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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: mildew

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.


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.