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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: health

Ceiling Cracks - A Telltale Sign of Hidden Danger in the Home

Chelsea O'Donnell

After 40 years in the remodeling business, I have seen my fair share of hazards and hair-raising discoveries inside of people’s homes. My reminiscing got me thinking that some of these stories might resonate with readers who delay having problems fixed for fear of what might be found. While major problems can sometimes be costly and disruptive, leaving an issue to fester can cause more damage down the line and could even end up affecting your health. 

I’ll never forget one summer when I got a call from a woman in Bristol who told me her roof was leaking. You wouldn’t think this seemed odd considering that I am a roof remodeler, but it hadn’t rained in a month. I mentioned this to the caller and she said, “Well I can’t be sure where the water is coming from, but my dining room ceiling just caved in.” 

I hung up the phone and immediately made my way over to her house. Sure enough, when I arrived, a pile of sheetrock and plaster was already being amassed on her front lawn. Upon entering the house, I found that she was not exaggerating. The ceiling had completely crumbled, leaving a soggy mess of remnants all over her dining room set. 

I first asked to see the bathroom on the second floor and I was told there wasn’t one. So I climbed into the attic and gasped when intense heat hit me in the face. I also noted two air conditioning units in the dining room - one in each window. I asked the homeowner about the air conditioners and how often they were used. It turned out that she had them on full power almost constantly to try and regulate the temperature because the top floor of the house was so hot. 

It was easy for me to see why the homeowner’s ceiling fell in. A lack of insulation and ventilation in the attic was causing the house to heat up to an uncomfortable level. The homeowner tried to combat this problem by cranking up her A/C. By doing so, she was creating major condensation in the walls and ceiling of the home. 

When hot and cold air collide they cause moisture which gets into plaster, sheetrock, and even wood. That moisture then generates mold spores that literally eat away at the ceiling and walls. Her 1950’s Cape Cod home was like most in our area, constructed with such poor insulation and ventilation that they are susceptible to rot. A surefire sign of trouble for this homeowner was cracking in the ceiling, which is the first sign of a problem. Instead of calling me then, her husband tried to mask the problem using those 12x12 ceiling panels that you often see in doctor’s offices. He meant well but the attempt at a cosmetic repair only added another layer of material for the moisture to seep into. 

The moral of the story is this. If your home has temperature issues, do not ignore the problem. By not addressing the humidity and moisture in your home, you could end up with major structural damage or worse. If that’s not enough to convince you, mold and mildew are leading causes of asthma and breathing problems, especially in young children and the elderly. Is it worth putting your family’s health at risk?

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.

Take Care of Musty Basement Smells for a Healthy Home

Chelsea O'Donnell

A lot of people think that the musty smell in their basement is a common problem that goes hand in hand with having underground space in your home. Sure, basements are prone to high humidity which, when combined with darkness, can become a breeding ground for mold and mildew. The smell that those mold spores emit can get into your clothes, furniture, storage, and your HVAC unit. If the problem does reach your air ducts and begins to infiltrate the rest of the house, that’s when you have a real issue on your hands. Before you get to that point, it’s a great idea to quite literally clear the air with a dehumidification and purification strategy. 

One of the best air quality units I’ve seen is by a company called Aerus.  They produce a system which uses NASA technology to remove pathogens, pollution, contaminants, and even pet dander from the air. It can work within an hour and is a great solution to get rid of that nasty mold smell. But without a solution to contain the humidity, the odor and the mold will keep coming back.

At this point, it’s time to reduce the moisture in the basement. Most homes want to keep a humidity level of 50% or lower, but in basements, the average humidity can often be higher than 80%, which is when mold and mildew can flourish. A dehumidification system will work to draw the moisture out of the air and into a holding tank, which often has to be dumped down a drain as often as daily depending on how quickly it gets filled. By removing the water from the air, you’re removing the odor-causing moisture and bacteria that allow mold to grow in the first place.

Finally, it’s time to purify the air. Overly humid areas attract a lot of bacteria, which is what causes the smell in the first place. That bacteria can live in walls and spread into your fabrics, furniture, and storage. By killing the bacteria in the air, you will remove contaminants that not only stink, but can also cause or irritate allergies, asthma, and immune system disorders.

When shopping for a basement air control system, be sure to look for a unit that has the EnergyStar seal, and make sure that you pay attention to the capacity of the air filtration as it pertains to your room size. If you have a big space with a lot of moisture, you might want to consider a unit that has a self-draining system to save your back and your patience.

Regardless of what kind of system you use, the air quality in your home should be taken seriously. If your kids are coughing or have allergies and you find yourself having difficulty breathing at home, it might be worth a call to your local contractor for an air quality inspection.

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.


Don't Let Summer Mold Set Foot In Your House

Chelsea O'Donnell

This week I heard Meteorologist Bob Maxon say that this was the worst year for mold growth in Connecticut in recent memory. It’s easy to see why. Mold cannot live without water and the record rainfall we’ve had over the past few months means that our area is a veritable feast for fungus.

Mold is made up of thousands of microscopic spores that travel through the air until they land on a surface. They love to live in places that hold water, which is why you often see mold growing on trees, roofs, and other places that stay warm and damp. Indoor mold generally develops after being carried in from the outdoors and homes that tend to hold a lot of humidity are more susceptible to an infestation. Why is this a problem? Many people are sensitive to mold and mildew, especially children and the elderly. It can cause illness, asthma, and a host of other respiratory issues. The worst part is that mold grows and spreads incredibly quickly and cannot be contained without removing its food source.   

So how can you get rid of mold in your living space, or prevent it from making a home in yours? Here are my top tips.

  1. Run a dehumidifier in your basement constantly. I have an air-tight finished basement and I still run a dehumidifier 24/7. The goal here is to keep your air humidity at or below 50%. When it’s raining, don’t be surprised if you have to dump the water hold twice a day.

  2. Always use the extractor fan while showering or cooking. With so much water in the air from the weather, the last thing you want to do is add more inside your home. Be sure that your fans vent outside, not in the attic. Otherwise, you’ll just be redirecting the moisture to another part of the house.

  3. Check your drainage. Gutters should be clean and in working order and your landscaping should slope away from the foundation so you don’t have standing water at the base of your home. Make sure your downspouts extend at least four feet out and away from the house.

  4. An air conditioner is not a dehumidifier. Sure, it will remove some humidity but an air conditioner’s main function is to cool the air, rather than remove the moisture. If you find yourself running your A/C unit to control your humidity, you’re going to end up with an expensive energy bill and not too much to show for it.

  5. Store soft goods in airtight plastic. People often put winter clothing and bedding up in the attic, which can be a breeding ground for mold if the area is not ventilated properly. Keeping the attic vented is key, good air flow can slow or even prevent mold growth.

In short, a house with high humidity is nothing to ignore. If you suspect that your home might be susceptible to mold, it’s worth purchasing an inexpensive humidity gauge called a hygrometer to find out. Remember, a mold problem can be a serious health risk to your family if not dealt with properly.

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.