Winter can wreak havoc on an unprepared outdoor faucet, bringing freezing temperatures that zap the water sitting in the faucet and causing cracking, bursting, and other damage.
A malfunctioning outdoor faucet can have equally unpleasant effects, leading to a pool of water around your home’s foundation and opening the door to all sorts of damage.
These scenarios can be avoided by enlisting the help of a designated shut-off valve. Winter on the way? Use the shut-off valve to cut water to the faucet and prevent freezing issues. Have a damaged outdoor faucet that is spewing water everywhere? Turn off the water at the shut-off valve and stop the problem in its tracks.
But do all outdoor faucets actually have shut-off valves? Let’s find out.
Outdoor Faucets and Shut-Off Valves
- Size: 1/2″ Nominal Comp (5/8″OD Comp) inlet x 3/8″ OD Comp outlet.
- For Faucet,Toilet water supply line and faucet supply line.For use hot and cold-water supply with a…
- Material: AIRISIN Angle stop valve is made with lead-free brass. Includes solid metal ball and all…
- 1/4 turn ball valve with solid metal handle easy on/off and durable.
Unfortunately, not all outdoor faucets have shut-off valves. Requirements vary from region to region, and while most local building codes require a shut-off valve for outdoor faucets, this isn’t true in all areas.
If you live in a northern climate where winter temperatures drop well below freezing, there’s a good chance your outdoor faucet has a shut-off valve. However, if winter temperatures in your area rarely dip below freezing or don’t get anywhere close to that, your outdoor faucet might not have a shut-off valve. It all comes down to where you live and local building codes.
Sometimes, you may find that your home doesn’t have a shut-off valve for the outdoor faucets, even though the local building code requires it. This is a fairly common occurrence, as some homeowners who DIY these projects are unaware of the requirements associated with installing an outdoor faucet or hose bib.
Where is the Shut-Off Valve for an Outdoor Faucet?
Before you write off a shut-off valve altogether, it doesn’t hurt to do a bit of sleuthing to confirm your suspicions. Generally, the shut-off valve for the outdoor faucet is in the house, as an indoor valve receives better protection against the elements and has less of a chance of freezing.
There are a couple of places to check, including:
- Utility closet
- Water meter
In most cases, you’ll find the valve in a nearby utility closet, crawlspace, or section of your basement. Start by locating the approximate point of the spigot inside your home. Walk along the path the water pipe follows toward the main plumbing line. You should find the valve somewhere along this line, usually a few feet away from the outdoor faucet.
Remember to check in closets and keep an eye out for small areas where it could be tucked away, like a recessed point in the wall. If you can’t find it, you can check the water meter. However, be careful not to shut off the water main, as this will cut the water to your entire home, not just the outdoor faucet.
What if There Isn’t a Shut-Off Valve?
Some outdoor faucets don’t have their own shut-off valves. If you’re having a water emergency, such as an outdoor faucet that won’t shut off, turn off the water at the main shut-off valve in your home. While this will prevent water flow throughout your entire home, it’ll also give you time to deal with whatever emergency is associated with the outdoor faucet.
If you can’t find a shut-off valve and winter is creeping in, there are several ways to winterize your faucet. Since these faucets are exposed to the elements, you’ll need to ensure you prepare them properly to prevent the pipe or faucet from cracking or bursting.
A burst pipe can cause all sorts of problems, from extensive water damage to water pressure issues. In many cases, you might not even find the damage until the temperatures rise again and the ice in the faucet or subsequent plumbing begins to melt, creating an absolute mess.
And if the mess wasn’t bad enough, the bill to fix it is even worse, so it’s important to take precautions. Proper preparation will ensure your home is prepared for the upcoming cold.
Winterizing an Outdoor Faucet Without a Shut-Off Valve
The lack of a shut-off valve for your outdoor faucet doesn’t mean you can’t winterize it properly. With a few steps, you can prepare the tap for a worry-free winter.
If your faucet is worn out and you plan to replace it, we recommend switching to a frost-free outdoor faucet. These faucets are designed to handle frigid temperatures, so they’re ideal for installation in more extreme climates, particularly in the northern United States.
However, if you’re not replacing your faucet, follow these steps to prepare it for the impending cold.
1. Remove Attachments
Firstly, you need to disconnect any attachments you have connected to the faucet. Remove garden hoses and other attachments from the faucet, as these can trap water in and around the faucet, raising the risk of freezing and bursting.
Let your garden hoses drain excess water by extending them on a hill or working the water out using gravity to your advantage. Coil them up and store them for winter, as they’re susceptible to damage in cold temperatures. Do the same for any attachments, draining them and storing them properly to ensure they’re ready when you need them the following spring,
2. Drain the Faucet
Once you remove the attachments, it’s time to drain the faucet. You don’t want excess water in or around the faucet, so this is an important step in winterizing it. To do this, you’ll need to shut off the water at the main shut-off valve unless you discover an isolated shut-off valve for this faucet.
Once the water is off, open the outdoor faucet and let it run until all the water drains out. When water stops flowing from the spout, close the faucet and leave it off. If you’re concerned someone might accidentally use it after you’ve drained it (not a big deal, but you’ll need to drain it again), you can remove the handle.
On some outdoor faucets, the handle is simply sitting atop grooves in the faucet stem, so you can easily take it off with a bit of a wiggle and gentle upward pressure. Others are attached via a screw, so you’ll need a screwdriver to remove them.
If you decide to remove the handle, ensure you place it and its hardware somewhere you can find it. A labeled plastic baggie in a designated area will do; just ensure you place it somewhere you can find it in the spring.
3. Invest in an Insulated Cover
After draining the faucet, you can further prepare it for winter by adding an insulated faucet cover. These covers offer a buffer between the faucet and the cold temperatures, which helps resist damage such as freezing, cracking, and bursting.
You can find these covers at most hardware stores in the plumbing section or online through various retailers. They’re easy to install and only take a few seconds to slip into place, so you won’t need assistance from a licensed plumber.
In the spring, wait until the last of the freezing temperatures are gone before removing the cover. Pay attention to the nightly lows, as spring can be somewhat temperamental and throw in a few chilly curveballs. Once the nightly lows regularly exceed freezing by more than a few degrees, remove the cove