Frost Proof Faucets

By January 10, 2013 Plumbing, Understanding your home

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 30 seconds

Frostproof Faucet

This is the anatomy of a frost-proof spigot. AKA “Sillcock”. It works by shutting off the water inside your home and allowing the water to run out of the actual faucet so that there is nothing to freeze.

Years ago before these things were invented, we would just shut the water off inside the home which supplied that faucet under the house, and drain the line. Now that these things exist all of the old-style are being replaced when they fail.

Why they fail

The big problems occur when a hose is left on the spigot and prevents the thing from draining, or the frost-proof unit is installed with a slope backward, into the house.

Design flaw. Because there is never supposed to be water in the barrel, some are made of flimsy material so the moment water freezes it fractures the pipe. When the sucker thaws is when the basement or crawl space gets flooded.

Removal & Replacement

Removing them for replacement after a freezing episode can be troublesome too. This is because the loss of barrel integrity causes it to twist apart, often leaving chunks of faucet hidden or buried in the wall.

The trick is to get to the connection from domestic water to the spigot and by holding each part firmly, unscrew them from each other.

What needs to be replaced?

Frost Proof

They come in all lengths from 4″ up to 24″ at 1″ increments and need to be replaced with the same length replacement obviously.

There are different brands and some come with inner threads and outer threads, some have both. The best bet is to replace what you have with an identical replacement.

War stories

Story 1

I recently replaced one in Nampa Idaho, where the hose was left attached through the winter. They had shut the faucet off but had not removed the hose. Water left in the faucet froze and burst the inner pipe. When they turned the hose on in spring, they heard water spraying inside the crawl space through a foundation vent.

Fortunately, they had the brains to turn everything off and call for help. I brought one of each size the vendor carried because I wanted to be prepared. I discovered that the exact brand replacement was needed so I still had to run to a big box store and thankfully found the exact one.

Story 2

I got called for a ceiling leak in the basement bedroom. Multiple leak sites at joints in sub-floor. I was able to track it back to a hose left on a leaky frost-proof faucet over the winter. Some of the leaks were 6 feet away from the split faucet. Don’t forget to dry things out ASAP. Mold loves these conditions!

What else can go wrong?

Like any faucet, there are several places they can fail. One is at packing nut. They get loose and Symptom: water comes out around the stem when the thing is on. The solution, tighten the packing nut; in rare cases, you may need to add some packing.

If the air gap leaks:

The built-in air gap prevents water from being siphoned into your home. When the pressure in the line drops, the flapper valve opens and the siphon is broken. This flapper valve occasionally needs to be replaced. (Not all faucets have this cool feature.) Again you will need to get the manufacturer’s parts.

If the washer fails:

Symptom: constant leak despite the thing being off; Solution: in this case you need TURN THE WATER OFF TO THE HOUSE first. Then unscrew the packing nut as you open and unscrew the faucet. Extract the long stem and you will see the washer. Replace it with an exact size replacement.

This is often found at the hardware store. The ones that come with the valve are often the cheapest you can get so a replacement should be of more solid rubber and last even longer. Hint the screw that holds the washer on is usually fairly soft brass. If it needs replacing use a brass one, other metals often dissolve over time.

If this does not fix the problem then the faucet seat may be galled or have an irregular surface which prohibits the rubber washer from forming a perfect seal. In this case, the entire thing needs to be replaced. The faucet seat, unlike many kitchen and bath faucets, is not replaceable. Repairing them is a waste of time so just replace the thing. The average cost is $25.

I found this old weird faucet that sprays wildly and seems to have several options to drain. It is slated for replacement.

Spooky failure, “Pourus abruptus”

There have been a series of strange failures reported. The most troubling and odd of all is the “who the hell keeps turning my faucet on”? It kind of makes you want go Walt Kowalski in Gran Torino and sit on the porch with a shotgun.  SOLUTION: A reader stated that if he pulls on the handle it comes out 1/4″ and starts to pour water then he pushes it back in and it stops. Replace the darn thing, it is a piece of junk! Get a good quality one from a reputable dealer, not the cheapest one on the internet.

Death Rattle, like a Water Hammer

Chris from Cleaveland called to say he had a chatter that was reminiscent of a water hammer when he turned on his Zurn faucet after having recently replaced the guts with a rebuild kit. It sounded to me like something was loose or moving around down at the tip of the stem and sure enough after taking it apart carefully he noticed that two washers were stuck together so with some careful polishing of them and freeing them up the thing quieted back down. Thanks, Chris for figuring it out with me.

Bonus Round Questions?

  1. Who has some more war stories to share?
  2. Who has some more great ideas that were not mentioned in this article?

Words of caution:

Many homes are plumbed with plastic pipe now so just twisting the faucet off from the outside without holding on to both sides of the connection could end up causing a big mess.


Your comments are welcome. To ask questions or get more information about remodeling, click here to email me directly, or call 208-947-7261

Disclaimer: Some of these images came from the WEB. If they are yours, and you object to them being used, please claim them and I will gladly remove and replace them at once.


  • Gary says:

    Great article!

    I have what I think might be considered a strange question. We have a well water system on our house no problems for 35 years with the system. A few months I left a house running very slow by a plant. The house was attached to a frost free faucet. Forgot about it went away for two days. Came back and had air and water in the house system. Remembered the hose and shut it off. Recycled the water tank dumping the water and recharging with 20# of air. Problems with air in the pipes eliminated. No problems until yesterday. Power washed the deck using the same faucet. Air back in the pipes again. Recycled the water tank and problemed solved (?) again.

    Question…. Is it possible air is getting into our system by a faulty air gap valve? I did advice it is a strange question.

    Thanks. Gary T.

    • Joe Levitch says:

      Boy that is a tough one, I am not sure I have a handle on the schematic of what you are doing. I do know that when the pressure drops the “Air gap” opens in the frost proof faucet to prevent a siphon from occurring. I suppose that if you had the system connected to the frost proof faucet it could have essentially “lost its prime” when the threshold for keeping the system running was interrupted for what ever reason. It sounds like things are better now thankfully. Hope this helps. You might try disconnecting the hose from the faucet or even better shut off the frost-proof faucet when you are done using the hose. Not exactly my specialty sorry 🙂 Let me know. Thanks

  • Gary says:

    Thank you for the quick response and the information on how the air gap works. I am, as you can guess, keeping an eye on the issue. I have shut the valves in the basement that supplies the faucets outside. It is possible, i guess, if the water level drops in the holding tank and the line pressure get low the gap could open causeing air in take.

