Winterize Outdoor Spigot: Easy DIY to Prevent Burst Pipes

winterize outdoor spigot

Winterizing outdoor spigot is a crucial home maintenance task that safeguards you from the potential nightmare and high costs of repairing burst pipes. In this article, we will explore four DIY methods to effectively winterize outdoor spigot, ensuring your outside water faucet and garden faucets are protected against freezing temperatures. You'll learn how to turn off the water supply properly, drain the remaining water, insulate your spigots using specialized covers, and consider the benefits of installing freeze-proof spigots. If you’re ready, let’s begin!

Understanding the Problem: Frozen Spigots and Burst Pipes

Water expands as it freezes, which is the main reason why frozen pipes and spigots can lead to burst pipes. When water turns into ice, it takes up more space. If this happens inside a pipe or spigot, the expanding ice puts pressure on the pipe walls. If the pressure gets too high, the frozen pipe can crack or burst.

This cracking or bursting is not just a minor inconvenience. It can lead to significant water damage once the ice thaws and water starts leaking through these cracks. Repairing burst pipes is often expensive, not only because of the plumbing costs but also due to the potential water damage to walls, floors, and other belongings. Thus, preventing your outdoor pipes and water faucets from freezing is crucial in avoiding these costly and damaging scenarios in your yard.

 

How To Know If Your Outdoor Faucet Has Frozen

Recognizing the signs of a frozen outside water faucet is crucial for taking timely action to prevent damage. Here’s what to look out for:

  1. No Water Flow: The most obvious sign is when you turn the handle and there's little to no water coming out from the spigot. This indicates that the water inside the pipe has likely frozen and is blocking the flow.
  2. Strange Noises: If you hear unusual sounds, like whistling, banging, or clanking when the outdoor faucet is turned on, it could be a sign that ice is forming and the water is struggling to flow through the constricted space.
  3. Frost or Ice on the Faucet or Pipe: Visible frost or ice accumulation on the exterior of the faucet or any exposed pipe is a clear indicator of freezing weather affecting your plumbing.
  4. Unusually Slight Water Flow: If water flows out but with less force than usual, this could suggest that ice is partially blocking the water flow inside the pipe.
  5. Leaks Around the Faucet: Sometimes, when the ice expands inside the pipe, it may cause small cracks that lead to leaks near the outside water faucet, which can be visible when the weather warms up a bit and the ice starts to melt.

 

4 Methods to Winterize Outdoor Spigot

1. Turn Off the Water Supply

When you turn off the water supply to the outdoor spigot, you're essentially creating a barrier that keeps the interior water supply safe from the cold temperatures outside. This separation helps to ensure that any water remaining in the outdoor section of the pipe can be drained out, reducing the risk of freezing and subsequent damage.

To winterize outside faucets, start by locating the shut-off valve inside your home, which could be in the basement, crawl space, or utility area. Turn this valve clockwise to stop water from flowing to the outdoor spigot, thus preventing it from entering the pipes and freezing. After closing the valve, check for any leaks to ensure no water can seep through and reach the outdoor faucet. Finally, test the spigot outside by turning it on to make sure no water comes out, confirming that the water supply is successfully isolated and the spigot is ready for winter.

2. Drain the Remaining Water

Draining the water minimizes the risk of ice formation inside the pipes. When water freezes, it expands by about 9%, and this expansion can exert significant pressure on the pipe walls, leading to cracks or bursts. This method ensures that no water is left in the pipes that can freeze and create pressure within the plumbing system.

How to Properly Drain an Outdoor Faucet

  1. After shutting off the internal water supply valve, go outside and open the outdoor spigot. This action allows any water remaining in the pipes to flow out. If the water doesn’t immediately start draining, give it some time as it may trickle out slowly.
  2. Allow all the water to drain from the spigot. Depending on the length and orientation of the pipes, this could take several minutes. Ensure the water has stopped flowing before proceeding to the next step.
  3. Position a rag or a bucket under the spigot to catch any residual drips. This precaution helps prevent water from causing damage or forming ice on nearby surfaces.
  4. After the water appears to have stopped flowing, leave the spigot open for a bit longer to ensure all water has drained out. This step is crucial to make sure there's no water left that could freeze.

3. Insulate Your Outdoor Spigot Using Spigot Cover

insulated outdoor spigot cover

Using insulated spigot covers is a straightforward and effective way to protect your garden faucets from below freezing temperatures and weather. These outdoor faucet covers typically feature an insulated material, often with a hard outer shell or a thick layer of insulating fabric, which is secured over the spigot. The cover creates a sealed environment, trapping warmth and preventing cold air from reaching the faucet and the exposed pipe. This thermal barrier helps to keep the spigot and adjacent pipe sections above freezing temperatures, even in extremely cold weather.

Outdoor faucet covers have two types of insulated materials: Foam covers are affordable and provide good insulation but may degrade over time, especially in harsh weather. Meanwhile, fabric covers offer flexibility and aesthetic appeal but might not insulate as effectively as foam and can become wet and less effective in below freezing weather conditions. Choosing the right type of outdoor faucet cover depends on your specific needs, climate conditions, and preference for durability and aesthetics.

Is it Better to Cover Outside Faucets or Let them Drip?

When it comes to winterizing outdoor faucets, the common debate is between letting them drip or covering them. While a slow drip or moving water can help alleviate pressure build-up, it does not guarantee that the water in the pipes won’t freeze. In severe cold temperatures, even a dripping faucet can freeze, especially if the drip is not sufficient or if the ground temperature drops drastically. Additionally, dripping outside faucet in winter can lead to a significant waste of water over time.

