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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 Tag: ash

Cooler Nights Mean It's Time For Chimney Prep

Chelsea O'Donnell

With chillier nights starting to descend on our area of Connecticut, it won’t be long until home heating is top of mind. With so many homeowners kicking off autumn with a warming fire in the house, now is the perfect time to get your chimney and hearth prepped to roar. 


First, don’t leave ash and residue hanging around for another season. Fireplaces and chimneys are involved in 42 percent of all home-heating fires, so a preventative annual clean-out should definitely be on your list. If you have a regular wood-burning fireplace, remove all the old ashes with a shovel and bucket and get rid of any residual materials with an industrial vacuum or heavy-duty hand broom and dustpan. 

It’s important to note that during winter you never want ashes to accumulate to more than two inches in depth.  Also, remember that ashes are just disintegrated wood, so feel free to discard them into your compost pile. Once the ashes are cleared, you can remove any soot and fire stains with a spray bottle of soapy water and a tough, wire scrub brush. If stains are really tough to remove a muriatic acid solution will do the job. It’s available at most hardware stores. 

Once your fireplace is squeaky clean, it’s time to inspect the flue. Look up the fireplace and search for any cracks or damage. You’ll also want to keep an eye out for creosote build-up, which can be highly flammable and result in chimney fires if not removed properly. If you see any blockage, cracks or deposits during a visual inspection, you’ll want to get the flue looked at by a professional. 

Now comes the hardest part – the chimney. Firstly, make sure that you are comfortable on a roof and using a ladder. If you aren’t, leave this part of the job to an expert. Look around your chimney and remove any leaves or debris that may have piled up over the winter. If your chimney is open and you don’t use it often, it can be a great nesting place for birds and small animals.  Don’t let this happen; invest in a wire screen cover to ensure nothing from the outside can get in. Also, take a look at the mortar between the bricks to make sure it is in good condition and nothing is cracking or crumbling. If mortar needs to be replaced, remove the damaged segments and re-pack them with weather-resistant ready-mixed mortar from the hardware store. 

Finally, you’ll want to inspect your flashing which is where the chimney meets the roof. This should create a watertight seal, so make sure nothing looks loose or like it’s coming undone, otherwise you could be at risk for a leak. If the seal is at all damaged or worn away, you’ll want to get it repaired immediately. 

I can’t reinforce enough that chimney maintenance is a must and something that shouldn’t be brushed off. If you don’t know what to look for or aren’t comfortable taking on the job, get a certified chimney sweep to give you a thorough inspection or call me for a recommendation. The peace of mind in knowing that your home is safe from preventable fire hazard is worth the price of a simple assessment. 

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.


What’s Happening to Our Ash Trees?

Chelsea O'Donnell

Back in February, I read an article titled, “Every Ash Tree in CT to Die Within the Decade.” The headline couldn't be bleaker, but I didn’t really think about it again until this week as the trees began exploding in beautiful green. Ash trees are a staple in our area, with many standing proudly for hundreds of years. So what could be killing them, and what can we do to stop it?

The demise of our ash trees can squarely be blamed on an invasive, non-native species of beetle aptly named the emerald ash borer. It’s an insect that was first found in Michigan more than 20 years ago and since then, it has made its way to the east coast where it has made a feast of our beautiful, bountiful trees. In less than a decade from when the bug takes its first bite, it will eat the tree until it kills it. The mass exodus of ash trees now is because we’re hitting the eight-year mark from when the ash borers first made their homes in Connecticut. Now billions of Connecticut trees are dying all at once.

Emerald ash borers both eat ash trees and live in them. They lay their eggs underneath the bark and when the larvae hatch, it feeds on the tree’s most essential parts, the cambium or “growth” layer and the phloem or “circulatory” layer. The sheer volume of ash borer larvae is too much for a tree to handle and because they spread so fast, they can attack the tree much faster than the tree has the time or ability to fight for itself.

So is there a solution to the problem or are all of our ash trees doomed? Truth be told, the billions are trees that are already affected sadly don’t have a chance. What’s worse is that the emerald ash borer doesn’t have any native predators, so unless a tree has been treated with insecticide, it is almost certainly going to be infiltrated. However, there may be an unlikely ally that can help us protect future ash trees and maybe even save the species. It’s the parasitic wasp.

The name of this insect is very telling of how it operates. The parasitic wasp lays its eggs inside the body of an emerald ash borer and literally eats it from the inside out. They are currently being bred and shipped to Connecticut in an attempt to control the infestation of ash borers. But truth be told, the ratio of wasps to borers is barely enough to suppress the issue, nevermind control it. So the infestation will, unfortunately, have to run its course until the beetles eat themselves out of food and move on.

Until that day comes, the state’s Department of Agriculture hopes that new trees will develop a natural resistance to the beetle and that the hopeful decrease in their population will be controlled by the parasitic wasps. My advice? If you have an ash tree in your yard, it's worth a call to your local expert to find out more about the insecticides available to you. Trees that aren’t treated are in grave danger, so don’t wait to save yours.

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.