Winterizing Outdoor Faucets

In Ontario, cold weather comes fast each year and does its best to destroy our water pipes. The best way to minimize the damage from cold weather on household plumbing is to do a little winterizing, which essentially means protecting them against the freezing that can expand the water and rupture pipes. A busted water pipe can cause thousands of dollars of damage when water soaks walls, ceilings, and floors, so it just makes sense to take some time to prevent the possibility.

As a homeowner you need to winterize outside faucets. This is relatively easy to do and doesn’t even take too long. Of course, it is always recommended to have a professional take care of your plumbing if you feel uncomfortable or unsure. Installing these covers, along with performing a few simple winterizing procedures, can prevent outdoor faucets from bursting due to freezing.

Frost-Proof Faucets Will Still Need Protection
While there are specialty outdoor faucets marketed as “freeze-proof,” there is no guarantee that these faucets will not freeze in the coldest weather. Even these faucets can benefit from professionally installed outdoor faucet covers. Long term, though, installing freeze-proof faucets is a good next step to avoiding problems. This is best done while the weather is still above freezing.

No matter the outdoor spigot type, freeze-proof or not, it is particularly important to remove any hoses, splitters, or other fittings screwed onto the spigot before winter sets in. Not removing hoses can trap water and make it much more likely a faucet will freeze. This is always a difficult step because most people will want to use the outside water until the very point when the freezing weather begins. It is best to preempt the cold weather by disconnecting hoses early since even one night of freezing weather can cause a break in the pipes.

Inspect the Faucets
The next step to winterizing outdoor faucets is leak detection and repair. Check all spigots, yard hydrants, and other fixtures for leaks and drips. If you do find any problems, repair or replace the fixture before the temperature drops to freezing. Dripping water indicates a faucet with a leaky washer or cartridge, which can block up and freeze in the spigot or in the pipe feeding it.

Drain the Spigot and Pipes
Getting as much water out of the pipes as possible is the next step. If you have an outdoor faucet that is not freeze-proof, the best way to do this is to shut off that line, if possible, and drain the water from it. This can be done by shutting off an interior shut-off valve to the water line leading to the spigot, then opening the spigot and leave it open for a few hours until the water inside the pipe drains out. After the water drains out, close the spigot again. Do this when the temperatures are above freezing. Where there is no indoor shut-off valve, it becomes even more important to carefully insulate the spigot from outdoors. With a frost-free spigot or a yard hydrant, this step isn’t necessary since the fixture design keeps the water well back away from the end of the spigot. However, just as with regular outdoor spigots, hoses and other attachments should be removed from frost-free spigots and yard hydrants before the winter, or they may not drain down properly.

Install Outdoor Faucet Covers
The last step to winterizing outdoor faucets is to protect them with insulation. An easy way to do this is to install an outdoor faucet cover on each outdoor fixture, including frost-free spigots. Faucet covers are either square or dome-shaped shells that fit right over outdoor faucets, or they are flexible bags made of thick fabric stuffed with insulation. When covering regular spouts (not freeze-proof), extra loose insulation can be installed inside the faucet cover to keep it warm and dry throughout the winter. In most situations, however, the faucet cover will provide enough insulation. Frost-free spouts should be covered, as well, because while they are resistant to freezing, they are not 100% guaranteed to last against the coldest of Canadian winters.

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