Hints to Help You Decide When to Repair and When to Replace
Fix It or Ditch It?
After signing on the dotted line, new homeowners can flail between unmitigated pride and unprecedented horror in a matter of minutes. Your new place can cost time, energy, sanity — and a pretty healthy chunk of your bank account.
You love that new-to-you house. You care about its current condition and worry for its future. You tend to its needs, deal with its growing pains and look forward to seeing it every evening after a long day of work. Your house is family.
And then it begins.
The roof leaks. The washer dies. The stovetop element won’t heat up. We feel your pain, because when those days come, headaches and heartaches are never far behind. Though we’re sorry for any future anguish this extension of yourself may bring you, we’re not surprised. But we can help.
After talking to local experts, we’ve compiled a guide to coping with regular household maintenance of big-ticket items. Use them to help decide whether replacing or repairing is your best bet.
Washing Machine and Dryer
Washers and dryers can last anywhere from seven to 10 years. Regular cleaning out of the dryer’s ductwork is a good habit to practice, not only for the longevity of your appliance, but also for the safety of your home.
Make note to check your rubber washer hose biweekly, looking for cracking or splitting. Consider updating your rubber hose with one that is steel reinforced and replaced every five years, an act most companies are now recommending for both washing machines and refrigerators.
Be gentle to both of these machines’ electronic controls. According to sources at Mays-Munroe, those components are often the first devices to go and the priciest to fix.
A general rule of thumb for washers and dryers is if a repair costs more than half the price of a new one, go ahead and replace the appliance. “At five years or less, unless it is too costly to repair, it’s typically better to repair,” explained Meghan Lisson of Mays-Munroe. “Six to eight years is a gray area, and it depends on what broke.” For example, a broken control board, typically a not-so-expensive part, might only mean a repair. “Eight years and over, it’s better to replace.”
If you are in the market for new appliances, checking a brand’s reliability can be useful. In addition to researching Consumer Reports rankings and other online resources, dealers like Lisson can make recommendations based on their experiences.
Air Conditioners and Water Heaters
In our land of perpetual humidity, home air-conditioning systems run almost continuously and have an average life expectancy of about eight to 10 years.
Larry Barineau, president and owner of Barineau Heating and Air-Conditioning, recommends scheduling a maintenance visit twice a year to keep your A/C working at peak performance. Another way to aid your air conditioning is to change the air filter once a month.
“It’s simple,” Barineau explained. “Change your air filter every time you make a mortgage payment or every time you pay your light bill.”
According to Helen Wiggins, office manager at White’s Plumbing, the life of water heaters can vary. “They come with a six-year warranty,” she said. “But we’ve gone to houses where they’ve got a water heater that’s 40 years old.”
To increase longevity, keep your water heater clean. “Electric water heaters can be drained to clean out the sediment,” said Wiggins. “If you’re handy, you can do this yourself.”
But if you have a gas water heater, you need to keep its air screen clear. Wiggins says this is the most common and most preventable problem in fixing water heaters.
Don’t hold on to an old unit that sucks energy and pollutes your home. You can get rebates for upgrading your A/C and water heater to a new energy-efficient model. Around 70 percent of appliances being sold are Energy Star-qualified, so getting that rebate is easy.
In the Kitchen
Stoves have the longest life of all kitchen appliances: 16 to 17 years. Because they are built to last, stoves don’t need constant maintenance. If your gas or electric stove breaks, repairs could be as simple as replacing a burner.
According to Mike Munroe, sales manager at Mays-Munroe, microwave ovens also require only minimal maintenance. “The most common repair we see are broken door handles,” he said.
Still, it’s good idea to regularly clean your microwave and other kitchen appliances.
When cleaning your refrigerator, remember to vacuum under and behind the refrigerator to prevent dust buildup on the condenser coils. You should also check that the door closes fully. If the seal is worn, your appliance is overworking to compensate for the loss of cool air. An average life expectancy for a refrigerator is between 10 to 12 years.
Upgrading to a newer energy efficient refrigerator will save you about $10–$15 dollars on your monthly utility bill, according to Mike’s brother, Mark Munroe. Also, be on the lookout for Energy Star-rated appliances that will get you a rebate from the city.
Some appliances do the cleaning for you. “Most ovens we sell are self-cleaning,” said Munroe. “The self-cleaning cycle incinerates everything in there. It gets up to 900 degrees. The whole process takes three to five hours.”
Dishwashers should last up to 10 years. Newer dishwashers have improvements that extend their life and protect your home. If you have hardwood floors, an upgrade could be a wise investment. “Many dishwashers come with a failsafe that prevents flooding,” explained Munroe. “Especially our European brands, like Bosch and Miele.”
As a homeowner, there’s only so much you can do to keep your roof clean. Cutting off hazardous tree limbs and cleaning debris is a good place to start. If well looked after, the average roof can last anywhere from 15 to 25 years.
Across the board, experts agree constant monitoring of your roof is the key to its longevity.
“Your roof is a lot like a car engine,” explained Rudy Rowe, owner of Rowe Roofing. “If you use a roofing professional that’s skilled in service on it, it’s just like changing your oil. You need to get someone on your roof once a year. Because if you’re proactive versus reactive, you can extend the life cycle exponentially.”
According to Dustin Stubbs, owner of Stubbs Roofing, there are a few things owners can monitor on their own.
“Typically, from the ground, they can look for curling shingles,” said Stubbs. “That’s a sign the shingles are getting older.
“As the shingles age, the petroleum evaporates, and that evaporation causes the shingles to shrink,” Stubbs continued. “The big issue with that is when the shingles shrink down, they don’t adhere to the shingles below and that can cause the shingles to blow off and break in the wind.”
While the life of your mattress depends on several factors, you should consider looking for a replacement after seven years of use.
But there are things you can do to prolong the useful life of your bed. “The best thing to do is get a good mattress protector that’s water and moisture proof,” said Chris Kingry, co-owner of The Sleep Gallery. “It will protect from sweat, dandruff, the stuff that we leave behind. Did you know the human body can sweat a pint a day? That breaks down the top comfort layers and the moisture can create a layer of mildew.”
Since most mattresses sold today have a pillow top, you can no longer flip them. However, turning the mattress top to toe does prevent body impressions from forming.
According to Paul Tyre of Tyre Custom Painting, a good paint job can last anywhere from three to 10 years.
Repainting interior walls is an entirely aesthetic, albeit important, preference. While there are no structural benefits to consistently repainting the interior of your home, a fresh coat of paint can truly transform a space. When considering repainting, factor in how much traffic the home sees and whether there are pets or children.
As for exterior paint, Tallahassee’s humid climate is no friend to your home.
“The sun is brutal,” explained Gerard Lamothe, owner of Superior Painting. “It can break down the paint over time, and the more direct sun your house gets the more it will affect the paint.”
Ten years is the standard lifetime of exterior residential paint. While some higher end brands may be able offer you an extra year or two on that timeline, start shopping around for an experienced painter after you hit the decade mark.