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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.

 

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Clean and Seal Your Deck for Decades Worth of Endless Summers

Chelsea O'Donnell

The life expectancy of a wood deck is about 10 to 15 years, but did you know that it could last north of 20 years with proper cleaning and maintenance? That’s right, with a good seasonal scrub and sealing, your deck could stay looking beautiful long after your neighbors’ needs replacing.

A deck takes a lot of abuse during the seasons. The summer sun is especially harsh and the humidity forces the wood to expand and contract, which can lead to shifting and splitting. The winter is no picnic either as snow, ice, and freezing temperatures will do their fair share of damage to both the surface and the joists. With all those elements taking their toll, it’s no wonder why a deck is so susceptible to rot. Luckily, there is plenty that you can do to take care of it, so let’s get to it.

Attack the Crevices

The first thing you have to do is sweep the surface of your deck clean, and then grab a putty knife to dislodge all the debris stuck in the nooks and crannies. Whirlybirds and leaves can do a lot more damage than you think because they begin to rot as soon as they get wet. Leaving them trapped in the wood will most certainly send your deck to an early grave. This is also a great time to sand down any splintered areas and replace deteriorated or popped nails or screws.

Scrub the Wood

Once your surface is completely debris-free, it’s time to give the wood a deep clean. You might remember my affinity for a pressure washer and deck cleaning is where this machine really shines. A year’s worth of dirt, mildew, and gunk can be tough to take off, and while a stiff scrub brush and some serious back-aching effort will do the trick, the pressure washer will tackle the task in half the time. Many people recommend a bleach and water solution but I prefer to use a non-toxic alternative such as Spray Nine which has no corrosive chemicals and won’t kill your plants. Give the deck a good, solid coating of cleaner and let it sit for 15 minutes before pressure washing or scrubbing.

Stain and Seal

Staining the deck is an optional step but sealing it shouldn't be. Many decks experience discoloration over time and staining is one great way to give your wood a facelift and make it look new. But regardless of if you’re staining or not, applying a weather resistant seal is your best defense against having the replace your deck sooner than you expected. Apply the sealant in a thin coat using a medium paintbrush or a roller, working with the wood grain to ensure an even finish. It’s important not to apply the sealant in direct, hot sun as it will dry too quickly and the wood won’t be able to absorb it. If instructed, apply a second coat, working in the same way. Finally, allow the sealant to dry for 24 to 48 hours before placing deck furniture or planters back on the surface.

Now sit back, relax, and enjoy your beautiful like-new deck for the rest of the summer and beyond. Your wood will thank you.

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.

 

Everything That’s Fab About Prefab

Chelsea O'Donnell

Prefabricated construction, also known as modular or off-site housing, may conjure up images of trailer park communities in your mind. But prefab has come a long way in recent years, with architects and builders creating bold new housing designs in the comfort of a facility that reduces weather-causing building delays and increases opportunities for energy efficiency.

Years ago, stick-built homes were the most popular type of new construction and most of the homes in our area were built this way. The name comes from the method by which the home is constructed, piece by piece (or stick by stick) on the site of where the structure would eventually reside. While the common perception is that stick-built houses are more strongly constructed and offer a better resale value that prefab homes, there isn’t much evidence to confirm that this is actually the case. However, there are some advantages to stick-built homes. For instance, people who want to oversee the process of the home build can do so, as the house is constructed piece by piece from the ground up instead of being manufactured in a closed facility. Additionally, a stick-built home that’s designed by an architect will take the land it is being built on into consideration for efficiency and wear and tear, where a prefab home might not provide for those same considerations.

On the flip side, prefab homes do have a lot of benefits that make them well worth considering. While many prefab homes have a more contemporary look, they can be built to achieve any aesthetic style, from modern to a traditional log cabin. While people may think that prefab homes are limited to small, simple design, they can, in fact, be incredibly large and diverse, with many of the customizations that can be achieved through a traditional stick-built home. The pre-made parts are constructed offsite in a facility and then put together like a puzzle on-site. Because the homes are manufactured in a controlled and regulated facility, there is also less room for human error during the building process.

One of my favorite advantages to prefab homes is that many are super green. There is a new trend in home building called the passive house movement, which adheres to a set of design principles that attains rigorous levels of energy efficiency, resulting in reduced output and cleaner, healthier homes. Continuous and appropriate amounts of insulation, airtight sealing, high-performance windows, heat, and moisture balanced ventilation, and various forms of solar power of some of the ways these homes tick all the boxes for a healthier planet.

One thing that’s important to note if you’re considering prefabricated construction is, of course, the costs. While often less expensive than a stick-built home, a prefab home will have base costs included but fees associated with the land, site prep, shipping and other expenses will be additional. As with any home project, it’s important to always understand all the costs and fees associated with a project before jumping in.   

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 in touch.

Say So Long to Solar Panels with This Latest Invention

Chelsea O'Donnell

You’re probably familiar with Tesla, the luxury car company that made a name for itself by introducing solar energy cars to the market. Now, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has turned his attention to a different use for solar energy by announcing the launch of solar shingles which officially went on sale last week. So if you’ve been considering solar energy for your home but don’t like the look of massive panels stuck to your roof, this game changer might just be the solution you’re looking for.

If you know anything about Tesla cars, you know that they aren’t cheap and neither is the new solar roof. Installation on an average 1,800 square foot house will set you back more than $68,000, but Tesla estimates that over the roof’s 30-year life span, the solar shingles will generate over $88,000 in energy production. The 30% federal tax credit, known as the Solar Investment Tax Credit, will be available for the product and can be applied to the cost of the solar portion of the roof as well as the cost of the required Powerwall battery. Based on that percentage for this example, you’d be looking at a tax credit of $20,000 which, according to the company, brings you to around $40,000 in net earnings over the 30 year period.

The roof configuration is made up of both solar and non-solar panels, with Tesla recommending a 60-70% ratio of solar to non-solar units depending on the individual home. Unlike those unsightly solar panels we’ve come to accept as the best way to harness energy from the sun, solar roofs look very similar to a regular roof with both textured and smooth panel options which are approximately the same size as a regular roof shingle. Units designed to mimic the look of slate and Tuscan style terra cotta will both be launched in 2018.

But with our brutal seasons, will these new glass panels really be able to stand up to the weather? Tesla says yes and has given the product an infinity warranty based on the lifetime of the house. The panels also get the highest rating for wind, hail, and fire damage.

So when might you be able to get your hands on a solar roof? Tesla says they’ll begin installations in California starting in June, with a nationwide rollout planned to follow. While we aren’t sure when the product will be available yet in this area, I’m interested to know if it’s something homeowners here would want to know more about. Does a solar roof pique your curiosity? I’d love to know more. Message me on Facebook to tell me what you think at www.facebook.com/odonnellbros.

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.