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How Long Do Building Materials Last?!

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Not all Building Materials are created equally! Learn which perform the best, when installed properly and maintained.

So you are Probably Wondering...

How Long Do Building Materials Last?!

As Home Inspectors, we are routinely asked “How long until this roof fails?” or “Do we really need to paint these walls, or can it wait a year?”.  The answer to these questions is always, “It depends”.  Home Inspectors wield powerful skills to evaluate an insane number of systems and identify defects.  It’s true, not all hero’s wear capes.  We cannot (yet) however, predict the future.  If we did, we probably would be doing other things for a living.

The ultraviolet rays (UV rays) shorten the lifespan of numerous building components.  This is why routine maintenance and oversight is needed.  It is also why we must replace the materials periodically, to keep our building’s envelope intact.  As a guide, you can find the life expectancy ranges for various materials in our blog called How Long Do Building Materials Last?!  In this article, we discuss the timeframes for common building materials all around the home (and include a list specially developed for Florida).  We all know Florida always requires special treatment, particularly when it comes to embarrassment in the news.

So please use this guide as a resource, and don’t ask us to tell you if the windows will make it through Hurricane Season.  The answer, I will tell you right now, will be “It depends, on if we get a Hurricane”.  If you read our article on the Optimum Bones for your New Construction home, you’ll see a bunch of solid performers in this list as well.

ADHESIVES, CAULK & PAINTS

YEARS

Caulking (interior & exterior)

5 to 10

Construction Glue

20+

Paint (exterior)

7 to 10

Paint (interior)

10 to 15

Roofing Adhesives/Cements

15+

Sealants

8

Stains

3 to 8

Gauging the lifespan of an appliance is a bit of a moving target.  I grew up using the same refrigerator and washing machine my entire life, but see first hand that the ones I bought with computer chips and crazy features are being replaced in half a dozen years.  Use this as a guideline, but make sure you conduct independent research on the make/model of the device you’re buying:

APPLIANCES       

YEARS

Air Conditioner (window)

5 to 7

Compactor (trash)

6

Dehumidifier

8

Dishwasher

9

Disposal (food waste)

12

Dryer Vent  (plastic)

5

Dryer Vent  (steel)

20

Dryer (clothes)

13

Exhaust Fans

10

Freezer   

10 to 20

Gas Oven

10 to 18

Hand Dryer

10 to 12

Humidifier (portable)

8

Microwave Oven

9

Range/Oven Hood

14

Electric Range

13 to 15

Gas Range   

15 to 17

Refrigerator

9 to 13

Swamp Cooler

5 to 15

Washing Machine

5 to 15

Whole-House Vacuum System

20

I hope to not set a trend, but I’m afraid cabinetry and millwork is also a bit tough to predict.  If kept free of moisture, most any of these materials will last the life of the structure.  They don’t, however, all respond as gracefully to incidental and more frequent wetting.

CABINETRY & STORAGE    

YEARS

Bathroom Cabinets 

50+ 

Closet Shelves 

100+

Entertainment Center/Home Office

10

Garage/Laundry Cabinets

70+

Kitchen Cabinets

50

Medicine Cabinet

25+

Modular (stock manufacturing-type)

50 

Walls and ceilings will also tend to last the life of the building (when kept free of water).  Adding water into the mix makes this component go south pretty quick.

CEILINGS & WALLS

YEARS

Acoustical Tile Ceiling

40+ (older than 25 years may contain asbestos)

Ceramic Tile

70+

Concrete

75+

Gypsum

75

Wood Paneling

20 to 50

Suspended Ceiling

25+

Countertops get used more frequently than most surfaces within a home.  The constant putting things down, picking them up and sliding them around takes a toll on the surfaces over time.  Most should last the life of the structure, but chipping, breakage and the color no longer being trendy/popular are always pressing risks.

COUNTERTOPS

YEARS

Concrete

50

Cultured Marble   

20

Natural Stone

100+

Laminate

20 to 30

Resin

10+

Tile

100+

Wood

100+

Wood and other material built decks have a wide range of variability due to the means/methods in which they are built.  If they fail to leave 1/8” gap between plank boards, the deck will rot prematurely.  If built properly, these values below are solid estimations:

DECKS

YEARS 

Deck Planks

15

Composite

8 to 25

Structural Wood

10 to 30

Modern doors come in several materials that last a very long time.  If kept painted and clean, they have a chance to last the life of the building.  If the gaskets/weatherstripping are not, however, rot should be expected in the doors that face the exterior elements (particularly without an awning).

