A Death in The Family
It finally happened.
Requiem For A Toaster
“Old Toasty” was a black and silver Hamilton Beach / Proctor Silex Model 22208. Series B1699. Type T16. I purchased it back in 1980. Oh yes, 1980. And believe me, we enjoyed good toast. Man, could “Old Toasty” toast.
At least I’ll always have those happy memories of toast so perfectly tanned, all the beautiful people in South Beach cried with shame and jealously.
With no fear of skin cancer.
After all of those years, however, the electric cord and an interior filament finally gave out. The resulting spitting sparks produced a sound and light show lasting about ten seconds, the likes of which I never want to witness again.
Your toaster died. Who cares?
You may think I’m being overly sentimental about a 30 year-old toaster going to the big scrap metal yard in the sky. Well, if you own a Brooklyn home, condo, or co-op, think again. Just like “Old Toasty,” every appliance and component in your home or building has an expected useful life. And, if you’re not careful, you could find yourself replacing them before their time. Which will result in unexpected costs for repairs, or an increased monthly maintenance bill.
Think about this: Unless you’ve just purchased a brand-new home, everything in the home you own is already into it’s life expectancy. And if your home is over 80 years old (hello, Brooklyn) the time to plan for component replacement may be sooner than you care to think about.
I recently read “Study of Life Expectancy of Home Components”, produced in February, 2007 by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and Bank of America. The results of this study were based on telephone surveys of people in the trades, home manufacturers, and researchers to learn how long parts of houses should last. (You’ll find the full study on the National Association of Home Builders website, http://nahb.com)
Now, remember climate, quality of installation and other factors play a huge role in how long and well home components last. In my opinion, the most important facet in keeping a home in tip-top shape is to do just that – keep it in tip-top shape. Owning a home is not just about watching your big-screen TV’s, entertaining in your home theatres, and backyard barbeques. It’s also painting the house, making sure the landscaping continues to draw water away from the house, checking the roof for damage, and cleaning your gutters and leaders, just to name a few regular chores.
Take the Kink Out Of Your Hoses Before You Spring A Leak
It’s caulking around windows and door frames to create a greater level of energy efficiency in your home, thus saving valuable cooling and heating dollars. Making sure you clean lint filters in clothes dryers, and replacing the metal vent hose. Running the washing machine with just detergent and bleach to clean and disinfect it. Changing the old hoses with new metal-reinforced, high pressure hoses to decrease the risk of blown hoses and the floods which follow.
So, How Long Should Things Last?
Here’s a sample of the expected life of common home components:
- Countertops: Natural stone countertops should last about 20 years.
- Faucets and fixtures have an average life expectancy of 15 years
- A bathroom shower enclosure should last about 50 years.
- Different roofing materials will vary greatly in expected life expectancy. Slate copper and clay or concrete roofs last longest – over 50 years. Asphalt shingles about 20 years and wood shakes about 30 years.
- Aluminum windows should last about 15 to 20 years. I found it a bit shocking to learn wooden windows should last for upwards of 30 years!
Of course, without the proper maintenance like painting window frames and trimming trees so heavy branches don’t land on and crack roofs (yes, I’ve paid several claims for Spanish Tile roofs cracked by falling branches), any component will fail to live up to its expected useful life.
There’s Another Reason To Care
Take a moment and take out the homeowners insurance policy for your Brooklyn brownstone, brick, or frame home. When you look under exclusions, you’ll see losses caused by your failure to properly maintain your insured premises are excluded. This means the only way to repair the damage will depend on you taking money out of your own pocket.
So, if the brownstone or limestone on your exterior wall is chipped, call a company which specializes in this type of restoration. Water from the ruptured pipe in the wall creating a pool in the basement? Call the plumber.
And don’t wait. Do it right away.
You can also enroll in the Neighborhood Housing Services Home Maintenance course conducted at the Bedford-Stuyvesant office on Gates Avenue. There, you’ll learn how to do everything from fixing a leaky faucet to rebuilding a bathroom.*
So, if you want your appliances and other home components to last as well and as long as “Old Toasty”, it’s time to really pay attention to their care and maintenance.
And don’t worry, we have another toaster. And yes, it’s another Proctor Silex.
Always have a backup.
“Old Toasty” is dead. Long live “Old Toasty.”
* To learn more about NHS’s Home Maintenance Course, call the Bedford-Stuyvesant NHS office at 718-919-2100, or go to their website, http://nhsnyc.org/en/find-an-nhs-near-you/bedford-stuyvesant .