    Do you know what the low pressure rating is for these faucets. House well systems are set to kick in when the water tank pressure hits 40PSI and cuts out when the pressure gets to 60PSI.


    • Joe Levitch says:

      Glad things have stabilized. I dawned on me that you may have a failing check valve. There should be something in the system that prevents a bleed off of pressure. I would consult a plumbing contractor in your area who can set eyes on it and give a better diagnosis.

      • harold moffat says:

        Couldn’t find the actual comment button but here goes. Winterized a high quality freeze-proof faucet valve by opening, closing, and confirmed drainage. Put a styrofoam ‘weather cap’ over it. Very cold night last night 3F. Valve is 2+ feet above ground level on an outside corner of the house. Well this morning I’m working on a bathroom project and installed a shower pan with thin set – so went to use this faucet for cleanup. Whoops – the valve was frozen, hard to open at all, and only unscrewed maybe one turn before stopped for good. I’m assuming the pipe has some serious amount ice in it based on this. Did not force it open but now am worried about possible split pipe inside the wall and behind the new bathroom wall tile installed because of a PREVIOUS frozen and split ‘freeze-proof’ valve episode with this exact same valve. Very hard place to get to inside the house (behind tile). I thought hard on how to add some additional freeze protection but the location was terrible for any electrical pipe heating solution etc. So question: should I assume the valve tube has split since the valve was atleast partially ‘frozen’? And if I can get access to it and replace it without tearing up my bathroom again, are there any other solutions suggested? Nearest power is 10 feet away behind walls the entire way. It is the only outside faucet in the back half of a 3,000 sq ft footprint house so not ideal to ‘abandon’ this faucet. ideas?

        • joe says:

          My thought is that it is not installed in a way that allows water to drain out of it once shut off. Does that make sense. They need to be tipped down to allow any excess water drip out after it is shut off. My hunch is that residual water in the faucet barrel is causing your issue. Odds are it is not split but it could be. Before you change it out verify a slight slope from the connection to water to the outside of the home. Joe, Let me know

  • Joe Levitch says:

    Igor, thanks for getting touch off line. Sounds like a replacement is the best answer for you.

  • Joe Levitch says:

    Duane & Shirley. Holy cow having to have lots of strength to shut your faucet off is not normal. They may have over tightened the packing nut or wrong size washer. I would just replace the darn thing with a good one.

  • Gene says:

    I have a new freeze proof outside faucet. Should I turn the water valve to the outside faucet line off in winter? Thanks

    • Joe Levitch says:

      Gene, it depends. Frost-proof faucets are designed to shut off inside the envelope of the home so it is warm enough not to freeze. They should also be angled down slightly so water runs out of it when shut. If your frost-proof is set up properly you should not need to use the old water valve any longer. You’ll need to evaluate your situation and make that call yourself. Ideally you should be able to test it through the winter. Crack the valve and see if water comes running out. Turn it off and water should dribble out for a bit then stop. If you turn on the valve in the winter and nothing happens you have a problem and shut the old valve off too.

  • Nicholas says:

    Hi Joe. I have a frost proof faucet that has a small leak. It’s getting down to -20 here in Calgary and there is no internal shut-off. Do I have to turn off the main water supply valve until I can get it fixed or will the frost free faucet prevent internal pipes from freezing/bursting? I believe this could freeze the pipes back into the house as the valve is not shutting off completely? Thanks.

    • Joe Levitch says:

      I do not believe that it will freeze anything in the home as long as there is enough heat to keep your internal pipes flowing. A little drip is OK as long as it keeps flowing. It does not sound fun to replace it while it is so cold. Are we talking F or C on the -20? Yes you will need to shut down the water to your home, there should be a shut off inside your home. The water company frowns upon us getting into their meter to do anything. Best of luck, let me know how it goes. It may be the type of faucet where you just need to remove the stem and put on a new washer. (I have found some with a reverse thread on the stem nut so look for that)

  • Hayley says:

    I accidentally left the hose on a frost-proof faucets with a built-in relief valve. Now the hose is frozen. Is the valve damaged? Are we in danger of a burst pipe or this spigot going to make it due to it’s design?

    • Joe Levitch says:

      It is possible.They freeze after the washer so remove the hose and set it aside. You will need to check it when things thaw out. There are different qualities of materials used for these things. If it was installed correctly with a slope away from the home and it was not full of water in the barrel when it froze then everything may be fine. If it was full and you have a weak material faucet it is likely already slit. The way to check is in the spring get under the home and have the water turned on slowly as you are watching the barrel of the faucet. If it leaks and or is split it will need to be replaced. If it holds water you should be fine.

      • Hayley says:

        Thank you for the quick reply. I can’t get the hose off. I’ve tried WD-40 and pliers. I can tell the hose if full of ice. Should I wait for the hose to thaw too? The faucet’s pipe goes right into our condos wall, so hopefully the interior heat is keeping the inner pipe from freezing.

        • Joe Levitch says:

          You bet. Use a hair dryer to remove the faucet, nothing bad will happen. If it has failed they can be replaced by a plumber or a handy person that knows how to do it correctly. If your plumber was thinking ahead they often use PEX pipe and leave a loop so you can pull it out of the wall and do the replacement outside of the building. Otherwise there may be some wall repair needed if there is no crawl space access. Best of luck

  • Melissa Lee says:

    Hi, Joe. I have a frostfree faucet that I left the hose on for a short period when it got cold. Now when I turn the faucet on, the water just trickles out, instead of the good forceful flow I had before. What do you think that sounds like needs to be done? Thanks!

    • Joe Levitch says:

      I would check under the home, it is likely that the majority of the water is pouring out of a split in the pipe when you are turning the faucet on. That is unfortunately how they usually fail. If that is not the case, then there have a ruined internal components. Have someone check under the home as you turn on the faucet slowly. In either case plan on replacement of the frost-proof faucet. Let me know what you discover.

