After highs, lows, he still loves building Ron Nodine joins Home Work column

Home Work

March 08, 1998|By Karol V. Menzie & Ron Nodine

IN HIS 20-odd years in construction, Ron Nodine has had some highs -- tying steel on high-rises being built in Ocean City -- and some lows -- canoeing through downtown New Orleans after rains inundated the city. But nothing has discouraged him about what he does for a living.

"I still love coming to work in the morning," he says.

These days work means mostly home remodeling, from whole-house renovations to additions to simple bathroom and kitchen redesigns, though he still does some commercial projects. Nodine's latest project, however, is a bit of a new direction: He is joining me in writing about home improvement every week in Home Work.

Besides his broad background in construction, Nodine is president of the Remodelers' Council of the Home Builders Association of Maryland. He knows not only what's on the minds of customers and potential customers, he knows what issues are facing other contractors and the industry. He knows what products and solutions are out there and how to find what's new and what's needed. And he knows his way around computers.

Nodine and his wife Charlotte started American Renovator Inc. in 1987. The office is in Hamilton, pretty much the same area where the two grew up and where, except for a dozen years in Louisiana, they've been ever since.

Nodine started learning construction in Ocean City, where he found that by staying throughout the year, he could get plenty of work and learn a variety of skills. When the '70s building boom faded, he returned to Baltimore and did mostly commercial work -- including remodeling the Rotunda shopping center.

He went to New Orleans almost on a whim. Charlotte was already living there, and he was driving her to the airport after a visit back to Baltimore when they decided to spend the air fare on a road trip instead -- and drove to Louisiana.

He worked mostly in home remodeling, and enjoyed the contrast with construction in the mid-Atlantic. "The way things are built down there is very different," he said. "It's all swamp." Many buildings there are built on pilings driven into the ground -- but not all. "We were demolishing one house, and the entire base of the house was an inverted pyramid made of brick, built down into the mud."

Several things conspired to get the Nodines back to Baltimore -- a bust in the oil industry that made work scarce for everyone, desire to be with family and wanting to raise their children in familiar surroundings. They have two children, Rory, 15, and Kaitlyn, 10.

When they started American Renovator, Nodine did all the work himself -- "with a helper or two." These days he does sales and design work, Charlotte runs the office, and an assistant runs project production. Independent contractors do the construction, under their supervision.

"I still like to build things, but these days I don't have time," Nodine said. He does do work for family and friends when he can. "But designing projects is what I've really gotten into lately."

Computers have made a big difference in the industry, he said, mainly because it is possible to draw up a project and give people a clear picture of what something will look like.

One of his favorite recent projects is a kitchen and laundry addition on an older home in eastern Baltimore County. The shore property originally was a summer shack, built probably in the '20s or '30s. In the '40s, the shack got a two-story addition. But the homeowners wanted a new kitchen.

Nodine found a way to tuck the new space between the original house and the later addition, with an angled entrance for visual interest. New windows opened up the space to take advantage of the views.

"It really made a difference," Nodine said.

The first topic Ron and Karol will be tackling, starting next week, is a popular one this time of year: Screened porches. We'll talk about various design options (will you be screening in an existing area or building a new space?) and about the variety of materials and styles for construction. Should be just the thing to get you dreaming while we all wait for the ground to dry out.

If you have questions, tips or experiences to share about working on houses, e-mail karol.menzialtsun.com. Or write c/o HOME WORK, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278. Questions of general interest will be answered in the column; comments, tips and experiences will be reported in occasional columns.

Pub Date: 3/08/98

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