How to Drain a Hose Bibb for Winter
When the temperature drops and the leaves turn colors, it's time to start thinking about winterizing your home. One important task you need to do is to winterize your hose bibbs, which are all the faucets on the exterior of your house where you can attach your garden hoses.
It's a quick and easy project that most homeowners can — and should — handle. Learn how to drain a hose bibb for winter to prevent major plumbing issues inside your home.
The key to winterizing your hose bibbs is to remove all water from those pipes and prevent more water from entering them. Follow these steps:
Step 1: Detach Hoses
Unscrew any hoses that are attached to your outdoor faucets. The hoses could still have water in them, so drain as much of that water out as possible. Roll the hoses up and store them in a warm garage or basement.
Step 2: Check for Leaks
This is a good time to repair leaky spigots before winter hits. Sometimes the issue can be repaired by replacing a part, or you might need to replace the entire faucet.
Step 3: Turn off the Water
Every outdoor spigot should have a dedicated shutoff valve to control the water. You might need to search for the valves in your basement, crawl space or utility room. You'll usually find them somewhere near the bibb. Turn the valves to the off position. You should be able to turn it to the right to shut it off.
Step 4: Drain the Hose Bibb
Closing the shutoff valve prevents more water from running to the spigot, but there could still be some water in the pipe between the shutoff and the spigot. Turning on the faucet until the water stops running helps drain it. Leave the spigot in the "on" position throughout winter.
Step 5: Put on a Faucet Cover
While not required, an insulated faucet cover provides extra protection against the cold. These inexpensive covers are available at home improvement stores and go over the exposed outdoor spigot.
Step 6: Don’t Forget any Spigots
Repeat the process with all of your outdoor spigots. Some houses only have one, but many have additional spigots. You need to winterize every faucet to protect your plumbing from freezing issues.
In the spring, when you no longer need to worry about freezing, you can do these steps in reverse to get the hose bibb ready to use again.
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Your outdoor faucets are exposed to cold temperatures, wind and snow all winter long. If any water is left in an attached garden hose or the pipe leading to the spigot, it can freeze due to those frigid conditions. When the water freezes, it expands. This can damage the hose, hose bibb and pipe leading to the bibb. The ice can continue into the pipes inside your house, causing major damage and requiring those pipes to be replaced.
Unfortunately, you might not discover this damage until the following spring. When you go to use the outdoor faucet, the broken pipes will leak water inside your home. This can cause major water damage.
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Winterizing your hose bibb in late fall before the temperatures drop below freezing is important to prevent ice from forming. Plus, you don't want to mess with water when it's freezing cold outside, since the task involves draining hoses and pipes. Doing this task before winter weather hits is easier and provides greater protection. Add it to your fall yard work checklist, so you don't forget.
If you forget to winterize your hose bibb and it freezes, you'll need to thaw it gently. It's best to call a plumber for this task, as they have the correct tools to thaw the ice. Never try to thaw the pipe with an open flame due to the risk of fire and additional damage. Plumbers can also assess the damage and determine whether any parts need to be replaced.
You can replace your existing faucet with a frost-free hose bibb, which reduces the chances of your pipes freezing. It's also a lower-maintenance option if you live in a cold climate.
Frost-free hose bibbs slope downward slightly to ensure any excess water runs out, so it can't freeze. It has a special valve inside that closes each time you turn off the faucet. This prevents water from entering the last part of the pipe, so there's nothing left to freeze. A regular spigot only shuts the water off at the handle, which can leave water in the pipe.
It also has a longer stem, which is the length of pipe attached to the bibb that goes through the exterior wall. Because the stem extends into the house more than a traditional spigot, the valve that opens and closes is closer to the warm inside air for additional protection from freezing.
It's still a good idea to detach the hoses from your spigots, but you don't need to manually drain a hose bibb for winter since the bibb does it for you. You should also put an insulated cover on the frost-proof hose bibb for an extra layer of protection, especially if you live in a frigid climate.
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