I recently decided to update my kitchen. My simple cabinet resurfacing project turned into a nightmare and is now costing me more than I budgeted for. The biggest problem: the workers broke my dishwasher and water leaked through to my neighbors below. Fortunately, the contractor's insurance should cover the structural damage. But I still need to either fix my appliance - which will cost me a couple hundred dollars - or buy a new one, which could run as high as $900. (I know some models are less, but I want something that matches the stove.)
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It turns out that I'm better off buying a new dishwasher since my existing one is near the end of its useful life anyway. How do I know this? The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) tracks this sort of information.
A couple of years ago the NAHB, along with Bank of America, put out some research entitled the Study of Life Expectancy of Home Components. According to the results, the average lifespan for a modern dishwasher is just nine years. Although my Maytag was working well up until "the accident", I purchased it back in 2001 and it appears to be bumping up against its expiration date.
Wondering what the life expectancy is for other kitchen appliances around your home? Here's a breakdown for some of the items listed in the NAHB's study:Kitchen Components
- Cabinets: 50 years
- Compactor: 6 years
- Countertop (natural stone): Lifetime
- Countertop (marble): 20 years
- Dishwasher: 9 years
- Disposer, Food Waste: 12 years
- Faucet: 15 years
- Microwave Oven: 9 years
- Range, Electric: 13 years
- Range, Gas: 15 years
- Refrigerator: 13 years
- Sink (enamel steel): 5-10 years
In retrospect, I wish I had come across the NAHB's survey before I started my renovation project. Had I known my dishwasher was working on borrowed time, I would have bought a new one when I purchased my other appliances and asked for a package discount. I also would have waited to install the new one until after all the work was done and perhaps avoided the flood downstairs. Instead, I'm now left with a sink full of baby bottles and the uncomfortable feeling that the contractors will never return to finish the job.
Do you wait to buy new appliances until they break? Or do you try to anticipate problems before they happen?Stacey Bradford is the author of The Wall Street Journal Financial Guidebook for New Parents.
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