Leaky Outside Faucet

How To Fix a Frost Free Hose Bib Or Frost Proof Faucet

hose bib frost free

If you have a leaky outside faucet that drips from the spout or leaks around the handle it can be costly, annoying and damaging to the exterior or foundation of your home. This article teaches you how to troubleshoot and fix or repair most of the common problems with a leaky outside faucet that is frost free or frost proof. If you need to learn how to repair or replace a leaky non-frost free outside faucet read the article How To Repair A Leaky Spigot.

Before performing this maintenance you should find out if the reason the faucet is leaking is because it was frozen and parts on the inside may be damaged. A frost free hose bib can freeze if a hose or other attachment is left on them during freezing temperatures because the water has no where to drain.

brief how to
  1. Find out where the leak is coming from
  2. Leaking thru the vacuum breaker; replace the vacuum breaker parts
  3. Leaking around the handle; tighten the packing nut or replace the stem packing (a type of washer directly behind the packing nut
  4. Leaking out the faucet; replace the bib washer
  5. Leaking from the stem behind the wall; replace the whole hose bib

tools and materials

  • Screw driver, flat head or phillips, whatever is on the faucet handle
  • Adjustable pliers
  • Adjustable wrench (2)

step 1 Find Out Where The Leak Is Coming From

There are four areas that a frost free faucet or outdoor hose bib can leak from:

  • Thru the vacuum breaker (when its turned on)
  • Around the handle (when its turned on)
  • Out of the faucet spout (when its turned off)
  • Freezing and splitting the stem tube inside the wall.

Each of these leaks has a seperate way to be fixed but before we get into the fixes you should remember that frost free hose bibs can be decieving because they continue draining water for several seconds after they are turned off. This is because, on a frost free faucet, the actual valve that shuts off the water flow is about 12 to 18 inches behind the faucet handle so that when the water is shut off the water that is close to the exterior of the home can drain out and minimize the chance of freezing. So if you see water drizzle out of the faucet immediately after it is turned off and then stop, you most likely don't have a leak, just a properly functioning faucet.

frost free hose bib exploded view

step 2 Leaking Thru The Vacuum Breaker

The vacuum breaker is a simple valve on the top of the faucet that allows air to come into the faucet when it is shut off so that the water can drain out. Water should not come out of the vacuum breaker, it is a one way valve, only air in. If water comes out the vacuum breaker then the internal parts are probably bad, or you may have a piece of debris stuck in it holding it open when the water is on which will allow water to run out of it.

It is repaired by lifting the cap on the top of the vacuum breaker straight up. Using a pair of screw drivers to apply even upward pressure on each side will lift the cap. Once the cap is off you will see the vacuum breaker parts, you should try to clean them and replace them to see if that fixes the leak. If it still leaks then you will need to replace the vacuum breaker with parts from your local plumbing store. When taking the parts to a plumbing store it helps to know what brand your faucet is.

frost free hose bib vaccum leak

step 3 Leaking Around The Handle

Note: Turn the water off before removing the packing nut!

If the faucet is leaking around the handle when the water is running then either the packing nut needs to be tightened or the the stem packing, a type of washer directly behind the packing nut on the face of the faucet needs to be replaced.

The packing nut is just behind the faucet handle. Use the adjustable wrench to tighten the nut until it is snug. Don't over tighten it because the parts are made of soft metals or plastic and may break. If after making sure the packing nut is tight you still have a leak then you should inspect the packing inside the valve just behind the packing nut. Remove the packing nut by loosening it all the way until the faucet stem comes out of the faucet body. You will now be able to see the packing and replace it.

To replace the packing you will need to remove the handle from the faucet with a screw driver and then pull off the packing nut and packing.

Re-assemble in the opposite order. The replacement kits for frost free faucets often come with all new washers and packing so since you have it apart you should also replace the washers that operate the valve at the back end of the faucet before putting the faucet back together. The next step teaches you how to replace the washers at the end of the faucet stem.

frost free hose bib packing nut loosen

step 4 Leaking Out Of The Faucet End

Note: Turn the water off before removing the faucet stem!

When water leaks out of the faucet continually after it is shut off then the washers at the inside end of the faucet stem are probably bad. Remove the faucet stem by loosening the packing nut on the front of the faucet until the faucet stem comes out. The washers are removed from the back end of the faucet stem by loosening the screw that is holding them to the end of the faucet stem. Be careful to note the order that they are in. Put the new washers on exactly as the old ones were. Install and tighten the screw, slide the faucet stem back into the faucet body, tighten the packing nut, turn the water back on and test the valve.

If the faucet still leaks after replacing the washers you can first check to see that the washers were installed properly or it may be time for a new faucet.

frost free hose bib back end washers

frost free hose bib handle remove

step 5 Leaking From The Stem Behind The Wall

If you turn the water on and find that the hose bib is leaking inside the house or leaking from around the outside of the hose bib behind the faucet end then there is a hole in the side of the stem that goes back into the wall. This type of leak happens when the faucet freezes and the expanding ice splits the side of the stem. It will not leak until the water is turned on because there is no water pressure in the stem when the water is shut off. There are two ways that water can get stuck inside the stem:

  1. Frost free hose bibs can freeze and rupture the side of the stem when a hose is left on the hose bib and water is prevented from draining out of the stem.
  2. Frost free hose bibs will also freeze if they are installed incorrectly. The faucet end of the hose bib must be the lowest point on the hose bib when it is installed. If the faucet is higher than the end that the plumbing pipe hooks to the water will be able to pool at the low end instead of draining out the faucet.

step 6 Replacing An Outside Faucet

If there is leaking through the stem then you will need to replace the whole outside faucet assembly. Frost free faucets are threaded onto the house plumbing. Remove the outside faucet using the following steps:

  1. Turn the water off: Make sure the water supply to the outside faucet is turned off before removing the faucet.
  2. Unscrew the outside faucet: To replace a frost free hose bib simply unscrew the whole hose bib and stem from the house plumbing and pull it out of the wall.
  3. Purchase a matching outside faucet: Verify the length of the old outside faucet stem and purchase a new one that is the same length and same diameter threads. (the vacuum breaker may look different).
  4. Teflon tape: Wrap around the threads of the outside faucet several times with teflon tape.
  5. Screw the outside faucet on: Screw the outside faucet into the threads inside the wall cavity.
  6. Turn the water on: Turn the main water supply to the outside faucet back on.
  7. Check for leaks and test the faucet: turn the faucet on and off a few times. Immediately when the faucet is shut off it should continue to drain water for a few seconds and then stop.
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