Repair vs. Replace - How to decide?
Emily Hurley
February 20, 2014 in Design Dilemma
Do you have any tried and true methods for deciding what items you put the effort into repairing vs. what items you would just replace? This can be anything from a lamp to furniture to large fixtures and appliances.

Share your experience! (photos encouraged)

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I painted the kitchen cabinets - they were a dark oak, but I liked the shape, and knew they'd look nice if they were white. I replace it if it costs more to repair than the item is worth, and I replace anything I can't reasonable alter myself so that I like it. (HOwever, I'm pretty willing to work hard if it will save me money)....
February 20, 2014 at 4:42PM        Thanked by Emily Hurley
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Tallman Segerson Builders
Repairing and refinishing surfaces such as wood can really make a huge difference at a low cost. You can revitalize many aspects of your home inexpensively. It can be a good idea to replace appliances and other electrical components as new products generally perform better, last longer, and use less energy. Ultimately it comes down to what you can/want to live with and what your priorities are for improving your living space.
February 21, 2014 at 12:09PM        Thanked by Emily Hurley
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Emily Hurley
Would you replace a more valuable older item with a less expensive new version? Is that a tradeoff that people struggle with?
February 21, 2014 at 1:30PM   
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Repair, then replace. Use your creativity. Re: second question, not if I can help it. When something is done, it's done.
February 21, 2014 at 2:43PM      Thanked by Emily Hurley
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Repair, repair, repair. My hubby is from Mexico City, nothing in Mexico is un-repairable. Trust me.
February 21, 2014 at 2:48PM        Thanked by Emily Hurley
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Cancork Floor Inc.
Compare the cost of the refurbishing vs. cost of new purchase. That is my deciding factor. If you have more time than If you have more money than time...purchase new. If you are have a bit of both...remember to "pay" yourself your hourly wage to find out the "true" cost of DIY.
February 21, 2014 at 4:29PM     
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I have the same dilemma. My cabinets are 21 years old and I don't want and really the big thing is I can't afford a replace.
February 21, 2014 at 4:54PM   
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Repair versus replace? It's a balancing act. I have a "use it until it dies" attitude towards most things.

1 - Can I do the repair myself or do I have to hire someone?
Are parts available?

2 - Cost of DIY parts versus cost of repair technician versus replacement? What wins?

3 - Will the repair extend the lifespan of the item enough to make it worth the repair? Putting $50 into a washer to get another 3 years is good. Putting $300 into that washer is stupid. I can buy a good used replacement washer for that and it will last 5+ years.

4 - Critical? Can I live without the item while waiting for the parts or the repair person? How bad do I need it?

Looking at recent repairs ... they seem to be extending lives for appliances.

$15 for a lint filter for a 25 year old dryer = worth it!
$40 for a new hot water valve for a 10 year old washer = worth it
$70 for a new burner for a stove = worth it
$80 for a new control panel for my microwave (over the range, hard to replace whole oven) = worth it
$600 for new DIY wood countertops and sink to replace crumbling formica. (the old sink was reused by someone else) = worth it

Some things are beyond repair - our mail server motherboard just bit the dust ... so we switched to a web-hosting company for email. We can host there for 10 years for the cost of replacing that server. And they do the system maintenance and upgrades.
February 21, 2014 at 5:39PM     
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"Would you replace a more valuable older item with a less expensive new version? Is that a tradeoff that people struggle with?"

I don't understand the question. If it's not working, and it can't be repaired, it's no longer valuable.
February 21, 2014 at 5:44PM     
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J Petempich
everything is repaired except for computers, phones, and cameras over 3 years old.
February 21, 2014 at 5:51PM   
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Laura Weeks
Repair, refinish or repurpose!

