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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: kids

Seven Fun Outdoor Projects for the Last Week of Summer 

Chelsea O'Donnell

With only one week of summer left, I can imagine that parents and grandparents are pretty exhausted of ideas to keep the kids occupied before school starts. That being said, fall will be here before we know it and the weather will be cool again. So let’s make the most of our last days with some of my favorite outdoor activities that the young ones will love - and you will too. 

Plant a Wagon Herb Garden

Gardening is a great way to teach kids responsibility and it’s a lot less messy than getting a family pet. Grab an old wagon or wheelbarrow from the shed or a local garage sale and drill some holes in it. Then let the kids choose their own herbs to plant and grow. I like basil, mint, cilantro, rosemary, and thyme because they all come up quickly and offer a lot of versatility in the kitchen. 

Build a Lemonade Stand

Entrepreneurship at its finest! There is nothing more fun than helping the kids build a lemonade stand to make a few bucks for a special back-to-school treat. You can nail three pallets together to make a u-shape and then paint it your favorite color. Let the kids make the sign and the lemonade and you’re ready to start selling.

Set Up Yard Game Olympics

Here is a great idea for a group. Get everyone to help set up “Yard Game Olympics” for a friendly competition that will keep the young ones occupied for hours. From croquet to cornhole, sprinkler jumping, frisbee throwing and a good old fashioned game of HORSE - anything goes with this one. Get creative and make it fun. 

Make a S’mores Bar

Sure they are messy but nothing says summer like the gooey mix of graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate. In my house, we compete for the perfect golden brown marshmallow and the first one who burns theirs is out. We love creating out of the box sandwich ideas too.

Create a Mosaic

Collecting seashells and beach rocks is a popular summer past-time, but what do you do with them once they are home? You can get cement at a local hardware store and mix it according to the directions. Then spread it evenly on a planter, frame, a piece of plywood or even a birdhouse. Then firmly press in your shells or stones and get creative with fun patterns. 

Start a Compost Pile

Here’s a great one to teach kids about recycling and the environment. Choose any large container that you can drill holes into in order to get airflow. A plastic drum will work just fine. Lay a few inches of twigs and straw on the bottom. Then begin adding your compost materials. Alternate between green and brown to keep your pile healthy - green being fruit and vegetable scraps and brown being wood, leaves and garden matter. Green produces nitrogen while brown delivers carbon. Maintaining balance is the key to healthy soil. 

Build Your Own Slip-n-Slide

This was an all-time favorite when my kids were growing up. Grab a 100-foot roll of thick, clear plastic sheeting and a dozen landscaping stakes from the local hardware store. Remove any rocks or sticks from the lawn and roll out your plastic. Fasten it down with the stakes and then squirt some no-tear body wash or soap evenly down the slide. Finally, take the nozzle off the hose and position the water flow right down the middle. Now take a dive!

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.


Is the Air in Your Home Making You Sick?

Chelsea O'Donnell

To most people, air pollution is defined by smog and exhaust that heaves from factories and cars, contaminating the air that we breathe outside. But did you know that the air inside your home can be more polluted than what you’re breathing outdoors? Believe it or not, lead, radon, formaldehyde, dust, cleaning chemicals, mold, mites, and pet dander are all hidden pollutants living inside your home, affecting your family’s health on a day-to-day basis. While we don’t want to think about it, it’s a common reality that I see in houses all over our area. What’s worse is that it’s doing more damage than you probably realize.

Because people spend more time indoors when the weather gets hot, we are seeing indoor air pollution take its toll more severely, especially in young children and elderly people who can develop asthma or breathing problems due to the hidden contaminants in their home. Sometimes it’s a summer cold but often it’s a telltale sign of indoor pollution. So what can you do to make sure your air quality is up to par? Here are five simple tips:

Get tested. Radon and lead tests can be done by a professional and are also available in at-home kits. If your home was built before the late 1970’s it’s a good idea to have it tested as lead based paint was highly common and can cause a range of health problems, especially in young children. As for radon, it just so happens to be the number two cause of lung cancer in the USA.