  • john wenner says:

    i just put in a frost free spigot it turns on the water,but the handle keeps turning. the valve does shut this a problem
    thank you john

    • joe says:

      Yes John, you have an issue that requires immediate attention. Sounds like you need to replace it for warranty issues. The unit should come assembled. Perhaps it was made improperly. Spinning handle is not a fix you should be responsible for. Let me know how it goes. Thanks

  • bob hattler says:

    I have a sp faucet that when I turn it to O there is hole in the valve stem which sprays a 6 ft shower. No water exits from the nozzle. This seems a strange way to operate.
    Any ideas?


  • Jeff says:

    I replaced a leaking frost free spigot. The leak was fixed but now it is hard to turn on and off. Was something tightened too much? Thanks. Jeff

    • joe says:

      It is possible to over-tighten the packing nut but I don’t think that you would have done that. If you just replaced the washer it could be tight or if you over tightened the faucet when turning off the water I have seen washers get pushed into the orifice. Best of luck let me know what you figure out.

  • Heather RUSSELL says:

    I moved into my condo last year I have a frost free tap .When I turned it on water was spewing everywhere from the top but I was also able to attach my hose and had good pressure when using the hose .This year I went to use it and got nothing but a dribble I never left my hose on after it turned cold last year. There is no access to the tap from inside the condo and ceilings and walls are drywalled..HELP Thank you

    • Heather RUSSELL says:

      Also there is now a constant dribble

    • joe says:

      There is a backflow device on the top of the unit near the faucet handle. If I had an image of yours I could point it out. I believe it has failed. Normally a spring prevents water from leaving it when the water is on. In many cases that part is replaceable. It normally unscrews. My thoughts are that the unit needs replacing. what part of the country are you in. It is not your fault, parts fail or wear out all the time for no particular reason. If the building was built with PEX pipe sometimes they leave enough extra for you to pull it out of the building then make your replacement and shove it back in. In some cases you can unscrew the unit and just screw another one on (HAVE THE WATER TURNED OFF AND DRAINED FIRST) worst case scanereo you have to remove some drywall and do a patch one the unit is replaced or install an observation hatch / access panel device. Sounds like there is a constant dribble now. (Nothing good ever comes from a constant dribble:) Consider a visit to a urologist? No the rubber washer is screwed up deep inside the unit. My vote is to replace it or have someone who knows what they are doing fix or replace it so you can quit worrying. Best of luck, let me know how it goes

  • Kandi says:

    Do you have to turn water on full force or can I turn spigot on half way?

    • joe says:

      Kandi, A frost proof faucet is just like any other faucet in that you have total control over how much water comes out of the thing by deciding how many revolutions you turn the spigot. Sometimes, not applying full pressure causes water to spew out the (anti-siphon / back-flow prevented) top. In the event this happens the vent is not working properly and should be serviced or the entire faucet replaced. I have found that like anything there are good ones and there are lousy ones. My advice is invest in a good one. Go to a plumbing shop that knows what a good one is. The big box stores are not the only outlet for these devices. Best of luck

      • Anick says:

        My frost proof american valve is 2 years old. Last summer it was tricky to turn water back on but it did come back eventually (I don’t know what did it but I played with it a long time).
        This spring= nothing. I tried taking it apart tonight and parson my ignorance but I am not sure how to take the inner rod-valve out. Otherwise everything looks fine.
        Is it common for a frost free valve to freeze and to break down when so new?

        • joe says:

          Anick, typically what we find is that folks turn them off too hard, and it jambs the washer in too tight. You barely need to shut them off. What is confusing is that water runs out of the long barrel so the tendency is to think that you need to twist harder. What is happening is that the residual water is just running out so let it and it will stop soon. Be patient with it. When you shut it off too hard the washer gets stuck way in there and it doesn’t want to release even when you open it. Try turning it off as gently as you can. Joe

  • Kandi says:

    Thank you for the quick response….exactly what I thought. LOVE it when I’m right and hubby is (we’ll say not as right) LOL
    Have a GREAT day!!

  • Tim says:

    Hi , So my Frost free spigot currently just spins…won’t turn on. I’ve removed the stem and it appears to have come detached from the washer value inside the faucet. I was able to get it back on briefly but it just fall off again. Is this something that can be repaired or does it need to be replaced.

    • joe says:

      If you have the name of the faucet and the details of the device you can usually contact the manufacturer and get a replacement. Our quality hardware store in town Gorver’s Pay & Pack has most of the replacement stems. It might be less of a hassle to just replace the entire unit with an upgraded unit

  • dusty says:

    I have a frost proof spigot on a 10 month old house. When I open the valve, sometimes there is a LONG delay (minutes) before water starts to flow, sometimes the water never flows. There are no leaks on the interior lines. Any idea what might cause this? I am used to – open valve, receive water.

    • joe says:

      I thought I responded to this but I think the rubber stopper is stuck inside the unit. Perhaps it was turned off too hard which happens when people don’t think they have it all the way off because it drips until the line is drained. All it needs is a gentile turn off then let the excess water run out. They can be taken apart and parts replaced if it is a decent brand. Let me know what make you have and I can let you know. Joe

  • Kris says:

    When I turn my frost free handle all the way open, the handle and stem come shooting out. I can, however, \ push it back in and turn off the water. There doesn’t seem to be any leak as of yet, but it sure is annoying. Any ideas would be much appreciated. Could it just be a packing nut that has come loose, or does the whole unit need replaced?

    • joe says:

      You may be loosening the packing nut too. There is a packing nut that holds the valve stem in place that is either unscrewed. Does the stem wobble around? sometimes that is a reverse threaded nut. Look at that carefully for the solution. you may need to look at another one that works on your home to compare or at a hardware store. Best of luck let e know what you figure out. Another area for common failure with water coming out at you is a faulty air gap cap on top of the valve which is a replaceable part.

  • Charles says:

    I just replaced a standard faucet with a frost free. When I open the valve, nothing happens or it takes a long, long time to start. If I leave it open for a while, 30 seconds or longer, it may finally start flowing. Sometimes it never does. The shutoff valve to it is open (or i’d never get flow). There is no leak. It’s almost like the water pressure has to get up before it breaks lose. Any ideas?

