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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: outside

A Good Cleaning Will Extend the Life of Your Deck for Years

Chelsea O'Donnell

I hope you all had a fantastic Fourth of July! While celebrating with family at a backyard barbecue, I started thinking about decks, patios, and the outdoor spaces that we all enjoy during the summer. Sure, they are wonderful to have, but they take a lot of work too. So let’s talk about how to best maintain them, starting with a deck. 

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 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.


Rent a Pressure Washer for the Day and Clean All Around the House

Chelsea O'Donnell

I think we can all agree that no one likes chores, especially cleaning. This time of year is especially tough since we want our yard and garden to look its best despite the pollen that just keeps on coming. Luckily, I have a trick that will help you make light of all the hard work around the house - heck you might even have a little fun.

The secret, my friends, is the pressure washer! I am lucky enough to own one of these handy machines but you can grab one for yourself for between $30-40 for the day and say goodbye to dirt, mold, and caked on debris. Here are just a few of my favorite ways to use it.

The Patio. The winter can be tough on stone or concrete patios and wood decks, but months worth of dirt is no match for a pressure washer. Forget the sweeping and scrubbing - a once over with a 2,000 pounds per square inch machine will have your backyard looking as good as new. If you’re thinking about refinishing your surfaces, make this your first step to get everything as clean as possible. Just leave plenty of drying time.

The Patio Furniture. Once the deck is done, the patio furniture is next. I store mine in the shed over the winter, but even in storage, everything tends to get a bit grimy and moldy with the moisture in the air. I love pulling everything out, wetting it down, and giving it a good scrub with some Spray Nine. Because it doesn’t contain any corrosive chemicals, you can use it right in the grass without having to worry about killing your lawn. Rinse with the pressure washer and your furniture will sparkle.

The Car. A car wash is convenient but they never quite get into the nooks and crannies like you can if you’re doing it yourself. Of course, a manual wash is time-consuming and with the pollen in the air, it’s nearly impossible to keep the car clean for longer than a few days. This is another reason why I love the pressure washer! It gets grease and gunk right off the tires and tough to reach places and it’s so easy and fast! Just be sure to use a lighter setting such as 1,400 PSI so you don’t dent the exterior.

The House. I love vinyl siding because it’s so low maintenance, but it’s not a bad idea to give the house a good spray down every once in a while. A pressure washer can be used everywhere from the roof to the shutters and will make your siding looks like it’s brand new again. It’s just as easy as using a hose, but so much more effective. You can use it on brick or stone exteriors too - and don’t forget the windows!

The Gutters. If you’re getting up on the roof, you mind as well get the gunk out of those gutters. A pressure washer makes this job easy but the clean-up from the ground can be a bit of a mess so make sure that you look for an angled attachment that will help you control the debris. If you can get it all towards the downspout, you can either run it through and down or pull everything out in easier to manage sections.

One thing to remember before renting your pressure washer is that they do come in either electric or gas models. Electric machines are generally reserved for lighter jobs around the house while gas models have a bit more oomph. Before you choose your machine, make sure to chat with an expert at the store about what kind of jobs you have in mind. Too much power might damage your goods; too little will make you wish you stuck to the hose and saved yourself a few bucks.

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.

Bob’s Top Tips for Building a Treehouse This Spring

Chelsea O'Donnell

Last week we talked about some tips for planning a treehouse build. This week, I wanted to go over some of the basics to consider when taking this project on. Every treehouse will be different in terms of their size, shape, and configuration, but there are a few common rules to be aware of regardless of the type of hideaway you are building.

Keep Design in Mind

While many people prefer a more rustic approach, there are also hundreds of amazing treehouse plans that you can access through the internet. Check out www.treehousesupplies.com which offers plans for every size and shape of house and www.theclassicarchives.com which also includes a shopping list for all the lumber and equipment you’ll need. A treehouse with some pizazz can actually increase your resale value if you decide to move house after the kids have grown and gone.

Level the Floor

Building a structure that’s off the ground is tough, but it’s important to get the platform completely level with the weight evenly distributed between the tree branches or the supports. You can do this by laying the beams across the branches or running the beams between multiple tree trunks and then shimming them until they are level. If you’re building around the base of one tree, you can level it using your supports. Treehouses can last a lifetime and you want to make sure you get the first step right or the rest of the build is going to be more difficult.

Build in Pieces

Rather than trying to construct your house up in the trees, consider building each section on the ground first and then hoisting it into position using a backhoe or a pulley system. Generally, the four walls and the roof can be built on the ground and then assembled when it's on the base. Measurement is key here because you want to be absolutely sure your treehouse fits when it is in place.

Keep the Tree Healthy

Building a treehouse can put a lot of strain on the tree itself and punctures will leave it more susceptible to disease. Use floating brackets to allow for flexible support so the tree can move and sway in the wind the way that it's supposed to. You can purchase specialty fasteners that are made specifically for treehouses that will do less damage and keep the house secure. Also, remember that trees grow and the size it is now will change in 10 or 20 years time. Don't build too tightly around it.

Remember the Extras

A treehouse is all about imagination, so don’t be afraid to get creative with some fun add-ons. A tire-swing, zip line, ladder, bridge, fold down seating, water cannon or a fireman’s pole are some of my favorites. Also, consider making a pulley system to help kids get toys, snacks, and games up to the treehouse so they can climb in and out as safely as possible.

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.