It's a cliché, but it's probably true: Ais your greatest financial investment. As such, it's natural to be wary of anything that can negatively affect your investment -- like a damaged roof or a unit on the fritz.
Should you be worried about those things, along with the potential failure of everything else in your new home? Not necessarily.
While it's certainly important to be prepared for things to break and need replacement (because it will happen), the truth is much of your home will probably last for years. Here's how long you can expect the various things that make up your new home to last. Keep in mind: These are estimates.
The exterior: Where things could get pricey
Let's start with the major money concerns, which are often out of sight and out of mind until there's a problem, mostly because they're on the outside.
- Average life span: 15 years or more
- Cost of replacement: $5,000 to $8,000 and up
"When was the roof last replaced or repaired?" is one of the more vital questions to ask before purchasing a home. If the answer is 15 years ago or more, you could be looking at roof repairs or a full replacement in the near future.
That said, and harkening back to my college days working in the building materials department of a local hardware store, most shingles come with a 25-year warranty. On top of that, the roofers may offer a lifetime warranty, so your roof may very well last longer than 15 years.
What you can do to prolong the life span of your roof: I'd recommend concerning yourself with what's covering the roof (likely composite shingles, but you may have a metal or tile roof) more so than the roof structure itself. Damage to shingles often occurs during storms, especially those that come with high winds and hail.
While you can't hold an oncoming storm at bay, you can -- and should -- inspect your roof after a major storm to look for signs of damage. Identifying and remedying afflicted areas early can prevent leaks or more extensive damage down the road. Other than that, you'll want to prune any looming limbs above your home to keep them from falling on the roof.
The HVAC unit
- Average life span: 12 to 15 years
- Cost of replacement: $3,500 to $9,500
Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration News states that homeowners should expect 12 to 15 years out of their HVAC unit. After that time, the compressor and other elements are prone to failure, which may lead to costly repairs or a full unit replacement.
Trane puts the average cost of a full HVAC replacement in the $3,500-to-$9,500 range for its HVAC units, but repairs can be cheaper and add to the overall life of your unit. Should you have HVAC issues, trust your HVAC technician to recommend what's best for your home, whether it be minor repairs or a full replacement. A costly replacement can be a tough pill to swallow, but it may be the best, most cost-effective solution long-term.
What you can do to prolong the life span of your HVAC unit: Change those air filters on a regular basis, at least once a quarter but preferably every month. I know, regularly changing your air filters is akin to routine flossing -- everyone knows they should do it but few rarely do. In the case of air filters, a dirty, clogged one will put an extra strain on your HVAC system and could shorten its life span.
On top of changing the filters, check the outdoor unit and make sure the coils (the black or gray exterior of the unit) are free of debris such as leaves, dirt and pollen. You can pick up a can of coil cleaner at your local hardware store, or just give the unit a good spraying with the garden hose.
The foundation and structure
- Average life span: As long as you own the home
- Cost of replacement: $5,000 to $10,000 and up
You're likely not going to be replacing your entire home's foundation or structure; doing so could come with more costs and hassles than the home itself is worth. Repairs, on the other hand, may be necessary.
Normal wear and tear is largely nothing to worry about when it comes to your home's foundation and structure, but water damage and termites can be a problem. Standing or running water can cause cracks in your foundation over time or could affect the structural integrity of your home in a matter of days. Termite colonies, while not as efficient as water when it comes to harming your home, can do minor damage within a few months according to Terminix. If left undetected, they could eat away at your home for years.
What you can do to prolong the life span of your home's foundation and structure: Look for warning signs like standing water, signs of deteriorating wood or a bug that sort of looks like an ant but definitely isn't (here's a guide to what various termites look like, courtesy of Orkin). As soon as you notice an issue, or what could possibly be an issue down the road, call a foundation expert, who may recommend a landscaper in the case of standing water, or a pest control company, depending on the potential problem.
The siding and brick
- Average life span: 20 to 40 years
- Cost of replacement: $4,000 to $15,000
Your home may be equipped with wood, concrete or vinyl siding or brick. All have their own pros and cons, and, in the case of siding, you can expect them all to last for 20 to 40 years. Brick is a bit more hardy and, like your foundation and structure, should last for as long as you own the home but may require the occasional repair.
You may not ever have to fully replace your siding, but instead make minor repairs to remedy any spot damage from a storm. If you do end up having to replace your siding, it'll likely cost a pretty penny, unfortunately. Homeguide.com lists the average cost for a full siding replacement at $4,000 to more than $15,000.
What you can do to prolong the life span of your siding: There isn't a whole lot you can do to prolong the life of vinyl siding other than keeping it clean. If your home has wood or concrete siding, painting as needed (usually around once every five years) will go a long way toward protecting it and keeping it looking nice.
- Average life span: 20 years
- Cost of replacement: $200 to $1,800 per window
Barring a rogue baseball breaking your windowpane, your home's windows should last quite a while, up to 20 years or more according to Forbes.com. The most common issue with windows is a broken seal, which can lead to condensation forming between the panes and fogging up your window. It's not the biggest deal in the world, but it could raise your heating and cooling bill a bit, and the fog is a pane to look at. (Hi, I'm Dad and these are my jokes.)
