In search of the perfect house
The 1% rule
When you consider the life cycle of every component of a house, a reasonable annual estimate of the cost of normal maintenance is 1% of the value of the house. One year you may replace the furnace; a few years down the road you may re-surface the roof. Throw in the odd unexpected repair in between and you average 1% per year. It’s incredible but this rule is not far off, both for very expensive and very inexpensive houses.
If you strip away the cosmetics, a house is made up of the structure, roof, exterior envelope and the “systems” of the house. The “systems” are things like heating, plumbing, electrical and cooling.
All components and systems eventually wear out. Fortunately, they don’t all wear out at the same time. Different components have different life cycles. Houses tend to settle into what you might call a “normal maintenance pattern”.
What's the message here?
A homebuyer should arrive at the home inspection with realistic expectations. If you are buying a 12-15 year old home, let’s face it, you may need a new roof covering. If you are buying a 60 year old home, you may have to update some plumbing. Don’t let this scare you away from a perfectly good home.
How long does it last?
Here is a short list of typical life cycles of the most common components of the home. Please keep in mind that there will be exceptions in every category.
Roof Conventional asphalt shingles 12 - 15 years Top quality asphalt shingles 25 - 30 years Low slope shingles 10 - 15 years Slate 40 - 200 years Tar & gravel roof (built-up roof) 15 - 20 years Single ply roof membrane 15 - 20 years Roll roofing 5 - 10 years Exterior Gutters & downspouts 20 - 30 years Copper gutters and downspouts 50 - 100 years Aluminum siding 50 plus years Wood siding maintenance dependent Stucco maintenance dependent Exterior paint 4 - 6 years Deck 10 - 20 years Asphalt driveway surface 10 - 20 years Driveway sealer 1 - 3 years Concrete driveway 30 - 40 years Garage door opener 8 - 12 years Structure Termite treatment 10 - 20 years Heat Conventional furnace 20 - 25 years Mid efficiency furnace 20 - 25 years High efficiency furnace unknown, suspect < 20 years Cast iron boiler 35 - 50 years Steel boiler 20 - 30 years Copper tube boiler 10 - 20 years Humidifier 5 - 10 years Electronic air filter 10 - 20 years Cooling Air conditioning condenser 10 - 15 years Plumbing Galvanized steel supply pipe 40 - 50 years Copper pipe indefinite Toilet 30 - 40 years Sink 12 - 20 years Faucet 10 - 15 years Whirlpool bath 15 - 25 years Shower pan unpredictable Pump for well 10 - 15 years Water softener 5 - 15 years Sump pump 2 - 7 years Water heater 8 - 12 years Tile bathtub enclosure 10 - 50 years Interior Paint 5 - 10 years Windows maintenance dependent