Sum of the Parts

Hints for budgeting those never-ending home repairs

Most of the components of your home have a finite life span, as anyone who owns an older house can attest. Unless you have a budget for new construction or are willing to move every few years, it is useful to know how long you can expect various home components to last.

Very few home components are actually expected to last a lifetime, or roughly 100 years. Brick walls and clay tile roofs, if well-maintained and repaired on a timely basis, can survive a century or more, as can natural stone countertops and floors made of stone, granite, slate and even hardwoods. In the case of hardwood, regular maintenance will be needed.

Most roofs typically last 15-20 years. Asphalt shingles have an average lifetime of about 20 years. Wood shake roofs can be expected to last between 15-30 years. Slate roofs are more expensive, in part because their average life is about 50 years. The key to the longevity of a roof is to repair any damaged or loose shingles and flashing as soon as possible and before water can penetrate the structure.

It is useful to know how long you can expect various home components to last

Vinyl and metal siding is quite durable and can last 20-50 years. The life of metal siding is extended by regular painting. Wood siding can last as long or longer, but does require regular maintenance or can require full replacement in as little as a decade. Masonry such as stone, cement and stucco can also last 25 years or longer if it is repaired immediately when damaged.

Whole-house furnaces will usually last 15-20 years, with regular maintenance. Whole-house air conditioning systems have a slightly shorter lifespan. Among water heaters, the newer tankless units are expected to last about 20 years or more, while standard electric units usually need to be replaced in about 13-14 years. Gas water heaters average about 10-12 years.

Of note, while the wiring in your home, whether copper or copper-plated, is also expected to last a lifetime, the electrical outlets and light switches connected to it usually have a significantly shorter span—only 10-plus years. Keep an eye on these for signs of wear and tear, including looseness and discoloration caused by heat, and replace them at the first sign of problems.

Tom Mirabella is President of LIHome411.com, a directory of prescreened home improvement contractors on Long Island that specializes in helping homeowners find the right contractors for any job.