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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: snow

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.

Waterproof Your Chimney Now to Avoid Costly Repairs Later

Chelsea O'Donnell

You may have never thought about exterior chimney maintenance unless you’ve had a problem, but because chimneys come up above the roof line, they are more susceptible to harsh weather than any other part of your home. That’s why spending a little time and money to waterproof and protect the area can save you thousands of dollars and plenty of potential headaches down the road.

If you plan on waterproofing your chimney, the first thing you’ll have to do is measure the surface area. Take care to measure all sides and add the measurements together to find the total surface area. This will help you to determine how much material you will need.

Now, it’s time to clean. Your chimney will most certainly have mold, dirt, rust, and stains on it, and you’ll want to remove them before starting the waterproofing process. I like Chimney RX Safer Brick and Masonry Cleaner which you can use instead of muriatic acid for the same cleaning power without the harsh fumes or risk of burns. Applying the solution is easy: just use one part cleaner with four parts water and apply to the area with a pump sprayer. You can then either scrub the surface or use a power washer to remove the debris. Let everything dry for at least 24 hours before moving on to the next step.

Next, you can start to prepare the area for any potential repair work. You don't want to damage your roof and shingles when waterproofing your chimney, so use a canvas drop cloth to cover the area as plastic can get very slippery. Make sure to cover over any windows or skylights that are in reach as well. Once waterproofing overspray has been applied, it will be incredibly difficult to remove.

If you have minor cracks in the chimney, now is the time to fill them. Chimney RX makes a Masonry Crack and Joint Sealant that works really well on small cracks up to one-eighth of an inch. It simply paints on and then dries a milky white color. However, if you have larger cracks or if you need any part of the chimney rebuilt or tuckpointed, I highly suggest calling a professional to manage the repair.

Once minor work has been completed, you’re ready to apply the waterproofing agent. Again, ChimneyRX makes a great product for the job. No matter what you use, be careful. Most people don’t realize that there is a difference between water repellent and sealant. A sealant will form a hard surface, trapping water inside and making the area susceptible to leaks, whereas a repellent will still enable the porous bricks to breathe and move the way they are supposed to.

Applying the sealant is as easy as the cleaning step - all you’ll need is a pump sprayer with a fan nozzle. The product that you use will give instructions for the amount that you’ll need, so just go by your surface area and the directions provided. I always suggest starting from the base and working your way up, applying heavy coats using a side to side spraying motion. Unlike painting, it’s a good idea to apply a “flood coat” first and then top it up with a second coat within just a few minutes to even it out. For areas that feel oversaturated, have a soft bristle brush handy. Also, be sure you’re working in good weather - while waterproofing products do dry quickly, you’ll want to give them a good six hours in the sun to fully set before a bout of bad weather.

Finally, just like any job on a roof, please make sure you’re comfortable with heights and working from a ladder before you tackle this project. The last thing we want us a trip to the emergency room from a nasty fall. When in doubt, always hire a pro to tackle the job.

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.

Don't Get Too Salty When Preparing for Snow Removal

Chelsea O'Donnell

While we’ve been lucky so far, snow removal is an inevitable chore that we Connecticut homeowners have come to accept as part of our winter routine. And while we’ve only had an early few inches, it’s always a good idea to be prepared for the main event come January.  

Shoveling and plowing are pretty straightforward activities, but one question that I get asked is how to choose the right melting product to make snow removal easier on the back and the wallet. Snow melting agents generally come in two forms - traditional rock salt, also known as sodium chloride, and calcium chloride. While they sound similar, the two are actually quite different and each has its advantages and drawbacks.

Sodium chloride, or rock salt, is a dry material that’s mined and applied to pavement using a walk behind residential spreader or commercial spreaders that are mounted on trucks. Sodium chloride is activated by moisture and will begin to melt the snow when it gets wet. The problem with sodium chloride is that because it’s activated by water, it doesn’t work well if the temperature is below 15 degrees.  However, if temperatures are above 15 degrees, sodium chloride can be a good, inexpensive choice that will take longer to melt but will keep your walkways dry. If you have vegetation or animals, take note that sodium chloride will be harmful to plants and can hurt animals if ingested.

When temperatures dip below 15 degrees, calcium chloride is going to be your best bet. This liquid agent is sprayed onto payment and works instantly to melt snow and ice. In fact, calcium chloride can melt snow up to eight times faster than traditional rock salt alone. Of course, there are a few downsides to consider. Calcium chloride gets hot fast, so while its effective short term, it might not be able to do the full job in a huge storm. It’s also more expensive than traditional rock salt and stays wet, which can lead to slippery surfaces. On the plus side, it’s non-corrosive and won’t harm vegetation, although you’ll still want to keep your pets away from it.

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.