DOORS

YEARS

Closet (interior) 

100+

Fiberglass (exterior) 

100+

Fire-Rated Steel (exterior)

100+

French (interior) 

30 to 50

Screen (exterior)

30

Sliding Glass/Patio (exterior)

20 (for roller wheel/track repair/replacement)

Vinyl (exterior)

20

Wood (exterior)

100+

Wood (hollow-core interior)

20 to 30

Wood (solid-core interior)

30 to 100+

The electrical wiring, when copper is used, lasts a lifetime.  Sadly, the electrical components that have moving parts, do not.  Overall, the electrical systems tend to have a pretty solid track record for longevity.

ELECTRICAL

YEARS

Accessories

10+

Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs)

30

Bare Copper

100+

Bulbs (compact fluorescent)

8,000 to 10,000+ hours

Bulbs (halogen)

4,000 to 8,000+ hours

Bulbs (incandescent)

1,000 to 2,000+ hours

Bulbs (LED)

30,000 to 50,000+ hours

Copper-Clad Aluminum

100+

Copper-Plated

100+

Fixtures

40

Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs)

up to 30

Lighting Controls

30+

Residential Propane Backup Generators

12

Service Panel

60

Solar Panels

20 to 30

Solar System Batteries

3 to 12

Wind Turbine Generators

20

Structural floor framing should be expected to last the lifetime of the structure, just keep it dry.

ENGINEERED LUMBER

YEARS

Engineered Joists

80+

Laminated Strand Lumber

100+

Laminated Veneer Lumber

80+

Trusses

100+

One day, maybe fastener manufacturers will have to put lifespan estimates or warranties on their products.  Until then, you can use this list as a guideline.

FASTENERS, CONNECTORS & STEEL

YEARS

Adjustable Steel Columns

50+

Fasteners (bright)

25 to 60

Fasteners (copper)

65 to 80+

Fasteners (galvanized)

10+

Fasteners (electro-galvanized)

15 to 45

Fasteners (hot-dipped galvanized)

35 to 60

Fasteners (stainless)

65 to 100+

Steel Beams

200+

Steel Columns

100+

Steel Plates

100+

Flooring is a category where the decisions you make can certainly dictate how often you are replacing the floors.  Those decisions, obviously, are centric to if you decide to have kids or not.  We love our kids, but acknowledge that they are gross farm animals most of the time.

FLOORING

YEARS

All Wood Floors

100+

Bamboo

100+

Brick Pavers

100+

Carpet

8 to 10

Concrete

50+

Engineered Wood

50+

Exotic Wood

100+

Granite

100+

Laminate

15 to 25

Linoleum

25

Marble

100+

Other Domestic Wood

100+

Slate

100

Terrazzo

75+

Tile

75 to 100

Vinyl

25

If you get that New Construction inspected and monitored by Red Flag Home Inspection, you can enjoy this type of longevity expectation:

FOUNDATIONS 

YEARS

Baseboard Waterproofing System

50

Bituminous-Coating Waterproofing

10

Concrete Block

100+

Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs)

100

Permanent Wood Foundation (PWF; treated)

75

Post and Pier

20 to 65

Post and Tensioned Slab on Grade

100+

Poured-Concrete Footings and Foundation

100+

Slab on Grade (concrete)

100

Wood Foundation

5 to 40

Believe it or not, people still build Log Homes.  They actually make very solid structures.  I don’t know about you, but I grew up playing with Lincoln Logs, so I get it.  I could live in one, but I can’t shake the feeling that it would always feel like a hunting cabin (even if in the middle of a city).

FRAMING 

YEARS

Log

80 to 200

Poured-Concrete Systems

100+

Steel

100+

Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs)

100+

Timber Frame

100+

Garage doors are pretty robust items, but the poor openers are doing all of the work.  It’s no surprise that you’ll be replacing it more often.  I miss Sears, they used to sell/install those things.  Bring it back!