On the other hand, covering outside faucets with insulated covers is a more effective and environmentally friendly method. These covers help maintain a warmer temperature around the outside water faucet and its adjacent pipes, significantly reducing the risk of freezing. This approach is also applicable to hose bibs and outside sink faucets, which should be drained and covered following the same principles.

How to Cover an Outside Faucet Properly

To properly cover an outside faucet:

  1. Ensure the outdoor faucet is fully drained of water.
  2. Place the insulated cover over the faucet, making sure it fits snugly and covers the entire fixture.
  3. Secure the cover as directed, often with a tie or Velcro strap, to ensure it stays in place and fully insulates the faucet.

4. Consider a Freeze-Proof Spigot

Freeze-proof spigots, also known as frost-free or freezeless faucets, are designed to reduce the risk of water freezing inside the pipes, leading to bursts and leaks. These specialized water faucets work by automatically draining excess water from the pipes when the valve is turned off. It features a valve mechanism located not at the spout but deeper inside the pipe. When you turn off the outside water faucet, the valve inside the warm area closes, and the water remaining in the pipe section leading outside drains out through a small vent. This design prevents water from being trapped in the pipes where it could freeze and cause damage.

 

Do I Need to Turn Off the Outside Water for Winter?

Whether you need to turn off the outside water for winter largely depends on your local climate and how well you've winterized your outdoor plumbing. In regions where temperatures regularly fall below freezing, it's crucial to turn off the external water supply to prevent freezing and bursting pipes. Proper methods to winterize outside faucets, including draining the water and insulating the faucets, can mitigate the risk, but turning off the water adds an extra layer of protection. For those in milder climates, the risk may be lower, and homeowners might choose not to turn off the water, especially if the water faucets are well-insulated and used periodically during winter.

 

How to Fix a Frozen Spigot

Thawing a frozen outdoor spigot requires caution to avoid damaging the pipes. To fix this, start by gently warming the pipe leading to the spigot using a hair dryer or heat tape, moving along the pipe evenly to gradually defrost the ice. Never use an open flame as it can damage pipes and create a fire hazard. As the ice defrost and melts, open the spigot slightly to allow water to flow, which will help to melt the ice more quickly and relieve built-up pressure. Continue applying heat until full water flow is restored.

 

How to Repair a Leaky Outdoor Spigot

leaky outdoor spigot

Repairing a leaky outdoor spigot usually involves replacing worn-out components like washers or seals. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  • Turn Off the Water Supply: Before starting the repair, turn off the water supply to the spigot to prevent water from gushing out when you disassemble it.
  • Remove the Handle: Unscrew and remove the handle from the spigot. You might need a screwdriver or a wrench, depending on the design of your spigot.
  • Take Out the Stem: Use an adjustable wrench to unscrew and remove the stem assembly from the spigot body. This is where you'll usually find the washer that needs replacing.
  • Replace the Washer: Inspect the washer at the end of the stem. If it's worn or damaged, replace it with a new one of the same size and thickness.
  • Reassemble the Spigot: Once the washer is replaced, reassemble the stem, handle, and any other components you removed, ensuring everything is tight and secure.
  • Test for Leaks: Turn the water supply back on and check the spigot for leaks. If it still leaks, there may be additional worn parts that need replacement, or the valve seat may be damaged.

The tips provided here are general guidelines for repairing a leaky outdoor spigot. For specific issues or more complex repairs, it's best to consult with a professional plumber. They can offer expert advice and service to ensure your outdoor plumbing is properly fixed and maintained.

 

FAQs on How to Protect Water Spigot from Freezing

How to keep outside spigot from freezing?

Insulate the spigot with a cover, drain any remaining water, and shut off the interior water supply valve to prevent freezing.

Can water spigot locks protect outdoor faucets in winter?

Water spigot locks are primarily designed to prevent water theft and unauthorized use of outside faucets during winter, rather than protecting the outside faucets from freezing temperatures. Crafted with a rust-resistant brass inner fitting and a sturdy chrome-plated brass cover, TRADESAFE Water Spigot Locks offer exceptional durability and resistance to harsh outdoor conditions. They are also equipped with a tough rubber gasket for a leakproof seal.

How do you drain outdoor spigots for winter?

Turn off the interior water supply, open the spigot to let water drain out completely, and leave it open for a short period to ensure all water has been removed.

Should outside spigots be left open in winter?

After draining, spigots should typically be closed to prevent debris and insects from entering. However, if there’s no shut-off valve or if the spigot is freeze-proof, it can be left open.

What is the difference between a hose bib and a spigot?

A hose bib is a specific type of spigot designed to have a threaded connection for attaching a garden hose, whereas "spigot" is a more general term for any outdoor water faucet.

How long do outdoor spigots last?

With proper maintenance, outdoor spigots can last between 15 to 20 years, depending on the material, usage, and exposure to weather conditions.

 

TRADESAFE is a premier company providing industrial safety solutions, including Lockout Tagout (LOTO) devices, workplace signs and more. We take pride in our top-of-the-line products engineered to meet rigorous industrial safety standards.

The material provided in this article is for general information purposes only. It is not intended to replace professional/legal advice or substitute government regulations, industry standards, or other requirements specific to any business/activity. While we made sure to provide accurate and reliable information, we make no representation that the details or sources are up-to-date, complete or remain available. Readers should consult with an industrial safety expert, qualified professional, or attorney for any specific concerns and questions.

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Author: Herbert Post

Born in the Philadelphia area and raised in Houston by a family who was predominately employed in heavy manufacturing. Herb took a liking to factory processes and later safety compliance where he has spent the last 13 years facilitating best practices and teaching updated regulations. He is married with two children and a St Bernard named Jose. Herb is a self-described compliance geek. When he isn’t studying safety reports and regulatory interpretations he enjoys racquetball and watching his favorite football team, the Dallas Cowboys.