Meauxmeaux3 - we had the same dilemma -wanted an updated look without the huge cost. Our kitchen cabinets are original to our home,which was built int 1960 and still in great shape, with "good bones" :-) So last year we painted them, added a new laminate countertop and tin backsplash (we have lived here 19 years and had not done anything to the kitchen, ever, other than new appliances when existing ones failed beyond repair). This year we installed laminate flooring. We love our "new" kitchen! I even painted the old 1960 handmade hutch that matched the oriental cabinets.
February 21, 2014 at 6:04PM     
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Laura Weeks
Oh, I lied, we painted the kitchen a few years ago. ;-)
February 21, 2014 at 6:07PM   
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Mark Bischak, Architect
Sometimes a quarter is the best solution. Tails on one side, heads on the other. Toss it in the air, call heads or tails, . . .
February 21, 2014 at 6:08PM   
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J Petempich
charleee, I love your comment about Mexico. I am in Mexico and the frame had rusted away on our 1997 truck and they just replaced it by welding a section of another truck's frame to our truck. It took a week and we got it back today. Kind of like a spine replacement.
February 21, 2014 at 7:12PM     
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I look at the age of an appliance and cost to repair vs replace. If family can help out with repair, all that much better. For other things, it depends on how I feel about them. Sometimes, I'm ready to toss 'em.
February 21, 2014 at 7:21PM   
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Repair body parts at all cost - Replace everything else if repair is half the cost of replacement;)
February 21, 2014 at 7:34PM   
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I do struggle with these questions all the time. I am not cheap, but am certainly conscious of what I am spending... Had to do most stuff ourselves as we could not afford for someone else to do it for us. I have painted, stained, sanded, covered with fabric and creative thought myself crazy for years. But I learned a lot about when to pack it in and throw it out:). If you are sentimental about it, fix it and keep it...if not, then it does not matter the value of it...replace it with something you will treasure:)
February 21, 2014 at 7:44PM   
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@Emily Hurley – Replace old upscale with new less expensive – It would depend on how impressed I was with the old upscale; had it been worth the extra $ or not, required more small repairs along the way or not, etc. My experience has been the opposite. I started with a highly rated GE dishwasher years ago; GE later admitted it had a design flaw .. the cam controlling cycles had to be replaced 3 times; even though they covered the cost, when it happened the 4th time, I decided to get a more high-end brand .. Miele. I loved it, and when I had to replace the dishwasher in my new house, I automatically went to Miele again. The SubZero fridge in my old house was 21 years old when I moved; never needed a repair. That’s a track record worthy of sticking with the brand.
February 23, 2014 at 4:12AM   
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This decision for us is not just about cost. I struggle to justify being wasteful so we have decided to have our solid wood kitchen cupboard doors resurfaced and reconfigure the layout instead of ripping out the old kitchen. We're just adding a new sink, handles and bench tops.
February 23, 2014 at 4:27AM     
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If you get frantic each time you see the thing, its better to replace than repair for your emotional well being. A peaceful place is all that matters. Of course there are things which may be done away with in every home any time.
February 23, 2014 at 4:34AM     
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JAC Frances
I've done a complete tear-down-to-the-bare-bones remodel and a DIY spruce up. It all depends on what you have to work with, or not, in the way of finances, cabinets, etc. I had decent cabinets, small budget, lots of time and good DIY knowledge. I painted walls, sanded and painted cabinets, installed a wonderful backsplash with travertine and glass tiles and new appliances. The total cost would shock most people and the pride I have in my new kitchen is off the charts!
February 23, 2014 at 6:54AM     
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Computers are built and upgraded by my husband. Appliance repairs big and small are done by me. There are a couple of really good appliance parts places online that will help you diagnose the problem and then show you how to do the work step by step in a video!!! To date I have been able to fix the broken handle on the dishwasher, replace the felting in the dryer's drum tracking, replace the drive belt underneath the washer, and more recently we worked together to replace the drive shaft and gears on the same washer. Calling a repairman will be a 75 to 100 dollar service fee for an opinion about what is wrong with the appliance. Granted the money is applied to the bill IF THEY DO THE WORK... however in all instances, but the most recent one, the cost to buy parts and do the repairs were less the the cost for the opinion of the repairman!

Cost to replace drive shaft and bearing in the washer was about $250.00. Cost to buy a similarly appointed washer in today's market? About $800.00. Let the repairman do it? About $500.00.

Was it worth it? You bet!

BTW, before I buy any costly appliance, big or small, I now research online to see if the parts to fix it are readily available. There is nothing worse than buying something for big money and then not being able to repair it.
February 23, 2014 at 10:45AM     
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1) How vital is this thing to my life?

How fast I need it working again is part of the repair/refurbish or replace bit.

2) What died on it?

3) Can I get the part?
3b) How long will it take to get that part?
3c) How much will that part cost versus a new one?

4) Can I replace that part myself or will I have to have someone else do it?

5) Am I by now fed up enough with this one that I WANT something different?

6) Can I find something better?

7) Can I afford something better/different?

If it's remodeling; it still follows the same idea... I've recently had a crash course in, I have to do it myself or I can't afford it... and a lot of workarounds and compromises can happen.
(ex I fished the wires myself but had the electrician check the work when they did the important parts; I installed the laminate myself after using the half a box of beat up pieces to practice installing onto a sheet of subfloor, etc)
February 23, 2014 at 10:48AM   
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@ llswink - care to share the links for those helpful websites, please? They sound really useful!
February 23, 2014 at 4:58PM     
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@bubblyjock: Sorry, I didn't think I was allowed to do this! This one is my favorite, PartSelect, and is the one I have ordered the most parts from: Hope you find them as helpful as I have. I feel their prices are good, the staff are excellent, and the shipping is fast.
February 23, 2014 at 8:57PM     
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Thanks, llswink - much appreciated!!!
February 24, 2014 at 6:42AM     
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