• 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.

    Normal maintenance

    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.


    Conventional asphalt shingles12 - 15 years
    Top quality asphalt shingles25 - 30 years
    Low slope shingles 10 - 15 years
    Slate40 - 200 years
    Tar & gravel roof (built-up roof)15 - 20 years
    Single ply roof membrane15 - 20 years
    Roll roofing5 - 10 years


    Gutters & downspouts 20 - 30 years
    Copper gutters and downspouts 50 - 100 years
    Aluminum siding50 plus years
    Wood sidingmaintenance dependent
    Stuccomaintenance dependent
    Exterior paint4 - 6 years
    Deck10 - 20 years
    Asphalt driveway surface10 - 20 years
    Driveway sealer 1 - 3 years 
    Concrete driveway30 - 40 years
    Garage door opener8 - 12 years


    Termite treatment  10 - 20 years


    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


    Air conditioning condenser 10 - 15 years


    Galvanized steel supply pipe40 - 50 years
    Copper pipeindefinite
    Toilet30 - 40 years
    Sink12 - 20 years
    Faucet10 - 15 years
    Whirlpool bath15 - 25 years 
    Shower panunpredictable
    Pump for well10 - 15 years
    Water softener5 - 15 years
    Sump pump 2 - 7 years
    Water heater8 - 12 years
    Tile bathtub enclosure10 - 50 years


    Paint 5 - 10 years 
    Windowsmaintenance dependent