All joking aside, you may want to replace all your windows before it's fully "needed." Doing so can save you money on your electricity bill and give your home a fresh, new look. Plus, window companies often give considerable discounts when you install multiple windows at once.
What you can do to prolong the life span of your windows: Check around your windows for cracks in the seal several times throughout the year. Go outside and run your hand around where the windows meet the frame. If you feel cool air coming out, or warm air in the winter, you've got a leak. Apply some weatherproof caulk around the seam and your energy bill will thank you.
- Average life span: 10 to 30 years
- Cost of replacement: $10,000 to $20,000 or more
Your deck is probably composed of wood and, even though that wood may be treated, it's going to need your attention year-round. During the winter, water can get into the cracks, then turn to ice, expand and do some real damage. Additionally, the sun beating down on your deck all summer long can cause wood to fade and splinter.
Decks made of composite or PVC materials, though a bit more pricey, are becoming more popular as they typically last longer (up to 50 years or more, according to home improvement company Straight Line Construction) and don't require the same level of maintenance as wood.
What you can do to prolong the life span of your deck: For wood decks, be sure to seal it once a year, preferably before the start of winter or summer. Other than that, keep an eye out for the occasional rotten board or loose spindle and make repairs as needed.
The garage door and opener
- Average life span: 10 to 15 years
- Cost of replacement: $500 or less
Unless you accidentally back into it, the garage door itself is much like your siding in that it'll essentially last the lifetime of your home if you want it to. The garage door opener, on the other hand, could be a different story.
Power garage door openers can last 10 to 15 years, which is shorter than everything we've covered so far, but the good news is that replacing your garage door opener is also the cheapest thing we've talked about. New units are in the $150 to $300 range, and having someone install it shouldn't cost more than a couple hundred bucks. Here's how to tell if it's time to replace your garage door opener.
What you can do to prolong the life span of your garage door opener: Make sure the drive train, sensors and track are free of debris and avoid unnecessary opening and closing.
The interior: Where things are more likely to break
It's more of an inconvenience when these interior items go bad, but fortunately most can be quickly and easily replaced without breaking the bank.
- Average life span: 10 to 15 years
- Cost of replacement: $1,000 to $5,000
Regardless of how long you've had your refrigerator, you can count on it going out when it's fully stocked and you've got a nice big Easter ham chilling in it. In all seriousness, though, your fridge will probably last a decade or longer before it has a tough time keeping its cool.
If your new home came with a refrigerator, you may want to purchase a new one even if the one you have is working fine. There are some seriously smart refrigerators out there that could drastically improve your kitchen.
What you can do to prolong the life span of your refrigerator: Keep the door closed to avoid overworking the unit. Routinely check to make sure the back and underneath the refrigerator is clear of debris. If your refrigerator stops producing ice or dispensing water, check to see if a portion of the water line has frozen.
The washer and dryer
- Average life span: 10 years
- Cost of replacement: $700 to $3,000
Consumer Reports lists the average life span of a washer and dryer to be around 10 years -- that's a lot of laundry.
It's somewhat common for homes to come with a refrigerator, but your home is less likely to come with a washer or dryer. On the positive side, you won't have to worry about how long the existing ones were in use and how much time they have left, but you will have to buy a new washer and dryer. We've got you covered on how to buy both a washer and dryer.
What you can do to prolong the life span of your washer and dryer: A little care can go a long way. Don't overload your washer and clean the lint out of your dryer's screen with every load. These actions will prevent unnecessary strain and help maximize their life span.
- Average life span: 10 years
- Cost of replacement: $500 to $1,500
Like your other washing appliance, the dishwasher is likely to last around 10 years. There are a few things that could go wrong with your dishwasher before and after that 10-year mark, such as leaks, improper draining or simply not getting your dishes clean.
Some dishwasher problems are easier to fix than others, but if you'd rather buy new than fix the old, check out what these new dishwashers can do.
What you can do to prolong the life span of your dishwasher: One of the most important things you can do to protect your dishwasher is to make sure nothing is obstructing the agitator (the spinny thing, probably located below the top rack) before running a cycle. Also, clear dishes of food and debris before loading them into the dishwasher to prevent clogging issues.
The cooking appliances
- Average life span: 7 to 15 years
- Cost of replacement: $100 to $3,000
Microwaves, stovetops and ovens, oh my! They'll bring the heat for years, but the microwave is likely to bite the dust first with an average life span of seven years. As for your stovetop, oven or range (a stovetop and oven in one) -- expect them to last for 13 to 15 years.
There are a few things that can go wrong with your stovetop or oven that may require a repair or full replacement. If you're in the market for a new oven, stovetop or range, there are lots of options.
What you can do to prolong the life span of your cooking appliances: Keep your appliances clean inside and out to avoid buildup that could burn and lead to excessive smoke or fire. And don't put metal in the microwave!
As mentioned at the beginning of this piece, the life spans listed are all estimates and could vary based on any number of factors. That said, I genuinely hope everything in your new home lasts a lifetime or at least until it's time to upgrade.