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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: fire

Create a Hip Backyard Centerpiece with a Fire Pit

Chelsea O'Donnell

Fire pits are a major backyard trend right now and one that I personally enjoy on many summer and autumn evenings when the temperature gets cooler. If you’re thinking about building one in your backyard, there are several options to consider depending on your set-up and preferences. Let’s dive into a few of the most popular choices.

 The number one consideration for an open fire is always safety over aesthetic. A fire pit creates a beautiful ambiance that can be enjoyed by the whole family, but a fire is always something to be very cautious about. Make sure to check with your town to understand the rules around bonfires and fire pits before you get started. As an example, according to the Fire Department FAQ’s on the Bristol, Connecticut website, open burning in a chiminea, fire pit, or patio hearth is allowed as long as the fire doesn’t exceed three feet in diameter and does not extend beyond 1am. Again every town is different, so be sure to check with your fire department first.

Once you have the all clear, it’s time to start thinking about the look you’d like to achieve and the space you have available to you. For smaller patios, the most popular options are generally chimineas or fire bowls which are not affixed to the ground and can technically be moved around. When buying a freestanding unit, be sure to invest in one that’s heavy enough so it won’t tip over, and always utilize a fireproof mat underneath, especially if you’re using it on a deck or wood surface. 

If you’re trying to choose between a chiminea and a firepit or bowl, think about whether or not you’re planning to use it for any kind of cooking. I like pits or bowls over chimineas because you can always throw a grate on top for sausages or access the flames for s’mores.

For something more permanent, the most popular fire pit building materials are brick, stone, and concrete. All three materials are very sturdy and will handle a fire just fine, so the choice of materials really depends on your home aesthetic and the budget for your job. Concrete will generally be less expensive while high-end stone can run you several hundred dollars.

What’s even more important than the material, of course, is space. The last thing you want is to build a fire pit to then realize that there isn’t enough room for friends and family to sit around it. A nice pit for four should be about three feet wide, plus you’ll want to leave a two-foot gap between the rim of the pit and where your chairs will sit to ensure no one gets toasty shins. When it comes to height, I recommend building slightly lower than the seats of your chairs to ensure that the fire is appropriately surrounded but still has enough room to let off plenty of heat. Now sit back and enjoy!

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.


Wood, Pellet, or Gas? What is the Best Solution for a Home Heating Stove?

Chelsea O'Donnell

A beautiful fireplace adds both warmth and ambiance to any home, especially as the days get cooler and we begin spending more time indoors. Back in the day, the only option for a fireplace was one that burned wood, but now we have several options to keep us toasty - each with their benefits and drawbacks. If you’re thinking about upgrading your fireplace or trying something new, here are a few things to consider.

Wood

The classic choice. There are so many reasons to love wood from the traditional crackling sound that it makes to the hypnotic dancing of natural flames. I consider wood to be the fastest heater for the money in that you can quickly warm up a home without having to worry about your electricity bills. Another reason to love wood is if you have it. For rural or wooded area homes that need an annual clean-up, your fuel is free as long as you don’t mind the man hours. Think of it as a great workout.

Of course with the pros comes the cons. If you don’t have wood readily available, it can get very expensive. If you do, you still have to cut and stack it yourself. It also needs to stay dry in order to light reliably. Wood is also pretty messy and while those piles can look great if they are well constructed, they are also perfect homes for rodents, termites, and mold. Finally, there is the efficiency factor. Wood burns hot and fast and regulating temperature is a lot tougher than other heating methods. It also emits particles into the air, which could affect people with breathing problems or asthma. And of course, there is also the need for a chimney which may make it prohibitive for some people.

Pellet

A pellet fireplace or stove uses small, compressed cylinders of sawdust to heat the home. What’s great about pellet stoves is that they are temperature regulated and don’t require a traditional chimney since many stoves use blowers to circulate heat. Another reason to love them is their efficiency. Because heat can be regulated and pellets are easier to maneuver, most homeowners can expect a cleaner, less labor intensive burn.

