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17 Divinity St
Bristol, CT, 06010
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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: build

Bob’s Top Tips for Building a Treehouse This Spring

Chelsea O'Donnell

Last week we talked about some tips for planning a treehouse build. This week, I wanted to go over some of the basics to consider when taking this project on. Every treehouse will be different in terms of their size, shape, and configuration, but there are a few common rules to be aware of regardless of the type of hideaway you are building.

Keep Design in Mind

While many people prefer a more rustic approach, there are also hundreds of amazing treehouse plans that you can access through the internet. Check out which offers plans for every size and shape of house and which also includes a shopping list for all the lumber and equipment you’ll need. A treehouse with some pizazz can actually increase your resale value if you decide to move house after the kids have grown and gone.

Level the Floor

Building a structure that’s off the ground is tough, but it’s important to get the platform completely level with the weight evenly distributed between the tree branches or the supports. You can do this by laying the beams across the branches or running the beams between multiple tree trunks and then shimming them until they are level. If you’re building around the base of one tree, you can level it using your supports. Treehouses can last a lifetime and you want to make sure you get the first step right or the rest of the build is going to be more difficult.

Build in Pieces

Rather than trying to construct your house up in the trees, consider building each section on the ground first and then hoisting it into position using a backhoe or a pulley system. Generally, the four walls and the roof can be built on the ground and then assembled when it's on the base. Measurement is key here because you want to be absolutely sure your treehouse fits when it is in place.

Keep the Tree Healthy

Building a treehouse can put a lot of strain on the tree itself and punctures will leave it more susceptible to disease. Use floating brackets to allow for flexible support so the tree can move and sway in the wind the way that it's supposed to. You can purchase specialty fasteners that are made specifically for treehouses that will do less damage and keep the house secure. Also, remember that trees grow and the size it is now will change in 10 or 20 years time. Don't build too tightly around it.

Remember the Extras

A treehouse is all about imagination, so don’t be afraid to get creative with some fun add-ons. A tire-swing, zip line, ladder, bridge, fold down seating, water cannon or a fireman’s pole are some of my favorites. Also, consider making a pulley system to help kids get toys, snacks, and games up to the treehouse so they can climb in and out as safely as possible.

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.

Get the Kids Off the Screens and Into the Great Outdoors with a Treehouse

Chelsea O'Donnell

There is very little that compares to the adventures a child can have in their very own treehouse. As a kid growing up over on Lake Avenue, I still remember the battles won and lost from our bunker high in the sky and how much fun we had building, repairing, and reinventing a place that allowed our imaginations to run wild. These days, with digital devices captivating our kids, I wonder if they’ll miss the adventures of the great outdoors that are responsible for some of my favorite memories. So to that I say, not on my watch!

Building a treehouse is one of the best spring activities I can think of. It’s fun for the whole family and once it’s finished, your kids or grandkids will likely never want to leave it. In my experience, it’s one of those things that stays with a person forever and is something that they will truly cherish. So what are we waiting for? Let’s get started!

Choosing The Tree

Getting high in the sky is the ultimate freedom, but with a towering treehouse also comes the difficulty of building it and greater risk of injury. My suggestion is to go no higher than 10 feet so work can be done on a short ladder and there is much less potential for a kid to get seriously hurt from a fall. Next, you want to look for branch thickness of at least eight inches and a place where you can anchor your treehouse at four points or corners. This will help to distribute the weight of the house more evenly and will protect it against extreme wind. Oak, maple, beech and fir trees are good choices due to their strong composition. Above all else, it’s important to make sure that the tree is healthy and not inflicted with any disease or damage.

Pre-Construction Considerations

In some areas, you might need to get a building permit in order to construct a treehouse. Luckily Bristol is not one of them, but if you’re elsewhere in the state, it’s worth putting a call in to your local Building Inspection Department. Also, consider your neighbors. If your treehouse will be visible to them or near their property line, have the conversation before you get started. A treehouse is great fun but can also be noisy, so be sure to consider that when you are staking out the location.

Picking Your Site

There are several ways to build a treehouse: single trunk construction, multi-branch construction or multi-tree construction. The route you decide to pursue depends on the trees in your yard. A single trunk works well if you have a very large and healthy tree, but you should consider that the trunk will go through the middle of the house with support beams secured to the base of the tree from each corner. Multi-branch construction gives you a bit more creativity, but it can be tough to find the perfect tree that has strong, 90-degree branches to support a level house. If you have a denser wooded area, multi-tree construction is a great option. Using two trees is best because you can use flexible joints to account for the tree’s movement while being able to builder a bigger floor space. It’s important to note that using more than two trees can get tough as you will have to consider more movement points in your construction.

No matter what kind of build you’re considering, always keep weight and stability in mind and be prepared to be flexible in your planning. That’s all we have room for this week, but we’ll tackle the construction of the treehouse in my next column. Get your hammers ready!

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.

Updating Kitchen Counters Makes for a Fun Winter Project

Chelsea O'Donnell

Old counters can make a kitchen seem drab and out-of-date. Luckily, there are a few options for counter replacements that won’t cost you an arm and a leg. If you’d love to give well-worn or boring old countertops a new look without breaking the bank, this week’s column is for you.

Paint. Assuming you’re working with old laminate counters, a fresh lick of paint can give you an easy update to a dark, faded kitchen. Brands such as Rust-oleum offer special paint just for countertops that come in a dozen colors and don’t require a coat of primer if you’re just going over laminate. Many also contain antimicrobial protection which will protect the painted surface against mold, mildew and other odor and stain causing microbes.

Concrete. Concrete countertops and floors are very fashionable in home trends, but having to deal with the process of pouring a real slab can be expensive and challenging. Not to worry - you can always skim coat your current counters to make them look like the real thing. Ardex sells a feather finish which will help the concrete bond to the countertop, and while it might not have the same durability as a solid concrete counter, you’ll be able to achieve the look for a lot less.

Tile. I love the aesthetic of tile because it can add lots of color and style to a kitchen at a really affordable price. While you can technically tile over laminate, I’d recommend building new countertops out of plywood and then using an underlayment of tile backer to secure each piece into place. A tile countertop can look great, but it also involves a lot of grout which can be tough to clean. If you’re tiling, be sure to invest in a proper sealant.

Stainless Steel. If you’re comfortable building and sanding down new plywood countertops, consider wrapping them with stainless steel sheet metal. For a metal look without the real thing, you can purchase liquid stainless steel paint made by a company called Giani. Both will give your kitchen a modern look which can be brightened up with colored cabinets, or left with more natural materials for an industrial feel.

Corian. If you love the look of stone but granite and marble are out of your budget, you might want to consider a less expensive alternative such as Corian, which is a solid surface material derived from bauxite. It’s durable, comes in a variety of thicknesses and can mimic the look of marble, sandstone or other popular, more expensive natural stone materials. It also comes in solid colors if you’re after a more contemporary look.

Do you have a tip or trick to give countertops a breath of fresh air without spending a ton of money? I’ve love to hear from you - send me a message on Facebook at

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.