    • joe says:

      I think that when the valve it turned off hard that the washer is jammed up into the valve. It gets wedged into the valve and has a hard time opening up. Try opening it all the way, this should free the trapped washer. The tendency is to turn it off hard because it continues to drip out when it is shut (as designed). You are not the first to have this concern. What brand unit are you having trouble with?

      • Charles says:

        It’s a Homewerks I got from Amazon. I always open it all the way. I’ve had it in for about 1 month. Last 5 or so times I’ve tried it, I’ve never got a flow. Thanks for your reply.

        • joe says:

          Charles Not sure how I missed this one. I would try a different brand. like Pizzas, all frost proof faucets are not alike. Other brands to try are Woodford, Watts, Here is a link to Graingers page

  • Jen says:

    Yesterday, I walked around the side of the house and the water was coming out of the spigot on it’s own… no-one had turned the handle. I turned it off (righty tighty). The nights have been down to 9 degrees but warming into the 20’s during the day. Could ice cause the handle to turn to the left and turn the spigot on?

  • Jc says:

    So I have a frost proof faucet but went outside last night and there was a good 5” ice cicle hangin down from the faucet. Ya think my pipes good? Maybe just a slow leak that froze as it exited?

    • joe says:

      That is a possibility that needs to be addressed in the spring. The fear is that it will build up pressure on the inside and fracture the weak area between where it shuts off (deep Inside) and the outside (This is why we have hoses removed) I would take a moment to heat things up with a hair dryer and allow it to continue to leak or try gently to shut it off a little more. Best of luck!

  • JM says:

    Hi Joe. Thanks for the article and comments. All are helpful. We’re in Boston, single digit (F) temps yesterday, big snow storm (temps in mid-20s F) today, more single digit temps tomorrow and over weekend. Late morning today, 2 hours after storm started, we heard this gushing noise. Turns out we have a frost-proof faucet in the front of our house, and water was coming out, as though someone had turned it on. But no one had. We never use it. I went outside and turned it off. Other than someone actually turning it on (unlikely since it’s hidden by bushes), what might have caused it to turn on by itself? Anything we should check or do? Thanks.

  • John says:

    I have a frost free spigot inside the garage that i had dewinterized by shutting the valve off and then making sure that no more water drips and then i turnoff the stem. We recently had the deep freeze and this Sunday temp was in the 20’s thus i turned the water supply on just to check nothing had froze. To my surprise, no water! I am not sure if my water supply froze since all tubing is inside the drywall. Should i remove the entire spigot? Or can i see if something is wrong if i remove the stem valve first?


    • joe says:

      When you described “turning the valve off” not sure if you have a separate valve besides the spigot itself. The odds of things frozen in your garage wall are slim assuming you have the heat on in your home. I have discovered that people can turn off their frost proof faucets so tight that the washer gets stuck in the valve seat, try opening it up even more. Frankly I would wait until warmer weather to mess with it at all. What type of pipe material is used, galvanized,PEX, grey polybutelyne?

  • John says:

    Hi Joe
    What i meant regarding the valve is the main water line. I have not torn the dry wall yet but most water line is plastic attached onto thus water spigot. And i will check if the washer got stucked as i remembered that when i was turning the spigot, it was too tight
    Thanks for the info

    • joe says:

      If you are concerned that it is a frozen pipe I would wrap some heat tape around the pipe and shut off valve that you can see. They are inexpensive and thermostatically controlled in most cases. If you found that there was a problem with a pipe that is too cold then this would be a wise thing to have turned on during winter months. Wrapping the pipe in foam insulation would also be a consideration. Keep me posted.

  • Tammy says:

    I have. Frost free faucet. When I turn it on water sprays out all over from the little cap on the top if it. What do I need to do to fix it. This faucet us only two years old if that.

    • joe says:

      That is an air gap. it is a replaceable part some screw on and yours may be lose or it could have debris in it. the entire unit does not need replacement. It should be a less than $5 part

      • Chris says:

        I have a vacant rental property out of state. I had a higher water bill and found a piece of plastic in the air gap when I got in to inspect. The water was apparently flowing during an unusually cold snap. Could the plastic be a cause of water loss?

        • joe says:

          The air gap is only engaged when the hose is attached and water pressure is applied so when you shut the valve off the air gap opens preventing a siphon. I do not believe a piece of plastic in the air gap could have caused it. A faulty air gap would cause water to gush out of the spot when the water is on and say you have a nozzle on the hose. When the faucet is off it is not in play or an issue.

  • Tracy says:

    We have a Frost Free Arrowhead faucet on outside of house. JM from January 5, 2018 pretty much described the exact problem we are having and I didn’t see any response. Have found out anything about the problem? Our faucet is on the south side of house so it gets the sun. We heard water running and went out to find it running. Turned off faucet everything worked fine. It has happened 4 times now. We have also been in extremely cold weather in the single digits. I think when it warms up it turns itself on, then I find it on and turn it off. Positive no one is turning it on because it is in a locked area. We also have a Winter cover on it. Happened again today. Outside temp in high 20’s but the brick and faucet had warmed up to above freezing in mid 30’s. Found it running about mid afternoon.

    Not sure what to think or do.

    • joe says:

      I am stumped, I can not imagine how this happens. It makes no sense at all. How long, or how deep is the faucet closing into the home? Frost free faucets come in many lengths. I suppose you could have a short one and the freezing temperatures are freeing the water deeper into the faucet and causing expansion of the water behind the washers? Some units have spring loaded washer to faucet seat connection. let me know what you find out.

  • Nick Dargel says:

    Have frost free faucet installed on my house. I’m having a problem with one now. I think it happened when my wife tried to water the horses and the water hose was frozen. Water came back into the house. Cleaned everything up and turned the water back on to the faucet and it’s been fine for days. no water leaking into house, but after checking to make sure it wasn’t frozen again tried to use hose again and again water came into house. Doesn’t seem like it’s the connection inside the wall since it doesn’t leak when not in use, but what all do I need to replace to fix the problem?

    • joe says:

      The problem is a crack in the neck of the unit that happened when the hose was left on and allowed to freeze back up into the neck of the unit. The entire faucet needs to be replaced. Sadly the weak link is the neck. when it freezes in this area, it cracks so when you turn it off deep in the home is stops leaking, then when you attach a hose and turn it on again it leaks from the split in the neck back into your home.

