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  • Writer's pictureDon Magruder

Try to Repair before Replacing

Impatience and a disposable electronic culture are leading to a lot of unnecessary replacement projects around the house. It seems that repairing items is no longer a first option and many times, new homeowners go straight for the sales jugular vein—how much for a new one?

A young couple who are also new homeowners recently told me of a situation in which their toilet was running all the time and was not flushing properly. Plus, the cutoff valve at the toilet had stripped and would no longer turn off the water to the toilet. They convinced themselves they needed a new toilet and a local plumbing contractor agreed—what else would any decent money-making plumber do? The young couple spent $500 on a new toilet along with installation and now they have a toilet that flushes properly and does not constantly run water.

Sadly, all the old toilet needed was a $20 ballcock, $5 flapper, and $6 cutoff valve. Plus, a plumber or handyman with a good YouTube connection to fix the old toilet. Even with a plumber, the bill probably would have been less than $150 to repair the toilet instead of $500 for purchasing a new one. More importantly, the life of this item would have been extended. Repairing items around the house is more about getting all the value and goody of the initial investment before it must be replaced for being worn out.

The water heater is another item in the home people are quick to replace instead of repair. Many times, the heating element and pressure relief valve can be replaced. My youngest daughter had a home inspection five years ago when she purchased her home. The home inspector reported the water heater was not working correctly and may need to be replaced. The only issue was a defective pressure valve, which was repaired at a cost of less than $20. For only $20, she got five more years of life out of an older water heater—that is real money!

Heating and air conditioning units (HVAC) are frequently replaced when they can easily be repaired. A non-working unit on the hottest day in summertime will force desperate homeowners to make a poor decision. Of course, overzealous repair people are more than willing to sell you a new unit because many times it is easier and more profitable. Spending $200 on a repair to your home’s HVAC unit is not over the top. The longer you can keep an old unit going, the better it will be for you as the homeowner. Replace the HVAC unit when the equipment requires continuous repairs, or the parts become obsolete.

The garage door opener is another area wherein homeowners replace the product instead of repairing it. Unfortunately, when a car is trapped inside a garage, the homeowner needs their garage door working as soon as possible. A disreputable service person will push installing a new garage door opener when many times the opener just needs a remote re-programmed or a new motherboard installed because of an electrical surge. Many times, other needless repairs like replacement rollers will be included in these repairs as a frantic homeowner just wants to get their garage door operating.

Where many homeowners get fouled up on the replacement versus repair calculation is the cost of repair as it relates to a new item in the home. However, they forget that repairs extend the life of the item. In a home, it is about the longevity. The longer the life of home maintenance items, the less a homeowner will pay to maintain the home in the long run. For example, a $400 repair to an HVAC unit that results in an extra five years of life is a great investment and eliminates one in the replacement cycle.

Yes, it is sometimes hard to determine when you should replace an item in the home versus repairing it. Consider the extra life the repair will add. The best question to ask any repair person is, “If I do this repair how much longer do you think this item will last?” If you are adding years, repairing is usually the best answer.

Don Magruder is the CEO of RoMac Building Supply and host of Around the House, which can be seen at

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