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How Old is My House (and the Stuff in it?)

Often when we buy a home, we can fairly easily ascertain when the home was built and even when additions or renovations were made, but how can you tell the approximate age of many household components and appliances in the home? Here are some tricks you may not know about that can help you determine the age of the "stuff" in your house.

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  • Air Conditioning Condensing Units Look at the serial number data plate at the rear or lower exterior of the outdoor unit. You may need to copy the number and search the manufacturers web site. Usually installed same time as the furnace system but first confirm same manufacturer. Look for an ANSI standard, although frequently not found on a/c manufacture plates. Life expectancy (design) of these units is approximately 10-15 years.
  • Dishwashers Look at the vinyl-covered wire racks in the dishwasher. The vinyl generally starts to wear off of the tips of the wire rack after about 7–8 years of usage. The unit could be a little younger or older, depending on the frequency and care of the user. Excessive vinyl wear would suggest 12–15 years old, and close to the end of its dependable life expectancy.
  • Electrical service cables (on the exterior of the house) Electrical service cables tend to last 27–30 years on the south side of the house and 33–36 years on the north side. East and west exposures land somewhere in the middle. Learn more about electrical service.
  • Furnaces (Forced Air) & Boilers  Again, the serial number's first four digits will typically reveal year of manufacture. Also, check the ANSI standard for a general indication. Furnaces are generally considered to have a design life expectancy of 15-20 years and boilers 25-40 years.
  • Microwaves Many microwaves will have a date label at the interior of the cooking area; example = March 2007.
  • Standard asphalt composition roofing The most significant clue when determining the condition of asphalt composition shingles is the condition of the granules between the joints or slots in the tabs. If the granules are intact, the roofing will not leak. If the granules are missing, to the point that the matrix is exposed, the shingle is failing. Curling and cupping may be indications of age, however, if the granules are intact, the roof has some remaining life. Learn more about asphalt shingles.
  • Storm windows Flat-framed windows that are not self-storing are from the 1940s and early 1950s. Mill finished self-storing windows are from the early 1950s to the early 1960s. White self-storing windows had numerous design patterns that started in the early 1960s and continued through the early 1980s. White self-storing windows with a center mullion, used to hold or stabilize the width, started in the early 1980s.  Learn more about windows.
  • Stucco Hard coat stucco is made of Portland cement, sand and lime. If stucco is not painted, it will last about 60 years on the southern exposure. After approximately 25 years of exposure, the sand starts to loosen. It becomes progressively worse until it exhibits excessive deterioration at about 60 years.  Painted stucco, if done properly and timely, will last 200 or more years.  Learn more about stucco.
  • Water Heaters Check the manufacturer's label on the front of the water heater for 'Date of Manufacture'. Also, the year of manufacture can usually be found in the first four digits. A serial number of 1208xxxxxxx would indicate December of 2008. Still no luck? Look at the ANSI standard on the same label. This standard will give you a general idea of when the unit was manufactured. Life expectancy for electric heaters is 10-15 years, while gas heaters is 8-12 years.