When to Fix and When to Replace?

"Can't you just fix it?" is a common cry of the homeowner when they learn that the cost of major repair for many home fixtures and appliances is close to the cost of replacement.
Here are some things to consider in deciding whether repair or replacement might be the better option.

Water Heater
Industry statistics show that the average water heater lasts 12 years. With regular maintenance and routine repairs, some keep operating two or three times as long. Modern high-efficiency water heaters often can pay for themselves in energy savings within 3-5 years.
Almost all components on a water heater can be fixed or replaced except for the tank. Once the tank rusts through, there is no way to rescue the water heater. Replacement is the only solution.
Water heaters come with internal sacrificial anode rods to protect against rusting. An anode's sole purpose is to corrode away so the steel of the tank can't. Replacing the anodes every 3-4 years (more frequently if water is softened) will add considerably to the life of a water heater.
Another main cause of failure is overheating from sediment buildup inside the tank. Ask your plumber to inspect the anodes and sediment periodically. Sometimes this can be done as part of an annual service agreement.

Automatic dishwashers are another appliance that should last a decade or more - though here, too, you often can save money by buying a newer energy-efficient unit.
Brand new units can be bought for $400-$600, while repairs of various operating mechanisms typically run $150 and up. If your dishwasher is getting near the 10-year mark, a major repair may be a signal that other components are also on their last legs. It won't take many service calls to pay for a brand new unit.

Stoppages and minor malfunctions are worth repairing. But if the motor goes out, or the blades break, you are better off replacing the entire unit. Especially so if you deal with a plumbing company that warrants the product for 5-10 years or even longer.

Unless you crack the porcelain, a toilet can easily last a lifetime. What will wear out is the flushing mechanisms comprised of moving parts. Leakage may occur from the wax ring seal by the floor, but that can be fixed short of replacement.

Replacing a cartridge, washer or other internal component can repair leaking faucets. Tarnishes and nicks are harder to fix.
Good faucets will give at least 5 and often 10 or more years of trouble-free operation. Plumbers can keep them operating almost indefinitely, but here too most people would rather pay a few more bucks for a replacement that offers better styling and convenience.

Common Household Repairs

Regular care and maintenance can forestall most of these breakdowns at a fraction of the cost of repairs. Have your plumbing, heating and air conditioning inspected, cleaned and checked at least once a year.

Clogged drains
Many of these calls could be avoided by taking greater care in what you put down drains - especially the kitchen sink drain; the most used and most clogged drain in the house. I also recommend regular treatment with Bio-Clean, a biological drain cleaner sold only through plumbing contractors.

Dripping faucets
This is an annoyance that most homeowners have to deal with from time to time, as the washers in the faucets wear out with use. You can extend the life of your faucet washers by not turning them off with too much force.

Leaking pipes
In extreme cases, these can cause expensive damage to floors and belongings. To stop a small leak from turning into a big one, look at your pipes periodically to check for rust or white lime deposits that may indicate a leak is starting.

Leaking water heaters
Most often when you have a leake, it's time to get rid of the water heater. Usually leaks indicate rusting through at the bottom of the storage tank, for which there is no good repair. By the time this happens, the water heater is usually so old you'd benefit from replacing it with a more energy-efficient model anyway.

Running and leaking toilets
This is not only an annoyance, but also a waste of water and money. Leaky toilets can cost you upwards of $100 a year on your water bills. If you hear a low humming noise, or if the toilet continues to run into the bowl after the toilet is flushed, it indicates that some part of the mechanism is out of order. Sometimes a little jiggling of the ball cock or flush valve mechanism solves the problem with cost. Otherwise, you may need to replace the entire mechanism.

Questions to ask a Repair Contractor

Most service firms will quote an hourly rate over the phone, but does that really tell you anything? What any homeowner really wants to know is, "How much will it cost me to fix my problem?"
Quoting an hourly rate might seem to provide a rough estimate. Yet how often have you seen home repair jobs drag on for hour after hour with "the meter running"? Too many variables come into play, including the exact nature of the problem and the skill of the service technician dispatched to your home.
Here are a few questions homeowners should ask of the people you call for home repairs and service who quote you hourly charges over the phone.

Can you guarantee a maximum price to do the job?

Expect to hear a lot of stuttering and stammering with this one. Some contractors will laugh out loud. However, there are a few progressive contractors out there who do quote exact prices, guaranteed, once they perform a diagnosis. Usually they charge a modest up front fee for the diagnosis, though many waive the charge if they get the job. Nonetheless, it does remove the guesswork. That's why in BIG LOU'S QUALITY PLUMBING we give prices before do any job, and also we charge by the job not by the hour!

Who will be doing the work?

Sometimes it will be a master Tecnician with many years of experience. At other times, though, it could be a youngster with less than a year under his belt - maybe even an apprentice filling in during an absence. Who does the work has a lot to do with how much you end up paying when rates are quoted on an hourly basis.

If the problem persists or reappears after your Technician leaves, will you come back to fix it at no extra charge - immediately?

Most companies will answer yes to this question, but watch out. Most labor guarantees extend only a month, which is not very long when you think about it. Also, callbacks tend to be the lowest priority when service firms get busy.

Can you show me proof of a license and insurance, both general liability and worker compensation?

This is a big one. Most people don't realize that if an uninsured worker gets injured while working in a home, the homeowner can be held financially responsible.
On the flip side, in some states where licensing is required, a homeowner is not obligated to pay for any work done by an unlicensed contractor.

What time will you show up?

Most service companies can't pinpoint their time of arrival closer than "morning or afternoon." This can get expensive if the homeowner has to take off a full or half-day of work.
Progressive service companies can many times pinpoint within an hour or two when their service technician will be at the door. If he or she does get delayed, these companies will call with an updated time of arrival.
Another useful gauge of a service firm's value is if there is even anybody available to answer these questions. Many contractors try to do business using answering machines, promising to return calls at some undetermined time. This isn't much help to someone who needs an emergency repair right now.


Water conservation is extremely important. Here are some ways you can do your part:
Don't use excessive amounts of detergents, bleach or chemicals that may kill the natural bacteria in your septic system.
Use biodegradable soaps and detergents.
To prevent excessive watering of your lawn in the summertime, purchase an inexpensive spring-loaded timer which attaches directly to your outside faucet. This will prevent over watering in case you forget to shut off the sprinkler.



Water pressure in your home above 60 pounds per square inch is harmful to your plumbing system and will cause excessive water usage. Contact your local water authority to find out what the water pressure is on your street. If it exceeds 60 pounds, consider installing a pressure reducing valve that will limit the water pressure within your home.




©2003-2010 Big Lou's Quality Plumbing, Inc. 2225 NE 123rd Street; Miami, FL 33181

Site Meter