In Search of the Perfect House

neglia_admin April 30, 2013

With the spring real estate market in full swing, many potential home buyers are in pursuit of the perfect house. Unfortunately, our experience over the past 35 years and more than 120,000 inspections has shown us that no home is perfect, even if it is brand new.

A lot of the homes we inspect do not have major issues, but it is important to understand that no home is perfect. Since absolute perfection is not an option, when you are potentially purchasing a home what should you expect in terms of regular maintenance and repair costs? The 1% rule.

When you consider the life cycle of every component of a house, a reasonable estimate of the annual 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 should average about 1% per year. This number is fairly accurate for most homes, regardless of their size and expense.

Carson Dunlop has developed a helpful list of the average life expectancies of the major systems in the home. 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”.

Life Cycles of Common Components of the Home*


Conventional asphalt shingles 12-15 years
Premium quality asphalt shingles 25-30 years
Slate 40-200 years
Tar & gravel roof (built up roof) 15-20 years
Modified bitumen roof membrane 15-20 years
Roll roofing 5-10 years
Gutters & downspouts 20-30 years
Aluminum siding 50+ years
Wood siding Maintenance dependent
Stucco Maintenance dependent
Exterior paint 4-6 years
Wood deck 10-20 years
Asphalt driveway 10-20 years
Driveway sealer 1-3 years
Concrete driveway 30-40 years
Garage door opener 8-12 years
Termite treatment 10-20 years
Furnace 18-25 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 compressor 10-15 years

Toilet 30-40 years
Sink 12-20 years
Faucet 10-15 years
Whirlpool bath 15-25 years
Shower pan Unpredictable
Submersible pump for well 10-15 years
Suction or jet pump 10-15 years
Water softener 5-15 years
Sump pump 2-7 years
Water heater 8-12 years
Tile bathtub enclosure 10-50 years

Paint 5-10 years
Windows Maintenance dependent


Interested in learning more about normal maintenance items and the costs associated with replacing or repairing them? Check out our blog on Home Improvement Costs. Carson Dunlop’s Home Reference Book also includes a wealth of information on these subjects as well as other areas related to homeownership, click here to learn more about the value of this text.

*Please keep in mind that there will be exceptions in every category.