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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: ice dams

Get Your Gutters Cleaned Before Autumn Leaves Fall

Chelsea O'Donnell

It may only be the third week of August, but soon we will be seeing the early signs of autumn. Do you know what that means? Every homeowner’s favorite job, leaf maintenance, is right around the corner.

Over the next two months, leaves, branches, and other debris will begin falling onto your roof and down into your gutters, building up over time. As winter approaches, this buildup can contribute to the formation of ice dams, a heavy mass of ice that settles on the edge of your roof where the gutters are installed.

The main job of a gutter is to create a pathway for water to move away from your home and through a downspout to deposit in a safe place away from your home’s foundation. This system is vital to a house; it makes sure water can flow freely and not cause leaks in your roof, attic, and walls. But if your gutters are blocked up, the water has nowhere to go and has no choice but to flow over, creeping up into your roof shingles and down through your siding. This kind of damage is both costly to repair and entirely preventable - so get your gloves on and let’s get to it.

To give your gutters a good clean you’ll need a ladder, a lawn bag or bucket, a small hand rake (or scoop) and a hose. Don’t be tempted to spray debris down the downspout with water; it’s likely that branches and leaves will get stuck inside, clogging it up and leaving you with a whole new mess to deal with.  Start at the downspout opening and work your way backward, collecting gunk away from the downspout and disposing it into your bucket. Work in small sections and don’t let your bag get too heavy – it could throw you off balance and land you in the emergency room.

While you’re making your way around the house, check for any gutter damage, such as sections coming loose. You want to make sure you get those fixed while the weather is good. Once you’ve finished the cleaning, you can give each section a good spray with the hose to check and make sure the water is running through and you don’t have any hidden build-up in those downspouts.

If gutter cleaning is a job you’d rather not take on, hire a contractor to complete the maintenance and then speak to them about putting gutter guards on your home. These wire or mesh overlays are installed on top of the gutter and prevent debris from entering the channel in the first place. They offer a great solution to a messy job and will provide you with peace of mind for years to come. You’ll want to get them installed now before the first signs of autumn to make sure your home is prepared for the onset of fall leaves.

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.

Investigating Bare Spots on a Snow Covered Roof

Chelsea O'Donnell

This week I received an email from a reader who has a problem that I see in many homes around our area of Connecticut. Her question was this: “Dear Bob, on particularly cold mornings over these past few weeks, I have noticed spots on my roof that accumulate frost and other parts that don’t. Why am I seeing these spots and is there something wrong with my house?”

I’m so grateful that a reader asked this question and with snow in the forecast, I’d like you all to go outside early in the morning and have a look at your roof. Do you have spots too? If so, you might be thinking that the places where snow is accumulating are the problem and the bare spots are good. But believe it or not, the spots where you can still see your shingles are actually the problem areas.

If your roof is covered with any type of shingle or material other than metal, it should be completely and evenly white after a heavy frost or snowfall. If there are places where shingles are clearly visible, these are literal hot spots where heat is escaping from your home and through your roof at a temperature warm enough to melt snow. This is a problem.

A well insulated and ventilated attic has one very important job to do in the winter - to keep the heat inside your home. Insulation helps to ensure that the air inside your home can’t escape while ventilation allows air to circulate so the temperature and humidity stays regulated. If a home is not insulated and ventilated correctly, you’re going to be subjected to a whole bunch of problems. If heat is escaping, that’s bad for the environment and your energy bills. Once the temperature in the attic deregulates, your roof is going to be susceptible to ice dams, which form because snow melts down to the gutter and refreezes again. When this happens, huge icicles can begin to grow, weighing down the gutter and potentially pulling it clean off. Of course, all this water hanging out where it doesn’t belong also opens your home up to leaks which can come through the roof into the attic and eventually down through your insulation, ceiling, and walls. All of these problems simply because the attic doesn’t have enough of a support system to let the house breathe the way it should!

So what should you do? Here is the easy part. Get your attic properly insulated and ventilated. As a general guideline, insulation with an R-Value of between R-49 and R-60 will sit at between 19 and 22 inches thick when settled. If you have a home that was built in the 1950’s or 60’s, you’re probably sitting on about three inches of insulation in the attic, which gives you an R-Value of about R-10. This might explain why you’re so chilly.

If you're not quite convinced to take on the project, consider this. According to Remodeling Magazine’s 2017 Cost Versus Value Report, adding insulation in your attic was the second-best home improvement project to undergo. In Hartford County, you’re looking at a 92.2% cost recoup upon the resale of a home. How’s that for an investment worth warming up to?

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.


Don’t Let the Wintry Weather Damage Your Roof

Chelsea O'Donnell

The kind of weather we’re having can create some messy challenges for homeowners. Snowfall followed by warming temperatures and then more snow makes icy conditions on sidewalks, in your driveway, and worst of all - on your roof. The culmination of wintry build-up is one of the most dangerous hazards for a home because although those huge, hanging icicles look pretty, the ice dams that they come from can result in major leaks in your ceiling and interior walls.

An ice dam forms when heavy snow blankets the roof, forming an extra layer of insulation. As warm air rises from your house and up through your attic, it causes the layer of snow closest to the roof to melt and the water to slide down into the gutters. This would normally be a good thing, but because so many homes in our area aren’t properly insulated, what often happens is that when the melting water hits the cold eaves of the roof, it freezes again instead of draining off through the gutters, forming an ice blockage. As that ice grows and grows, the water has nowhere to go so it starts to move under your roof shingles and eventually into your insulation and drywall. This is when you’ll start to see the leaks in your ceiling and walls.

The best way to avoid this problem is by taking preventative measures. I get calls from homeowners to remove ice dams after every winter storm, and for many, it is too late and they are already facing thousands of dollars worth of damage. But if you’re lucky enough to catch an ice dam before it fully forms, it’s a smart idea to get rid of it as quickly as possible.

Firstly, when you’re clearing snow from your driveway and sidewalks, think about your roof too. Removing snow from the house is the best way to protect your home against it melting and refreezing in the gutters and up the roof. If you already have an ice dam forming, you can use a hammer and chisel to get rid of it, but be very careful as roof shingles are more delicate and brittle in cold conditions. One safe home remedy is to fill a pair of pantyhose with an ice melter and lay it across the ice dam so the water will melt into the gutter. If you’re not comfortable on a ladder, call a professional to help you get rid of the ice dam quickly and safely.

These, of course, are just stop-gap measures. The only way to prevent ice dams from forming permanently is to have your home properly insulated and ventilated. More than 75% of homes in our area are under insulated which causes the heat from your home to shoot right through the roof. Having appropriate insulation and ventilation will keep your home free from ice dams and will keep you much more comfortable in both the winter and the summer. You’ll feel the difference immediately, and you’ll see the benefit in your energy bills too. Have questions about ice dams or need a hand? As always, I am here to help.

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.