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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: protection

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 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.

Build that Privacy Fence in a Few Easy Steps

Chelsea O'Donnell

Constructing a privacy fence to border your yard might be high on the “want” list, but with questions around permits, tools, materials, and the physical build, it might be one of those projects that you prefer to put off until next summer.

Last week we talked about some of the rules and regulations around building a fence in our area, as well as the materials you’ll need, and some simple tips to help ease the process. This week, we’ll talk about what you’ll need to do to get that fence up and protecting your yard.

Fences aren’t just your typical wood slats anymore; nowadays they are often constructed in six to eight foot long panels, which can be made from wood, vinyl, steel, or other materials. The panels make a fence much easier to install with a few tools, some precision, and patience.

Once you decide on the type of fence you want and the size of the panels, you’ll start by measuring the area that the fence will border. Draw the fence line with spray paint and then measure the line using a measuring wheel to get the exact length. You’ll also want to mark and measure your gates according to their size. Remember to subtract the gate widths from the total length of the area, as these spaces will not require panels.  

Once you have the area measured and marked, you can determine where your posts should go. One post will need to be installed every six to eight feet, dependent on the length of your panel. Your posts are your anchors so be diligent about this measurement or before you know it, that new fence will come crashing down. You can use chalk lines as a guide, but make sure the post’s position is consistent all around the area.  

Once your posts are marked, you can begin to dig. You’ll need a post hole digger for this part of the project and you’ll want to ensure your holes are at least three times as wide and half as deep. I always suggest digging below the frost line since our winters can get pretty brutal. Once your holes are dug, you can add about six inches of gravel to the hole to ensure proper drainage, followed by around six inches of mixed concrete. Set your post into the hole and level the concrete around it, sloping the mixture slightly away from the post. Now make sure to let it dry according to the time specified on the packaging. Do not install your panels until the concrete has properly cured, which can take up to a few days.  

Once your concrete is set, you can attach the panels using deck screws or nails. The type of fence material you’re using will depend on the best fastener – nails are good for wood while deck screws are a better option of metal or vinyl panels. Either way, make sure your fasteners are long enough to secure the panels tightly. A two or three-inch nail or screw should do the trick, depending on the thickness of your panel. 

Finally, you can attach your gates. Also, if you have them, you can add caps to the fence posts by using a rubber mallet to ensure they fit snugly on top.

There you have it, a brand new fence to keep your family secure and keep out prying eyes. Now go pour yourself a tall glass of lemonade and relax the rest of the afternoon away. I won’t tell! Happy Memorial Day weekend everyone.

Beware of ice dams this winter

Chelsea O'Donnell

One of the perils of living in New England is the cleanup of the winter weather that so often blows our way. In addition to the ice chipping and the snow shoveling, there is one more serious homeowner hazard that can create a headache both inside and outside, and cause major damage your home. The culprit I am talking about is ice dams.

Let me give you some background. An ice dam forms when heat from inside your home causes snow on your roof to melt and the water to trickle down into the gutters. This sounds like what is supposed to happen, except that when the water slides down, it can often refreeze before it drains because the temperature changes from the top of the roof to the bottom. As the water moves it refreezes, causing a blockage in the gutters and drains. Since the water has nowhere it go, it builds up, and looks for other places to go, such as under your shingles. The snow continues to melt, refreeze and accumulate, growing aggressively until you have what we call an ice dam, or a large mass of frozen water that grows from your gutters and the base of your roof.

So why does the temperature change? Well that’s easy. We all know that heat rises, and when your house isn’t properly insulated or ventilated, the heat from the living areas of your home will rise into the attic, hitting the highest temperatures in the very peak of the roof. So it’s no surprise that snow starts to melt at that very point, where the temperature can easily rise to 32 degrees Fahrenheit, or melting point. As the water makes its way down the roof, the temperature decreases; enabling the water to refreeze by the time it finds its way to your gutters. As that water builds up, it begins to form an ice dam. 

Have you ever looked around the neighborhood and seen a house with big beautiful icicles hanging from the roof? Those icicles aren’t just a pretty bi-product of winter weather; they are a sure fire sign that an ice damn is forming.

Ice dams can be a real problem, especially in older homes that aren’t properly insulated and ventilated. As the water builds up, it can leak into the house and cause damage to the walls, ceilings, insulation and other areas. Additionally, an ice dam that is melting can channel water down into the foundation, which can cause leaks and mold formation in the basement.

Worried about ice dams damaging your house? Next week, we’ll talk about the ways to temporarily fix them, and what you can do to ensure they don’t pop up again next winter.