Planning for Obsolescence

You just made the largest purchase of your life; you bought your first house. Who can blame you for not wanting to buy new appliances or a new roof right off the bat? Although there is no consistently accurate method for determining how long a particular appliance or residential system will last, there are smart ways to determine and estimate wear and tear. Here's what to look for:


Inspect the vinyl-covered wire racks in the dishwasher. The vinyl generally starts to wear off of the tips of the wire rack after seven to eight years of use. Excessive vinyl wear would suggest that the dishwasher is 12 to 15 years old, and close to the end of its life expectancy.

Storm Windows.

Flat-framed windows that are not self-storing are from the 1940s and early 1950s. Mill finished, self-storing windows are from the early 1950s to the early 1960s. White, self-storing windows with a center mullion, used to hold or stabilize the width, started in the early 1980s.

Electrical Service Cables (on the exterior of the house).

Electrical service cables tend to last 27 to 30 years on the south side of the house and 33 to 36 years on the north side of the house. Cables located on east and west exposures land somewhere in the middle.

Standard Asphalt Composition Roofing.

South-facing, dark colored, low-sloped roofs will fail much sooner than north facing, light colored, high-sloped roofs. In southern states, this might be 12 to 15 years on the south side and 15 to 18 years on the north side. In northern states, this might be 17 to 20 years on the south side and 20 to 25 years on the north side. If the granules between the joints or slots in the tabs are missing, the shingle is failing. Curling and cupping could be indications of age.


If stucco is not painted, it will last about 60 years on the southern exposure. After approximately 25 years of exposure, the sand starts to loosen and becomes progressively worse until it begins to deteriorate at about 60 years. Painted stucco, if done properly and in a timely fashion, will last 200 or more years.