July 24, 2024

KJ Home

The Best Home for Creating Lasting Memories

Five Hidden Parts of Your Home That Need Regular Maintenance

5 min read

The moment you realize just how much money you’ve borrowed to buy a house is the moment you magically transform into a handyperson, ready to wander around with a hammer and an adjustable wrench, fixing things before they become enormous repair bills. But even the most aware homeowner tends to focus on the stuff they see and interact with all the time—roof leaks, failing air conditioning units, etc. Houses are designed to hide their grimy, dirty guts from you, however, which means that a lot of the critical aspects of your house are out of sight and likely out of mind.

Much of this stuff is designed to last a very long time—but not forever. Houses with concrete foundations and timber framing (the most common type) are designed to last a century or more, but on average last between about 50-60 years. Sure, there are a lot of much older homes out there, but these are exceptions, and have likely been maintained well, with a lot of non-original components. Depending on the age of your house when you bought it, you might have trouble heading your way unless you pay attention to this hidden home maintenance.


Wiring is one of the most overlooked aspects of a home. After all, if the power comes on when you flick a switch or press a button, why worry about it? We fix the obvious stuff: If a light fixture, switch, or power outlet stops working, we replace it. Like everything else, however, the wiring lurking in your walls and under your floors has a lifespan: typically about 50-70 years. The copper itself can last more than a century, but the insulation around the wire will degrade much faster.

And that’s dangerous, because electrical wires heat up when overloaded, and can set your house on fire if their insulation is frayed, melted, or worn away. There are roughly 24,000 residential electrical fires every year, causing nearly 300 deaths. That makes checking and maintaining the wiring in your walls a priority. This should be done at least every 10 years by a licensed electrician, who can start at your electrical panel and assess the state of the wiring from there. If you’re not sure how old the wiring in your house is, have it checked right away and then do so every 10 years or so from that point on.


Something else we rarely think about until there’s a problem is the pipes carrying water in our walls. Depending on when and where your house was built (or last updated), your pipes could have a lifespan of anywhere from 30 years (PEX pipes) to more than 50 (copper or brass). If you bought a 50-year-old home that hasn’t been significantly updated in that time, you’re overdue for an inspection by a plumbing professional to make sure your pipes aren’t corroded, leaking, or showing other signs of their age. In other words, just because water comes out when you open the faucet doesn’t mean your pipes are worry-free.

That goes for your waste pipes, too. Because they’re not under pressure, your waste pipes may last a bit longer than water pipes, but they still corrode over time, leading to an eventual failure that you should guard against by doing periodic inspections and repairs—and eventual replacement.


According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, most insulation materials used in residential buildings should last a very long time—more than 100 years if we’re talking about the very common fiberglass batts or rolls, rockwool, or blown-in cellulose. Which makes sense: Insulation just sits there inside your walls and ceilings and under the floors.

In practice, however, this isn’t really the case. Batts stuffed into voids can fall out due to gravity, absorb moisture from floods or high humidity and get moldy, or become nesting material for rodents and insects. It’s generally advised that whatever kind of insulation you have in your home, you should start checking on it when it’s 15 years old or so. You can do this simply by visually examining the state of your insulation, looking for fallen batts, discoloration that could indicate mold, or damage caused by insects and rodents. You can also use a hygrometer to monitor the humidity in attics, basements, and crawl spaces.


On the one hand, most homeowners think a lot about their gutters. On the other hand, we tend to think about them only in terms of keeping them clear and removing debris. Otherwise we forget all about them—and how old they are. But your gutters endure just as much as your roof—cold, heat, rain, snow—and depending on the material they’re made from, they can fail you in just 20 years. If the house you bought was already older than that, you might already have rusted, cracked gutters that aren’t doing the job, even if they’re debris-free.

Copper gutters will last the longest—more than 50 years in some cases—but aren’t very common. The more common aluminum, steel, or vinyl gutters can last 20-40 years. But whatever they’re made of, an annual inspection for damage and failing connections is a must. You can do this yourself if you’re comfortable on a ladder—look for rust, cracks or holes, or spots where the gutters are pulling away from the roof. If you see these signs of age, it’s time to call a roofing pro to have them replaced.


The foundation is the root of your home, and when it fails the whole house is in danger. Yet we tend to forget about it until something disastrous, like a sinking home or water intrusion, directs our attention to it. The fact is, no foundation is designed to last forever—a poured concrete foundation, one of the most common in modern homebuilding, is only expected to last about 80 to 90 years. Without vigilance and maintenance, the stress of the forces working on your foundation will eventually erode its integrity.

To help your foundation last as long as possible, the most important thing you can do is inspect it regularly and act on any minor problems as they manifest. Signs of water intrusion or condensation mean you might need to install a sump pump, and ensure that the ground is sloped properly to carry water away from the home. Cracks are also a clear signal: Repair any minor cracks that show up, and have a professional figure out why those cracks are forming.


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