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The Home Sweet Home Inspection Tip of the Week

Home Inspector with Home Sweet Home Inspection Services

How long will my water heater last?  How long do you think the air conditioner will last before I have to replace it? When do you think I will have to replace my roof? How much longer do you think the decking will last? How long will the paint last on the exterior of my home? The heating unit is 20 years old, should I replace it?

These are just a few of the questions that I am asked on a regular basis. If I knew the answers to these questions I wouldn't be a home inspector but instead playing blackjack in Vegas.

When I'm asked, I use guidelines in determining how long an appliance will last. I make sure to tell my client that this is exactly what it is, a guideline. I have had a roof on my home that was original to the house, 32 years old, and worked as intended. It did not leak nor was there any sheathing decay.  Granted, granules were missing, vent boots had to be replaced but the fields of the roof were working. Notice I didn't talk about how good it looked.

When talking about longevity, we have to talk about advances in technology. I inspected a home where the heating unit was over 50 years old. The serial number of the unit was 025, obviously one of the first right off of the assembly line. This unit was a beast. This was the biggest heating unit I ever saw for a home that was 1200 square feet in size. It did fire up when I set the thermostat and it produced heat as intended but at what cost.

It is not my place to tell clients how long something will last because I truly do not know. I will give them estimates and discuss the energy efficiency of new models. If it works, it works. When deciding on replacement of a system or a cost to repair it, it is important to take into account the energy efficiency of the existing system and how well the system has been maintained.

We all have our own cost pain threshold when it comes to cost of replacement versus repair. When making the decision, think of energy efficiency, which could reduce the overall cost with years of energy savings. The link provided is to the National Association of Home Builders. This will give you an idea of guidelines for appliance and system life. This is by no means the only list of its kind. Many organizations have there own guidelines but this will give you a start in determining life expectancy of home components. http://www.nahb.org/fileUpload_details.aspx?contentID=72475.

Instead of thinking how long something is going to last, it is important to maintain a system at peak efficiency. Whether that means keeping your gutters clean, cleaning debris off of your roof, changing your air filters, testing our water heater TPR valve or testing your GFCI's, the more we do to keep our systems running at peak performance, the better off we will be in the long run. And Why Not?

Retired Notworking
Tallahassee, FL

Many homeowners don't realize the importance of maintaining the systems in their homes and find themselves with lots of repairs when it comes time to sell. It's a good idea to share the life expectancies of various items with them and stress the importance of keeping them in good working order.

Sep 07, 2008 01:44 PM
Donna Harris
Donna Homes, powered by JPAR - TexasRealEstateMediationServices.com - Austin, TX
Realtor,Mediator,Ombudsman,Property Tax Arbitrator

That's good that you don't give "definite" answers.  I really hate it when a buyer tries to negotiate "future repairs/replacement".  You can't ask a seller to pay for something that will need to be repaired or replaced in the future.  Everything in the house will need to be replaced or repaired in the future, but when...  As for the roof, we just tell buyers to wait for the next hail storm to get a new roof! ;)

Sep 07, 2008 02:26 PM
Charles Dillard
Dryer Vent Wizard - Oak Park, MI

Another thing to keep an eye out for could be the dryer vent system.  In order to keep the dryer running at optimum performance(which will maintain the life expectancy of the dryer), decrease energy costs, etc. it is recommended by most dryer manufacturers that foil and plastic not be used.  They specifically recommend a heavy metal vent which reduces the chance for lint to build up in the line and helps to prevent a fire from spreading if any lint should happen to ignite due to improper maintenance of the dryer vent.

Sep 07, 2008 02:37 PM
Louis Agudo
Home Sweet Home Inspection Services - Roswell, GA
Roswell Home Inspector

Colleen- My experience is that no one budgets for maintenance. I think part of the reason I hear is that "why should I maintain it, I have a home warranty. If it breaks they come and fix it." In a future blog I will discuss how costly repair over maintenance can be.

Donna- That's funny when a buyer tries to negotiate future repairs. Sort of like a seller negotiating a higher price because the market will eventually rebound. Hail, ah yes. I have seen quite a few of those roofs ;)

Charles- I always recommend a cleaning and changing over of the vent system. Especially when the sale of a home includes the dryer. I make sure to let them know that I want the dryer removed and the vent system taken care of. This is certainly a safety issue. Do they do it. I don't know but at least I did what I could.

Sep 08, 2008 04:57 AM