What Common Home Repairs Cost (and How to Budget for Them)

Buying a home is the biggest investment most of us will ever make, and yet a shocking number of people drastically underestimate the costs that come with it.

That’s right – far too many people jump into a mortgage without factoring in the costs of actually caring for their priciest possession. As a homeowner, you can’t just call the landlord when your ceiling starts to leak. And postponing important maintenance or repairs can lead to deterioration and bigger, costlier problems down the road — not to mention lower property values over time.

This is all easily avoidable, of course — but you have to plan ahead.

Costly Home Repairs You Should Budget For

Most experts suggest having an emergency fund stocked with at least three to six months of expenses. When disaster strikes, you can pull money from this account without disrupting your regular budget or spending plans. As you figure out how much to stash away, here are seven common, costly home improvements and repairs that many homeowners will have to pay for — whether they’ve budgeted for them or not:

New Roof

Every home needs an outer crust to protect what’s inside. However, few people plan to replace their roof until it’s already leaking or showing more than an average amount of wear and tear. Even worse, an unchecked leak can cause significant interior or structural damage over time, which could mean far more money out of your pocket.

Fortunately, a little planning can go a long way. According to Angie’s List, members paid an average of $11,095 to tear off and replace a new roof in 2014. If that seems high, it’s probably because it is. As the site notes, a standard 2,200- to 2,600-square-foot roof replacement will cost even DIY homeowners between $2,000 and $6,000 just for the materials. Meanwhile, hiring professionals to do the job will cost you between $5,000 to $12,000 – it all depends on the size of your home.

How long your roof should last also depends on several factors. As the National Association of Home Builders notes, wood shake roofs typically last about 30 years, fiber cement shingles last about 25 years, and asphalt shingle/composition roofs last about 20 years. So if you’ve been in your home for 10 years or longer, and you haven’t replaced the roof yet — well, there’s a good chance you’ll have to do so in the next decade. Start saving up.

Hot Water Heater

If you’ve owned a home before, you probably already know that hot water heaters burst or stop working with almost no advanced notice. The first sign of trouble usually comes several minutes into a lukewarm shower – all of a sudden, you realize something has gone terribly wrong.

Fortunately, water heaters are nowhere near as expensive as a new roof. At big box stores, you can usually get away with paying somewhere between $300 and $900 for a water heater plus up to $250 for installation. Tankless models are immeasurably more efficient, but much more expensive as well. Whichever type of water heater you use, having enough emergency money in the bank will make the purchase easier to stomach.

Replacement Windows

Replacing drafty old windows with newer, efficient ones is a common and popular home upgrade that can save you money on your heating and cooling bills. But even the most efficient windows may still need to be replaced during your home’s lifetime. They age and crack, their seals break, and they ultimately wear down and stop serving their purpose. Unfortunately, there is little you can do about it – except to replace them.

According to Angie’s List, new windows cost between $350 and $500 each, including installation. The total cost will depend on how many windows you have, what type of replacement windows you pick out, and whether you need the window frames or sills replaced or repaired as well. Many homeowners replace old windows a few at a time, year by year, as their budget permits.

Heating/Air Conditioning

Even if you don’t need a new unit, you should expect to shell out some money for ongoing maintenance and repairs on your heat pump or HVAC unit. At the very least, you should set up an annual cleaning and tune-up, if not a bi-annual appointment in the spring and fall. Unfortunately, these visits tend to be costly. As Home Advisor notes, the average air conditioning unit repair came in at $320 in 2014, while the average furnace repair cost homeowners $270.

Replacing your unit altogether won’t be cheap either, although it could mean fewer repairs in the near future. In 2014, a new AC unit install came in at $5,210. A new furnace: $3,865. No matter what type of unit you have, you should expect it to last a few decades at most, even with regular maintenance and upkeep.

Kitchen Remodel

Styles constantly come and go — think back to mustard yellow linoleum and green appliances — which means a kitchen remodel could be inevitable if you plan to stay in your home for the long run. Although many homeowners opt for a “soft remodel,” with low-cost updates such as applying a new coat of paint, refacing the cabinets, and replacing hardware, many others go for the full shebang, replacing everything from the flooring and cabinets to the appliances and countertops in the process.

Popular Mechanics recently pegged the price of the average kitchen remodel at somewhere between $18,500 and $54,00, which is rather terrifying if you think about it. Even if you opt for partial remodel or upgrade over the full deal, it won’t be cheap, which is why it’s best to plan ahead.

Exterior Painting or Siding

Although exterior siding can last a lifetime, there are times when it needs to be replaced after 10, 20, or 30 years. Unfortunately, exterior siding isn’t cheap.

As Angie’s List notes, there are four common siding choices currently on the market – wood, aluminum, vinyl, and clapboard or beveled. Even for the cheapest option – vinyl siding – the base cost for a 2,200-square-foot home will be anywhere from $6,000 to $8,500. Add in the costs of old siding disposal and clean-up and you can easily rack up a five-figure bill.

Painting a home, on the other hand, is typically cheaper but needs to be done more often. Where hiring a painter for the same size home might run $5,000, someone with painting experience and a lot of free time could do the job themselves for a whole lot cheaper. Either way, you’ll be shelling out some dough — so start saving now.

Are you budgeting for any major home improvements in the future? What expensive home repairs have you had to make unexpectedly in the last five or 10 years?

Holly Johnson

Contributing Writer

Holly Johnson is a frugality expert and award-winning writer who is obsessed with personal finance and getting the most out of life. A lifelong resident of Indiana, she enjoys gardening, reading, and traveling the world with her husband and two children. In addition to The Simple Dollar, Holly writes for well-known publications such as U.S. News & World Report Travel, PolicyGenius, Travel Pulse, and Frugal Travel Guy. Holly also owns Club Thrifty.