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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: protect

What’s Happening to Our Ash Trees?

Chelsea O'Donnell

Back in February, I read an article titled, “Every Ash Tree in CT to Die Within the Decade.” The headline couldn't be bleaker, but I didn’t really think about it again until this week as the trees began exploding in beautiful green. Ash trees are a staple in our area, with many standing proudly for hundreds of years. So what could be killing them, and what can we do to stop it?

The demise of our ash trees can squarely be blamed on an invasive, non-native species of beetle aptly named the emerald ash borer. It’s an insect that was first found in Michigan more than 20 years ago and since then, it has made its way to the east coast where it has made a feast of our beautiful, bountiful trees. In less than a decade from when the bug takes its first bite, it will eat the tree until it kills it. The mass exodus of ash trees now is because we’re hitting the eight-year mark from when the ash borers first made their homes in Connecticut. Now billions of Connecticut trees are dying all at once.

Emerald ash borers both eat ash trees and live in them. They lay their eggs underneath the bark and when the larvae hatch, it feeds on the tree’s most essential parts, the cambium or “growth” layer and the phloem or “circulatory” layer. The sheer volume of ash borer larvae is too much for a tree to handle and because they spread so fast, they can attack the tree much faster than the tree has the time or ability to fight for itself.

So is there a solution to the problem or are all of our ash trees doomed? Truth be told, the billions are trees that are already affected sadly don’t have a chance. What’s worse is that the emerald ash borer doesn’t have any native predators, so unless a tree has been treated with insecticide, it is almost certainly going to be infiltrated. However, there may be an unlikely ally that can help us protect future ash trees and maybe even save the species. It’s the parasitic wasp.

The name of this insect is very telling of how it operates. The parasitic wasp lays its eggs inside the body of an emerald ash borer and literally eats it from the inside out. They are currently being bred and shipped to Connecticut in an attempt to control the infestation of ash borers. But truth be told, the ratio of wasps to borers is barely enough to suppress the issue, nevermind control it. So the infestation will, unfortunately, have to run its course until the beetles eat themselves out of food and move on.

Until that day comes, the state’s Department of Agriculture hopes that new trees will develop a natural resistance to the beetle and that the hopeful decrease in their population will be controlled by the parasitic wasps. My advice? If you have an ash tree in your yard, it's worth a call to your local expert to find out more about the insecticides available to you. Trees that aren’t treated are in grave danger, so don’t wait to save yours.

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.

Winter Basement Leaks - A Common Problem To Look Out For

Chelsea O'Donnell

I often talk about the importance of proper attic ventilation to prevent leaks but as the winter peaks, the basement takes center stage as the place in the house where water damage will most likely occur.

The temperature often rises after a big storm, making moisture a huge problem for homeowners. Standing water can find its way into your basement through non-structural cracks in poured concrete walls or deteriorated joints in masonry walls. Poorly fitted or old basement windows, as well as utility openings, can also let water in.

The best line of defense against a wet basement is to make sure that the water is directed away from the foundation. Inspect your gutters and downspouts to see if they are working the way they should be and also check to see that the ground right around the house is higher than the rest of the yard. Having the yard grade at its highest around the perimeter of the foundation will ensure water drains away from the house instead of into it.  

If you think your house is susceptible to leaks, you can also use a waterproofing membrane or coating to seal the foundation or basement area. However, if you have regular leaking problems, you may need to have a drainage or sump pump system installed by a professional.

Even if you don’t have a leak problem, the basement can get pretty damp from now through April, which creates the perfect environment for nasty mold and mildew to grow and fester. To get rid of the excess water, I always like to run a dehumidifier in the basement as the weather warms up. A dehumidifier works by pulling the moisture out of the air and storing the excess water in a holding tank. Many people keep dehumidifiers in their basement all year long to control the dampness that can often be felt in underground areas, but I find it especially useful this time of year.

You can find out if your basement is holding a lot of moisture by purchasing a simple five-dollar humidity gauge from the local hardware store. Ideally, you want the humidity to be under 50%. If it’s higher, a dehumidifier might be a good solution. Generally, a unit will come in 25, 30 and 40-pint models, and on average a 25-pint unit will be sufficient to control the moisture in a 1,000 square foot area.

One last word of advice - if you have a dehumidifier or plan on getting one, please be sure to empty it regularly and keep the filter clean. A simple wipe down with a damp cloth and spray bottle will do the trick to keep you breathing freely and ensure a longer life for the appliance.

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.

Show Your Stone Patio Some Love This Summer

Chelsea O'Donnell

After seeing last week’s column about deck resealing, a reader reached out with an excellent question. She said, “Hi Bob, I was very interested in your column about refinishing a wood deck and I was wondering if you could do something similar with a patio. I just had stone laid and it looks great, but I’d like to know more about how to protect it so it continues to look beautiful. Do you have any tips? Thanks. Catherine.”

I’m so glad that Catherine reached out because people often choose stone over wood, even though it’s more expensive. I myself just recently replaced my wood deck for a stone patio because it’s easier to take care of and as long as I keep it protected, it is going to last and last. That being said, there are a few things that can make patios age faster and there are some maintenance tips that every homeowner should be aware of.

The one thing that makes patios a bit riskier than a wood deck is that they are laid right on the ground instead of on a platform, which means that any shifts or movement in the earth can cause cracks and splits between the joints or the stone itself. Additionally, weeds are unbelievably strong little pests and after time, they always find a way to creep through the joints. Brick patios are especially susceptible to weed infiltration and ants love making their homes in the gaps too. Luckily, sealing a stone patio on a regular basis is a surefire way of keeping both pests and weak points at bay.

You can start with a thorough cleaning, not unlike the process we discussed for a wood deck. Begin by removing any debris and loose dirt and dust with a firm broom, and then fire up the pressure washer. Stone can be stained from rusty patio furniture so be sure to pretreat and scrub down any marks before giving it a good power wash. Leave it to dry for at least 24 hours.

Next, inspect the joints closely. This is a tougher job for bricks than larger stone, but it’s important to repair any erosion or loose pieces before you apply your sealant. Otherwise, the stone will become uneven and the gaps will invite weeds and ants to make their homes inside. You can use sand to fill any spaces that have deteriorated over time.

Now you’re ready to seal! Each product is different so you’ll want to pay close attention, especially when it comes to finishes. I always look for a high quality, water-based sealant that I can spray on easily. I recommend applying two thin coats and waiting 24 hours between applications to ensure you achieve an even finish. Wait another 24-48 hours after the final coat to put patio furniture, grills, and any other equipment back on the surface.

As for you Catherine, take a load off! Since your patio is new, you can kick back and relax for a year before worrying about adding an extra protective layer to the stone.

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.