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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: wood

A Good Cleaning Will Extend the Life of Your Deck for Years

Chelsea O'Donnell

I hope you all had a fantastic Fourth of July! While celebrating with family at a backyard barbecue, I started thinking about decks, patios, and the outdoor spaces that we all enjoy during the summer. Sure, they are wonderful to have, but they take a lot of work too. So let’s talk about how to best maintain them, starting with a deck. 

The life expectancy of a wood deck is about 10 to 15 years, but did you know that it could last north of 20 years with proper cleaning and maintenance? That’s right, with a good seasonal scrub and sealing, your deck could stay looking beautiful long after your neighbors’ needs replacing.

A deck takes a lot of abuse during the seasons. The summer sun is especially harsh and the humidity forces the wood to expand and contract, which can lead to shifting and splitting. The winter is no picnic either as snow, ice, and freezing temperatures will do their fair share of damage to both the surface and the joists. With all those elements taking their toll, it’s no wonder why a deck is so susceptible to rot. Luckily, there is plenty that you can do to take care of it, so let’s get to it.

Attack the Crevices

The first thing you have to do is sweep the surface of your deck clean, and then grab a putty knife to dislodge all the debris stuck in the nooks and crannies. Whirlybirds and leaves can do a lot more damage than you think because they begin to rot as soon as they get wet. Leaving them trapped in the wood will most certainly send your deck to an early grave. This is also a great time to sand down any splintered areas and replace deteriorated or popped nails or screws.

Scrub the Wood

Once your surface is completely debris-free, it’s time to give the wood a deep clean. You might remember my affinity for a pressure washer and deck cleaning is where this machine really shines. A year’s worth of dirt, mildew, and gunk can be tough to take off, and while a stiff scrub brush and some serious back-aching effort will do the trick, the pressure washer will tackle the task in half the time. Many people recommend a bleach and water solution but I prefer to use a non-toxic alternative such as Spray Nine which has no corrosive chemicals and won’t kill your plants. Give the deck a good, solid coating of cleaner and let it sit for 15 minutes before pressure washing or scrubbing.

Stain and Seal

Staining the deck is an optional step but sealing it shouldn't be. Many decks experience discoloration over time and staining is one great way to give your wood a facelift and make it look new. But regardless of if you’re staining or not, applying a weather-resistant seal is your best defense against having the replace your deck sooner than you expected. Apply the sealant in a thin coat using a medium paintbrush or a roller, working with the wood grain to ensure an even finish. It’s important not to apply the sealant in direct sun as it will dry too quickly and the wood won’t be able to absorb it. If instructed, apply a second coat, working in the same way. Finally, allow the sealant to dry for 24 to 48 hours before placing deck furniture or planters back on the surface.

Now sit back, relax, and enjoy your beautiful like-new deck for the rest of the summer and beyond. Your wood will thank you.

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 http://www.odonnellbros.com. Advice is for guidance only.


Fencing Options for Backyard Privacy

Chelsea O'Donnell


With the warmer weather finally here, chances are you’ll be thinking about ways to upgrade your outdoor space this month. After all, having a private backyard oasis to enjoy during the summertime is one of my favorite things about being a homeowner.

In my experience, creating a place that’s inviting and relaxing can make balmy weekday evenings feel like a mini-vacation, especially when a barbecue or bonfire is involved. But having an at-home retreat also means taking steps to ensure that your backyard is private and secure, especially when there is a pool or water feature involved. So today, I’d like to give you a peek into a range of fencing options to protect your yard and provide seclusion without forgoing great design.

Many homeowners love the aesthetic of a beautiful, timeless wood fence. They look elegant, provide fantastic privacy, and are easy to install. The downside, of course, is maintenance and with our hot summers and brutal winters, a wood fence will need regular staining or painting, a job that every homeowner dreads. On the positive side, if you like to update the look of your backyard frequently, wood can be painted in any color imaginable and it’s one of the most affordable options on the market. A six-foot panel will run around $25-$50 depending on the type of wood.

If you love the look of wood, but the upkeep has you thinking twice about the material, you might want to think about composite fencing. Composite is made from engineered wood, and while it mimics the look of the natural stuff, its lifespan is much longer with very little maintenance requirements and no worry that it will rot, splinter or warp.  The cost will vary based on the design and type, but you can expect to pay $100-$150 per six-foot section.