      • Nick Dargel says:

        Damn. Would that be the case even if the hose was taken off as soon as the problem happened and was only attached to the faucet (although was frozen when attached) it was only on for about and hour and a half before the problem was discovered. I didn’t think there would be enough pressure to crack or break the neck just from the valve being turned on and water not going through to break it in that short time.

        • joe says:

          That unfortunately is the weak link in many frost proof faucets brands. It can be made of thin copper and often is because it is not normally under any serious pressure. Like pizzas, all frost proof faucets are not made alike. Look for a more substantial brand when you replace it. I am sure you will find the crack when you examine it.

  • Andrew says:

    I just moved into a house, the water was leaking from the spout so i took the inner tube out and replaced the washer on the back. Now the water is leaking even more. I cant get anything to stop. Is there only 1 washer on some models? Am i going to be forced to just rip into the drywall and reaplce the entire mechanism?

    • joe says:

      The odds are that the faucet seat is bad and they are not serviceable. You need to replace it. Typically if you have a crawl space type of construction you can get it from below. If not it may be a shorty in the wall where it is best to open up the wall and unscrew it from the source with back pressure on the stationary plumbing. Then you can install an inspection panel so if it happens again you do not need to repair the wall. Occasionally, you can get lucky and unscrew it from the outside and install a new one but you would have to be really lucky. I have twisted up a valve or two pretty badly trying this technique in the past or spun things around to no avail. Best of luck, let me know how it goes. Joe

  • Joe says:

    Hi I have a frost free faucet and i made sure it was off and no leaks were present before winter. When I came to turn my faucet on in the summer there was no water coming from the faucet.

    I un-assembled the entire faucet including taking out the rod WITHOUT turning off the main water supply. NOTHING there was no water coming out. I know the pipe is connected directly to my 1 inch line inside the home as i saw it being installed. All other faucets in the house have water. There is no leak present as the dry wall in the basement where the faucet is, is all dry. What can the issue be?

    • joe says:

      Did you get everything out when you pulled the stem? Occasionally a rubber stopper could get jammed into the faucet seat when folks really reef on the valve. They imagine that it is not all the way off because it is draining. The most common issue is that there is another shut off somewhere. We used to turn faucets off deep in the home and drain them inside for winter. Look for another shut off somewhere is my best guess. Let me know. Joe

  • Jc farmer says:

    Help. I just installed a new frost free valve and when the water is turned on the valve handle turns itself on. I can’t seem to get it to stop.

    • joe says:

      I feel bad, not sure what the hell is happening the design shuts off the water deep in your home so when it is shut off there will be a dribble until it stops. Righty tighty or (clockwise) should turn it off. Lefty loosey / (Counter clockwise) should turn it off

  • Jennifer says:

    Hi Joe, a hose was accidentally left on our outdoor frost proof spigot this winter and froze. Water will come out of the spigot OK with nothing attached, but when a hose is attached or you block the water with your hand, it starts coming from behind the siding dripping down the brick. I’ve already tried two different hoses as well as changed out the vacuum breaker on top of spigot.

    Does this sound like the pipe supplying the water has a leak or barrel between the wall and where it connects to the pipe has a leak? Trying to decide if I want to try to replace the entire spigot or if it is a bigger issue with a leak in the actual pipe and need to call a plumber to replace. Unfortunately the spigot is on the opposite side of the crawl space entrance and from what I was originally told by the inspector, the space underneath the house gets smaller as you move towards that side of the house due to being on slightly slopped land.

    • joe says:

      This absolutely sounds like the barrel of the unit is fractured. Do not use it. It must be replaced. There are some tricks to replacement and unless you are near Boise you will need to call a plumber to replace it.

  • Wayne Schultz says:

    A year ago my plumber bragged about the fancy 1/4 turn frost free faucets he installed. They say Taiwan on them. I remove the hoses for the winter and also turned off my water. Now that we are back in residence none of the 3 faucets do more than dribble. Any ideas??

    • joe says:

      My suspicion is that the washer that keeps the water in has swollen and will not emit as much water as it once did. It is possible that a new washer will fix the problem. I suggest that the long term solution is an American maid plumbing fixture.

  • Joe says:

    I had all the plumbing in my house replaced about 2 months ago. Two new anti-siphon faucets were included. One is perfect but the other gets harder and harder to turn on and off everytime we use it. Would it be useful for me to unscrew the packing nut?

    • joe says:

      I would suggest that you turn them off softly then let the excess water run out. the tendency is to keep turning them off until the water stops running. Remember it is turning off way inside your home then the excess in the pipe is running out. Turning it off too hard will smash the washer into the seat too much. Just turn it off softly and wait till the water stops running. Don’t mess with the packing nut unless water comes spraying out of the stem when a hose is connected. Cation they are occasionally a reverse nut.

  • Curtis says:

    When I leave the valve open for a watering timer, the faucet leaks water out the handle tube when the timer turns off. It does the same thing during further testing when turning turning the flow off on a dual splitter. If I close the valve, and then reopen it, it resets and doesn’t leak water from the handle tube.


    • joe says:

      I would tighten the packing nut until it is snug and not leaking. If you over tighten it you may not be able to spin the handle very easily.

  • Cecil says:

    Hi Joe,

    We bought an old house in January and had a spigot outside that wasn’t working. Apparently I should’ve been googling for “frost free sillcock” specifically, because basically all of the results suggested that I just needed to find a shutoff valve to open. After hunting for ages and not finding one, I saw one other suggestion to “prime the pump” by filling a bucket with water, submerging the spigot in it, and turning the handle as normal. That worked in getting water flowing to the line, but it leaks into the wall when the line is open.

    So I have two questions. One, why did that succeed in opening the line in the first place? Two, should I assume the leak is a result of that “fix” or likely an issue that was there in the first place?

