof, please make sure you’re comfortable with heights and working from a ladder before you tackle this project. The last thing we want us a trip to the emergency room from a nasty fall. When in doubt, always hire a pro to tackle the job.

Bob O'Donnell is the owner of O'Donnell Bros, Inc., a Bristol-based home improvement company established in 1975. Email your questions for Bob to info@odonnellbros.com with the subject line “Ask the Pro”. All questions may be considered for publication. To contact Bob for your remodeling needs, call O'Donnell Bros, Inc. at (860) 589-5155 or visit www.odonnellbros.com. Advice is for guidance only.

Investing in a Fixer Upper? Bobby O's Five Must-Read Tips

Chelsea O'Donnell

For a lot of young people, a first step onto the property ladder might mean purchasing an older home that needs a bit of work. Fixer-uppers can be a great way to enter the real estate market, especially if you’re handy around the house and know a thing or two about remodeling. But if you’re new to the game, getting swayed into paying too much for a rundown home that needs more work than it’s worth can be a real risk. Here are some things to think about before sinking your life savings into a piece of property:

 

Mr. Inspector

No matter what, always make sure you have an inspector look at the property and report on his or her findings. Lots of homes look perfectly fine on the outside but have expensive or even toxic damage hidden within the property. An inspector will document any issues he or she finds, and at the very least you should be able to use that information to negotiate the price with the seller. If major parts of the house such as the foundation or structural walls need replacing, or if the house has lead paint, lead pipes, or asbestos, you might want to rethink your potential purchase entirely.

 

Your Budget +15%

Be really clear about how much you are willing to spend to renovate your purchase into the house of your dreams, and be sure to include the cost of materials, the labor and any permits and paperwork in your estimate. Know that very few projects run to budget, so tack on an extra 15% to give yourself some breathing room. Think about what projects have to be dealt with immediately and which ones can wait. Broken stairs might need immediate attention, but the pink sink and bathtub might just grow on you – at least for the first year.

 

A Piece of History

Make sure you are aware of the historic status of an old home. Many people purchase houses in an area or zone that doesn’t allow the aesthetic to be changed, which could put a real damper on your dream plans. Also, know that historic restoration is much more expensive than a normal remodel, and it often requires specialists to get the job done right. Be aware of this before you buy.

 

Keep it Vanilla

A lot of young people buy fixer uppers with plans to remodel in a way that suits them personally. This is fine, but consider what types of projects will enhance the resale value of your home and attract a wide variety of buyers. Additionally, make sure that your remodeling plans keep your house in line with the other homes in the area. Real estate experts suggest keeping your home within 10-15% of the median sale price of other homes in the neighborhood. The last thing you want to do is spend a fortune to revamp a house and then not be able to sell it when the time is right. 

 

Your Crew

Once you decide on your fixer-upper, make sure you hire experts to handle each individual job. Many people are tempted to get one handyman to install the flooring, replace the electrical, and fix the plumbing as a way to save money. This usually comes back to bite the homeowner as no general contractor can be an expert at everything. Find a pro that you love and ask him or her for recommendations. Every contractor has other tradespeople that they feel comfortable introducing to their clients because they do great work. Remember, it’s their reputation on the line too.

Bob O’Donnell is the owner of O’Donnell Bros. Inc., a Bristol-based home improvement company established in 1975. Email your questions to info@odonnellbros.com with the subject line “Ask the Pro.” All questions may be considered for publication. To contact Bob for your remodeling needs, call O’Donnell Bros. Inc. at (860) 589-5155 or visit http://www.odonnellbros.com. Advice is for guidance only.


Wood, Pellet, or Gas? What is the Best Solution for a Home Heating Stove?

Chelsea O'Donnell

A beautiful fireplace adds both warmth and ambiance to any home, especially as the days get cooler and we begin spending more time indoors. Back in the day, the only option for a fireplace was one that burned wood, but now we have several options to keep us toasty - each with their benefits and drawbacks. If you’re thinking about upgrading your fireplace or trying something new, here are a few things to consider.

Wood

The classic choice. There are so many reasons to love wood from the traditional crackling sound that it makes to the hypnotic dancing of natural flames. I consider wood to be the fastest heater for the money in that you can quickly warm up a home without having to worry about your electricity bills. Another reason to love wood is if you have it. For rural or wooded area homes that need an annual clean-up, your fuel is free as long as you don’t mind the man hours. Think of it as a great workout.

Of course with the pros comes the cons. If you don’t have wood readily available, it can get very expensive. If you do, you still have to cut and stack it yourself. It also needs to stay dry in order to light reliably. Wood is also pretty messy and while those piles can look great if they are well constructed, they are also perfect homes for rodents, termites, and mold. Finally, there is the efficiency factor. Wood burns hot and fast and regulating temperature is a lot tougher than other heating methods. It also emits particles into the air, which could affect people with breathing problems or asthma. And of course, there is also the need for a chimney which may make it prohibitive for some people.

Pellet

A pellet fireplace or stove uses small, compressed cylinders of sawdust to heat the home. What’s great about pellet stoves is that they are temperature regulated and don’t require a traditional chimney since many stoves use blowers to circulate heat. Another reason to love them is their efficiency. Because heat can be regulated and pellets are easier to maneuver, most homeowners can expect a cleaner, less labor intensive burn.

Of course, pellet stoves have a few negative aspects to also consider. While cleaner burning than wood, pellets are made from sawdust, which will bother people who are sensitive to dust, dander, and pollen. Similar to wood, there is also ash to consider, which needs to be dumped regularly to keep the fire burning efficiently. Pellet stoves are generally more intricate than a wood fireplace, which means there is more to clean and maintain. Finally, most stoves run on electricity which means you’re paying for both the pellets and the energy to burn them.

Natural Gas

Natural gas fireplaces have become one of the most popular options today, mainly because a unit can be fit into an existing fireplace or practically anywhere in the home. People love gas because it’s fast to heat, easy to control, and doesn’t require a chimney or electricity. Simply set the temperature you want and you’re ready to go. In comparison to wood or pellets, natural gas emits the least amount of particles, making it a popular choice for people who have breathing sensitivities. As long as your house already has natural gas, the set up is really easy and you don’t have to worry about buying anything to burn to keep your home warm.

While natural gas does tick plenty of boxes, there are a few things to think about. Admittedly, natural gas flames are the most boring and predictable, making it the least ambiance-friendly option of the three. Of course, you’re also burning a fossil fuel, which is inexpensive right now but can always go up. Finally, if you don’t already have a gas line, you’ll need to get one installed, which might end up being more of a hassle than it’s worth. Just another thing to think about but one that’s well worth considering.

Bob O’Donnell is the owner of O’Donnell Bros. Inc., a Bristol-based home improvement company established in 1975. Email your questions to info@odonnellbros.com with the subject line “Ask the Pro.” All questions may be considered for publication. To contact Bob for your remodeling needs, call O’Donnell Bros. Inc. at (860) 589-5155 or visit http://www.odonnellbros.com. Advice is for guidance only.