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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: Garden

Get Rid of Unsightly Crabgrass and Breathe New Life Into Your Lawn

Chelsea O'Donnell

With so much rain early in the season followed by a long period of hot and humid weather, this summer is definitely a record-breaker for crabgrass. This thick, clumpy weed is not only ugly but it’s bad for your lawn’s health too. You might be thinking that since we’re halfway through summer, there’s not much you can do, but treating crabgrass now is actually a smart move that will give your lawn a lush look before the season ends. 

As I said, crabgrass is a weed and just like other weeds, it likes to take over. Once it gets its roots down, it spreads quickly, killing healthy grass in its path. Of course, crabgrass dies on its own when it starts to turn cold, but not treating it means it’s more likely to come back next year. So here’s what you can do today to get rid of it and keep it at bay for next year. 

The best course of action is a pre-emergent, but that’s only good in the spring before the crabgrass starts to grow, so if you missed it, it looks like you’ll be pulling by hand. That’s right, get out that kneepad because the best way to remove the weed is to pull it out, ensuring the roots come with it. It’s been dry for a long time here in Connecticut, but recent rain will loosen those roots up a bit. 

Once you have the crabgrass out, you can fill in the bare spots with healthy grass seed and plenty of water. It’s important to wait to reseed if you’ve recently sprayed your lawn with weed killer as the seeds won’t be able to grow. The water is also key here because the heat does make it tough for grass to grow. 

Now for your mowing. It’s best to keep the grass a bit longer and to let the clippings stay in place to give some nutrients and shade back into the lawn. Three inches is a good, healthy length for both old and new grass. 

If you’re looking for a chemical solution, you can use a post-emergent but this can be tricky as the wrong product will kill your grass. When in doubt, it’s best to leave this job to a professional landscaper who can advise you on the most appropriate course of action. You don’t want to accidentally burn your whole lawn while trying to save it!

Don’t forget, treating your lawn with a pre-emergent in the spring is the best way to avoid crabgrass in the first place. Crabgrass starts to germinate when the soil reaches 55 degrees, so it’s a good idea to get out there in April to ensure that your hard work is worth the effort.

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.


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.