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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: chimney

Waterproof Your Chimney Now to Avoid Costly Repairs Later

Chelsea O'Donnell

You may have never thought about exterior chimney maintenance unless you’ve had a problem, but because chimneys come up above the roof line, they are more susceptible to harsh weather than any other part of your home. That’s why spending a little time and money to waterproof and protect the area can save you thousands of dollars and plenty of potential headaches down the road.

If you plan on waterproofing your chimney, the first thing you’ll have to do is measure the surface area. Take care to measure all sides and add the measurements together to find the total surface area. This will help you to determine how much material you will need.

Now, it’s time to clean. Your chimney will most certainly have mold, dirt, rust, and stains on it, and you’ll want to remove them before starting the waterproofing process. I like Chimney RX Safer Brick and Masonry Cleaner which you can use instead of muriatic acid for the same cleaning power without the harsh fumes or risk of burns. Applying the solution is easy: just use one part cleaner with four parts water and apply to the area with a pump sprayer. You can then either scrub the surface or use a power washer to remove the debris. Let everything dry for at least 24 hours before moving on to the next step.

Next, you can start to prepare the area for any potential repair work. You don't want to damage your roof and shingles when waterproofing your chimney, so use a canvas drop cloth to cover the area as plastic can get very slippery. Make sure to cover over any windows or skylights that are in reach as well. Once waterproofing overspray has been applied, it will be incredibly difficult to remove.

If you have minor cracks in the chimney, now is the time to fill them. Chimney RX makes a Masonry Crack and Joint Sealant that works really well on small cracks up to one-eighth of an inch. It simply paints on and then dries a milky white color. However, if you have larger cracks or if you need any part of the chimney rebuilt or tuckpointed, I highly suggest calling a professional to manage the repair.

Once minor work has been completed, you’re ready to apply the waterproofing agent. Again, ChimneyRX makes a great product for the job. No matter what you use, be careful. Most people don’t realize that there is a difference between water repellent and sealant. A sealant will form a hard surface, trapping water inside and making the area susceptible to leaks, whereas a repellent will still enable the porous bricks to breathe and move the way they are supposed to.

Applying the sealant is as easy as the cleaning step - all you’ll need is a pump sprayer with a fan nozzle. The product that you use will give instructions for the amount that you’ll need, so just go by your surface area and the directions provided. I always suggest starting from the base and working your way up, applying heavy coats using a side to side spraying motion. Unlike painting, it’s a good idea to apply a “flood coat” first and then top it up with a second coat within just a few minutes to even it out. For areas that feel oversaturated, have a soft bristle brush handy. Also, be sure you’re working in good weather - while waterproofing products do dry quickly, you’ll want to give them a good six hours in the sun to fully set before a bout of bad weather.

Finally, just like any job on a roof, please make sure you’re comfortable with heights and working from a ladder before you tackle this project. The last thing we want us a trip to the emergency room from a nasty fall. When in doubt, always hire a pro to tackle 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 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.

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 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.

Chimney Inspections – it’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it

Chelsea O'Donnell

With the last snowfall for the season behind us (fingers crossed), you probably won’t be lighting any warming fires for the next eight months. But before you start celebrating, consider performing a routine maintenance check on your fireplace, chimney and flue to ensure it’s in tip-top shape for next winter. It’s a dirty job, but fireplaces and chimneys are involved in 42 percent of all home-heating fires, so a preventative annual inspection should definitely be on your spring-cleaning list.

First, 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 stuck on there, a muriatic acid solution will do the job, which is available at most hardware stores.

Once your fireplace is squeaky clean, it’s time to inspect the flue. Look up the fireplace, inspecting 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.

You’ll also 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 wearing 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. The peace of mind in knowing that your home is safe from preventable fire hazard is worth the price of a simple assessment.