If you want something that’s sturdy and maintenance free, a chain link fence might be a good option for you. While they generally aren’t the most stylish in terms of design, a chain link fence will keep your backyard protected and they can be slightly customized in different colors and gauges. If you need more privacy, you can upgrade a chain link fence with metal slats. Best of all, it’s the cheapest of options, coming in at $100 or less for a 50-foot roll. If you like the idea of a metal fence, but prefer something a little more upscale, go for an aluminum option, which is powder coated and needs very little maintenance. A six-foot panel will run you $50-$75 depending on the height.

Finally, if you want something that will protect your yard without making it feel enclosed, there’s nothing like glass. A glass or plexiglass panel fence is beautiful for a yard with a view or to enclose a pool without shutting out the rest of your property. Glass fences are durable, but they do tend to scratch easily and need to be cleaned regularly. They are also generally the most expensive fencing option, especially if they need to enclose a large area or in-ground pool.

With so many options, which do you like best? Send me an email or message me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/odonnellbros

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 http://www.odonnellbros.com. Advice is for guidance only.

Wood, Pellet, or Gas? What is the Best Solution for a Home Heating Stove?

Chelsea O'Donnell

A beautiful fireplace adds both warmth and ambiance to any home, especially as the days get cooler and we begin spending more time indoors. Back in the day, the only option for a fireplace was one that burned wood, but now we have several options to keep us toasty - each with their benefits and drawbacks. If you’re thinking about upgrading your fireplace or trying something new, here are a few things to consider.

Wood

The classic choice. There are so many reasons to love wood from the traditional crackling sound that it makes to the hypnotic dancing of natural flames. I consider wood to be the fastest heater for the money in that you can quickly warm up a home without having to worry about your electricity bills. Another reason to love wood is if you have it. For rural or wooded area homes that need an annual clean-up, your fuel is free as long as you don’t mind the man hours. Think of it as a great workout.

Of course with the pros comes the cons. If you don’t have wood readily available, it can get very expensive. If you do, you still have to cut and stack it yourself. It also needs to stay dry in order to light reliably. Wood is also pretty messy and while those piles can look great if they are well constructed, they are also perfect homes for rodents, termites, and mold. Finally, there is the efficiency factor. Wood burns hot and fast and regulating temperature is a lot tougher than other heating methods. It also emits particles into the air, which could affect people with breathing problems or asthma. And of course, there is also the need for a chimney which may make it prohibitive for some people.

Pellet

A pellet fireplace or stove uses small, compressed cylinders of sawdust to heat the home. What’s great about pellet stoves is that they are temperature regulated and don’t require a traditional chimney since many stoves use blowers to circulate heat. Another reason to love them is their efficiency. Because heat can be regulated and pellets are easier to maneuver, most homeowners can expect a cleaner, less labor intensive burn.

Of course, pellet stoves have a few negative aspects to also consider. While cleaner burning than wood, pellets are made from sawdust, which will bother people who are sensitive to dust, dander, and pollen. Similar to wood, there is also ash to consider, which needs to be dumped regularly to keep the fire burning efficiently. Pellet stoves are generally more intricate than a wood fireplace, which means there is more to clean and maintain. Finally, most stoves run on electricity which means you’re paying for both the pellets and the energy to burn them.

Natural Gas

Natural gas fireplaces have become one of the most popular options today, mainly because a unit can be fit into an existing fireplace or practically anywhere in the home. People love gas because it’s fast to heat, easy to control, and doesn’t require a chimney or electricity. Simply set the temperature you want and you’re ready to go. In comparison to wood or pellets, natural gas emits the least amount of particles, making it a popular choice for people who have breathing sensitivities. As long as your house already has natural gas, the set up is really easy and you don’t have to worry about buying anything to burn to keep your home warm.

While natural gas does tick plenty of boxes, there are a few things to think about. Admittedly, natural gas flames are the most boring and predictable, making it the least ambiance-friendly option of the three. Of course, you’re also burning a fossil fuel, which is inexpensive right now but can always go up. Finally, if you don’t already have a gas line, you’ll need to get one installed, which might end up being more of a hassle than it’s worth. Just another thing to think about but one that’s well worth considering.

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.