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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: attic

Don't Let Summer Mold Set Foot In Your House

Chelsea O'Donnell

This week I heard Meteorologist Bob Maxon say that this was the worst year for mold growth in Connecticut in recent memory. It’s easy to see why. Mold cannot live without water and the record rainfall we’ve had over the past few months means that our area is a veritable feast for fungus.

Mold is made up of thousands of microscopic spores that travel through the air until they land on a surface. They love to live in places that hold water, which is why you often see mold growing on trees, roofs, and other places that stay warm and damp. Indoor mold generally develops after being carried in from the outdoors and homes that tend to hold a lot of humidity are more susceptible to an infestation. Why is this a problem? Many people are sensitive to mold and mildew, especially children and the elderly. It can cause illness, asthma, and a host of other respiratory issues. The worst part is that mold grows and spreads incredibly quickly and cannot be contained without removing its food source.   

So how can you get rid of mold in your living space, or prevent it from making a home in yours? Here are my top tips.

  1. Run a dehumidifier in your basement constantly. I have an air-tight finished basement and I still run a dehumidifier 24/7. The goal here is to keep your air humidity at or below 50%. When it’s raining, don’t be surprised if you have to dump the water hold twice a day.

  2. Always use the extractor fan while showering or cooking. With so much water in the air from the weather, the last thing you want to do is add more inside your home. Be sure that your fans vent outside, not in the attic. Otherwise, you’ll just be redirecting the moisture to another part of the house.

  3. Check your drainage. Gutters should be clean and in working order and your landscaping should slope away from the foundation so you don’t have standing water at the base of your home. Make sure your downspouts extend at least four feet out and away from the house.

  4. An air conditioner is not a dehumidifier. Sure, it will remove some humidity but an air conditioner’s main function is to cool the air, rather than remove the moisture. If you find yourself running your A/C unit to control your humidity, you’re going to end up with an expensive energy bill and not too much to show for it.

  5. Store soft goods in airtight plastic. People often put winter clothing and bedding up in the attic, which can be a breeding ground for mold if the area is not ventilated properly. Keeping the attic vented is key, good air flow can slow or even prevent mold growth.

In short, a house with high humidity is nothing to ignore. If you suspect that your home might be susceptible to mold, it’s worth purchasing an inexpensive humidity gauge called a hygrometer to find out. Remember, a mold problem can be a serious health risk to your family if not dealt with properly.

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.

Help! I Can’t Keep My House Cool

Chelsea O'Donnell

After this past weekend’s mini heatwave, I had an interesting reader question pop up in my email inbox. She asked:

“Dear Bob, we live in a Cape Cod style home. This past weekend when the temperature reached almost 90 degrees, our second floor became unbearably hot. The second floor gets incredibly cold in the winter too. What can we do to help regulate the temperature so it doesn’t change with the seasons? - Nancy M., Bristol

Nancy, you’re not alone. This is a common problem in Cape Cod style homes that were built in the 1950s and 1960s. Back then, building codes were much more relaxed and energy efficiency was unheard of, so homes were built with very little insulation or ventilation.

What’s happening in your case is that the outside weather is coming in because there isn’t enough insulation to protect your home. To be even more specific, hot air is getting stuck in the attic and seeping down into the second floor because there is no ventilation to let it out. What’s worse is that the moisture in the air is also getting trapped; giving you a potential mold exposure problem that can easily go right from your attic into your lungs.

So what do you do? First, take advantage of a free insulation inspection from a local area remodeler to see how much insulation you actually have. If you haven’t had the house insulated since it was built, I can guarantee you don’t have enough. If you’ve recently bought your home, now is the time to pay close attention. 

Today, we measure insulation by its “R-Value” and the higher the R-Value, the better the insulating properties. In the 1960’s, R-Value wasn’t a popular unit of measurement and instead, most insulation was measured by its thickness in inches. To give you an example, if a typical 1960’s home was insulated at all, it was probably fitted with an R-10 value, which equates to a little over three inches of thickness. The recommended R-Value for Connecticut’s climate according to EnergyStar today is between R-49 and R-60 for an uninsulated attic and between R-38 and R-49 for a home with a few inches of pre-existing insulation. So as you can see, times they are changing.

If your house is the victim of extreme temperature changes, the easiest and best way to regulate it is to build that barrier of protection. A professional can tell you how much insulation you need and can also perform an assessment to see if any mold has formed in the attic and walls. It’s key to remember that adding insulation will change the way your home breathes, so make sure it is fitted with proper ventilation to allow for appropriate airflow. If you just experienced a cold and expensive winter in your home, this is a project to tackle now to stay comfortable all year long.

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.

Ventilation is Key to a Safe, Healthy Home

Chelsea O'Donnell

I’m not shy about educating my customers about the importance of insulation in the home, especially during this time of year and with our recent, frigid temperatures. But even if you’re the one in every four people I talk to who has the right amount of insulation in their house, chances are that your ventilation is inadequate, which can be harming both your home and your personal health in more ways than you think.

In the winter, we crank up the thermostat, sending more heat and moisture into the living quarters of our homes than any other time of year. We all know that heat rises to the top, which means a lot of what we’re pumping into the house will quickly find its way through the ceiling and into the attic. Now, think about when you’re in a car and the windows fog up. What do you do? Usually, you’ll increase the airflow either by using the vents or just cracking a window. A house works much the same way, except that if you don’t have air flowing inside the attic, the heat and moisture just gets stuck there. If the attic is very warm, that moisture will develop into mold and mildew which can fester in your insulation and rot the wood. If the attic is cold enough, the moisture will freeze into little domes or even icicles until the temperature rises enough for the water to thaw and then be absorbed into all the places that it shouldn’t be going. Neither is a good scenario.

So what’s the best way to protect your home? Start by investing in a hygrometer which measures water vapor in the air. A comfortable humidity reading is 30%-60%, but 45%-55% is an ideal level to maintain. If you’re seeing higher than 60% humidity in any area of your home, it’s going to be susceptible to mold, mildew and bacteria growth.

Remember, attic ventilation allows your house to “breathe” so you want to balance your intake and exhaust to ensure that what is coming in is going out equally. The best ventilation system will include soffit vents which are installed underneath the overhang of the roof and take in the air and ridge vents which are installed at the top of the roof for the hot air to escape. For this method to work efficiently, all louvered vents must be sealed off and you have to ensure that your insulation isn’t blocking the airflow. Believe it or not, most roof manufacturers will void the warranty if a proper ventilation system is not installed. Luckily, new roofing technology enables contractors to add intake ventilation directly into the roof as opposed to using soffit vents, so if you’re in the market for a new roof, be sure to ask for that option.

It’s important to note that homes have different characteristics and what works well for one may not work well for another. With the right balance of air, homeowners can optimize their roof and maintain the overall health of their home and their families, but it’s always a good idea to get advice from a professional before taking on a big remodeling project. Stay warm friends.

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 www.odonnellbros.com. Advice is for guidance only.