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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: remodeling

Finding the Right Contractor for the Job

Chelsea O'Donnell

With colder weather on the way, you might be in a race to batten down the hatches and get a few things fixed around the house. Finding the right expert might seem daunting and it’s true that sourcing someone with know-how can feel like a job in and of itself. But trust me, hiring the wrong professional can do a lot more harm than good. So where do you start? Here are my top tips for finding an honest, reputable contractor. 

Ask for referrals.

When it comes to hiring an expert for remodeling or home repair work, you should look at it the same way you would for a doctor or an accountant. Start by asking friends, family or co-workers for a referral, or you can also try your local building inspector or the owner of the lumberyard in your area. Additionally, every tradesperson has a network of other home professionals they deal with regularly; so if you have a plumber but need an electrician, don’t be afraid to reach out. 

Click the “like” button.

When meeting with professionals, your gut feeling is as important as anything else. Home improvement is a personal process so go at it in the same way you would a first date. Do you like the solutions and options the expert provides? Does he communicate with you in a way that’s clear and concise?  Do you feel comfortable that she will do the job the way you want it done? Don’t get caught up in special deals or flashy talk, trust your instincts and go with a professional that feels more like a partner than a salesperson.

Don’t ask for a rough estimate. 

If you have a big job that you need done, there is no use in asking for a “ballpark figure”. Chances are that the prices quoted in the estimate will change once the contractor has a chance to understand what is specifically required. Certain things such as the condition of the property, the materials used for the job and the personalization that you require will make up the price, so save yourself some time and confusion by making a list of what you really want before the contractors show up for the first appointment. Most professionals will give you an estimate for free so make the most of that opportunity by getting specific. Getting a good deal is important, but not if it means scrimping on quality workmanship. 

Do ask for a plan.

Understanding your costs is key, but it’s also a good idea to ask for a plan of action to ensure you are fully aware of both the process and the timeline for the job. A simple step-by-step explanation will give you the clarity you need to ensure that you and your contractor are on the same page and it will also help you plan around activities you might have going on, like family coming into town for the holidays. As a professional, I like to make sure the steps involved in a job are clearly articulated for two reasons; it gives my customers confidence in the project and it helps them understand all of the work being undertaken, especially the parts that might not be as obvious.  In my opinion, an educated customer is the best kind of customer.

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.

Ceiling Cracks - A Telltale Sign of Hidden Danger in the Home

Chelsea O'Donnell

After 40 years in the remodeling business, I have seen my fair share of hazards and hair-raising discoveries inside of people’s homes. My reminiscing got me thinking that some of these stories might resonate with readers who delay having problems fixed for fear of what might be found. While major problems can sometimes be costly and disruptive, leaving an issue to fester can cause more damage down the line and could even end up affecting your health. 

I’ll never forget one summer when I got a call from a woman in Bristol who told me her roof was leaking. You wouldn’t think this seemed odd considering that I am a roof remodeler, but it hadn’t rained in a month. I mentioned this to the caller and she said, “Well I can’t be sure where the water is coming from, but my dining room ceiling just caved in.” 

I hung up the phone and immediately made my way over to her house. Sure enough, when I arrived, a pile of sheetrock and plaster was already being amassed on her front lawn. Upon entering the house, I found that she was not exaggerating. The ceiling had completely crumbled, leaving a soggy mess of remnants all over her dining room set. 

I first asked to see the bathroom on the second floor and I was told there wasn’t one. So I climbed into the attic and gasped when intense heat hit me in the face. I also noted two air conditioning units in the dining room - one in each window. I asked the homeowner about the air conditioners and how often they were used. It turned out that she had them on full power almost constantly to try and regulate the temperature because the top floor of the house was so hot. 

It was easy for me to see why the homeowner’s ceiling fell in. A lack of insulation and ventilation in the attic was causing the house to heat up to an uncomfortable level. The homeowner tried to combat this problem by cranking up her A/C. By doing so, she was creating major condensation in the walls and ceiling of the home. 