    • joe says:

      It makes absolutely no sense that putting a bucket of water over the spigot got it to work. The leak in the wall was a result of a previously undiagnosed crack in the barrel of the valve. Perhaps you put water back into the leak? the faucet should have a gradual slope from the connection deep in the wall to the outlet that can be responsible for the crack in the barrel. Open up the wall and swap out the valve. Track it back to find out why it has no water to it. There must be a valve that is shut off or you have an abandon line. Joe

  • Nick says:

    Hi there,
    I put on a hose with a sprayer on my freezeless faucet. I turned the faucet on and left it a while. The hose was under pressure because the sprayer was off. Came in and found water had leaked everywhere. Water stopped leaking as soon as I took the hose off and shut the faucet. What could’ve gone wrong with the freezeless faucet? I must add, I never used the faucet before with a hose on it. Thank you for your help

    • joe says:

      Where was the leak coming from outside or inside the home. Outside could be 2 things the packing nut or the vacuum breaker. I have found loose vacuum breakers. they are spin on in some cases. Test be turning it on again and watching where the water is leaking from then we can walk through the fix or facetime me and I can help you figure it out. Let me know and I will shoot you my cell number. call first 208-947-7261 my office.

  • Jonathan says:

    Hi joe, i have a frost free outdoor faucet, when i turn it on it leaks through the handle slightly. When it gets below freezing the handle wont budge. (Assuming its frozen from the water leakage) how would i fix this? Thanls! Jon

    • joe says:

      If it is leaking from the stem then it can be tightened. There is packing that gets squeezed to prevent water from exiting around the stem. If there is not enough packing then it can be added to and that packing should do the trick. Be sure to back up the faucet with a wrench while you are tightening the packing nut. Be aware I had a nut that tightened backwards once. (Reverse threads) best of luck let me know how it goes. Joe

  • Philippe Lamontagne says:

    I Joe, I just realized that my exterior frost proof faucet is leaking because there was a small icicle coming down from it. I’m in Canada and the temperature is below freezing. Is it safe to wait for spring to get it fix if I make sure to not open the faucet from the exterior before ?

    Thank you

    • joe says:

      Interesting conundrum. I would wait until spring. The problem comes when the barrel freezes and it brakes on the outside of the faucet washer. In this case when you turn it on in spring it pours water inside. The real issue comes when the barrel is full because the hose was left on. I think you are going to be OK. I would not use the faucet in spring until you can be sure the barrel did not fracture. Joe

      PS it is imperative that the angle of the faucet is flat or slightly tipped out of the home, but then you probably already know that.

      • Philippe Lamontagne says:

        Thank you very much for your answer.
        One more question, I will replace it next spring without even trying it. Should I just get it fixed now, or is it better to wait for warmer exterior temperature. For reference, it is now -6 C (21 F ) and it will get much colder in the winter.
        Thank you.

        • joe says:

          If it helps to sleep better at night then get it replaced now. The work may be done from beneath your home or if they used PEX pipe it may be done from out front. I would need to see a picture. The things cost between $25-$30 make sure you get a good one. They will need to shut off the water for a few minutes and the change out is typically fast. I usually carry one of each length with me so I do not have to go to the store too many times. Best of luck. Joe we are 28F today in Boise sunny and nice.

  • Joe Mierz says:

    Hi Joe: Another Joe here. I have a frost free outside spigot, i don’t know the make but it looks like a good product. I left a short 18 inch hose on and it froze. I went to turn on the faucet and the handle wouldn’t turn, then something seemed to break free and it spun freely. i took the hose off and it began to flow full force. I turned the water off at the main valve in the house. Once the pressure was off i went to turn on the spigot but again it just turned freely and water began to flow full-force. The handle just spun free and wouldn’t shut off. I was able to get it to stop by pushing hard on the handle and handle screw and slowly tightening it. However, it seems stripped somewhere to me, and i’m worried I’ll have a gusher unless i shut the whole house water valve off. . I can’t get the handle off because the screw is so tight-could it be frozen on? Any help would be much appreciated.Joe

    • joe says:

      Joe, every manufacturer has a little different twist on the frost proof faucet internal workings but they all do the same thing. They turn off the water deep down inside the barrel. Odds are that the darn thing leaked and the drips froze backwards from the tip of the short extension back up into the workings of the device. There is a possibility that the coarse threads were damaged by being frozen. you could take the packing nut off without taking the handle off (Occasionally reversed threaded. Then pull the stem out and examine it. You could get a new stem. My best recommendation is to replace the entire thing if you can get to the place where the plumbing of your home connects to the faucet. Occasionally it is hidden in a wall or ceiling. In that case cut into the area and get to the connection to use a backup wrench on the nut of the domestic plumbing or if it is PEX then get a new fitting. Sometimes a plumber will leave an extra loop of PEX so you can do the replacement from outside the home. I would not trust the faucet after what you described happened. call for more. Joe 208-639-1808

  • Criag says:

    Hi Joe, got a some Arrowhead 425 series valves. Hope you are familiar with those dang things. I have 2 of them (one of them with a new valve stem assembly) that the ‘pee’ hole on the shaft that leaks when the water is on. The hole is between the handle and the packing nut. The 425 is a odd design with a hollow copper shaft with a ‘floating’ seat assembly. The floating seat has a seat flat ring, a rubber umbrella, and inside o-ring. Looks like, when the valve is opened, the water flow pushes the umbrella, which causes the o-ring to seat to the hollow copper shaft. The hollow copper shaft is crimped (must unscrew the to a hollow steel shaft which has the leaking pee hole. After much troubleshooting, I don’t think the problem isn’t in the floating assembly (replaced seat, rubber ‘umbrella’, o-ring. In test, can’t force air past it when seated). I believe the problem is the sealing around the crimp. Playing with one of my old valve stem assemblies, forcing air past the floating seat down the copper hollow shaft, air flows by the crimp when the pee hole (and handle screw hole) is plugged. So I think water is flowing past the crimp, into the hollows and out the pee hold. At this point, my question becomes, what is the purpose of the whole floating seat assembly with leakage path to the pee hole? I’m considering trying to plug the pee hole path if it isn’t critical.
    The new replacement stem assembly wouldn’t close, the shaft is just little shorter than the original. Neighbor had same problem. I fixed both by adding a second washer at the seat.
    Just a thought, if the valve was closed and water off, and if the floating stem assembly o-ring wasn’t properly seated, and it shifted, I can conceive of this seating assembly shifting, allowing a turned off valve to allow water flow.

