Life Expectancy of Home Components

November 1st 2007
Life Expectancy of Home Components

How many years of service can a homeowner reasonably expect from a roof, window, furnace or hotwater heater? A 2006 study conducted by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) provides insight into the life expectancies of a number of products in the home. It takes into account numerous factors that include use, maintenance, climate and advances in technology. It's important to remember that the life expectancies for materials included in this study are averages. Factors such as installation, maintenance, climate and quality will have a dramatic effect on the longevity.

Among the findings of the study:

  • Appliances - Of the major appliances in a home, gas ranges have the longest life expectancy, at 15 years. Dryers and refrigerators last about 13 years. Appliances with the shortest life spans are: compactors (six years), dishwashers (nine years) and microwave ovens (nine years). Some appliances don't meet their life expectancy, however, because changes in styling, technology and consumer preferences may make newer products more desirable. Also, how long they last depends on how much they are used.

  • Cabinetry and Storage - Kitchen cabinets are expected to last up to 50 years, medicine cabinets for more than 20 years and garage/laundry cabinets for 100 years or more. Closet shelves can last for a lifetime.

  • Concrete and Masonry - Masonry is one of the most durable components of the home. Chimneys, fireplaces and brick veneers can last a lifetime, and brick walls have an average life expectancy of more than 100 years.

  • Countertops - Natural stone, which is less expensive than a few years ago and gaining in popularity, can last a lifetime. Cultured marble, by contrast, is relatively short-lived, with an age expectancy of 20 years.

  • Decks - The life span of these can vary significantly according to different climates, but they should be around for a good 20 years under ideal conditions.

  • Doors - Exterior fiberglass, steel and wood doors will last as long as the house stands, while vinyl and screen doors have life expectancies of 20 and 40 years, respectively. Closet doors are expected to last a lifetime, French doors for 30 to 50 years.

  • Electrical and Lighting - Floor and roof trusses and laminated stranded lumber are good for a lifetime, engineered trim for 30 years.

  • Faucets and Fixtures - Kitchen sinks made of modified acrylic will last 50 years, faucets will work properly for about 15. Bathroom shower enclosures can stick around for 50 years, although the shower doors could be in a serious state of decline in about 20 years. Showerheads last a lifetime, as will toilets, although tank components require some maintenance. The durability of whirlpool tubs ranges fairly widely - from 20 to 50 years - depending on use.

  • Flooring - All natural wood flooring, and marble, slate and granite will last for 100 years if they are well taken care of. Vinyl floors will endure for up to 50 years, linoleum about 25 years and carpet between eight and 10 years, depending on traffic and care.

  • Footings and Foundations - Poured as well as concrete block footings and foundations last a lifetime, assuming they were properly built. Termite proofing will protect foundations for about 12 years if the chemical barriers put in place during construction are left intact. Waterproofing with bituminous coating can start to spring leaks in 10 years, unless it cracks, in which case mortal damage is immediate. Concrete or cast iron waste pipes are made to last a century at least.

  • Framing and Other Structural Systems - Poured-concrete systems, timber frame houses and structural insulated panels will all last a lifetime, as will wall panels and roof and floor trusses. Softwood, hardboard and plywood average 30 years, while OSB and particleboard last twice as long.

  • Garages - Garage doors last 10 to 15 years, and light inserts for 20.

  • Home Technology - A built-in audio system will last 20 years, but security systems and heat and smoke detectors will only be around for five to 10. Wireless home networks and home automation systems are expected to work properly for more than 50 years.

  • Heating, Venting and Air Conditioning - HVAC systems need proper and regular maintenance in order to work, but even when they are pampered most of their components last only 15 to 25 years. Furnaces live for 15 to 20 years, heat pumps for 16 and air conditioning 10 to 15. Tankless water heaters last more than 20 years, while an electric or gas water heater has a life expectancy of about 10 years. Thermostats usually are replaced before the end of their 35-year life span because of technological improvements.

  • Insulation and Infiltration Barriers - Cellulose, fiberglass and foam used in insulation materials will last a lifetime provided that they are not punctured, cut or burned; are kept dry; and are not subjected to UV rays. This pertains whether the insulation was applied as loose fill, house wrap or batts and rolls.

  • Molding and Millwork - Custom millwork and circular and spiral, pre-built and attic stairs are all expected to last a lifetime.

  • Paints, Caulks and Adhesives - Interior and exterior paints can last for 15 years or longer, although home owners tend to repaint more often.

  • Panels - Hardboard and softwood panels are expected to last 30 years, while oriented strand board and particleboard have a life expectancy of 60 years. Wall panels are expected to last for a lifetime.

  • Roofing - Slate, copper and clay/concrete roofs have a 50-year life expectancy; asphalt-shingle roofs, 20 years; fiber cement shingles, 25 years; and wood shakes, 30 years. However, the life of a roof depends on local weather conditions, proper building and design, material quality and adequate maintenance.

  • Siding and Accessories - Outside materials typically last a lifetime. Brick, engineered wood, both natural and manufactured stone and fiber cement will last as long as the house. Exterior wood shutters are expected to last 20 years, depending on the weather. Gutters made of copper can last 50 years, of aluminum, 20. Copper downspouts last 100 years or more; aluminum, 30 years.

  • Site and Landscaping - Most landscaping elements have a life expectancy of 15 to 25 years. Sprinklers and valves last 20 years; underground PVC piping, 25 years. Polyvinyl fences are designed to last a lifetime, and asphalt driveways should last up to 15 to 20 years. Tennis courts can last a lifetime if they receive a new coat when they need one every 12 to 15 years. The concrete shell of a pool should do swimmingly for more than 25 years; the interior plaster and tile will start showing their age in about 10 to 25 years.

  • Walls, Ceilings and Finishes - They should stick around for the entire life of the home.

  • Windows and Skylights - Aluminum windows last between 15 and 20 years, while wooden windows can last upwards of 30 years.