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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: project

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.

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.
 

A Rec Room Remodel Makes for the Perfect Pre-Winter Project

Chelsea O'Donnell

As the weather turns colder, now is a great time to think about giving the kids some play space to help them explore their imaginations without turning your house upside down. Plus, who doesn’t want a designated zone to kick back and enjoy Sunday football or a place to get the whole family together for a winter movie marathon? So this week, let’s talk about how to turn that unused basement into a recreation area that can keep the family occupied while keeping the rest of your home intact.

One of the greatest outcomes of a basement remodel is that it gives you the opportunity to go through all your old belongings and get rid of anything that’s past its use by date. As we get closer to winter, our shelters will be in need of extra warm clothes and furniture banks like Bristol’s For Goodness Sake can use additional inventory to make a family feel at home this holiday season. Decluttering is a great start for any remodeling project and the additional room and space will make the project much easier to tackle.

Once your space is clear, you can start to develop your floor plan. You want to think about what it will be used for today, but you’ll also want to consider future plans. As the kids grow, will it be easy to transform that arts and crafts nook into a movie room? If it’s a large space, are there ways that you can divide it to create different areas of enjoyment for everyone in the family? Be practical and be sure to take measurements. There’s no use buying a regulation pool table or having a custom bar made if you can’t fit it through the door!

Once you have an idea of your layout, my next step would be to evaluate the moisture situation. Because basements are underground and most have cement walls, they are generally damp, dark places that can attract mold. If you get water in your basement after a big rain storm, you’ll want to have that taken care of before any remodeling work starts. You don’t want to be dealing with flooding after a new carpet has just been installed and you definitely don’t want your kids spending their snow days in a place that’s festering with mildew.

Another thing to think about is your mechanical systems. It’s expensive to rewire and move around furnaces and hot water systems, so try to design around them. If it’s not possible, be prepared to factor the plumbing and wiring work into your overall budget.

If you’re starting from scratch and need to build walls and ceilings, it’s important to note that the materials you use may be different than the ones on the floors above. Assuming the basement is dry, you’ll want to make sure to insulate it before installing any drywall. You’ll also want to inspect any pipes for leaks or condensation before covering them up. Sealing gaps, insulating pipes, and waterproofing any potential problem areas before you start your framing will make your life a whole lot easier than having to deal with an issue once your walls are up.

That’s all for this week, but check back in next Friday when we’ll talk about insider tips and pitfalls to avoid when creating the rec room of your dreams.

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.