A frost-free faucet is designed to prevent water from freezing inside the pipe or valve and damaging it. It does this through means of a long valve stem that reaches inside the home where it remains warm, and a self-draining design that prevents water from collecting in the faucet, where it can freeze.
Despite this, it is possible for a frost-free faucet to freeze and rupture in extreme cold. These faucets also can require replacement simply because they wear out.
Replacing most frost-free faucets involves just shutting off the water, unscrewing the old faucet, and screwing on the new one. If your old faucet is soldered in place, you may have to hire a plumber for the job, or you can cut off the supply pipe behind the soldered fitting and install a new faucet that uses a push-in fitting (SharkBite is one brand of this type of faucet). The job can also be a little more complicated if you are removing a standard faucet to install a new frost-free model.
Be sure to buy a new faucet that's the same size as the original. Measuring the length of the old faucet can be tricky because it runs through the wall. It is often easier to remove the old faucet and bring it with you to the store for a perfect match.
Before You Begin
Shut off the water supply to the faucet. There may be a shutoff valve on the individual supply pipe leading to the faucet. If not, you can turn off the water to the entire house at the main shutoff valve. Open the faucet to relieve pressure in the line.
Equipment / Tools
- Utility knife
- 2 Tongue-and-groove pliers
- Caulk gun
- Replacement frost-free faucet
- Plumber's pipe-seal tape
- Exterior caulk
Unfasten the Faucet
Remove the mounting screws that are holding the faucet to the exterior wall. If the faucet flange is caulked or sealed with paint, cut through the seal with a utility knife.
Disconnect the Faucet
Disconnect the faucet from the supply pipe inside the house. Grasp the pipe fitting—where the faucet connects to the supply pipe—with tongue-and-groove pliers (aka "channel-locks") to hold it securely and prevent it from turning. Use another pair of tongue-and-groove pliers to turn the faucet pipe counterclockwise until it is disconnected from the fitting. (Some water may drip from the pipe and/or the faucet as you do this.)
Remove the Faucet
Pull the faucet out from the wall on the exterior side. Purchase a new frost-free faucet of the same size. It is important that the length and diameter of the pipe match the old faucet.
Install the New Faucet
Apply plumber's pipe-seal tape to the threads of the new faucet, wrapping the tape two or three times in a clockwise direction (when viewed from the end of the faucet pipe).
Insert the faucet pipe through the wall opening from the outside. From inside, thread the end of the faucet's pipe into the fitting on the water supply pipe. (Depending on how the original connection was made, this may involve installing a new fitting on the water pipe). Turn the faucet pipe clockwise into the fitting by hand until the connection is snug, then tighten it down securely with tongue-and-groove pliers. It's best to use two sets of pliers for this—one to hold the water supply pipe fitting, the other to turn the faucet pipe.
Make sure the faucet spigot is facing down. It's helpful to have an assistant from the outside watch as you tighten the connections from indoors.
Finish the Project
Turn the water back on—opening the shutoff valve slowly—and check the new connections for leaks (this is another instance when a helper is useful).
Secure the faucet flange to the outside of the wall with galvanized screws. You can use the old screws or replace them with new ones. Apply a bead of exterior caulk all the way around the faucet flange to create a watertight seal against the house wall.