Winter’s cold can freeze pipes, and few pipes are more at risk than exterior faucets. Frozen pipes will likely leak come spring when they thaw again. Each fall, before your region sees freezing temperatures, take a few minutes to winterize your outside faucets. Here’s how.
Determine If Your Home’s Outside Faucets Are Freeze-Proof
Many homes in cold climates have freeze-proof, or frost-free, outside faucets. Faucets that have knobs which are perpendicular to a house’s exterior wall are usually freeze-proof, but this is only a general guideline. To make sure your home’s exterior faucets are freeze-proof, look inside the faucet. In a freeze-proof faucet, you’ll only see a metal stem. Inside a faucet that’s not freeze-proof, you’ll be able to see the valve components close and open as the faucet’s handle is turned.
If your home’s outside faucets are freeze-proof, you don’t need to worry about winterizing them. They’re built and installed so that water drains from them into the warmer interior pipes each time the faucets are turned off. Thus, they won’t freeze.
Drain Water From Faucets That Aren’t Freeze Proof
If your home’s faucets aren’t freeze-proof, water can stay in them and freeze. Before the first frost, you will want to drain the water (winterize) so they won’t freeze in the cold weather.
To drain this water out:
- Disconnect any hoses. Drain the hoses and store them away.
- Shut off the interior valve, which most outside faucets in cold climates have.
- Place a pail under the drain cap, and open the drain cap. (Water will drain out.)
- Open the exterior valve. (Water will drain out.)
- Once all the water has drained from the drain cap and exterior faucet, close the exterior valve and replace the drain cap.
- Dump out any water in the bucket.
NOTE: If your faucets have a vacuum breaker, which is designed to prevent backsplashes, you’ll need to make sure all of the water drains out of the exterior valve. A few vacuum breakers can be removed by unscrewing them before you begin draining water out (Step 2), but most are designed to permanently remain in place.
Assuming your faucet’s vacuum breaker can’t be removed, look inside the vacuum breaker for a small white plastic post. With the valve open (Step 4), press this post and the remaining water should drain out.
At this point, all water is drained out of your home’s outside faucets, and they shouldn’t freeze during winter. Some homeowners purchase inexpensive foam insulators for exterior faucets and pipes from their local hardware store and place these insulators on the faucet and pipes as a final protective measure.
Come warmer weather when the threat of frost is over, it is time to be sure your exterior faucets are operable again.
If you have freeze proof faucets, you don’t need to do anything in the spring (just like you didn’t have to do anything in the fall).
If you had to winterize your non-freeze-proof faucets in the fall, you will want to de-winterize them in the spring. It’s annoying to find out that you forgot to do this step when you turn on the outside faucet and nothing happens. So take the time to turn on the interior valve again. Remove any foam insulators you might have placed on the exterior faucet. Test to be sure water flows.
Taking the time to winterize your exterior faucets (if they need it) avoids leaks and repairs needed if the faucet freezes with water inside it.
You might also like:
Download our Home Maintenance Schedule to keep up on this and other home maintenance tasks.