Watch the water. Mold loves moisture, so if your home regularly clocks humidity levels above 50 percent, you’ll want to start running a dehumidifier. The amount of mold and mildew build-up I see in people’s homes would shock you, yet they wonder why their kids have asthma and their elderly parents can’t breathe. Here’s an extra tip: a humidity reader, called a hygrometer, costs less than $10 at the local hardware store.

Clean your vents. Proper ventilation is vital to ensuring your home can breathe properly. While most people don’t have enough attic ventilation as it is, they also forget to clean the vents that are accessible and easy to maintain. The air conditioning filter, dryer vent, and even a blow-dryer are likely full of dust and dander, so be sure to keep them lint and funk free.

Go green. Household plants are a fantastic natural ally in keeping your air quality up to scratch. Palms, ferns, English Ivy, and Peace Lily are common indoor plants that also earn top marks for ridding the air of toxins. Just remember that you’ll need one plant for every 10 square yards of living space to keep the air clean. 

Make it a habit. Cleaning the house regularly will improve air quality simply because dust traps chemicals and allergens in it. Upgrade your vacuum cleaner for one with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter and make sure to wash kids stuffed animals regularly with hot water as dust mites love living in fabrics. When you start running low on a household cleaning product, swap it out for an all-natural alternative without the harsh chemicals. While you’re at it, say goodbye to those synthetic fragrances too - according to one study, a popular plug-in air freshener was found to contain 20 different volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including seven regulated as toxic under U.S. law. An essential oil diffuser will do the job without the poisonous toxins.

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.

Get the Kids Off the Screens and Into the Great Outdoors with a Treehouse

Chelsea O'Donnell

There is very little that compares to the adventures a child can have in their very own treehouse. As a kid growing up over on Lake Avenue, I still remember the battles won and lost from our bunker high in the sky and how much fun we had building, repairing, and reinventing a place that allowed our imaginations to run wild. These days, with digital devices captivating our kids, I wonder if they’ll miss the adventures of the great outdoors that are responsible for some of my favorite memories. So to that I say, not on my watch!

Building a treehouse is one of the best spring activities I can think of. It’s fun for the whole family and once it’s finished, your kids or grandkids will likely never want to leave it. In my experience, it’s one of those things that stays with a person forever and is something that they will truly cherish. So what are we waiting for? Let’s get started!

Choosing The Tree

Getting high in the sky is the ultimate freedom, but with a towering treehouse also comes the difficulty of building it and greater risk of injury. My suggestion is to go no higher than 10 feet so work can be done on a short ladder and there is much less potential for a kid to get seriously hurt from a fall. Next, you want to look for branch thickness of at least eight inches and a place where you can anchor your treehouse at four points or corners. This will help to distribute the weight of the house more evenly and will protect it against extreme wind. Oak, maple, beech and fir trees are good choices due to their strong composition. Above all else, it’s important to make sure that the tree is healthy and not inflicted with any disease or damage.

Pre-Construction Considerations

In some areas, you might need to get a building permit in order to construct a treehouse. Luckily Bristol is not one of them, but if you’re elsewhere in the state, it’s worth putting a call in to your local Building Inspection Department. Also, consider your neighbors. If your treehouse will be visible to them or near their property line, have the conversation before you get started. A treehouse is great fun but can also be noisy, so be sure to consider that when you are staking out the location.

Picking Your Site

There are several ways to build a treehouse: single trunk construction, multi-branch construction or multi-tree construction. The route you decide to pursue depends on the trees in your yard. A single trunk works well if you have a very large and healthy tree, but you should consider that the trunk will go through the middle of the house with support beams secured to the base of the tree from each corner. Multi-branch construction gives you a bit more creativity, but it can be tough to find the perfect tree that has strong, 90-degree branches to support a level house. If you have a denser wooded area, multi-tree construction is a great option. Using two trees is best because you can use flexible joints to account for the tree’s movement while being able to builder a bigger floor space. It’s important to note that using more than two trees can get tough as you will have to consider more movement points in your construction.

No matter what kind of build you’re considering, always keep weight and stability in mind and be prepared to be flexible in your planning. That’s all we have room for this week, but we’ll tackle the construction of the treehouse in my next column. Get your hammers ready!

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.