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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: DIY

Seven Fun Outdoor Projects for the Last Week of Summer 

Chelsea O'Donnell

With only one week of summer left, I can imagine that parents and grandparents are pretty exhausted of ideas to keep the kids occupied before school starts. That being said, fall will be here before we know it and the weather will be cool again. So let’s make the most of our last days with some of my favorite outdoor activities that the young ones will love - and you will too. 

Plant a Wagon Herb Garden

Gardening is a great way to teach kids responsibility and it’s a lot less messy than getting a family pet. Grab an old wagon or wheelbarrow from the shed or a local garage sale and drill some holes in it. Then let the kids choose their own herbs to plant and grow. I like basil, mint, cilantro, rosemary, and thyme because they all come up quickly and offer a lot of versatility in the kitchen. 

Build a Lemonade Stand

Entrepreneurship at its finest! There is nothing more fun than helping the kids build a lemonade stand to make a few bucks for a special back-to-school treat. You can nail three pallets together to make a u-shape and then paint it your favorite color. Let the kids make the sign and the lemonade and you’re ready to start selling.

Set Up Yard Game Olympics

Here is a great idea for a group. Get everyone to help set up “Yard Game Olympics” for a friendly competition that will keep the young ones occupied for hours. From croquet to cornhole, sprinkler jumping, frisbee throwing and a good old fashioned game of HORSE - anything goes with this one. Get creative and make it fun. 

Make a S’mores Bar

Sure they are messy but nothing says summer like the gooey mix of graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate. In my house, we compete for the perfect golden brown marshmallow and the first one who burns theirs is out. We love creating out of the box sandwich ideas too.

Create a Mosaic

Collecting seashells and beach rocks is a popular summer past-time, but what do you do with them once they are home? You can get cement at a local hardware store and mix it according to the directions. Then spread it evenly on a planter, frame, a piece of plywood or even a birdhouse. Then firmly press in your shells or stones and get creative with fun patterns. 

Start a Compost Pile

Here’s a great one to teach kids about recycling and the environment. Choose any large container that you can drill holes into in order to get airflow. A plastic drum will work just fine. Lay a few inches of twigs and straw on the bottom. Then begin adding your compost materials. Alternate between green and brown to keep your pile healthy - green being fruit and vegetable scraps and brown being wood, leaves and garden matter. Green produces nitrogen while brown delivers carbon. Maintaining balance is the key to healthy soil. 

Build Your Own Slip-n-Slide

This was an all-time favorite when my kids were growing up. Grab a 100-foot roll of thick, clear plastic sheeting and a dozen landscaping stakes from the local hardware store. Remove any rocks or sticks from the lawn and roll out your plastic. Fasten it down with the stakes and then squirt some no-tear body wash or soap evenly down the slide. Finally, take the nozzle off the hose and position the water flow right down the middle. Now take a dive!

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.


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.


A Good Cleaning Will Extend the Life of Your Deck for Years

Chelsea O'Donnell

I hope you all had a fantastic Fourth of July! While celebrating with family at a backyard barbecue, I started thinking about decks, patios, and the outdoor spaces that we all enjoy during the summer. Sure, they are wonderful to have, but they take a lot of work too. So let’s talk about how to best maintain them, starting with a deck. 

The life expectancy of a wood deck is about 10 to 15 years, but did you know that it could last north of 20 years with proper cleaning and maintenance? That’s right, with a good seasonal scrub and sealing, your deck could stay looking beautiful long after your neighbors’ needs replacing.

A deck takes a lot of abuse during the seasons. The summer sun is especially harsh and the humidity forces the wood to expand and contract, which can lead to shifting and splitting. The winter is no picnic either as snow, ice, and freezing temperatures will do their fair share of damage to both the surface and the joists. With all those elements taking their toll, it’s no wonder why a deck is so susceptible to rot. Luckily, there is plenty that you can do to take care of it, so let’s get to it.

Attack the Crevices

The first thing you have to do is sweep the surface of your deck clean, and then grab a putty knife to dislodge all the debris stuck in the nooks and crannies. Whirlybirds and leaves can do a lot more damage than you think because they begin to rot as soon as they get wet. Leaving them trapped in the wood will most certainly send your deck to an early grave. This is also a great time to sand down any splintered areas and replace deteriorated or popped nails or screws.

Scrub the Wood

Once your surface is completely debris-free, it’s time to give the wood a deep clean. You might remember my affinity for a pressure washer and deck cleaning is where this machine really shines. A year’s worth of dirt, mildew, and gunk can be tough to take off, and while a stiff scrub brush and some serious back-aching effort will do the trick, the pressure washer will tackle the task in half the time. Many people recommend a bleach and water solution but I prefer to use a non-toxic alternative such as Spray Nine which has no corrosive chemicals and won’t kill your plants. Give the deck a good, solid coating of cleaner and let it sit for 15 minutes before pressure washing or scrubbing.

Stain and Seal

Staining the deck is an optional step but sealing it shouldn't be. Many decks experience discoloration over time and staining is one great way to give your wood a facelift and make it look new. But regardless of if you’re staining or not, applying a weather-resistant seal is your best defense against having the replace your deck sooner than you expected. Apply the sealant in a thin coat using a medium paintbrush or a roller, working with the wood grain to ensure an even finish. It’s important not to apply the sealant in direct sun as it will dry too quickly and the wood won’t be able to absorb it. If instructed, apply a second coat, working in the same way. Finally, allow the sealant to dry for 24 to 48 hours before placing deck furniture or planters back on the surface.

Now sit back, relax, and enjoy your beautiful like-new deck for the rest of the summer and beyond. Your wood will thank you.

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.