How Much to Save for Home Repairs & Improvements

October 8, 2019

Few things last forever, except for maybe the pyramids, L.L Bean boots, and school recitals. So, when it comes to the key systems and components of your home, you also need to be aware of their life expectancy so that when one does wear out or no longer performs up to your standards, you have the money available for a replacement.

How long the various components of a home last also has much to do with how well you maintain them. An air-conditioner, for example, whose filter is routinely replaced, is likely to last longer than one that isn’t regularly maintained.

Then, there’s also the matter of personal preference. Toilets are said to last for 50 years. But you may want to change yours out earlier for a newer, more environmentally friendly model that uses significantly less water.

While replacing a toilet won’t likely bust the budget, replacing a furnace, air conditioning unit or roof very well could.

There are a variety of financial vehicles to help you cover these more expensive repairs, such as obtaining a cash-out refinance, home equity line of credit or even putting the bill on your credit card (to get you through a home repair crisis). Depending on your age and income, you may also qualify for a grant or a low-cost loan through a federal government or community development program.

You may qualify for a reverse mortgage

If you are 62 years old or older and own and live in your home as your primary residence, and have sufficient equity in it, you may also qualify for a reverse mortgage.

Unlike a traditional mortgage, which you must begin paying back soon after your loan closes, a reverse mortgage pays you by converting a portion of your home equity into cash. In addition, a reverse mortgage does not require you to make monthly mortgage payments for as long as you comply with the loan terms. This can free up cash flow to improve monthly finances and allow you to save for important home maintenance projects. But keep in mind that the terms of the loan include living in the home as your primary residence, as well as staying on top of your property taxes, homeowners insurance, and any required home maintenance.

Like people houses age too

Like people, houses age too. So, the more familiar you are with their aging process, the more you’ll be ready to intervene with the needed fixes and repairs to keep them looking and functioning at their best.

Here are 10 critical housing systems or components to keep your eyes on, along with their expected longevity and replacement costs:


Depending on the weather, the workmanship of your roofer and the roofing material you choose (asphalt, wood, clay tiles, etc.), your roof could last anywhere from 15 to 50 years. Asphalt shingles, the most common type of roofing material today, can be expected to last 15 to 30 years. By contrast, clay titles can last 50 years or longer.

As for replacement, a basic asphalt shingle roof may run as low as $5,000 whereas a higher-end replacement can run as much $25,000.

Central Air Conditioning

The life expectancy of a central air conditioning system is between 10 and 15 years and the average cost to install central air conditioning, including the unit, ranges from about $3,000 to over $7,000, according to home services company HomeAdvisor, a digital marketplace that connects homeowners with prescreened contractors. Prices will vary based on the recommended size and capacity of the unit needed to cool your home, the unit’s SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) rating, the ductwork and design involved for the installation, and the labor involved. To save money, schedule installation in the coldest months when air conditioning contractors are usually less busy.

Water Heater

A conventional electric or gas water heater typically lasts about 10 years. If you have a tankless water heater, you can expect it to last twice as long.

According to Home Depot, the nation’s largest home improvement retailer, the average nationwide cost for a traditional water heater is $1,308, which includes installation. For a tankless model, which is less expensive to operate, the average cost is $2,979.

Garage Door

Automatic garage doors are expected to last 10 to 15 years. Springs and cables can break, rollers can wear out, and, of course, your son-in-law could accidentally back into the garage door, which could seriously dent your door’s life expectancy.

Based on a HomeAdvisor survey of more than 9,000 homeowners, the average cost to install a new garage door is $1,095, or between $734 and $1,463. Installation covers the door, labor, new tracks and associated adhesives, connectors and fasteners.


The life span of your deck will vary according to the weather it’s subjected to, the material it’s made from, and how well you care for it. But typically, you can expect a deck to last 20 to 25 years, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

The typical deck repair job, according to, an online service that matches customers with local contractors, costs between $200 for simple repairs to $4,500 for more extensive work. The total cost to repair a deck depends on the size of the deck, the extent of the damage (termites, wood rot, etc.) and the cost of the replacement materials.

Pool Re-plastering

After about 10 years, an in-ground swimming pool with a plaster finish may start to show signs that it’s time to have the plaster redone. Warning signs include mineral stains, worn spots where the concrete or gunite shows through, and the roughness on the surface that makes it uncomfortable to walk or sit upon.

The typical cost to have a pool re-plastered, according to, is between $4 and $7 per square foot. Assuming an average pool size of 16 feet by 32 feet, 4 feet deep on the shallow end and 8 feet on the deep end, that’s a total of 1,088 square feet. Assuming a cost of $5 per square foot, re-plastering would typically cost $5,440.

Refinished Wood Floors

A good wood floor can last a century or more. While the wood may last a lifetime, the finish or shine may not, especially if it’s seen its share of human and pet traffic over the years. In that case, your hardwood floor may need to be refinished every 8 to 12 years.

The average cost to refinish hardwood floors is $970 to $1,250 per 300 square feet, according to HomeAdvisor. Costs vary based on the wood, the wood’s condition, the quality of the floor, and other variables like stairs.


Wood siding usually holds up well for about 20 years while vinyl siding can last twice as long, according to, a national provider of windows and siding. Meanwhile, fiber cement siding has a life expectancy of 50 years while brick fascia can last for 100 years., a home improvement site that connects homeowners to contactors, estimates the average home siding installation project costs between $5,500 and $15,000. The range is based on the type of siding material selected: $2-$3 a square foot for vinyl; $3-$10 a square foot for wood; $6-$10 a square foot for fiber cement; and $8-$10 a square foot for brick.

Exterior Doors

Exterior doors would seem to be fairly indestructible, with exterior fiberglass, steel and wood doors expected to endure as long as the home does. Vinyl and screen doors can last from 20 and 40 years, respectively.

HomeAdvisor gives a range of $500 to $3,000 for the cost of a new exterior door, depending on whether the door is a single or double, has sidelights, a transom, glass or internal mini blinds.

On average, door installations cost $944, with most homeowners spending between $470 and $1,429.

Fiberglass Bathtub

Typically, a fiberglass tub lasts for 10 to 15 years. It may last longer, of course, if you don’t mind living with a discolored, scratched or chipped surface.

If you replace your tub with fiberglass, which includes a wide range of colors and design, the cost can run between $200 and $500.

You may, however, want to upgrade to an enameled cast iron bathtub, which will keep your bathwater warmer for longer. These run between $500 and $2,000.

On the higher end, a cultured marble bathtub runs between $1,500 and $2,200.

Installation can easily run as much at the bathtub itself, ranging $500 to $1,600.


Set aside one percent of your homes value

If you’re trying to figure out how much money you need each year for home repairs, a rule of thumb says to set aside 1 percent of your home’s value. So, if you value your home at $500,000, your annual set aside should be $5,000 ($500,000 x .01 = $5,000).

In a 2018 survey of 1,000 homeowners by, an online website that connects homeowners with local home improvement contractors, 88 percent of homeowners said they did a major home repair or home improvement project the previous year. The average cost of the repair was $4,958.

Now that you have the list, it’s time to go to work. Good luck!

Ready to learn more about reverse mortgages? Read more about reverse mortgages, misconceptions of a reverse mortgage, and reverse mortgage closing costs. Click here to use the AAG Reverse Mortgage Calculator.

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