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17 Divinity St
Bristol, CT, 06010
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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: Trends and Design

Create a Hip Backyard Centerpiece with a Fire Pit

Chelsea O'Donnell

Fire pits are a major backyard trend right now and one that I personally enjoy on many summer and autumn evenings when the temperature gets cooler. If you’re thinking about building one in your backyard, there are several options to consider depending on your set-up and preferences. Let’s dive into a few of the most popular choices.

 The number one consideration for an open fire is always safety over aesthetic. A fire pit creates a beautiful ambiance that can be enjoyed by the whole family, but a fire is always something to be very cautious about. Make sure to check with your town to understand the rules around bonfires and fire pits before you get started. As an example, according to the Fire Department FAQ’s on the Bristol, Connecticut website, open burning in a chiminea, fire pit, or patio hearth is allowed as long as the fire doesn’t exceed three feet in diameter and does not extend beyond 1am. Again every town is different, so be sure to check with your fire department first.

Once you have the all clear, it’s time to start thinking about the look you’d like to achieve and the space you have available to you. For smaller patios, the most popular options are generally chimineas or fire bowls which are not affixed to the ground and can technically be moved around. When buying a freestanding unit, be sure to invest in one that’s heavy enough so it won’t tip over, and always utilize a fireproof mat underneath, especially if you’re using it on a deck or wood surface. 

If you’re trying to choose between a chiminea and a firepit or bowl, think about whether or not you’re planning to use it for any kind of cooking. I like pits or bowls over chimineas because you can always throw a grate on top for sausages or access the flames for s’mores.

For something more permanent, the most popular fire pit building materials are brick, stone, and concrete. All three materials are very sturdy and will handle a fire just fine, so the choice of materials really depends on your home aesthetic and the budget for your job. Concrete will generally be less expensive while high-end stone can run you several hundred dollars.

What’s even more important than the material, of course, is space. The last thing you want is to build a fire pit to then realize that there isn’t enough room for friends and family to sit around it. A nice pit for four should be about three feet wide, plus you’ll want to leave a two-foot gap between the rim of the pit and where your chairs will sit to ensure no one gets toasty shins. When it comes to height, I recommend building slightly lower than the seats of your chairs to ensure that the fire is appropriately surrounded but still has enough room to let off plenty of heat. Now sit back and enjoy!

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 http://www.odonnellbros.com. Advice is for guidance only.


Maintain Your Stone Patio for Decades of Use 

Chelsea O'Donnell

Two years ago, I replaced my wood deck for a stone patio. After almost 30 years, I was ready for a new look and the deck itself was coming to the end of its life. But after decades of cleaning, staining, and sealing wood, I wasn’t quite sure how to maintain my bluestone. Luckily, I am now an expert! Here is what I learned as a newcomer to patio protection.

The one thing that makes a patio a bit riskier than a wood deck is that they are laid right on the ground instead of on a platform, which means that any shifts or movement in the earth can cause cracks and splits between the joints or the stone itself. Additionally, weeds are unbelievably strong little pests. After time, they always find a way to creep through the joints. Brick patios are especially susceptible to weed infiltration and ants love making their homes in the gaps too. Luckily, sealing a stone patio on a regular basis is a surefire way of keeping both pests and weak points at bay.

You can start with a thorough cleaning not unlike the process you might be used to for a wood deck. Begin by removing any debris and loose dirt and dust with a firm broom, and then fire up the pressure washer. Stone can be stained from rusty patio furniture so be sure to pretreat and scrub down any marks before giving it a good power wash. Leave it to dry for at least 24 hours.

Next, inspect the joints closely. This is a tougher job for bricks than larger stone, but it’s important to repair any erosion or loose pieces before you apply your sealant. Otherwise, the stone will become uneven and the gaps will invite weeds and ants to make their homes inside. You can use sand to fill any spaces that have deteriorated over time.

Now you’re ready to seal. Each product is different so you’ll want to pay close attention, especially when it comes to finishes. I always look for a high quality, water-based sealant that I can spray on easily. I recommend applying two thin coats and waiting 24 hours between applications to ensure you achieve an even finish. Wait another 24-48 hours after the final coat to put patio furniture, grills, and any other equipment back on the surface.

This may seem like a lot of work, but if your patio isn’t susceptible to too much environmental exposure, you can get away with a good clean and seal every other year. Trust me, the effort is worth it and will extend the life of your patio for years to come.

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 http://www.odonnellbros.com. Advice is for guidance only.


Fencing Options for Backyard Privacy

Chelsea O'Donnell


With the warmer weather finally here, chances are you’ll be thinking about ways to upgrade your outdoor space this month. After all, having a private backyard oasis to enjoy during the summertime is one of my favorite things about being a homeowner.

In my experience, creating a place that’s inviting and relaxing can make balmy weekday evenings feel like a mini-vacation, especially when a barbecue or bonfire is involved. But having an at-home retreat also means taking steps to ensure that your backyard is private and secure, especially when there is a pool or water feature involved. So today, I’d like to give you a peek into a range of fencing options to protect your yard and provide seclusion without forgoing great design.

Many homeowners love the aesthetic of a beautiful, timeless wood fence. They look elegant, provide fantastic privacy, and are easy to install. The downside, of course, is maintenance and with our hot summers and brutal winters, a wood fence will need regular staining or painting, a job that every homeowner dreads. On the positive side, if you like to update the look of your backyard frequently, wood can be painted in any color imaginable and it’s one of the most affordable options on the market. A six-foot panel will run around $25-$50 depending on the type of wood.

If you love the look of wood, but the upkeep has you thinking twice about the material, you might want to think about composite fencing. Composite is made from engineered wood, and while it mimics the look of the natural stuff, its lifespan is much longer with very little maintenance requirements and no worry that it will rot, splinter or warp.  The cost will vary based on the design and type, but you can expect to pay $100-$150 per six-foot section.

If you want something that’s sturdy and maintenance free, a chain link fence might be a good option for you. While they generally aren’t the most stylish in terms of design, a chain link fence will keep your backyard protected and they can be slightly customized in different colors and gauges. If you need more privacy, you can upgrade a chain link fence with metal slats. Best of all, it’s the cheapest of options, coming in at $100 or less for a 50-foot roll. If you like the idea of a metal fence, but prefer something a little more upscale, go for an aluminum option, which is powder coated and needs very little maintenance. A six-foot panel will run you $50-$75 depending on the height.

Finally, if you want something that will protect your yard without making it feel enclosed, there’s nothing like glass. A glass or plexiglass panel fence is beautiful for a yard with a view or to enclose a pool without shutting out the rest of your property. Glass fences are durable, but they do tend to scratch easily and need to be cleaned regularly. They are also generally the most expensive fencing option, especially if they need to enclose a large area or in-ground pool.

With so many options, which do you like best? Send me an email or message me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/odonnellbros

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 http://www.odonnellbros.com. Advice is for guidance only.