GARAGES

YEARS

Garage Doors

20 to 25

Garage Door Openers   

10 to 15

Home Technology is constantly evolving.  Luckily, most has gone wireless.  Running wires for speakers and all of these little gadgets would probably be a deal breaker for most.  Luckily these smart little trinkets make that a non-issue.

HOME TECHNOLOGY

YEARS

Built-In Audio

20

Carbon Monoxide Detectors*

5

Doorbells

45

Home Automation System

5 to 50

Intercoms

20

Security System

5 to 20

Smoke/Heat Detectors*

less than 10 

Wireless Home Network

5+

* Batteries should be changed at least annually.

You may have read our write-up on items NOT included in a typical home inspection. This category is littered with them (HVAC related).  If you are buying a home and the unit is not new or ancient (meaning you have easy decisions to make), consider hiring a HVAC expert to evaluate.

HVAC

YEARS

Air Conditioner (central)

7 to 15

Air Exchanger

15

Attic Fan

15 to 25

Boiler

40

Burner

10+

Ceiling Fan

5 to 10

Chimney Cap (concrete)

100+

Chimney Cap (metal)

10 to 20

Chimney Cap (mortar)

15

Chimney Flue Tile

40 to 120

Condenser

8 to 20

Dampers

20+

Dehumidifier

8

Diffusers, Grilles and Registers

25

Ducting

60 to 100

Electric Radiant Heater

40

Evaporative Cooler

15 to 25

Furnace

15 to 25

Gas Fireplace

15 to 25

Heat Exchanger

10 to 15

Heat Pump

10 to 15

Heat-Recovery Ventilator

20

Hot-Water and Steam-Radiant Boiler

40

Humidifier

12

Induction and Fan-Coil Units

10 to 15

Thermostats

35

Ventilator

7

The most common thing that disrupts and damages insulation is water from a roof leak.  Keep the water out, and the stuff will do it’s job for a VERY long time.

INSULATION & INFILTRATION BARRIERS

YEARS

Batts/Rolls

100+

Black Paper (felt paper)

15 to 30

Cellulose

100+

Fiberglass

100+

Foamboard

100+

Housewrap

80+

Liquid-Applied Membrane

50

Loose-Fill

100+

Rockwool

100+

Wrap Tape

80+

You can tell, we picked some solid materials to build our houses out of.  This stuff lasts!

MASONRY & CONCRETE    

YEARS

Brick

100+

Insulated Concrete Forms (hybrid block)

100+

Concrete Masonry Units (CMUs)

100+

Man-Made Stone

25

Masonry Sealant

2 to 20

Stone

100+

Stucco/EIFS

50+

Veneer

100+

If you are still happy with those 3” baseboards, then you should be set for many years to come!  Seriously, they look great (don’t replace them).

MOLDING, MILLWORK & TRIM 

YEARS

Attic Stairs (pull-down) 

50

Custom Millwork

100+

Pre-Built Stairs

100+

Stair Parts

100+

Stairs

100+

Keep the wood free of wetting, and they will last a very long time.

PANELS

YEARS

Flooring Underlayment 

25

Hardboard

40

Particleboard

60

Plywood

100

Softwood

30

Oriented Strand Board (OSB)

60 

Wall Panels

100+

Oh man, we have done some weird stuff with plumbing materials.  I know there were good reasons to start using Orangeburg pipe, but someone should have known that gluing together sawdust was going to fail.

PLUMBING, FIXTURES & FAUCETS

YEARS

ABS and PVC Waste Pipe

50 to 80

Accessible/ADA Handles

100+

Acrylic Kitchen Sink

50

Cast-Iron Bathtub

100

Cast-Iron Waste Pipe (above ground)

60

Cast-Iron Waste Pipe (below ground)

50 to 60

Concrete Waste Pipe

100+

Copper Water Lines

70

Enameled Steel Kitchen Sink

5 to 10+

Faucets and Spray Hose

15 to 20

Fiberglass Bathtub and Shower

20

Gas Lines (black steel)

75

Gas Lines (flex)

30

Hose Bibs

20 to 30

Instant (on-demand) Water Heater

10

PEX

40

Plastic Water Lines

75

Saunas/Steam Room

15 to 20

Sewer Grinder Pump

10

Shower Enclosure/Module

50

Shower Doors

20

Showerheads

100+ (if not clogged by minerals or other deposits)

