5 Overlooked and Expensive Home Repairs

Posted by Don on May 6, 2013

Buying a house is for many people the largest purchase we will make in our lives. During the home buying process, many of us get caught up in the excitement and don’t think about all of the increased expenses we will incur as a result of purchasing the home. For me personally, I didn’t realize all of the “little things” that I needed to buy: mats for the bathrooms, a toaster oven, shelving units, window shades, etc. These items individually don’t cost much money, but when you combine them, they do end up costing you a decent amount of money.

courtesy of stockimages

Photo Courtesy: Stockimages

But even after the home purchase is complete, there are other often overlooked expensive home repairs that you need to know about. If you don’t budget accordingly, having one or two of these items fail in a short period of time could easily wipe out your emergency fund. Even if you have a good sized emergency fund, these repairs could leave you vulnerable to going into debt. Below I list some common large ticket items that will need to be replaced at some point during your ownership in the home. I provide how long they typically last as well as how much you can expect to pay to replace them.


If your house was recently built, you need not worry for some time. But if your house is 10 years or older, the clock is ticking on your windows. There are three common construction types for windows: aluminum, vinyl and wood. Typically, aluminum framed windows last about 20 years whereas vinyl windows last close to 50. Wood framed windows typically last 30 years, but if you maintain them correctly, they could last much longer than that.

The price to replace windows is around $600 per window. There are “new construction” windows available as well, which cost closer to $1,000 per window.

How do you know if you need new windows? There are various ways to tell. Some of the more common giveaways are windows that are hard to open, windows with single panes of glass, windows that are drafty or fog up, or rotted frames. Note that if you have double pane windows and there is condensation between the two panes, you don’t necessarily need a new window. You could just need a new pane of glass. Additionally, any condensation on the inside of the window could be there because of trapped air. This means that if it is cold outside and you pull a shade over the window, the varying temperature is most likely causing the condensation.

Hot Water Heater

The type of hot water heater you have determines how long it will typically last. Both gas and electric hot water heaters usually last around 10 years. If you have a tank-less version, you can expect that to last closer to 20 years.

The price to have your hot water heater replaced can range from $500 up to $2,000.

If your current hot water heater leaks around its base, works intermittently, or is older than 10 years, you should begin the process of looking for a replacement.


Roof shingles typically last around 20 years, assuming they are asphalt. To replace them, it will cost roughly $5-$10 per square foot.  If you have a house of 2,500 square feet, you are looking at a total bill of around $5,000.

How can you tell if you need a new roof? First you should check for missing shingles, or cracked or curled ones. Another tip-off is looking for granules in your gutter. As the shingle deteriorates over time, the deposits will end up in the rain gutter.

Another giveaway is done by inspecting inside your house. In the attic, look for stains or wet spots on the underside of the roof. You can also go room by room in the upstairs and look for discolored drywall, soft spots on the ceiling or peeling wallpaper.


For the most part, copper wiring will not degrade over time, so you don’t have to worry about re-wiring your entire house. But you may need to update the electrical box or panel. The typical electrical panel lasts about 25 years.

There are various fixes for a panel. To replace the panel, you are looking at around $1,000 whereas rewiring a circuit or installing a circuit will run you around $500.

There are many signs that you should pay attention to in order to determine if you need to upgrade your electrical panel. The primary one is lights dimming when you turn on an appliance. Another sign is if a circuit trips frequently. Personally, I’ve had to deal with both of these issues. First, the power in the house would go out when we would have various appliances running. We ended up having to install a larger breaker coming into the house. Then, the breaker for the upstairs bathroom would trip constantly. It turned out the breaker was bad and we needed a new one.

There are a few other signs as well such as rust on the electrical panel or lack of ground-fault circuit interrupters in bathrooms and your kitchen that tell you it is time to update your electric service.

Central Air Conditioning

Now that we are heading into summer, many people will come to find their central air conditioner needs replacement. The average lifespan of an AC unit is roughly 10 years. When it is time to replace the unit, you can expect to pay around $3,000.

You know you need to start looking for a new central air conditioner when you are frequently repairing the unit, have humidity problems or have rooms that are too hot or cold. An important note is that if you do end up replacing your AC unit and it is tied into your furnace’s blower motor, you will have to replace the furnace as well if you want the AC units rated energy efficiency.

Final Thoughts

Overall, replacing these items will run you around $1,000 for the most part. But many people assume their homeowners insurance will cover these items, which it will not. Make certain that you have an adequate emergency fund so that should one (or more) of these items needs replacing, you not only have the funds to do so, but also enough of cushion to not put you in jeopardy should another emergency arise shortly thereafter.

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