Of course, pellet stoves have a few negative aspects to also consider. While cleaner burning than wood, pellets are made from sawdust, which will bother people who are sensitive to dust, dander, and pollen. Similar to wood, there is also ash to consider, which needs to be dumped regularly to keep the fire burning efficiently. Pellet stoves are generally more intricate than a wood fireplace, which means there is more to clean and maintain. Finally, most stoves run on electricity which means you’re paying for both the pellets and the energy to burn them.

Natural Gas

Natural gas fireplaces have become one of the most popular options today, mainly because a unit can be fit into an existing fireplace or practically anywhere in the home. People love gas because it’s fast to heat, easy to control, and doesn’t require a chimney or electricity. Simply set the temperature you want and you’re ready to go. In comparison to wood or pellets, natural gas emits the least amount of particles, making it a popular choice for people who have breathing sensitivities. As long as your house already has natural gas, the set up is really easy and you don’t have to worry about buying anything to burn to keep your home warm.

While natural gas does tick plenty of boxes, there are a few things to think about. Admittedly, natural gas flames are the most boring and predictable, making it the least ambiance-friendly option of the three. Of course, you’re also burning a fossil fuel, which is inexpensive right now but can always go up. Finally, if you don’t already have a gas line, you’ll need to get one installed, which might end up being more of a hassle than it’s worth. Just another thing to think about but one that’s well worth considering.

Bob O’Donnell is the owner of O’Donnell Bros. Inc., a Bristol-based home improvement company established in 1975. Email your questions 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.

Build Your Own Backyard Fire Pit This Weekend

Chelsea O'Donnell

Last week we talked about the different ways you can enjoy an ambient fire in your own backyard. While there are many options for a portable, moveable (and tippable!) pit, many of us like the idea of a permanent area to enjoy evenings gathered around the warm glow of an open fire. So today, I’ll be showing you how to build a simple backyard pit that you can enjoy for the rest of the summer and right through the autumn too.

First things first, always check your town’s website or fire department for their rules on open fires. Some special requirements might include fire size, setback distances, or general fire permits, so make the call before you get started.

Next, choose a place with plenty of room that’s well away from your home and any low hanging trees, bushes, or vegetation. This is a fire we are talking about, so safety has to be of the utmost importance. Also, if you have to dig, make sure you steer clear of any utility lines or in-ground sprinklers.

Once you have your spot, measure out the space for your pit. You’ll want to have 36-44 inches for the inside where the fire will burn, plus an additional 12 inches around for your stone or brick wall. Put a few chairs about 24 inches from where your outer rim will be to ensure that people can fit comfortably without burning their knees. Setting up your space is important - you want to make sure you have enough room for your family to enjoy the fire without the set up feeling too close or crowded.

Once your setup is ready, dig a 12-inch deep hole into the ground. If you’re building your pit on a patio, you’ll want to remove the original pavers. Then add a layer of sand and tamp it down so it’s level. Alternatively, you can also add a layer of additional pavers on top of the current base and fill in the cracks and crevices with sand. It’s important to have this base for your fire to ensure that you protect the ground or your current patio from heat damage.

Next, it’s time to lay your ring. Most home improvement stores carry pre-made fire pit “kits” which include the stone that you’ll need for the job. Alternatively, you can find rounded pavers to purchase at a simple per unit price, just be sure that they are heat resistant. I highly recommend going with a height of at least 18 inches or roughly knee height to ensure that the fire is properly contained while still giving it room to throw heat.

If you’re going with a DIY option, the easier way to do it is to lay the pavers subway style, with each layer centered over the seam of the previous layer to give it extra stability. It also gives the pit a higher-end look. Depending on the size of your pavers, three layers of stone should do the trick. If you’re using brick, you’ll probably need to double that amount.

And that’s it! Of course, you can choose to create a much more lavish design, but if you’re going for a simpler look, it can be built in just a few hours and will be ready to be enjoyed that very day. I can’t wait to see what you come up with. Send me a message on Facebook at facebook.com/odonnellbros to share your ideas.

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.