How do I winterize my outside faucet?
As a home inspector in the Stillwater, MN area, I see a lot of “differed maintenance”, which is a polite way of saying neglect. I don’t judge; a lot of my recommendations fall along the lines of “do as I say, not as I do”. But frozen water pipes from the outside faucet are expensive and easily avoided.
You may not have to winterize your outside hose bibb. (Yup, that’s what outside faucets are called) If your faucet looks like the one in the picture, the valve itself is actually inside the house, where it’s warm(er). The part that you turn is the connected to a rod, which turns the valve. The Family Handyman has a pretty good article about how they work. That knob on top? It’s for the anti-siphon device, which let’s water out, but not in. I wrote about that in another blog. Click: What’s “swamp tea?”
But for older houses, winterizing faucets is just one of many fall projects that fall under IMPORTANT, URGENT. The timing is important; the price of procrastination can be high. You can sometimes thaw out frozen pipes after they freeze but before they burst. Some folks use a hair drier, which takes a long time and is not entirely safe. Others use a heat gun, which still takes a while and is not AT ALL safe. So I use my dad’s rule of thumb; finish the fall projects before the furnace gets turned on. He hated turning on the furnace, so so it was an easy rule for him to enforce.
While we’re on the subject of Dad’s advice, remember to take the hose off the bibb when it’s not in use, especially when the nights get cooler. If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.
But the job itself is pretty easy; open the valve outside the house. While it’s running, find and then shut off the valve in the basement, near the wall, in the ceiling. The sound of running water might help find it. You’ll know if it’s the right one when the sound stops. You’ll find a little cap on that valve. It’s threaded, and about half the size of a thimble. Take that off, and let the little bit of water out. Use a towel or something to catch the water. There will be about a quarter of a cup. Then put the cap back on, and move on to the next one. You can leave the outside faucet open.
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