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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: trees

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.

Bob’s Top Tips for Building a Treehouse This Spring

Chelsea O'Donnell

Last week we talked about some tips for planning a treehouse build. This week, I wanted to go over some of the basics to consider when taking this project on. Every treehouse will be different in terms of their size, shape, and configuration, but there are a few common rules to be aware of regardless of the type of hideaway you are building.

Keep Design in Mind

While many people prefer a more rustic approach, there are also hundreds of amazing treehouse plans that you can access through the internet. Check out which offers plans for every size and shape of house and which also includes a shopping list for all the lumber and equipment you’ll need. A treehouse with some pizazz can actually increase your resale value if you decide to move house after the kids have grown and gone.

Level the Floor

Building a structure that’s off the ground is tough, but it’s important to get the platform completely level with the weight evenly distributed between the tree branches or the supports. You can do this by laying the beams across the branches or running the beams between multiple tree trunks and then shimming them until they are level. If you’re building around the base of one tree, you can level it using your supports. Treehouses can last a lifetime and you want to make sure you get the first step right or the rest of the build is going to be more difficult.

Build in Pieces

Rather than trying to construct your house up in the trees, consider building each section on the ground first and then hoisting it into position using a backhoe or a pulley system. Generally, the four walls and the roof can be built on the ground and then assembled when it's on the base. Measurement is key here because you want to be absolutely sure your treehouse fits when it is in place.

Keep the Tree Healthy

Building a treehouse can put a lot of strain on the tree itself and punctures will leave it more susceptible to disease. Use floating brackets to allow for flexible support so the tree can move and sway in the wind the way that it's supposed to. You can purchase specialty fasteners that are made specifically for treehouses that will do less damage and keep the house secure. Also, remember that trees grow and the size it is now will change in 10 or 20 years time. Don't build too tightly around it.

Remember the Extras

A treehouse is all about imagination, so don’t be afraid to get creative with some fun add-ons. A tire-swing, zip line, ladder, bridge, fold down seating, water cannon or a fireman’s pole are some of my favorites. Also, consider making a pulley system to help kids get toys, snacks, and games up to the treehouse so they can climb in and out as safely as possible.

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.

Enjoy Autumn Colors for Longer with These Vibrant Plant Picks

Chelsea O'Donnell

If I had to rank household tasks from easy to downright dreadful, raking leaves would be near the top of my pain in the "you know what" project list. But as much as I cower at the thought of autumn clean up, I must say that the beautiful display of colors from the trees makes this seasonal task just a little bit more palatable. If only those changing leaves would stay on the trees just a little while longer! 

This got me thinking, what if we could enjoy the beautiful colors of fall for more time during the year with less raking and maintenance? With that being said, I have put together a list of my favorite plants and shrubs that offer the look and feel of autumn from spring to the first snow. 

Japanese Maple

This is one of my favorites for its vibrant red leaves that stay bright for three seasons of the year. The Japanese maple is a smaller tree, growing between two and 30 feet tall depending on the variety, but it requires a low level of maintenance (preferring full sun to partial shade) and adds a lot of color to any property.  


This tree blooms early in the spring with bright pink and purple flowers and then transforms through the summer with the appearance of green, tulip-shaped leaves. In the autumn, the leaves turn a nice golden color, making it a real horticultural chameleon with a lot of personality. The tree, which can grow to around 30 feet, even produces bold buds on its trunk and structural branches.

Witch Hazel

My daughter tells me that this shrub is dual functioning as the bark from its stems and roots are extracted and distilled into many popular natural facial toners. But besides its skincare benefits, witch hazel also offers dazzling yellow leaves and flowers that produce a pleasingly spicy scent from October through December.

Burning Bush

With a name like that, you won’t be surprised to find this flowering plant sprouting with fire red leaves that will add a real pop of color to your shrubbery from spring to fall. A word to the wise on this one though – its aggressive growth tendencies actually put it on the list of prohibited plants in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, so you’ll want to keep it well contained.


This one is my wife’s favorite. You might see kale popping up on menus in restaurants all over town, but the vegetable also looks great in the garden and can be used to add loads of color to pots, on porches, and anywhere else around the yard. Kale is one of many cousins in the cabbage family and its green, white and purple leaves have serious staying power – even peeking through after the first winter frost.

This variety of plants, trees and shrubs is really just the tip of the iceberg in terms of keeping fall colors in your yard all year long. What are your favorite autumn-hued plant picks? I'd love to hear from you. Drop me an email or send 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 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.