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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: ridge

Let Your House Breathe and Say Goodbye to Dangerous Moisture

Chelsea O'Donnell

You hear me talk a lot about the importance of insulation in the home, especially at this time of year and with our recent, frigid temperatures. But even if you’re the one in every four houses I visit that actually does have the right amount of insulation, chances are that your ventilation is inadequate, which can be harming both your home and your personal health in more ways than you think.

In the winter, we crank up the thermostat, sending more heat and moisture into the living quarters of our homes. We all know that heat rises to the top, which means a lot of what we’re pumping into the house will quickly find its way through the ceiling and into the attic. Now, think about when you’re in a car and the windows fog up. What do you do? Usually, you’ll increase the airflow either by using the vents or just cracking a window. A house works much the same way, except that if you don’t have airflow in the attic, the heat and moisture just gets stuck there. If the attic is very warm, that moisture will develop into mold and mildew which can fester in your insulation and rot the wood. If the attic is cold enough, the moisture will freeze into little domes or even icicles until the temperatures rise enough for the water to thaw and then be absorbed into all the places it shouldn’t be going. Neither is a good scenario.

So what’s the best way to protect your home? Start by investing in a hygrometer which measures water vapor in the air. A comfortable humidity reading is 30-60%, but 45-55% is an ideal level to maintain. If you’re seeing higher than 60% humidity in any area of your home, you’re going to be susceptible to mold, mildew and bacteria growth.

Remember, attic ventilation allows your home to “breathe” so you want to balance your intake and exhaust to ensure that what is coming in is going out equally. The best ventilation system will include soffit vents which are installed underneath the overhang of the roof to take in the air and ridge vents which are installed at the top of the roof for the hot air to escape. For this method to work efficiently, all louvered vents must be sealed off and you have to ensure that your insulation isn’t blocking the airflow. Believe it or not, most roof manufacturers will void the warranty if a proper ventilation system is not installed. Luckily, new roofing technology enables contractors to add intake ventilation directly into the roof as opposed to using soffit vents so if you’re in the market for a new roof, be sure to ask for that option.

It’s important to note that homes have different characteristics and what works well for one may not work well for another. With the right balance of air, homeowners can optimize their roof and maintain the overall health of their home and their families, but it’s always a good idea to get advice from a professional before taking on a big remodeling project. Stay warm friends.

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.

Let Your Home Breathe with Proper Attic Ventilation

Chelsea O'Donnell

Last week we talked about how poor ventilation can cause frost and icicles inside the attic and dangerous ice dams outside at the base of the roof. These warning signs should set off alarm bells for homeowners as they can lead to major leaks and expensive damage to shingles, walls, and insulation. So let’s take a look at how to mitigate any potential problems with a quick crash course on attic ventilation.

An attic that’s well ventilated will reduce heat build-up in the summer and allow moist, warm air to escape the house in the winter. A house that can “breathe” properly is more energy efficient, keeps the home dry, and reduces the potential for ice build-up in the winter.

Have a look at your roof. Do you see any vents under the eaves, at the top of the gable or along the ridge? Some vents can be tough to spot, so if you’re unsure, think back to our recent winter storms. Did the cold temperatures result in a build up of thick ice near your gutters? If so, this is a telltale sign that your home isn’t properly ventilated. You can also check by grabbing a flashlight and heading up into the attic. If you see dampness, frost, or icicles, it means you have a ventilation problem. In the summer, just simply touching the ceiling can tell you if your vents aren’t adequate. If the ceiling feels hot, your attic is effectively acting like a solar panel, increasing your cooling bills by trapping hot air that can’t escape.

Proper ventilation works as a system with different vents controlling air intake and exhaust. As heat escapes the main living area of the house, a correct system will allow that air to flow through the attic instead of getting trapped inside it. It works like this. Escaping air from the main living space of the home will flow through a soffit vent at the base of the roof near the gutters and along the underside of the eave. As this air enters the attic, it rises up and will then look to exit, which will often be through a gable vent or a ridge vent at the very top of the roof. If the air is flowing properly, the attic will stay cool and dry and you won’t have to worry about those dreaded ice dams.

So how do you know how many vents you need for your home? Ventilation is determined by area, so start by figuring out the square footage of your attic. For example, a 30-foot x 50-foot attic would equal 1,500 square feet. Professional contractors estimate about one square foot of vent opening for every 150 square feet of attic area as per Connecticut building codes, so in this case, you’d be looking at 10 square feet of total vent area. Each vent will come with a net free vent area (NFTA) measurement to help you calculate your vent size, and the total area should be split evenly between intake and exhaust vents. Remember that vents need to be free and clear in order to work properly, so if you feel like you have enough vents but are still having issues with airflow, make sure to check that they aren’t being blocked by insulation or accidently covered over.

Have a question about ventilation, insulation or roofing? Feel free to shoot me a message on Facebook at

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.


Help! I Have Icicles in My Attic

Chelsea O'Donnell

Not long ago I received a question from a reader who lives in an older home in the Bristol area. She wrote to me because she had gone to get something that was stored in her attic and noticed that there were icicles hanging off the framing inside. She wasn’t sure how they got there but she was worried and reached out to ask my advice. I’m so glad she did.

It might be hard to believe that icicles can form inside the house, but in many older homes that lack proper insulation and ventilation, the attic can become a magnet for condensation, which will freeze when it gets cold enough and the moisture has nowhere to go.

We all know that heat rises, and when we heat our homes in the winter, a lot of that warm air moves up through our ceilings and into the attic, rising all the way up to where it should be able to pass through the vents to the outside. However, if those vents aren’t working properly, the condensation and air have nowhere to go, so it collects on any cold surface below the dew point and turns into frost. After a while, this frost builds up to form icicles. The more moisture that builds up in the attic, the worse the problem will become. As temperatures rise and that ice and frost start to melt, it can saturate your insulation with water, causing mold and mildew problems as well as potential leaks in your ceiling. What’s worse is this isn’t even just a winter problem. Condensation build up can cause issues in your attic all year long.

So how do you stop the condensation from forming? Your first move is to look for sources that are pushing excess warm air into the attic. If you have a whole house fan, it’s a wise move to cover it as the louvers are letting your valuable heat escape quite easily. Bathroom fans are another sure bet for letting air through and they will cause major condensation issues if they are blowing into the attic instead of venting directly outside. Finally, make sure your folding stairway is covered over with an insulated box or weather stripping to avoid losing that extra heat.

While sealing off places that allow excess heat to get into the attic is a great idea, the one thing you never want to do is seal off your attic vents. Attic ventilation is a system which includes intake vents in the soffit and exhaust vents at the roof’s ridge. If these vents get sealed or blocked, there is nowhere for the condensation to go, so it gets trapped and can easily manifest into a leak. Believe it or not, the average family of four generates two to four gallons of water vapor each day from cooking, cleaning, showering, laundry, and breathing. If that water is left sitting in the attic, you’re going to have a problem.

These freezing temperatures give you a great opportunity to take a look up in your attic to see if you have any frost or icicles culminating in your home. Next week I’ll tell you more about how to properly ventilate and insulate an attic to make sure your property isn’t prone to leaks and other condensation-based damage in the future.  

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.