A remodeler decides it's time to work on his home

Home Work

August 01, 1999|By Karol V. Menzie and Ron Nodine

RON HAS NOW found out what it's like to jump from the frying pan into the fire. He's remodeling his house.

When a remodeler is doing work on his own house, you would think it would be a breeze, wouldn't you?

Well, it isn't working out that way for Ron and Charlotte. They live in a 1920s-era bungalow in Parkville. When they moved in 12 years ago, the house was adequate. There were two bedrooms upstairs and one downstairs. The largest bedroom was upstairs, but they didn't want either of the kids to be downstairs by themselves, so they took the smaller bedroom on the first level.

Rory, who was 4, got the big bedroom, and the other one went to Katey, who was born a few months after they moved in.

In the last 12 years or so Ron has renovated every room in the house except the master bedroom. As the family grew and needed more space, the Nodines first expanded into the basement.

They set it up primarily for the kids. Half is for recreation -- TV, Nintendo, computer etc. -- and the other half has a table and vinyl floor for messy activities such as painting and eating. That space also has a TV -- which means everybody can watch what they want. It worked. The kids had their own space to do things without fighting with each other or getting in their parents' way. Their toys were no longer scattered all over the living room, and the Play-Doh and paint sets weren't in the kitchen.

The Nodines also had to add a powder room in the basement, because the house had only one bathroom -- which, of course, has been a continuing problem.

Now the children are getting older, and bigger, their friends are bigger, their toys are bigger, and the Nodines are outgrowing the house again.

Faced with the typical remodeling dilemma, move or expand, they decided to stay. They like their location, and they don't want to uproot the children.

The solution is to build an addition -- but what would the addition be? They needed more living space, a better laundry room, and a larger master bedroom with a private bath (they really don't want to share the bathroom with the kids anymore) and more closet space.

At first they looked at keeping the existing bedroom on the first floor, and removing the existing closet to allow more space. The new closet and master bath would occupy part of the adjoining addition, and the remaining space there would be a family room.

Only this didn't solve all of the problems. Charlotte still wanted a big laundry area and an exercise room. All that wouldn't fit into a one-story addition, so they considered a two-story one.

Now the master bedroom and bath would be on the second floor, leaving plenty of room on the first floor for all the other things. The problem with that proposal is the cost -- not only the cost of the addition, but the other work that would have to be done to the existing house to make it work.

Doing that much work on this particular house in this particular area would be over-improving it -- that is, spending more money than could possibly be recouped should the house be sold. One of the goals of any remodeling project is to enhance the value of the house. The Remodelors' Council of the National Association of Home Builders puts out a yearly survey of which improvements result in the most added value to homes in different parts of the country. (Kitchen and bath improvements are usually at the top of the list, returning as much as 115 percent of their cost at sale time in some parts of the country.) (Check out Ron's Web site at www.renovator.net. Go to the design area and click on Product Resources. The cost vs. value report is at the top of the list. Click on that for the statistics.)

So, while the Nodines really liked the idea of a two-story addition, they decided it wasn't practical.

What they finally settled on was the one-story addition. The whole addition would be the master bedroom and bath. The existing bedroom adjoining it would be the exercise room, and part of the master suite.

The tiny basement laundry was moved to a much larger former storage space, also in the basement, and the storage space was moved to the former laundry. (Meaning, in one of those little items you can't put a value on, they had to get rid of a ton of old stuff.)

At some point, they plan to expand the existing living room into some of the front porch space (they never use the porch) to make that a more comfortable, usable space.

That will solve all the family space problems -- except for the kids, of course. They still have to share one bathroom and they have to live with the space in the basement.

Too bad, Ron says. They'll grow up and move out anyway. "We are doing this for ourselves, for a change."

Ron Nodine is owner of American Renovator Inc., a Baltimore design-build remodeling firm, and former president of the Remodelors Council of the Home Builders Association of Maryland. Karol Menzie is a feature writer for The Sun.

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

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