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Protecting Your Investment


Buying a house is just the beginning. Before long, you'll be repairing it too.

Many building components-foundation, framing, plumbing and wiring-should last 50 years or more. But mechanical systems, appliances and surfaces exposed to the weather will not last nearly that long, even under the best of circumstances.

According to John Ghent, president-elect of the American Society of Home Inspectors and co-owner of a home inspection company in Trumbull, Conn., the average house may need a 50% replacement over 30 years.

In each of the first 10 years after construction, a $300,000 house will require $2,250, or 0.75% of its value, in maintenance, according to Ghent. That rises to 1.5% per year for the next 10 years and reaches 3% per year in the third 10-year period.

Predicted life spans are published for everything from microwaves to garage door openers. Although these estimates are helpful, they are not intended to be exact. Maintenance history is one important variable, but so is chance.

* Building structure.

Calculating the life expectancy of a roof, siding, exterior paint, flashing and the like is far from an exact science. Geography plays an important role. For example, a wood-shingle roof that wears like iron in a moderate climate might succumb much more quickly when exposed to constant dampness, harsh sunlight or other environmental extremes.

Another key factor is the quality of the material.

* Major mechanical systems.

Routine maintenance-such as cleaning furnace or air-conditioner filters and scheduling periodic service-might be the only practical way a homeowner can extend the life of major mechanical systems.

Water quality plays a role in the longevity of water heaters and water pumps. Water that is highly acidic or full of minerals is tougher on equipment than treated water.

* Appliances.

Most of us have run across an ancient refrigerator or range still working flawlessly long after it should have been hauled to the dump. With an estimated 600 million appliances in American households, there are plenty of such exceptions.

In fact, the Assn. of Home Appliances Manufacturers says most appliances are not junked at all. A majority are sold, traded in, left behind in a move or given away, and they serve second or even third owners.

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