How can I plan for long-term home maintenance?

A while back, the National Association of Home Builders and Bank of America issued a joint report: “Study of the Life Expectancy of Home Components.” The title makes it sound like a big snore, but a close read yields some interesting stuff, along with some timeless tips to help homeowners plan long-term maintenance of their properties.

Hundreds of phone calls to manufacturers, trade associations and researchers who spend most of their time thinking about how long housing components last went into making the report. Many of them emphasized that life expectancy is affected by how well we maintain our homes. We also love remodeling– and often replace stuff long before we need to (I could digress here about how home remodeling incorporates tons of anti-green practices, but won’t).

So here’s how long some of our stuff is supposed to last:

Appliances: Gas ranges have the longest life expectancy at 15 years. Dryers and refrigerators give out after about 13 years. The shortest lifespans belong to the compactors (6 years), dishwashers (9 years) and microwave ovens (9 years). No mention was made of toaster ovens– probably because those suckers last f-o-r-e-v-e-r.

Cabinetry and Storage: Kitchen cabinets are expected to last 50 years– that’s long enough for them to look cool, then ugly, then cool again. Medicine cabinets can hang in there for 20 years.

Countertops: Natural stone can last a lifetime. Cultured marble countertops (think bathroom, not kitchen) can go about 20 years. I looked up Cesarstone– my new favorite counter material. The warranty only lasts 10 years. I also dug around for info on how long green alternatives last, but all I learned is that PaperStone and glass composite countertops have lifespans ‘comparable to standard countertop material.’

Decks: Lifespan differs depending on region, but under ideal conditions they last about 20 years. I dread a deck inspection when I sell a house because it’s alwys a hotspot for its exposure to wet leads to inevitable dry rot. Again, think green and check out Trex Decks.

Doors: Your exterior wood door will last as long as your house. Vinyl doors are only good for 20 years, which I think is kind of weird because vinyl is supposed to be more weather and water resistant. Maybe the framing cracks?

Sinks and Faucets: Kitchen sinks made of modified acrylic (like Swanstone) will last 50 years. Kitchen faucets can go about 15 years. Showerheads last a lifetime and whirlpool tubs can go 20-50 years, depending on use.

Heat: Furnaces last 15-20 years. Standard water heaters give out after about 10 years. Tankless water heaters go more than 20. I love tankless water heaters, but am told that it can be difficult to retrofit our older homes for them.

Roofing: If you want your roof to last more than 50 years, go for slate, copper or clay/concrete. Asphalt shingles last about 20 years. Fiber cement shingles can go 25 and wood shake can hang in there for about 30 years.

Dreaming of San Francisco? Cece Blase offers local advice to San Francisco buyers, sellers and owners– and feeds the dreams of those who wish they could live in Tony Bennett’s ‘City by the Bay.’ Call 415-577-0809 or email