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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: insulation

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 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.

What's Under the Roof?

Chelsea O'Donnell

I recently did work for a homeowner who got the shock of her life when we removed her old roof and found sheet after sheet of black, rotten plywood. The homeowner couldn’t believe it and asked me how the plywood could be so damaged if she had never had a roof leak. 

The answer is quite simple and a lot more common than you think. In our area of Connecticut, nearly all attics don’t have enough insulation and aren’t ventilated properly. I meet people who need a new roof and want me to just lay an extra layer of shingles over top of what they already have to save money. What they don’t realize is how much deterioration exists that they simply can’t see.

With a roof, airflow is absolutely crucial. Attic ventilation allows your home to “breathe” by taking in air from the outside and letting out air from the inside. Too many homes that I work in aren’t properly ventilated, in fact, most have their bathroom and even dryer vents going into the attic instead of outside. In order to have proper ventilation, your home needs a system that includes intake ventilation through the soffit or a new product called SmartVent which is installed on top of the roof near the gutter edge. Louver vents were typically used at an exhaust vent in the 1950’s and 1960’s but now ridge vents are more common. If your house has both louver vents and ridge vents, the louver vents should remain closed, otherwise, the louver will act as an intake vent and will only cool the top third of the attic. 

In the colder months, it’s not uncommon for me to see frost on attic plywood because of subpar insulation. Insulation and ventilation work hand in hand - the ventilation controls the airflow and the insulation controls the temperature. You’re probably familiar with insulation - it’s a cotton-looking fiberglass material that often comes in pink or yellow rolls. It can also be loose-filled into tough to reach areas with a blowing machine. Remodeling professionals use insulation between walls, in attics and in basements to retain heat in the house in the winter and keep it cooler in the summer. However, without proper ventilation, the insulation is just as susceptible to moisture and deterioration as the plywood.

My customer didn’t venture into her attic, so she never noticed the problem. What she thought was a simple roof replacement ended up being a bigger job simply because after years of decay, the plywood she had was no longer strong enough to properly support the new roof. Ignoring the problem would have voided the new roof’s 30-year warranty.

The lesson for this week? If you’re going to reroof your home, make sure that the plywood is healthy and that your contractor has given you a thorough plan to ensure that your home is properly insulated and ventilated. It might cost a bit more today, but it will regulate the heat and cooling in your home for years to come, saving you on energy costs and giving you more comfort as well as peace of mind for the health of your house.

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.

Help! I Can’t Keep My House Cool

Chelsea O'Donnell

After this past weekend’s mini heatwave, I had an interesting reader question pop up in my email inbox. She asked:

“Dear Bob, we live in a Cape Cod style home. This past weekend when the temperature reached almost 90 degrees, our second floor became unbearably hot. The second floor gets incredibly cold in the winter too. What can we do to help regulate the temperature so it doesn’t change with the seasons? - Nancy M., Bristol

Nancy, you’re not alone. This is a common problem in Cape Cod style homes that were built in the 1950s and 1960s. Back then, building codes were much more relaxed and energy efficiency was unheard of, so homes were built with very little insulation or ventilation.

What’s happening in your case is that the outside weather is coming in because there isn’t enough insulation to protect your home. To be even more specific, hot air is getting stuck in the attic and seeping down into the second floor because there is no ventilation to let it out. What’s worse is that the moisture in the air is also getting trapped; giving you a potential mold exposure problem that can easily go right from your attic into your lungs.

So what do you do? First, take advantage of a free insulation inspection from a local area remodeler to see how much insulation you actually have. If you haven’t had the house insulated since it was built, I can guarantee you don’t have enough. If you’ve recently bought your home, now is the time to pay close attention. 

Today, we measure insulation by its “R-Value” and the higher the R-Value, the better the insulating properties. In the 1960’s, R-Value wasn’t a popular unit of measurement and instead, most insulation was measured by its thickness in inches. To give you an example, if a typical 1960’s home was insulated at all, it was probably fitted with an R-10 value, which equates to a little over three inches of thickness. The recommended R-Value for Connecticut’s climate according to EnergyStar today is between R-49 and R-60 for an uninsulated attic and between R-38 and R-49 for a home with a few inches of pre-existing insulation. So as you can see, times they are changing.

If your house is the victim of extreme temperature changes, the easiest and best way to regulate it is to build that barrier of protection. A professional can tell you how much insulation you need and can also perform an assessment to see if any mold has formed in the attic and walls. It’s key to remember that adding insulation will change the way your home breathes, so make sure it is fitted with proper ventilation to allow for appropriate airflow. If you just experienced a cold and expensive winter in your home, this is a project to tackle now to stay comfortable all year long.

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.