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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: problems

A Water Heater Tune-Up is Essential In Late Winter

Chelsea O'Donnell

This past week’s warm-up had us all thinking about beautiful spring days, but it’s around this time that a sudden cold snap can hit, throwing us back into the throngs of winter. After a long season of use, your hot water heater might be feeling some pain, so now is a great time to make sure it’s in excellent working order - both for next year and in the event that you’ll be needing it in tip-top condition for another month. Here are some tips.

  • As a water heater operates, it collects sediment that can cause decay if left in the tank over time. Don’t let this happen to yours. Drain your water heater at least twice a year to get rid of any buildup, which will prevent corrosion and increase the machine’s energy efficiency.  

  • First turn off the unit and give it plenty of time to cool down. Then, using a garden hose and pump, drain the water into a bucket. If the bucket becomes filled with brown, sediment-tainted water, continue to refill and drain your heater until the water looks normal again. When you’re in the clear, you can disconnect your hose and turn the unit back on.

  • Keep your water heater at a steady 120 degrees and lower it down if you’re planning on leaving the house for three days or more. For every 10 degrees, you decrease the temperature, you’ll save five percent in energy costs.

  • Insulate the tank and pipes with fiberglass. For the tank, fit a fiberglass blanket using foil tape, but be sure not to cover any valve or pipe openings. For the pipes, you can use fiberglass wrap or foam insulation. By adding a layer of insulation to your water heater, you’ll keep the warmth from escaping into the air and you’ll protect the machine from condensation in the warmer months.

  • If you have a valve that’s leaking, make sure that the fittings are nice and tight. If that doesn’t work, you might have to replace the valves or fittings. You can find the parts you’ll need at a local hardware store – just don’t forget to shut off the water first!

Remember, working with electric or gas appliances can be dangerous. If you’re not familiar with how your unit operates or if you’re not comfortable with this kind of work, contact a plumber for a routine maintenance check.  

The average lifecycle of a water heater is about eight to twelve years and they can cost anywhere from $300 for an electric tank system to well over $1,000 for a tankless energy efficient natural gas machine. If you’re in the market for a new machine, do your research and make sure you maintain it regularly to ensure it will go the distance.

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.

Investigating Bare Spots on a Snow Covered Roof

Chelsea O'Donnell

This week I received an email from a reader who has a problem that I see in many homes around our area of Connecticut. Her question was this: “Dear Bob, on particularly cold mornings over these past few weeks, I have noticed spots on my roof that accumulate frost and other parts that don’t. Why am I seeing these spots and is there something wrong with my house?”

I’m so grateful that a reader asked this question and with snow in the forecast, I’d like you all to go outside early in the morning and have a look at your roof. Do you have spots too? If so, you might be thinking that the places where snow is accumulating are the problem and the bare spots are good. But believe it or not, the spots where you can still see your shingles are actually the problem areas.

If your roof is covered with any type of shingle or material other than metal, it should be completely and evenly white after a heavy frost or snowfall. If there are places where shingles are clearly visible, these are literal hot spots where heat is escaping from your home and through your roof at a temperature warm enough to melt snow. This is a problem.

A well insulated and ventilated attic has one very important job to do in the winter - to keep the heat inside your home. Insulation helps to ensure that the air inside your home can’t escape while ventilation allows air to circulate so the temperature and humidity stays regulated. If a home is not insulated and ventilated correctly, you’re going to be subjected to a whole bunch of problems. If heat is escaping, that’s bad for the environment and your energy bills. Once the temperature in the attic deregulates, your roof is going to be susceptible to ice dams, which form because snow melts down to the gutter and refreezes again. When this happens, huge icicles can begin to grow, weighing down the gutter and potentially pulling it clean off. Of course, all this water hanging out where it doesn’t belong also opens your home up to leaks which can come through the roof into the attic and eventually down through your insulation, ceiling, and walls. All of these problems simply because the attic doesn’t have enough of a support system to let the house breathe the way it should!

So what should you do? Here is the easy part. Get your attic properly insulated and ventilated. As a general guideline, insulation with an R-Value of between R-49 and R-60 will sit at between 19 and 22 inches thick when settled. If you have a home that was built in the 1950’s or 60’s, you’re probably sitting on about three inches of insulation in the attic, which gives you an R-Value of about R-10. This might explain why you’re so chilly.

If you're not quite convinced to take on the project, consider this. According to Remodeling Magazine’s 2017 Cost Versus Value Report, adding insulation in your attic was the second-best home improvement project to undergo. In Hartford County, you’re looking at a 92.2% cost recoup upon the resale of a home. How’s that for an investment worth warming up to?

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.