When hot and cold air collide they cause moisture which gets into plaster, sheetrock, and even wood. That moisture then generates mold spores that literally eat away at the ceiling and walls. Her 1950’s Cape Cod home was like most in our area, constructed with such poor insulation and ventilation that they are susceptible to rot. A surefire sign of trouble for this homeowner was cracking in the ceiling, which is the first sign of a problem. Instead of calling me then, her husband tried to mask the problem using those 12x12 ceiling panels that you often see in doctor’s offices. He meant well but the attempt at a cosmetic repair only added another layer of material for the moisture to seep into. 

The moral of the story is this. If your home has temperature issues, do not ignore the problem. By not addressing the humidity and moisture in your home, you could end up with major structural damage or worse. If that’s not enough to convince you, mold and mildew are leading causes of asthma and breathing problems, especially in young children and the elderly. Is it worth putting your family’s health at risk?

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.

In the Market for a New Roof? Know Your Options

Chelsea O'Donnell

With April showers often come leaks, which means roof replacement is on lots of homeowner’s minds this time of year. When thinking about a new roof, finding the right contractor, negotiating the best price, and deciding on the color and style are just a few of the options to navigate. But in the past, one thing homeowners often didn’t have to think about was the material, as asphalt roofs have been the most popular choice in our area for their cost-effectiveness and durability. But recently, metal has begun increasing in popularity. While metal roofs are more common in areas of the country with more extreme weather conditions, it’s always good to know about the different options available. So let’s take a deeper dive into the pros and cons of asphalt and metal roofs to help you make the best decision for your home.

The Asphalt Roof

Asphalt is the most popular choice with homeowners for a variety of reasons, but the single most important factor is almost always the price. The average cost to purchase the materials for an asphalt roof is nearly one-third of the cost of a metal roof. That cost differentiation gives asphalt the leg up almost every time. In addition to being the more cost-effective option of the two choices, there is a lot to love about asphalt. Individual shingles give a homeowner lots of color and design choices, and they are faster to install than a metal roof, often taking just a few days of labor. While most asphalt roofs come with a 30-year warranty, they are easy to repair if damaged, and a small section can be replaced without having to get a whole new roof. The material also performs exceptionally well in the rain, heat, sleet, and snow.

Of course, there are a few negative aspects of asphalt roofing that homeowners should be aware of. If you’re installing a new asphalt roof, I always recommend removing the old roof before installing new material, which does add to the labor cost. Another negative factor is the chance that mold, mildew, and algae will grow if a roof is shaded and stays damp for long periods of time. Also, while our Connecticut weather isn’t as severe as other parts of the country, very high winds can loosen shingles if they aren’t installed properly.

The Metal Roof

Even though they aren’t as common in our area, metal roofs have some very attractive qualities that make them worth considering. Firstly, the material is lighter than traditional asphalt roofs, and the metal sheets can often be installed right over regular asphalt as long as it doesn’t have water damage or rotten plywood underneath. Metal roofs also last longer than asphalt roofs, and maintenance is minimal. Mold and mildew cannot grow on metal so if you live in a damp area with lots of shade, this might be a worthwhile benefit. Another plus is that metal roofs are energy efficient all year round, helping to keep the house cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Plus they perform very well in areas with very high-level snowfall.

Of course, there are a few cons that homeowners should be aware of, and the biggest one is cost. While metal roofs do last longer, the upfront cost can be three times as much as an asphalt roof. Additionally, if a metal roof needs to be repaired, that will also cost more as metal roofs are made in sheets and need to be replaced in that way. From an aesthetic perspective, metal roofs do come in different colors, but there aren't many more options in terms of design and aesthetic. Finally, it’s important to know that without the proper plywood installation and insulation, metal roofs can be noisy, which might not be a con for people who love the sound of rain storms.

No matter which material you use, it’s important to do your research to find the best product for your individual home. The right roof with the right contractor at the right price will ensure that you live comfortably with peace of mind for many years to come.

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.