Life Expectancy of Home Components

Written by Posted On Wednesday, 09 January 2008 16:00

One way to prepare for the costs of owning a home beyond the mortgage payment, insurance and taxes, is to know the expected life expectancy of your home's components.

Such knowledge doesn't supersede the use of a home inspector when buying a home, new or old, but it can help you develop a savings plan so you are prepared for the inevitable.

Sooner or later you'll have to repair or replace many of your home's parts -- inside and out.

Knowledge of components' life expectancies is what homeowner associations use, in part, to build a reserve fund designed to spread, over time, the cost of the inevitable.

When the roof goes, the appliances conk out, or the paint begins to fade, it's a lot easier to come up with the cash if you've already got some socked away for just this kind of rainy day.

Last year, the National Association of Home Builders, along with the Bank of America developed the "NAHB/BoA Home Equity Study of Life Expectancy of Home Components" to help you take the guess work out of preparing for the worst.

The report suggests you use the timelines as a general guideline. Local weather conditions, use habits, regular maintenance -- or the lack of it -- can all affect the life expectancy of many components.

Personal tastes for contemporary upgrades, remodeling needs and other factors may also dictate replacing parts before their useful life time is up.

In any event based on a comprehensive telephone survey of manufacturers, trade associations and researchers NAHB developed information about the longevity of housing components.

From the foundation to the rooftop, here's a quick look at how long, on a national average, some of the most common home components are expected to last.

  • Foundations. Poured concrete block footings and slab foundations should last a lifetime, 80 to 100 years or more provided they were quality built. The foundation termite proofing, 12 years, provided the chemical barriers remain intact.

    Properly installed waterproofing with bituminous coating should last 10 years.

  • Flooring. Natural wood flooring has a life expectancy of 100 years or more with proper care. Marble, slate, and granite, likewise, but again, only with proper maintenance. Vinyl floors wear out in 50 years, linoleum about 25 years, and carpet between 8 and 10 years, tops.

  • Electrical system. In the electrical system, copper plated wiring, copper clad aluminum, and bare copper wiring are expected to last a lifetime, whereas electrical accessories and lighting controls are expected to fail not much longer than 10 years.

  • Outside materials. Outside materials typically last a lifetime. Brick, vinyl, engineered wood, stone (both natural and manufactured), and fiber cement typically last as long the house exists. Exterior wood shutters get 20 years, well maintained gutters, 50 if they are copper, 20 years if they are aluminum. Copper downspouts last longest, 100 years or more, while aluminum ones give out after 30 years.

  • Doors. Exterior fiberglass, steel and wood doors will last as long as the house exists, while vinyl and screen doors have a life expectancy of 20 and 40 years, respectively. Closet doors are expected to last a lifetime, and French doors have an average life of 30 to 50 years.

  • Windows. Wooden windows last longer than aluminum ones -- 30 years compared to only 15 or 20.

  • HVAC systems. Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems require a religious regimen of maintenance. Still, most components give up within 25 years. Furnaces break down in 15 to 20 years, heat pumps 16 years, and air conditioning units 10 to 15 years. Tankless water heaters can go for 20 years or more, but electric or gas water heaters only 10 years. Thermostats have a 35-year lifespan but are often replaced for more efficient models.

  • Appliances. Appliances' life expectancies depend largely on how much they are used, but they are typically replaced long before they are done. One must keep up with the Joneses. Among major appliances, gas ranges live15 years, dryers and refrigerators die at 13, compactors, dishwashers and microwave ovens might last until they are 9 years.

  • Roofing. The life of a roof is largely dependant upon local weather conditions, proper building and design, material quality, and adequate maintenance. Slate, copper, and clay/concrete roofs have the longest life expectancy, 50 years or more. Wood shake roofs, go for 30 years, fiber cement shingles last 25 years, asphalt shingles give up at 20.
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    Broderick Perkins

    A journalist for more than 35-years, Broderick Perkins parlayed an old-school, daily newspaper career into a digital news service - Silicon Valley, CA-based DeadlineNews.Com. DeadlineNews.Com offers editorial consulting services and editorial content covering real estate, personal finance and consumer news. You can find DeadlineNews.Com on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter  and Google+

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