    • joe says:

      I am picking up what you are putting down. My most recent experience with one of these was getting it out of a home where they snuck it in between a stem wall and a carved out rim board. It was very flimsy and I had to break it midway to get it out. It may have been weak because it froze and split. I was not impressed with the hollow stem. There are other brands that do not have the floating conical washer. I think once failed it is best to get a more substantial unit. I like the ones that are heavy and have a bulky barrel.

  • Christopher says:

    Hello from Michigan. Moved into an older home with frost free outdoor faucets. 1 in front of house 1 in back. Removed garden hoses before everything froze last fall. Last year everything was fine. This spring neither front and back work. No water coming out whatsoever? Ideas?

    • joe says:

      Often the faucet is shut off too hard to stop water from dripping and the washer gets jammed. That is one scenario. The other is that water is coming out into your crawl space through a broken barrel. I would try to open it all the way to try to free things up. If that does not work, then I would turn off the water to the area and take the faucet apart by unscrewing the packing nut and taking the stem out for inspection and look carefully at the washer. This happens fairly frequently and is a bummer. The idea is to turn it of snugly then wait for the rest of the water to dribble out then you have it tight enough. Folks keep reefing on it thinking that it is dripping when it is turning itself off way up the line and allowing the water in the barrel to gradually drip out.

  • John Richard Routa says:

    My water would not turn on at the back yard outdoor faucet. The handle felt like there was no tension — like it wasn’t engaging the stem — I made sure the handle was screwed tight but that didn’t fix it. I then shut off the water, removed the handle, packing nut and the stem. But, when I took the stem out it had become detached from the fitting that includes the washer. I don’t have any water leaks — but I don’t know how to replace the stem because I can’t get the piece with the washer out of the pipe. Any ideas?

    • joe says:

      Yes. There are so many knock off units out there of questionable quality. To have the primary function of the valve be able to be severed seems wimpy to me. I would just get a new faucet and replace the old one. As I have learned, “just because you can fix it, does not mean that it should be fixed”. My hunch is that it was turned off too hard which breaks at the weakens part. Best of luck Joe

  • Travis says:

    We replaced an old outside faucet, with a frost free one in May and the new one decided to not shut off and it is Sept.3.
    We live in north eastern AZ, so it won’t reach frost temperatures until late October, it is still reaching the low 90s.
    So under normal regular use (say daily or nearly every day), what would cause the new spigot to fail? Take into consideration
    that it has been left on for many hours at a time (4-12) on such a regular basis cause we water dwarf fruit trees. Our water
    has a bit of iron in it as well (might play a factor in this failure, IDK). So given that it hasn’t been put to task when it comes
    to colder temperatures (mid-high 50s at night possibly), why would the spigot fail under such rigorous use during the
    hottest parts of the year?

    • joe says:

      When you say it doesn’t shut off, do you mean it dribbles for a little bit then stops because that is what it is supposed to do. How long of a frost poof faucet did you get? The odds of it failing are slim. I suppose there could be debris in it or the faucet seat is galled. They fail sometimes when they are turned off really hard and the rubber washer is ruined. They just need to be turned off lightly let them drip for a bit and you are good. when it is leaking after you turn it off, how fast are the drips? is the hose still hooked up and dripping? Let em know Joe

  • Bostic says:

    Hello Joe,
    Thank you for all the helpful information you have given us on silcock faucets. I have a question that I don’t see has been asked yet. On my one of my silcock faucets, we had neighbor kids playing with it one day & it began to leak even though the knob was tight. My wife took a pair of pliers to it trying to tighten it to stop the leak. Anyways, I get home and I can’t get the darn knob to turn either way unless I use pliers & even then it only moves slightly. So I took the valve out & it’s part number BK-888-186 (8-7/8” valve). I replaced the seals but that didn’t help. Should I replace the valve now or does the entire faucet need to be replaced? ( which would require some major work)


    • joe says:

      Typically there is damage done when you over tighten the valve. Either by jamming the seal into the seat or in some cases, you could have galled the sealing surface AKA the faucet seat. I would replace it when you get time.

  • Jeff Barger says:

    I just moved into a house with one of these faucets, last night it got down to about 9 degrees so I was concerned about it freezing. I checked the pipe inside and it looked fine so I went outside to turn the faucet on and see if there were any issues. The faucet was slow to turn at first but did turn without extra force. Initially, water came out it came out both the spigot and around the vacuum cap at the top. I quickly turned it off to stop the flow then after a second turned it back on to see if the issues repeated itself, this time water flowed normally and everything was fine. This is my first time living in a house with a frost proof faucet so I am trying to get a feel for if this is a normal usage of the vacuum cap balancing low pressure with high or if there was damage resulting from freezing. Any help would be really appreciated.

    • joe says:

      Jeff, hi, there is a spring and diaphragm in the cap. in most cases that part can be removed and replaced if it fails. Failure would be inability to top flow through the cap. My suspicion is that everything is OK. the premise of the system is that water drains out of it from inside the home where it is nice and warm. occasionally we see them installed graded back to the home. That is how many fail. or by leaving your hose connected when there is a leak. I think you can relax. Rarely do you need spigot water in the winter. Joe Where are you 9 is pretty cold for this time of year. Montana?

  • Frank Polster says:

    Hi Joe,
    My house has two exterior hose bibs with vacuum breaker feature. Both were leaking through the vacuum breaker. I replaced one with a Prier repair kit successfully.
    The other is a different story. It has smaller threads so the Prier repair kit is too big. I cannot find a repair kit with smaller threads to date.
    Do I have to replace the entire sill cock with a new one with the same threads or do you know where I can purchase a kit with the smaller threads?

    Thanks in advance!

    • joe says:

      Frank, I would replace it, use a good quality unit that has parts available. Not all brands have distribution of parts. IMHO having identical ones on your home makes better sense. Joe

  • Sam says:

    I had no access behind the wall. The room was finished. My faucet splits and leeks water to my room. I pulled a section of carpet to dry it out. So what is the next step would you recommend? Cut the outside wall or cut the ceiling from inside to have access to the pex behind?

    • joe says:

      Cut the ceiling from the inside and just do as much as you need. Then use a plastic access panel to finish the job. I would get the plastic access panel first then size your hole accordingly, they come in several sizes. Joe

  • JIM G says:

    Hi Joe – I’m having problems with leaking coming out of the vacuum break. Every time I turn the faucet on, there’s a strong leak coming from the vacuum break. I replaced the cap and the ‘packing’ … but it’s still leaking.
    Any ideas on the cause?
    Can I just replace the vacuum break with a plug nut?

