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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: downspouts

Don’t Overlook Those Downspouts During Fall Leaf Prep

Chelsea O'Donnell

If you’re a homeowner, chances are that leaf maintenance is in your very near future. With the beauty of autumn nearly always comes clogged gutters that when left uncleaned can make a big mess come winter. But while some people are excellent about keeping those gutter debris-free, it’s the often overlooked downspouts that can become compacted, leading to overflows in the gutters and potential leaks in the roof. So if you’ve never done it before, now is the perfect time to give those downspouts a good clean out and give yourself the peace of mind of a leak-free roof come fall.

A downspout is the most important part of your roof drainage system as it allows all the water that flows down into the gutters to move away from the foundation of the home. A properly installed gutter system will let rain and melted snow drain off the roof quickly, and the downspout will ensure that the water doesn’t land where it’s not supposed to. Without a downspout, gutters will overflow and run down into the home, causing leaks in the basement. If it’s winter and the snow and ice can’t move, the water will find itself a new home in your attic. Either of these scenarios is a major headache for a home owner, so don’t let it happen to you. Let’s clean those downspouts.

For this job, you’ll need a ladder, a scoop, a bag for debris, a cordless drill and a shovel or long handle about an inch wide. If you have a plumbing snake, that will work well too. 

Always start by cleaning out the gutters first. Remove any old leaves and sticks with a scoop or by hand. Once you’ve cleaned the gutters, give them a rinse with the hose and keep an eye out for any leaks. Small issues can be caulked, but if you see a lot of leaking, you might need to call a professional in for a repair. 

Next, make your way to the elbow of the gutter system where the main gutter meets the downspout. Back out the screws in the upper and lower parts of the elbow to remove the joining piece. Look to see if there is any debris caught and remove it with a strong water stream, the end of a shovel, or your plumbing snake. Then look down the barrel of the downspout to see if you can see light at the other end. Use the hose to clear any debris and check for back-ups. If dirt, leaves, and sticks have been compacted, use the end of the shovel to gently push the gunk out of the bottom of the downspout. Be careful and make sure you don’t damage or dent the pipe. I like to use the hose both on the top and bottom of the downspout to ensure it’s absolutely free and clear. 

Once everything is cleaned out, you can screw the downspout back into place and do one final flush with the hose. Just remember, any home improvement projects involving a ladder can be dangerous, so make sure you’re on firm, steady ground and ask a friend for some help. If you’re not comfortable with heights, call a professional to do the cleaning for you. No DIY project is worth a trip to the emergency room. 

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. Get in touch here

Choosing The Best Gutter Guards For Your Home

Chelsea O'Donnell

Did you swear that last autumn would be the final time you pulled that rickety old ladder out of the shed to scoop and sweep leaves and debris out of your gutters? If so, now is the time to make some decisions on a new solution to prevent water overflow and get rid of all that maintenance hassle. 

Back in the day, there were few options in the gutter market. In order to make sure the water from rain, snow, and ice came off your roof, you had to have an open gutter system to allow precipitation to travel through the connecting downspouts and out away from the foundation of your home. Open gutters, however, allowed not only water but leaves, whirlybird seeds and sticks to also deposit into the gutter, clogging them up and eventually causing overflow unless they were cleaned.

In the autumn, I get hundreds of calls from homeowners for gutter cleaning, many of whom don’t want to do it themselves because of the hassle, danger, and dirty work on the ladder. Luckily, over the past few years, gutter manufacturers have smartened up, creating shields to install over your current gutters, as well as closed gutter systems that can replace your current setup.

Gutter guards come in a variety of materials and sizes, but they are all designed to maximize water flow through while keeping leaves and twigs away from the water channel. The least expensive option is steel mesh screens which slide in and sit above the gutter lip itself. That arch design helps to ensure that debris can’t get stuck in the back of the gutter and they generally come with a five-year warranty against rusting or corrosion.

A step up from mesh screens is a heavy duty aluminum option which can be fitted from the front and back, avoiding the need to remove roof shingles for installation. These products come with a ripple design to prevent leaves from drying on the surface and they are generally backed by a 20-year warranty so you don’t have to worry about replacing them every few seasons. I like these because the design strengthens the gutter which comes in very handy during major snowstorms when many homes in the area suffer from heavy and dangerous ice dams.

Finally, we have the Rolls Royce of gutters, otherwise known as Leaf Relief. These heavy aluminum gutter shields can drain nearly 30 inches of rainfall in one hour, which is 15 inches more than the highest rainfall ever recorded (for inquiring minds, that’s 12 inches in one hour in Holt, Missouri). For homeowners who want no maintenance, this is the gutter product for you. The 25-year no clog, no overflow warranty gives it the same lifespan as a new roof and the inset design makes it invisible from the road. Best of all, dry debris blows away with just a six mile per hour breeze. 

No matter what type of gutter guard you choose, you want to make sure it’s the best product for your home. While any gutter guard will reduce debris getting into your gutter, the right guard will depend on the trees in the area, how much rainfall you get, the position of your home, and the size and age of your current gutters. Once those factors are taken into consideration and the appropriate product is chosen, you can say goodbye to messy cleaning and sit back to enjoy the beautiful falling leaves this autumn.

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, get in touch with us here. Advice is for guidance only.

Spring is Prime Time for Basement Leaks

Chelsea O'Donnell

Lately, I’ve been talking about the importance of proper ventilation in the attic to prevent leaks. But as the spring starts to edge closer, the basement takes the stage as the place in the house where leaks will most likely occur.

As the temperature warms, the snow melts, and the rain becomes more frequent, the ground gets saturated with water. This water can find its way into your basement through non-structural cracks in poured concrete walls or deteriorated joints in masonry walls. Poorly fitted or old basement windows can also let water in, as well as utility openings.

The best line of defense against a wet basement is to make sure that the water is directed away from the foundation. Inspect your gutters and downspouts to see if they are working the way they should be and also check to see that the ground right around the house is higher than the rest of the yard. Having the yard grade at its highest around the perimeter of the foundation will ensure water drains away from the house instead of into it.  

If you think the house is susceptible to leaks, you can also use a waterproofing membrane or coating to seal the foundation or basement area. However, if you have regular leaking problems, you may need to have a drainage or sump pump system installed by a professional.

Even if you don’t have a leak problem, the basement can get pretty damp in the springtime which creates the perfect environment for nasty mold and mildew. To get rid of the excess water, I always like to run a dehumidifier in the basement as the weather warms up.

A dehumidifier works by pulling the moisture out of the air and storing the excess water in a holding tank. Many people keep dehumidifiers in their basement all year long to control the dampness that can often be felt in underground areas, but I find it especially useful this time of year.

You can find out if your basement is holding a lot of moisture by purchasing a simple five-dollar humidity gauge from the local hardware store. Ideally, you want the humidity to be under 50%. If it’s higher, a dehumidifier might be a good solution. Generally, a unit will come in 25, 30 and 40-pint models, and on average a 25-pint unit will be sufficient to control the moisture in a 1,000 square foot area.

One last word of advice - if you have a dehumidifier or plan on getting one, please be sure to empty it regularly and keep the filter clean. A simple wipe down with a damp cloth and spray bottle will do the trick to keep you breathing freely and ensure a longer life for the appliance.

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.