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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: building

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.

The Perfect Day Trip for Lovers of Craftsmanship

Chelsea O'Donnell

I talk a lot of about weekend do-it-yourself projects in this column, but what good is summer if you don’t take advantage of the opportunity to relax and enjoy all that Connecticut has to offer?

This past weekend, a friend introduced me to a spot to do just that. Just 30 minutes away lies Topsmead State Forest which just so happens to be a dream destination for people like me who love to enjoy nature while exploring exactly what makes a house a home.

Topsmead State Forest is comprised of the estate and surrounding land once owned by Ms. Edith Chase, heiress to the Waterbury-based Chase Brass and Copper Company. Ms. Chase came upon the land by inheritance and decided to build a summer retreat for herself in 1923. She hired New York City architect Richard Henry Dana, Jr. to help her create the home of her dreams which to this day sits perched high on top of fields that stretch as far as you can see.

It is becoming exceedingly rare to see a house that looks like it was built to last for generations, but Ms. Chase’s English Tudor is one of them. The exterior of the home is stucco and brick, with woodwork made from cypress beams that while weathered with time, have not lost any of their original beauty. The roof is comprised of thick cut slate that still looks stately and has apparently kept the home well protected after more than 90 years of Connecticut winters. It’s hard to walk around and not admire the craftsmanship of the home, and the more than 500 acres that surround it.

The home is only available for tours on certain weekends in the warmer months, but picnics are allowed on the grounds any time from dusk til dawn. Visiting the house is free and you can bring food and drinks to enjoy on the tables scattered amongst the trees. The small gardens are filled with dozens of flowers, much to the delight of local butterflies, and there are many spots to enjoy a quiet few hours of reading or taking in the surrounds, which is exactly what Ms. Chase intended the estate to be used for.

When she passed away in 1972, Ms. Chase bequeathed her property to the people of Connecticut, leaving behind a substantial endowment to ensure it could be looked after for generations to come. Even on a picture perfect Sunday visit, only a dozen cars could be found in the parking lot and the visitors we came across smiled with polite nods while in search of their own little piece of heaven to soak up the sunshine.

With only a few weekends left of the summer, I’d encourage you to check it out for yourself and enjoy a little bit of history right here in our own backyard. Just be sure to bring a picnic and prepare to be enchanted. For more information on Topsmead State Forest, visit the website 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.