    Thanks in advance!

  • Duane says:

    I have an old Mansfield FrostProof faucet where it is leaking around the handle when on. I cannot appear to remove the handle after removing the handle retention screw. The handle is loose but will not come off over the valve stem housing. Is it possible the older valves cannot be serviced/the handle cannot be removed. I do not want to force it….the handle is light blue plastic

    • joe says:

      Duane, I found this cool video explaining how to repair the faucet. Hope this helps.

      • Duane says:


        Thank you for the prompt reply, I have viewed a number of repair videos, so understand how to complete the repair.
        The issue is that the valve handle does not slip off once the center screw is removed. It is loose, but appears to have a plastic flat, almost like a washer, plate that prevents the handle from sliding off the valve stem. If I could remove the handle, I could execute the repair.

        • joe says:

          No need to fret, that thing should come off without breaking. Try a pickle fork type tool, or a gear puller type tool. It mush have a spline that is stuck. Pull directly in line with the stem and it will let loose eventually. There is nothing holding it on that won’t give with enough force. Best of luck Joe

  • sandee says:

    Hi Joe. I have a old Frost Proof outdoor spigot. When the water is turned on, water leaks a lot from the screw which holds the green metal handle. Tightening the screw does not stop the leaking. What can we do to fix this?

    • joe says:

      Sandee it is possible that water is leaking past the packing nut. It is the nut that holds the handle still and will make it very hard to turn if you tighten it too much. Rebuilding one is not that big a deal, parts are available. If all else fails, replacing it might be your best option. If you chose to go down that road We should talk to make sure it is done correctly, or have it done professionally to be safe. Joe

  • Blake says:

    Hi Joe, great thread and hope you’re still checking. My frost-free faucet emits just a trickle when open. The other day I took it apart (yes, with the water still on) and when I took out the stem, great water pressure! Got it back together with stem back in, but back to the trickle. Not an old unit (6-7 years). Is the problem the interior washer, the stem, or should I just replace the whole unit? Sorry if a repeat question, just couldn’t see one similar😬. Thanks!

    • joe says:

      I have a client that I am remodeling for and I will be replacing hers, trickle situation similar to yours. My time is too valuable to mess with it. When I get them away from the home and I am messing around in my shop I will take them apart and try to diagnose the issue. I’m learning that just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. There are good ones on the market that will likely outlive us both. Joe

  • Brendan says:

    I have the plunger frost freeze valve in my back yard. 3 to be exact. We are not sure if there is a leak in the below-grass water line but want to test with a pressure regulator attached to the valve. When I charge the line via opening a separate ball valve, should I leave the frost freeze valve in the open position and look for a pressure drop or leave in the closed position? Thanks, Brendan

    • joe says:

      I think you have a frost proof hydrant in the back yard. I apologize, I am not sure what you are talking about doing. Be careful. Joe

  • Ha says:

    Hi Joe,

    Our house was built about 2 years ago. I am not sure if I have a frost free outdoor spigot or not. TX just had a few days of well bow freezing. After the freeze, I turned on the shut off valve in the garage and use my outdoor faucet to fill the pool, but the water flow is very weak. I don’t see any leak. What could cause this? Do you think I may have a leak somewhere that I can’t see yet? The shut off valve is in the garage and the faucet is at the end of the opposite corner of the house.

    The day before the freeze, I did attach a hose onto to fill the pool. I immediately took the hose off, turn off the faucet, and put a foam insulation cap on it. Next day, I wanted to fill the pool up a little more, but at this time, water wouldn’t come out at all. So, I turned off the faucet and shut off the water from inside the garage.
    I appreciate your post. Thank you.

    • joe says:

      I heard about your crazy weather. If you had a leak it would be showing up when you turned the valve on to pressurize the exterior faucet. I doubt you have frost-free faucets. You guys all have ( slab on grade buildings) the pipes could have frozen in the wall. We use PEX plastic pipe now, and that will take freezing’s and not hurt it. I doubt any plumbing is under your slab. If things are warmed back up I would pressurize everything and open it all up to see if the flow comes back. The only obstruction could be a bad washer if you turned it off too tight or something like that. The walls will show the problem if there is one quickly. I know a remodeler in Bedford if you are anywhere close that could give advice. Best of luck, Joe

      • Ha says:

        I did let it run for at least 2 or 3 hours when we turned it on again, but the flow never improved. I also did not noticed anything different at the wall. Is there a special way to pressurize everything? And yes, I’m located in the dfw area. Would love your recommendation for that remodeler. Thank you!

  • Rich says:

    Hi Joe
    I have a frost free outdoor spigot. When I turn it on, there is a little hole in the stem as I am turning it on that releases a stream of water (not out of the spout). Water flows both through this little hole as well as to the hose where it should go. Thoughts on how to fix this? I can send pics if that would be more helpful than the description I provided.

    Thanks for your help

    • joe says:

      Rich, I have seen this before but it has been a while. I am remembering that it had something to do with a failed air gap. Send an image while failing and I will add it to the BLOG. Thanks, Joe

  • Steve says:

    Hi Joe,
    I have a leak at the valve stem of a frost free hose bib. I replaced the packing but it still leaks out the packing stem nut. I looks like it is leaking through the stem itself. It has holes near the handle end in the side of the stem, It does not leak if it is shut off. When turned on and with the handle off I see water coming out the screw hole on the end of the stem. I place my finger on the end and water comes out the small hole in the side of the stem. Is it possible the stem is hollow and cracked after the shut of end and before the packing nut?

    Your thoughts

    • joe says:

      Steve. The conventional wisdom is that it is a hollow stem and that it is an older unit (Pre air gap) so that heaven forbid the municipal water system dropped pressure that the faucet would not suck up lawn chemicals into the municipal system. So I think it is an air gap and I am sorry it is annoying. Does it drip when a hose is not attached? what brand? I know that Woodford uses solid stems after speaking with their specialist. Changing it out for a newer version would likely set your mind at ease. I do not believe that the leak is signaling any impending doom. If you could get me more information and an image I would be happy to dig deeper. Thanks, Joe

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