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Space-starved families remodeling


THE WINDOWS are caulked, the water pipes are insulated, the furnace is humming along nicely, keeping you toasty -- what's left to do this winter?

How about taking a look ahead at some of the trends that are developing as we head into the next millennium?

Here are some things we've spotted on the horizon:

* The biggest trend in remodeling today is remodeling. According to the Remodelors Council of the National Association of Home Builders, remodeling expenditures in the United States are expected to exceed $140 billion in 2000, up from more than $120 billion in 1997.

Growth in the remodeling market is anticipated to be 3 percent to 5 percent per year over the next decade -- all signs that remodeling is a trend that's here to stay. In fact, the Remodelors Council predicts that by 2010, dollars spent on remodeling will actually exceed spending on new homes.

There are a number of factors behind the increase. For one thing, houses are getting older. While the median age of housing stock in the mid-1980s was 23 years, today that figure has climbed to nearly 30 years. And one of the primary characteristics that differentiates new houses from their older counterparts is size. Most homes built in the 1950s had less than 1,500 square feet of living space; the median size of new homes built today is just over 2,000 square feet.

To fill the extra 600 or so square feet, newer homes typically have more bathrooms, more closets, more fireplaces, more specialty rooms such as media rooms and great rooms and other features that were once seen as luxuries but are now considered standard.

In the past, typically, dad worked and mom stayed home and took care of the kids and the house. When a family outgrew their house, they would buy a bigger one. Today, both parents often work, so they want to maximize their time at home. Moving up means moving out -- maybe way, way out in the country.

The most common reason Ron's clients cite for choosing to remodel instead of moving is that they don't want to leave their neighborhood. The logical solution is to stay put and change your house to what you need it to be.

* One of the main problems of older homes is small bedrooms with tiny closets.

Ron is seeing a lot of master bedroom additions these days. Owners get the space they need, with their own bathroom and large closets. Added benefits are freeing up a bedroom and reducing traffic in the existing bathroom.

* Older homes typically were divided into a lot of separate rooms. Opening up those spaces by knocking out the wall between the kitchen and dining room or family room, or by putting on an addition, is a hot item in the '90s. More open space allows a busy family to interact while doing different things in different spaces.

* Another hot item is home offices. With computers, fax machines, scanners and the Internet, more and more people are working from their homes. There are many benefits: You don't have to get dressed in the morning, you can be home with your kids, there's no commuting or parking.

Creating a home office can be as simple as putting a desk and a phone line in the corner of a bedroom or family room.

Or it can involve converting a little-used room, or carving out some space in the attic or basement. Or it can be more complicated, such as building an addition.

* In-law apartments, spaces that often include bedroom, bath and sitting room, are another popular trend. Having a grandparent around can be a big help to a young family, especially when both parents work. Sometimes the apartment can be carved from existing space; sometimes it requires an addition, or a combination of renovation and addition. The cost may even be paid by the occupying grandparents.

However, there are some zoning issues to be aware of if you are considering an in-law space. In Baltimore County, for example, you can have a living space for as many people as you like added to your house.

The catch is that everyone has to share a single kitchen. To add a second kitchen to a single-family residence requires a zoning appeal. The process can take months, and it isn't free. If you are thinking about an in-law apartment, contact the zoning department of your local building permit office for more information.

Ron Nodine is owner of American Renovator Inc., a Baltimore design-build remodeling firm, and current 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 or Karol at 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.

Pub Date: 1/10/99

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