how to winterize outdoor faucets - covered spigot

How to Winterize Outdoor Faucets (in 5 Super Easy Steps!)

You may not be ready to pull out your winter clothing, but you need to learn how to winterize outdoor faucets sooner than you think.

Don’t put off covering your home’s exposed outdoor faucets, because the risk goes way up for expensive water damage resulting from a burst frozen pipe. Mitigate this risk by following the instructions in this post.

What Do I Need to Winterize an Outdoor Faucet?

Before you begin the process, you’ll need the following tools:

wd-40 lubricating spray - how to winterize outdoor faucets
Lubrication might come in handy to loosen a spigot handle that won’t budge.

How to Winterize Outdoor Faucets in 5 Steps

Your typical outdoor faucets (those good old-fashioned spigots we’re all used to) are extremely vulnerable to winter’s cold temperatures and harsh weather. But even a fancy frost-free exterior faucet in a new home needs proper maintenance. They’re not 100 percent full proof.

The most important thing you can do to prevent any of these outdoor faucets and pipes from freezing is to rid them of any water before winter’s first freeze.

Step 1 To Winterize Outdoor Faucets: Shut Off the Water

In order to winterize your outdoor faucet, you need to know if your home has an interior shut-off valve.

Usually, the valve is located on the interior wall of the house, directly behind the outside faucet. It will have either a gate valve (wheel-shaped handle) or a ball valve (lever-shaped handle).

To shut off water to the spigot, turn the gate shut-off valve clockwise until it stops. If the gate valve is difficult to turn by hand, apply a lubricating spray (like WD-40) and turn it with an adjustable wrench.

The ball valve needs a quarter turn clockwise (perpendicular to the water pipe) to stop the flow of water. This lever-style shut-off valve rarely gets stuck so you shouldn’t have any trouble manually turning it off.

water shut off valve - how to winterize outdoor faucets
The water shut-off valve to the outdoor spigot can sometimes be accessed by a wall panel (in this case on the inside wall behind the location of the spigot).

Step 2: Drain Water Out of Pipes & Hoses

It’s possible that your home doesn’t have an interior shut-off valve connected to your outside faucet. In that case, we highly recommend that you hire a plumber to add one. Having one will make the process to winterize your outdoor faucet much easier. You might want to have a frost-free faucet installed while you’re at it.

But for now, go outside to the exterior faucet. Detach and drain the garden hose and store it away, if applicable (they can burst too in cold weather). Here’s what to do if your garden hose has fused onto the spigot.

Now open the outside faucet by turning the handle counterclockwise. Allow any water remaining in the pipe to drain out.

spigot draining
To drain water out of the spigot, simply turn the handle to the on position (counterclockwise). Make sure as much water as possible drains out before moving on to the next step.

Step 3: Open the Bleeder Cap

The next step to winterize your outdoor faucet is to go back inside and open the bleeder cap. It is a 3/8″-round brass cap located on the side of your water supply valve (along the plumbing line that leads to your spigot). It looks like a tiny knob or dial.

Using the adjustable wrench, slightly turn the bleed cap counterclockwise. Leave it open for a few seconds only (you want to close the cap immediately when this step is done) to allow air into the pipes. This will help force out any trapped water. Use the rag to catch drops of water that may drain from the bleeder.

Bleeder cap and shut-off valve for outdoor spigot - how to winterize outdoor faucets
Notice how small the bleeder cap is. You can manually turn the knob to open and close it. In this case, the shut-off valve for the outdoor spigot is a ball gate (lever handle).

Step 4: Shut Off the Outdoor Spigot

After all the water has finally drained from the outdoor faucet, shut it off by turning the handle clockwise. This will prevent cold air from entering the spigot and the water pipes inside your home.

For added protection and to completely winterize your outdoor faucet, place a cold-weather cover over the faucet and secure the hook or drawstring (depending on what type of cover you purchase). Make sure the spigot is completely covered and the cover is tightened securely.

There are many types of outdoor faucet covers. Whether box- or bag-style, make sure it is securely fastened around the entire spigot or it will not be properly insulated. And don’t forget about a permanent frost-proof faucet solution.

Step 5: Drain Your Garden Hose & Store Away

Once again, make sure to drain any remaining water inside the garden hose. Do this by hanging it over your deck or fence.

If you have neither, extend the hose to its entire length. Finally, raise one end to waist level and, putting one hand in front of the other, walk the length of the hose. This will drain it of any trapped water. You may need to repeat this a few times. After you do this, you will have successfully winterized your outdoor faucet!

garden hose draining into sewer - how to winterize outdoor faucets
Don’t think you’re finished after you’ve shut off and covered the outside faucet. You still want to make sure your hose is completely drained of any trapped water and stored away.


Final Thoughts

As the Boy Scouts like to say, “Be prepared!” That’s especially true for any winterization or insulation project.

Before cold weather strikes, you need to winterize your outdoor faucets. Otherwise, you could be in for a frustrating and enormously expensive flood.

outside faucet cover
This is a typical box-style outdoor faucet cover. It surrounds the hose bib with warm air and protects it from freezing. It works well up to about 30 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees below freezing). Make sure you shut off the valve to the faucet and drain the line before you “box” it for the winter.

Call 1-Tom-Plumber

Don’t hesitate to contact us here or call us at 1-Tom-Plumber (1-866-758-6237) if you want to know more about how to winterize outdoor faucets. Or if you need to repair a frozen pipe.

1-Tom-Plumber’s certified team of plumbers and drain technicians respond immediately to any emergency plumbing, drain cleaning, or water damage problem. We also handle the excavation of underground water lines and sewer main lines. Our immediate-response team is available every day and night of the year, even on holidays.

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