Learn how to fix a leaky outdoor faucet with this DIY tutorial

The outdoor faucet is a common fixture in the backyard. It is used for all sorts of purposes, from washing the car to filling up a pool. But sometimes, even if you have followed all the instructions carefully, your outdoor faucet can start leaking.

Leaky outdoor faucets can drive up your utility bills in a sneaky way. This is why it is very important  to catch the leak early and reduce water waste, as well as money waste. Even if you’re not handy around the house, learning how to fix a leaky outdoor faucet is a useful skill that will help you become a more self-sufficient homeowner.

In case you need help, you can always reach out to an expert, but, until then, here is our guide to fixing a leaky outdoor faucet.

Identifying the Cause

You must first identify the cause of the leaky outdoor faucet before you can start repairing it. A leaky outdoor faucet can be caused by a number of factors. When you notice that your outdoor faucet leaks from the spout when you turn off the water, then the washer is likely to be the problem. Either it needs to be tightened or it needs to be replaced.

If you experience leakage from the handle when you turn on the faucet, there is a possibility that the stem packing has failed. The most common cause of outdoor spigot leaks is worn-out washers. Leaks can also be caused by frozen or clogged pipes, or by worn-out washers and packing. 

Over time, pipes can get clogged with mineral deposits and other stuff. When water freezes in a pipe, it expands and contracts, leading to cracks in the pipe. This is why it’s crucial to turn off water from outside taps in the fall when you start to winterize your home.

It may be better to simply replace the old leaking outdoor faucet rather than spending time and money repairing it.

Associated Costs of Outdoor Faucet Repair

A leaky outdoor faucet can be easily fixed if you tighten or replace a loose washer. Nevertheless, if you are intending to replace the outdoor faucet entirely, the cost of repairing each part will add up. 

The cost of installing a spigot is roughly $100, whereas a brass hose bib with a shutoff valve costs around $200. A new or repaired outdoor faucet typically costs between $50 and $300. As a hose bib alone costs $5 to $10, you’ll likely save a lot of money if you handle it yourself.

Learn How to Fix a Leaky Outdoor Faucet with this DIY Tutorial

How To Fix a Leaky Outdoor Faucet

Leaky spigots are one of the most common problems facing any gardener or homeowner. Although this may seem like a small, insignificant problem, if left untouched for long enough, it can cause serious damage to your garden, your house’s foundation, and your bank account.

Repairing a leaky outdoor faucet is easy, quick, and, most importantly, inexpensive. In order to fix a leaking hose bib, you only need a wrench, pliers, a screwdriver, and a spare washer.

Note: If you’re dealing with a frost-free faucet and you find that water is leaking from the top of the bib, you’ll probably also need to replace the vacuum breaker. To learn more about replacing the vacuum breaker, go to step 5.

Step 1: Inspect the packing nut

Your outdoor faucet, also known as a spigot or hose bib, has a relatively simple anatomy. There is a packing nut located behind the handle that prevents the water from escaping. In order to fix leaky outdoor faucets, the packing nut needs to be tightened with 1/2 to 1/8 turns.

Alternatively, if your handle is secured with a screw at its center, follow the same steps. Often, tightening the seal is all it takes to restore your hosebibb to optimum performance. If your spigot is still leaking after that, you’ll have to remove the packing nut completely to gain access to the hose stem. Be sure to turn off the water source before you do that.

Step 2: Turn off the water supply

Make sure you turn the water off before attempting any hose repair; otherwise, you may experience a host of problems when you attempt to access the faucet stem. If you aren’t sure where to find your shut-off valve, we suggest checking your water meter first.

It is more common for indoor water meters to be found in colder regions, while outside water meters are most often found in warmer climates. If you suspect your water meter is inside, search your basement, garage, or crawl space.

In general, turning the shutoff valve clockwise to horizontal will shut off the water. If your valve uses a knob, turn it clockwise until you can no longer turn it. Afterward, make sure to open your outdoor faucet before attempting the repair to drain out any excess water that may have remained in the pipes (and to ensure that you succeeded in turning off the water supply).

Step 3: Accessing the Washer Assembly

As soon as you have shut off your water supply, use an adjustable wrench to loosen the packing nut that is behind the handle of the faucet. You will need to replace the washer assembly after you remove the handle. The steps differ if you’re working with a regular or frost-free faucet.

The washer assembly is located directly behind the faucet handle on a regular faucet. If you’re using a freeze-proof faucet, you’ll find that the handle is mounted on a long metal rod called the faucet stem. Remove the whole stem, and the damaged washer will be at the opposite end.

Take out the washer assembly with a screwdriver to get to it. Just replace it with a new washer of the same size and thickness.

Step 4: Reassemble Your Faucet

Replace the screw at the end of the handle or stem of the faucet. Put the handle back in place and tighten the packing nut.

Step 5: Replacing the Vacuum Breaker on a Frost-Free Faucet

You might be working with a frost-free faucet if you live in a newer house. These faucets work well in preventing freezing and burst pipes, but there are more parts to deal with, which means there are more places where a leak could originate.

Occasionally, the valve on the vacuum breakers wears out and breaks, allowing water into the system when it normally wouldn’t. In order to replace the vacuum breaker, you will probably need to take your old part to a hardware store so that you can make sure it is an exact fit for your particular spigot.

Just unscrew (or pop off) the vacuum breaker cap that is on top of the faucet before heading to the store. You’ll find the vacuum breaker underneath.

Each faucet is different in this area, but generally, you can remove this part by unscrewing it or pulling it with pliers to detach it from any threads. Replacing it is the same process as removing it.

Frequently Asked Questions About Water Spigots

In this section, we’ll discuss some of the most commonly asked questions about outdoor faucets.

What is the Difference Between a Hose Bib, a Faucet, and a Spigot?

Essentially, all of them refer to valves that control the flow of water, but there are some differences between their uses. In British English, a tap refers to the water control valve found in sinks and bathtubs, or what Americans would call a faucet.

In the plumbing industry, a spigot refers to an outdoor faucet used by plumbers or other professionals. A hose bib (or hose bibb) is another term for a spigot, so named because it is where a hose is usually attached.

How Do Spigots Work?

In a regular spigot, water supply is controlled by a valve, such as a ball, globe, or gate valve, which can be operated by a screw driver. When you turn the handle, the mechanism opens or closes the valve.

Most leaks from the spout are caused by wear and tear in this inner mechanism. You can choose to replace individual components, but it is usually easier and cheaper to just replace the entire spigot.

What Can I Do to Prevent an Outdoor Faucet From Freezing?

If you live in a region that is susceptible to frost, leaks can sometimes occur due to water expanding inside the pipe and/or spigot. You can protect your pipes from frost damage by doing the following:

  1. Turn off your main water valve and drain your spigot(s).

  2. If there are exposed pipes, wrap them in pipe insulation (usually cylindrical pieces of foam). Duct tape them to keep them tight and secure.

  3. Set up a frost-proof faucet.

Be aware that wrapping with insulation will only slow the loss of heat. It will not prevent it nor will it create heat. After prolonged exposure to freezing temperatures, the insulation will cease to work. This is the reason why draining the water and installing a frost-proof faucet are the most effective ways to prevent frost damage.

How Do Frost-Proof Faucets or Spigots Work?

A frost-proof or freeze-proof faucet works similarly to a regular faucet in that a valve is opened or closed to control the flow of water. However, the valve is situated differently.

A frost-proof spigot has a stem that extends up to two feet into the house (the portion that houses the valve control mechanism). In this way, the water is kept from being exposed to freezing temperatures since the valve (the point where the water supply ends) is located in the house.

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