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17 Divinity St
Bristol, CT, 06010
United States


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


Filtering by Tag: DIY

Leaks Around the Chimney? Blame it on the Squirrels

Chelsea O'Donnell

I received a question from a reader that I wanted to share with you. She asked: 

Dear Bob, I've had some leaking around my chimney. I thought this didn’t seem very strange considering all the snow we’ve had, but when we went to take a look at it, we noticed lots of small holes around the flashing. What would be the cause of this? - Dot B.

Dot, this is a great question and I have received so many calls about it recently so you’re not alone. Believe it or not, the culprit of the small holes around your chimney flashing is squirrels. Flashing is often made of lead, which is a soft metal that squirrels feast on because it supposedly has a sweet taste. More practically, it also helps our rodent friends gnaw down and control their fast-growing teeth. Then, of course, there is the warmth that is escaping from your attic which makes for a pretty cozy place to spend these cold winter days.

Of course, we all know that lead is poisonous, so squirrels chomping down on your flashing is very likely going to kill them in addition to opening up your roof to potential leaks. Flashing bridges the gap between the chimney and your roof, creating a watertight barrier. If it’s damaged, water can easily get into the attic and eventually down into the home. So I’d suggest dealing with the problem right away before it becomes more costly and complicated.

One simple DIY method is to cover the flashing with the taste that squirrels hate the most - capsaicin, the active ingredient in cayenne pepper. You can mix pepper sauce or powder with water and spray it on the affected areas which will deter them in the short term. Of course, a cheap and easy solution like this also has its drawbacks, and in this case, you’ll be pulling out the ladder again every time it rains or snows. 

You can also try deterring the squirrels from your roof by cutting back the branches and trees that make it easily accessible to them. Also, if food is more readily available, they are going to follow the path of least resistance. So fill up those wildlife feeders and keep them at a distance from your house.

If the pests persist, I recommend getting a professional to cover your current flashing with heavy duty copper which is neither attractive nor penetrable. Investing in one of these simple solutions will save both your home and your furry friends from an untimely demise.

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 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 Advice is for guidance only.

What’s In Your Wood?

Chelsea O'Donnell

For such a tiny pest, termites can cause very big problems to the structure of your home. According to pest control company, Terminix, termites cause roughly $500 billion in damage and affect approximately four million homes each year. That’s more than the damage caused by fires, floods, and tornadoes put together.

There are two different types of termites – subterranean and drywood. Subterranean termites are a bit more common in warm coastal areas such as the southeast, and drywood can be found anywhere in the United States. Both are damaging, although subterranean are the ones you really want to avoid.

There are three telltale signs that you might have a termite problem. The first and most obvious is seeing them. Termites thrive in the darkness, but they are attracted to light, which also happens to kill them.  If you have termites in your home, you might start to see bodies or wings on windowsills or next to light fixtures, although termites are light colored and can be difficult to spot and distinguish. Another way to know if you have termites is if you discover mud tubes. These straw-sized tunnels are where termites live and can often be found around baseboards, pipes or chimneys. Then, of course, there is hollow wood. If you suspect that you might have a termite issue, use the base of a screwdriver to tap around baseboards, windowsills, and other easily accessible framing. Hollow wood has a very different sound than healthy wood and you’ll easily be able to hear the distinction. 

Termites can’t get through concrete but they only need 1/32 of an inch to enter your home or business, and yes, they really do eat wood - up to a pound a day. Termites generally get to a foundation through the soil and then find a crack or hole to make their way to wood. Decks and porches are often good entry points and anything that’s holding moisture will enable the insects to survive and thrive. That woodpile on the side of your house is a Garden of Eden for termites, especially if it sits uncovered and collects moisture during rainstorms. Overall, a termite swarm is looking for moist wood to form its colony. So, if you’re house has drainage issues or if your gutters and downspouts aren’t doing their job properly, you might be harvesting a breeding ground without even knowing it. 

If you think you might have termites, it’s a good idea to call a local expert to do a test, especially if any of your neighbors have recently experienced a problem. There are different types of termites with different habits and triggers, but all of them can be harmful to your home. It’s tough for the average person to spot and identify a termite, so calling a professional in for a routine check will give you peace of mind and provide the knowledge you need to protect your home from any future damage. With termites, it’s better to get the problem fixed as early as possible before they take an expensive bite out of your biggest asset. 

Bob O’Donnell is the owner of O’Donnell Bros. Inc., a Bristol-based home improvement company established in 1975. Email your questions to 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 Advice is for guidance only.

A Spring Cleaning List to Tackle Your Home

Chelsea O'Donnell

Even though today isn’t much of an indication, it seems like the warmer weather should finally be arriving, which means that it’s time to dedicate a weekend on your calendar to a spring house cleaning.

Spring cleaning is a dreaded task for many people, but I think it’s a great opportunity to go through your home and look for any small problems or maintenance issues that can cause you headaches in the future. I also use it as a time to sort through closets and storage to donate clothes, sports equipment, and tools that I haven’t used in awhile. But when it comes to cleaning, there are a few places around the house that might get missed in your more regularly scheduled tidying up. Here’s a list to help you tackle this tough project:

Windows: You might give the insides a friendly wipe down all through the year, but cleaning the outside of your windows is a smart job to tackle now, especially if you live near the road or a high traffic area. Getting to second-floor windows might take some work on a ladder, so use caution and take your time.

Cabinets: From afar they probably look clean, but they are most likely splattered with cooking oil, tomato sauce, and all those yummy soups and stews you’ve been whipping up all winter. Use a cabinet cream to remove all the built-up gunk while conditioning the wood at the same time. I like the Parker & Bailey version.

Appliances: Just like the cabinets, your appliances can get streaked and spotted with cooking remnants, so give them a good wipe down to keep them looking like new. If you have stainless steel, make sure you look for a proper polish like this one from Weiman, or if you want to DIY it with a non-toxic solution, you can use a mixture of vinegar and oil.

Countertops: Have you notice stains on your granite? This is a surefire sign that they aren’t sealed properly. When you have them installed, make sure they are treated with a sealant a few times, and then make it a once a year project. If water or liquid forms a bead on the surface of the counter, you’re good to go.

Dishwasher: You might think this appliance is the cleanest place in your kitchen but smelly food particles can get stuck to its interior, which can then end up back on your dishes. Remove any large pieces of debris from the bottom of the dishwasher and then run it on the specialty cycle using a special dishwasher cleaning liquid.

Wood Floors: If you’re vacuuming and mopping your floors every week, this cleaning routine might be doing them more harm than good. Wood needs to be conditioned in order to help it retain its normal levels of moisture. Nix the wet washing and try applying a wax sealant every few months to keep them looking shiny and new. There are different types of waxes depending on the type of wood you’re dealing with, so pop into a home improvement store and ask a professional for some advice before tackling 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 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 Advice is for guidance only.