Big Dollar Shockers – Home Maintenance and Upgrades

big dollar shockers home upgrades maintenanceThe act of buying and owning a home defines part of the American Dream.

Unfortunately, owning a home comes with many costs that most people do not consider up front.

Only after you own a home do you realize what you have gotten yourself into.

Tori and I actually own two homes, our primary residence and a rental property that we used to live in.

Our current home is a newer home built in the last decade and our rental is an older home built about three decades ago.

The experiences of owning these two homes allowed us to quickly figure out what big dollar maintenance and upgrade items can pop up.

We learned the following so you can consider these expenses before buying your first home or so you can save up for these future expenses, if you already own your home.

[Related: 3 Easy Steps To Save For Your First House Down Payment]

Big Dollar Home Maintenance Issues

When you buy a home, you probably focus on the fact that you have to put a big chunk of money down as a down payment and the fact that you have to pay thousands of dollars in closing costs. Unfortunately, big dollar home maintenance items might end up rivaling those big up front costs.

Replacing the Roof

Replacing your roof may only happen every 15 to 30 years, but when you do have to replace your roof you better be ready to pay a massive bill. Even the smallest roofs cost thousands of dollars to replace with many roofs easily entering the five figure range.

Painting the Exterior of Your Home

Painting the exterior of your home will require much more work than simply painting an interior room or two. That extra work and the cost of paint will make an exterior paint job a pretty expensive undertaking.

Exterior paint jobs will vary wildly in price depending on what the exterior of your home is made of (brick doesn’t need to be painted but stucco does), how much area will need to be painted as well as the detail required to complete the job. The length between paint jobs also varies based on the exterior of your home.

Count on at least a couple thousand dollars or more if you plan to hire the painting out to contractors or the cost of painting supplies and a few weekends worth of time if you plan to do it yourself. I’d bet you’ll incur this cost at a minimum of once every ten to fifteen years or maybe even more frequently depending on where you live.

Replacing the Heating or Air Conditioning System

Heating and air conditioning systems help to keep our homes at a comfortable temperature, but they do not come cheap. As with any major system in your home, these systems are complex and require experts to install a new system.

We personally have had to replace our air conditioning system at our first home and it cost us over $3,000 for a relatively small 2 bedroom townhouse. If you end up wanting a top of the line unit or if you have a huge house, you will need an even more expensive unit or perhaps multiple units to heat and cool your home.

Air conditioners and heaters tend last anywhere from 10 to 20 years depending on where you live, but when they break you generally want them replaced immediately in order to stay comfortable at home.

Plumbing Issues or Hot Water Heaters

Another area you may need to hire an expert to fix is your house’s plumbing. While a competent homeowner can handle simple tasks such as installing a new toilet, once you start having problems with your pipes or your hot water heater most people will call the plumber.

Plumbers get paid well because they generally get called when an emergency pops up. Whether your hot water heater has broken, a pipe has frozen or you can’t get your bathtub to drain, plumbers can profit from the immediacy of the problems they fix. That isn’t good news for your wallet.

Depending on the job, you could end up paying just a couple hundred dollars up to thousands of dollars. Hot water heaters will need to be replaced at a minimum of once every decade or two or as often as once every few years, depending on the quality you buy.


Most people don’t consider landscaping as a big expense of home ownership, but when you really think of all of the tools and effort necessary to keep up the landscaping around your home you may be surprised.

First, if you don’t have the necessary equipment, you’ll have to go out and buy a lawnmower, edger, trimmer, hedge clippers, a shovel, a rake and many more tools. Once you have these tools, you’ll have to maintain them to make sure they continue to work properly, especially if you use tools powered by gas powered motors.

After you have all of the necessary equipment, you’ll have to water your lawn to keep it green if it does not rain enough. You’ll have to fertilize your lawn, treat it for bugs and kill weeds as well as take the time to keep everything properly cut and looking good. If you let your yard fall into disrepair, you’ll have to spend even more money fixing it back up to a decent standard.

Of course, the above assumes that your yard had decent landscaping when you moved in. If the landscaping wasn’t in good shape or you want to add your own touch, you’ll likely spend hundreds or thousands of dollars buying the desired plants and landscaping effects. You’ll spend even more if you want to freshly sod or seed your new yard, too.

As you can see, even if you move into a home with a well maintained landscape you could spend thousands of dollars on equipment and upkeep. If you have to start fresh or let your landscaping fall into disrepair, expect to spend even more.

Big Dollar Home Upgrades

Big dollar shockers of home ownership don’t just limit themselves to maintenance items. Whenever you feel the urge to upgrade an area of your home, you might feel a bit of sticker shock depending on what you want to upgrade.

Upgrading Your Kitchen

If you want to majorly upgrade your kitchen, you had better prepare to fork over plenty of money to get the job done. A full kitchen renovation will easily cost at least ten thousand dollars if not multiple times that.

You’ll have to replace your flooring, add new cabinets, pay for new appliances, buy new counter tops as well as other items like a new sink. None of these purchases are minor by themselves, but when you add them all up at one time your bank account will be even less happy with you.

Upgrading Your Bathrooms

Bathrooms remodels do not come cheap, either. While bathrooms normally cover much less space than a kitchen would, plumbing work and expensive components are required for a remodel.

Depending on the materials you decide to use, a total bathroom remodel could cost as little as a couple thousand dollars to as much as ten thousand dollars or more. You’ll have to buy a new vanity, new flooring and a new shower and tub or shower/tub combo for the space in order to completely upgrade your bathroom.

Upgrading Your Flooring

Flooring can make or break your home. Carpet feels great on your feet and your budget, but unfortunately many people flat out don’t like carpet in their home. That’s sad because other options, such as tile or hardwood floor will set you back thousands of dollars.

Installing tile and hardwood can cost you anywhere from as little as $5 per square foot for materials and installation to as much as your budget will allow. New floors will make a huge difference in your home, but they’ll also make a big dent in your bank account.

As you can see, the big costs of owning a home don’t end with the closing costs and down payment you have to pay up front. While you may make it through a few years without any big costs, they will eventually need to be taken care of. Hopefully, you’ll be prepared when these major expenses pop up.

That said, home ownership can and often is the right housing answer for many people. Owning your home allows you to settle down and alter your home in any way you see fit, assuming your homeowners association doesn’t have any restrictions. Just make sure you make an informed decision and calculate both immediate and future costs into that decision.

What other big household budget shockers exist? Which were you most surprised about? Which ones have you personally dealt with? Share your experiences and thoughts in the comments below!

Photo by: Kool Cats Photography Text added by: Lance Cothern

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About Lance Cothern

Lance Cothern, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licensed in the Commonwealth of Virginia, is the founder of Money Manifesto. You can read more about him here or connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest.


  1. Wow, I think I’ve had to do nearly all of these except the exterior painting. I love owning real estate, but these items can be so expensive. The kicker is that things never break one at a time. It always comes in bunches. If you aren’t saving and prepared for these costs, it can really bite you in the butt – especially if you own more than one property.

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