Soapstone Kitchen Sink

100+

Sump Pump

7

Toilet Tank Components

5

Toilets, Bidets and Urinals

100+

Vent Fan (ceiling)

5 to 10

Vessel Sink (stone, glass, porcelain, copper)

5 to 20+

Water Heater (conventional)

6 to 12

Water Line (copper)

50

Water Line (plastic)

50

Water Softener

20

Well Pump

15

Whirlpool Tub

20 to 50

This doesn’t pertain to Florida very much, but just in case you are in an area affected by Radon:

RADON SYSTEMS

YEARS

Air Exchanger

15

Barometric Backdraft Damper/Fresh-Air Intake

20

Caulking

5 to 10

Labeling

25

Manometer

15

Piping

50+

Radon Fan

5 to 8

I probably should have put this way up top, I realize that most of you here are looking for this (sorry to keep you waiting, or was that intentional? You’ll never know):

ROOFING

YEARS

Aluminum Coating

3 to 7

Asphalt (architectural) 

30

Asphalt Shingles (3-tab)

20

BUR (built-up roofing)

30

Clay/Concrete

100+

Coal and Tar

30

Copper

70+

EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer) Rubber

15 to 25

Fiber Cement

25

Green (vegetation-covered)

5 to 40

Metal

40 to 80

Modified Bitumen

20

Simulated Slate

10 to 35

Slate

60 to 150

TPO

7 to 20

Wood

25

So many components lasting a “lifetime”!  If mother nature just knew that!

SIDINGS, FLASHING & ACCESSORIES

YEARS

Aluminum Gutters, Downspouts, Soffit and Fascia

20 to 40+

Aluminum Siding

25 to 40+

Asbestos Shingle

100

Brick

100+

Cementitious

100+

Copper Downspouts

100

Copper Gutters

50+

Engineered Wood

100+

Fiber Cement

100+

Galvanized Steel Gutters/Downspouts

20

Manufactured Stone

100+

Stone

100+

Stucco/EIFS

50+

Trim

25

Vinyl Gutters and Downspouts

25+

Vinyl Siding

60

Wood/Exterior Shutters

20

I’m not a fan of laying mulch.  I like to think I got more than 1 to 2 years out of that effort though.

SITE & LANDSCAPING

YEARS

American Red Clay

100+

Asphalt Driveway

15 to 20

Brick and Concrete Patio

15 to 25

Clay Paving

100+

Concrete Walks

40 to 50

Controllers

15

Gravel Walks

4 to 6

Mulch

1 to 2

Polyvinyl Fencing

100+

Sprinkler Heads

10 to 14

Underground PVC Piping

60+

Valves

20

Wood Chips

1 to 5

Wood Fencing

20

Pools are great.  Hopefully your home came with one, because adding one nowadays is a fortune and it’s hard to get contractors to call you back.  Some of the ratings above apply, due to the materials used.

SWIMMING POOLS

YEARS

Concrete Shell

25+

Cover

7

Diving Board

10

Filter and Pump

10

Interior Finish

10 to 35

Pool Water Heater 

8

Vinyl Liner

10

Waterline Tile

15+

I have seen some aluminum windows that look like they should be in a museum.  When they get very old, and actually get used to open/close from time to time, it does not do great things to keep the rain out.  If you have a house older than 2000 with aluminum windows, make sure you are budgeting for new windows.

WINDOWS

YEARS

Aluminum/Aluminum-Clad

15 to 20

Double-Pane

8 to 20

Skylights

10 to 20

Vinyl/Fiberglass Windows

20 to 40

Window Glazing

10+

Wood

30+

Summary

A word of caution.  All of these life expectancies vary with usage of the facility/item, the geographic area you are in (and the weather), the installation, the maintenance, and the quality of the materials.  This is meant to be a general guideline, and was derived from the Life Expectancy charts provided by InterNACHI website.

Florida based numbers can be found HERE.

Please, don't be this customer...

life expectancy meme

Hello!  I’m Mike Powell, P.E., the founder of Red Flag Home Inspection, LLC and the creator of this website.  I am also a Professional Engineer and Forensic (failure) Scientist.  Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post.  We appreciate your time spent on this site and are always open to suggestions and ideas from our readers.  You can connect with us through our social media channels (FacebookInstagram, Youtube, Twitter, or Email me anytime. We would love to hear from you. 🙂

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