Is your home telling you to remodel?

Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | March 16, 2015

For most homeowners, justifying the expense of making major upgrades like replacement windows or roofing usually involves necessity rather than desire. Even if you think it would be nice to replace things that you at least interact with and/or enjoy regularly such as kitchen appliances, you may not want to spend the money until they are no longer functional, either mechanically or for your practical needs.

If you do regular home maintenance and inspections, you probably have some idea what may need to be replaced in the near future. If not, knowing the age and condition of your home components is essential to determining which ones are ripe for remodeling.

If your house is 20 years older or more, here are a few things that might be prime contenders for upgrades based on age and condition:


Asphalt roof shingles. The roofing material on more than 80 percent of American homes, asphalt shingles can last anywhere from 15 to 25 or more years. According to The Rehab Guide from Housing and Urban Development (HUD), there is no standard for asphalt roof longevity. Manufacturers' warranties vary quite a bit as to what is covered and for how long. Extremes of heat, cold, and high winds can significantly affect the life of an asphalt shingle roof. For insurance purposes, however, The Insurance Institute for Property Loss Prevention uses 17 years as the effective life expectancy of asphalt shingles.

HUD guidelines indicate that a new asphalt roof may be needed if these conditions exist:

  • You experience serious leaks unrelated to problems with the flashings.
  • Large numbers of shingles are curled, cracked, dried out, or stripped of protective granules.

You may be able to install a new asphalt roof over an old one if the decking is good and the shingles are laying flat. However, you must first remove the existing shingles if you have one of the following scenarios:

  • There is already an existing roof under the current one.
  • You see warping and/or rotting in the sheathing or substrate.
  • The current roof shingles are distorted enough that another layer of shingles on top would not lay flat.
  • Signs of structural insufficiency are suspected, in which case, a professional engineer should be consulted.

Metal roofs. Metal roofing, once considered an inferior roofing material used only in rural areas and on outbuildings, has improved to where its durability, longevity, and good looks make it a popular choice for high-end residences. Metal roofing can last 40 to 70 years. Depending on the metal and/or coatings you choose, your metal roof may withstand impact and winds up to 140 mph, won't crack or corrode and is naturally fire-resistant. Metal roofing is environmentally friendly and energy-efficient. Some of the coatings incorporate materials such as natural stone granules that can beautifully mimic tile and cedar shake roofing.

You should not need to replace a new metal roof during the time you own your home, but if your roof is an older one, the time to get a new one may come when you cannot find matching materials to patch an area that's been damaged or is corroded.

Concrete or clay tiles. The weight and durability of this roofing material makes it a popular choice in Southeastern coastal areas where hurricanes are a potential threat, but tile roofs can be found on about 8 percent of homes all over the country where wind and weather are not a factor, including California and Arizona. Interlocking flat tiles with less porosity can be very watertight, perfect for climates with a lot of rain or snow. These beautiful roofs can last 50 to 100 years or more, so chances are good you may never need to replace a tile roof during your lifetime.


Replacement windows are an extremely tempting upgrade for an older home. Windows manufactured today offer superior energy-efficiency when compared to older, single-pane, wood or aluminum windows. Before you buy new windows, it's worth to try to achieve similar energy efficiency by eliminating air leaks and rotted wood and adding either exterior or interior storm windows. Of course, installing new windows can also solve those issues.

If your home is an older one with historic value, rehabbing may be the way to go. If it was built prior to 1960, however, lead paint can be a concern, so hire a professional who is trained in lead-safe practices. For those who want to upgrade to replacement windows, there are styles to fit every home. New windows can and should be chosen first and foremost for their energy-efficiency, which is why they are labeled with their energy ratings to help buyers make those decisions.

Kitchen appliances

If you're gutting your whole kitchen and doing a complete upgrade, then you may not need an excuse to change out your kitchen appliances. On the other hand, keeping some of your newer appliances and doing a minor kitchen remodel is a way to save money, especially if the reason you are remodeling is simply to sell your home. If your appliances are more than twenty years old and still working, they are probably not as energy efficient as newer models. If you can't decide what to reuse and what to replace, use these life expectancies of major kitchen appliances as a guideline:

  • Gas stove: 15 to 17 years
  • Electric range: 13 to 15 years
  • Refrigerator: 9 to 13 years
  • Microwave: 9 years
  • Dishwasher: 9 years

Of course, if your dishwasher is so loud when it's running that you need noise-canceling headphones to watch TV, you might not want to wait until it reaches its expiration date. Deciding whether it's time to remodel or replace the various components in your home sometimes comes down to more than whether or not they have any life left in them. But using the above information, you start to make educated decisions about which home components would increase your home's resale value and your overall comfort.

Photo credit to Myryah Shea

About the Author

Iris Price is a single Baby Boomer whose antidote to a lack of retirement funds was to launch a long-delayed career as a writer. While others her age concoct bucket lists and travel the world, she bought a new-construction home and obsessively creates lists of must-have home improvements and personal realization goals. She specializes in writing about home services and self-motivation.