Repair a Leaking Freeze-Proof Faucet

A Do-It-Yourself Tutorial

Outdoor tap faucet running water
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A freeze-proof faucet is a great outdoor plumbing fixture. Having a freeze-proof faucet will allow you to have water outside the house even in the winter. A freeze-proof faucet does well in cold temperatures because the main water line that supplies it is up to 12” away from the spigot inside the insulated wall or under the insulated house. When the spigot is turned off the water is stopped in the far end of the pipe where it is insulated so there is less chance of it freezing and bursting the pipe.

Like everything else a freeze-proof faucet will eventually wear out and will need to be rebuilt or replaced. Most likely a problem with the faucet will become apparent after the winter when you go to turn the faucet on and it leaks. The freeze-proof faucet can leak from several different areas. The source of the leak will determine the type of repair that is needed.

  1. The freeze-proof faucet can leak from around the handle stem. If this is the source of the leak when you turn the handle to open the spigot water will tend to pool out from around the handle. This type of leak can usually be fixed by tightening the packing nut. To do this remove the screw that holds the handle in place and take the handle off. This will give you access to the packing nut. Tighten it, replace the handle, and test for a leak. If this does not work you can replace the packing with either new packing or a faucet rebuild kit which will have new packing.
  1. Another place a freeze-proof faucet can leak is from the anti-siphon part of the valve if the faucet has one. This component can go bad with use and to repair it you will most likely need a new anti-siphon rebuild kit that is brand specific to that freeze-proof faucet. Rebuild kits can be ordered online or picked up from a hardware store or plumbing supply house. Because there are many brands of faucets it is a good idea to call ahead to see if they carry rebuild kits for that brand of faucet. Be sure to shut off the water to make the repair.
  1. A freeze-proof faucet can leak from the spout itself by not shutting off all the way. The cause of this type of leak can be a washer at the end of the faucet stem and it is easy to repair. Shut off the water to make this repair. To get at the washer unscrew the handle, then the packing nut (and sometimes a housing nut) and turn the handle like you are turning the faucet on. The faucet stem should come out so you can access the problematic washer. Replace the washer, reassemble the faucet, and the leak should be fixed.
  2. The freeze-proof faucet can also have a hidden leak in the valve body. The way that this type of leak is usually notice is the reduced water pressure coming from the faucet. The first thing to do is to check that the home water pressure is normal and only the freeze-proof faucet is affected. If it isn’t a generalized water pressure problem it is likely that there is a hidden leak somewhere on the faucet body. The freeze-proof body could have split during the winter if even a small amount of water did not siphon out. When the faucet is opened it can leak under the house or in the wall where you might not see it. It is a good idea to check the water pressure to all freeze-proof faucets in the spring so you can catch any hidden leaks before they do too much damage. For this type of leak, the solution is to replace the freeze-proof faucet.