Tuesday, November 15, 2005

How long will my new house last?

It’s a good question. And it’s the wrong one. I’ll tell you why.

The moment a new house is completed, it starts to wear out. The weather is at work on the components before the house is even finished. The ground around the foundations will be shifting. All the moving parts inside the house will start to disintegrate. The glazed units will be beginning to break down. And the water in the pipes will be looking for ways to escape other than via the taps. All that is a given.

Eventually something will go wrong. It will have to be repaired or replaced. As long as this ongoing maintenance is kept up, the house will remain serviceable indefinitely. It makes no difference if the house is masonry, timber frame, steel, concrete or any other building system, the principle remains the same.

So the question you should be asking is this. Which type of house is cheapest and easiest to maintain? Or put another way, what are the whole life costs of a house over, say, a 100-year period? Now that’s an interesting one to which there doesn’t appear to be a clear-cut answer. But it does raise some interesting additional questions. Like…

Windows: plastic v timber
The initial costs are pretty similar. However timber needs redecorating every five years or so, if it is to last. But well-maintained timber windows will last for centuries. Not so plastic, which has to be ripped out and replaced every 20 or 30 years. Such is the high cost of labour in this country that it’s actually cheaper to rip out and replace plastic windows three times a century than it is to install timber ones once and then repaint them 19 times. But will that relationship between low material costs and high labour costs persist for a century?

Timber frame v blockwork
Surely blockwork will last much longer than timber? Intuitively, yes. But timber, if looked after, will last indefinitely. In this case, unlike the timber windows, the frame doesn’t need maintenance to last the course, it just needs to be kept dry so the weatherproof cladding around it must be kept in good condition. So really it’s more a question about what external claddings last the pace.

What external claddings last the pace?
You’d think brickwork would be No 1. Sometimes it is, but it also has an alarming failure rate. It tends not to be very watertight and once the water gets through the brickwork it starts to cause all manner of problems behind it in the cavity. Soggy insulation, rusting wall ties, damp patches inside the house and, if timber frame, potential rotting away of the frame. The success of brickwork depends on a number of factors, the principal ones being how well it is built, how well the cavity behind it is detailed and built and what conditions it subsequently gets exposed to. If it works, then brickwork should be pretty much maintenance-free. But it’s a big IF. Of the main alternatives, render is prone to cracking and hence much the same problems as bad brickwork; tiles are prone to wind damage and cracking; timber boarding performs pretty well but can be prone to rot and needs attention on the decoration front if it is to continue to look good. In short, they are all less likely to suffer initial failure than brickwork but they are also much more likely to require routine maintenance, if not full replacement, before the century is up.



Blogger peterb said...

all builders except those we know personally are cowboys.
If they have left the cement out of the brick mortar your house only needs a couple of pushes and it will cave in

1:07 pm  
Anonymous Mr.Carter said...

Great tips. I'll be sure to ask my contractor about this.
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Anonymous andrea said...

Thank you for posting this. We still use timber windows but we plan to replace them with plastic because of your recommendation.

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Blogger Sam said...

Whenever I buy a house, I always consider its quality. Make sure you read reviews about the town homes or community houses you look at.

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Anonymous new homes for sale connecticut said...

I'll definitely ask my contractor about this, thank you very much.

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Blogger Valerie Phillips said...

Regularly checking that your electrical, plumbing, and heating and cooling systems are up to date and functioning properly may help you save money by avoiding more intensive projects. It also helps keep your home running efficiently.

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Blogger Sharon said...

These are great tips indeed. For every homeowner, it is always important to ensure the quality of the materials. These will have a great impact on the foundation of the house.

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Blogger Anita said...

If I were to build my own house, I have to make sure that there's an excellent foundation. This will allow me to use any kind of material for the construction. I will surely use both concrete and wood materials to make my house last a lifetime.

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Blogger Emily said...

When investing a property, it is an essential thing to consider the quality of the house. This will ensure its capability to last for many years. The value depends on the materials used to build the house as well.

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Blogger andieclark said...

I'm so glad I came across this post because I'm planning to buy a condo soon after my mortgages in Long Island are approved. I'll further canvass about these stuff so I'll know how long my soon-to-be-house would last.

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