real estate

What's the life span of a house?

Bright brick and wood cottage under a blue sky, with a winged clock in the foreground
Highlights
  • Concrete, brick, copper, stone products can last a lifetime or a century.
  • Major appliances may conk out after just 10 to 15 years of normal use.
  • Homebuyers should consider remaining useful life of house components.

A house may survive for hundreds of years. But the individual components that make up the house may -- or may not -- be as resilient. Components made of concrete or brick can last a long time while major appliances are almost disposable, despite how costly they are to purchase, repair and replace.

Examples of especially sturdy products include cabinets in a garage or laundry room, brick pavers, a concrete or cast iron waste pipe and copper rain gutter downspouts, all of which can last 100 years or longer, according to a 2007 National Association of Home Builders, or NAHB, study of home components' life expectancy. Other durables that can last a lifetime include natural stone or tile countertops, fiberglass, wood or fire-rated steel exterior doors, copper wiring, wood floors, walls, ceilings and most types of insulation.

Small appliances may die after just a decade

Household appliances such as a trash compactor, compact refrigerator, microwave oven and humidifier have much shorter average life spans of about nine to 10 years. A gas range, which has an average life span of about 15 years, is one of the longest-lasting household appliances, according to the NAHB survey.

Other household components that have a relatively short average lifespan include:

  • Aluminum roof coating (three to seven years).
  • Enamel steel sinks (five to 10 years).
  • Security system (five to 10 years).
  • Carpet (eight to 10 years).
  • Smoke detector (fewer than 10 years).
  • Faucets (10 to 15 years).
  • Garage door opener (10 to 15 years).
  • Air conditioner (10 to 15 years).
  • Asphalt (12 to 15 years).
  • Termite-proofing during construction (12 years).

Homeowners may choose to replace items early

The NAHB study cautions that these life expectancies are only averages and the actual life span of an individual house's component will depend greatly on the quality of installation, level of maintenance, weather and climate conditions and intensity of use.

 

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Many homeowners choose to swap out house components or appliances before the end of their useful life due to "changing styles and preferences or improvements in newer products," the study states. Tax credits, rebates and the introduction of new models that are more energy efficient and thus less costly to operate also may spur homeowners to replace items before the originals reach the end of their useful life. Newer products don't always have a longer life span than older models, however.

 

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