How to Winterize Outdoor Faucets

Outdoor faucets, also known as hose bibs or sillcocks, are very susceptible to freezing and bursting during winter. This can lead to costly plumbing repairs and water damage in your home. Winterizing your outdoor faucets properly before the first freeze is crucial to prevent this.

Winterizing outdoor faucets involves draining the water from the faucet and water line, disconnecting hoses, and insulating or covering the faucet. This article provides a step-by-step guide on how to thoroughly winterize outdoor faucets and ensure they are protected from freezing temperatures.

When to Winterize Outdoor Faucets

The best time to winterize outdoor faucets is late fall, before the first hard freeze in your area. Freezing temperatures vary across different regions, but generally occur between mid-November and late December.

Ideally, you should winterize faucets when overnight temperatures consistently drop below 40°F. In colder northern climates, winterizing before the first freeze is critical. In milder southern regions, winterizing when nightly lows reach freezing is sufficient.

Check your local climate and weather forecasts. Be proactive in winterizing a few weeks before freezing typically occurs. Attempting to winterize when freezing weather is already here can risk pipes bursting. Getting this done in advance gives you peace of mind knowing your outdoor faucets are protected.

Supplies Needed

Gather the following supplies to properly winterize your outdoor faucets:

  • Hose bib covers or foam insulation – To wrap and insulate faucets
  • Pipe insulation – For covering exposed pipes
  • Rags – For cleaning and drying faucets
  • Bucket – For draining hoses and catching water
  • Hose bib draining valve – Allows draining while faucet is closed
  • Pipe sealing tape – To seal threads if removing hoses
  • Screwdriver – If removing hoses from spigot
  • Heat tape – Optional, for wrapping pipes prone to freezing
  • Heat lamp – Optional, for warming pipes overnight

Having these supplies ready ahead of time will allow you to thoroughly winterize all outdoor faucets at once.

Preparing to Winterize Faucets

Before beginning the winterizing process, follow these preparatory steps:

Inspect Faucets and Pipes

Look over all your outdoor faucets and exposed pipes. Check for any leaks, cracks or damage that needs repairing before winter sets in. Confirm the faucets are in good working order and drainage valves are functioning properly. Doing repairs now prevents further issues when freezing temperatures arrive.

Disconnect and Drain Hoses

Detach all hoses connected to outdoor spigots. Drain any remaining water from the hoses by holding them over a bucket. Coil up and store hoses in a dry place like a garage or shed until spring. Leaving hoses attached and full of water during winter is asking for freezing and bursts.

Locate Shut Off Valves

Find the shut off valves for your outdoor faucets located inside your home. Identifying these ahead of time allows you to easily turn off the water when winterizing. This is typically located in basements or crawl spaces where service lines enter the house.

Test Drain Valves

Examine each outdoor faucet for a draining port or valve near the base. Open these valves to test they are functioning and adequately drain any residual water from the faucet line after shut off. Malfunctioning drain valves that don’t fully drain lines can lead to freezing.

Once you’ve inspected, disconnected hoses, located shut offs and tested drains, you are ready to begin winterizing.

How to Winterize Outdoor Faucets Step-By-Step

Follow this comprehensive, step-by-step process to properly winterize outdoor faucets:

Step 1: Turn Off Water Supply Lines

Go inside to the shut off valves for each outdoor faucet. Turn the valves clockwise fully to the off position. This stops water supply from entering the outdoor faucet lines.

Turning off water is the first crucial step in the winterization process. Leaving water supply on while attempting to winterize can lead to incomplete drainage and freezing.

Step 2: Open Outdoor Faucets

Go back outside and turn on each outdoor faucet completely. Allow them to run open until the water flow stops completely. This ejects any remaining water standing in the faucet and line.

Note that no water will come out once the valves are shut off inside. You are simply opening the faucet to allow drainage through the spigot.

Step 3: Open Drain Valves

With the faucets left fully open, find the drain valve near the base of each spigot. Turn these valves counterclockwise to open them. This allows any remaining water in the pipes to drain out through the valve.

Position a bucket under the drain valve to catch the exiting water. Let the valve stay open until water stops flowing out.

Step 4: Operate Faucet Lever

After water finishes draining, operate the faucet lever back and forth several times. This ejects any last drips of water clinging inside the faucet body itself. Doing this ensures no pockets of residual water get left behind.

Step 5: Spray with Compressed Air

For the most thorough drainage, use a compressed air canister to spray inside the faucet opening. This blasts out droplets stuck inside. Wear eye protection when spraying compressed air.

Tip the faucet down towards the drain valve to allow any dislodged drips of water to exit.

Step 6: Close Drain Valves

Once fully drained, close the drain valves by turning them clockwise. Position a bucket underneath and reopen the faucet lever briefly. Check that zero water comes out, confirming lines are fully emptied. Close the faucet lever once complete drainage is verified.

Step 7: Detach and Drain Hoses

If you haven’t already, detach any hoses from the faucets. Drain them fully over a bucket and coil up to store away. Run a rag through the opening of the faucet to dry out any moisture.

Replace any washers on the hose bib if they are worn. Apply new pipe tape to the hose bib threads to prevent leaks.

Step 8: Insulate Pipes

Exposed pipes near outdoor faucets should be insulated before winter. Wrap them thoroughly with foam pipe insulation sleeves. This protects from freezing temperatures.

For pipes most prone to freezing, consider wrapping them with self-regulating heat tape. Plug in the heat tape to keep the pipes just above freezing all winter.

Step 9: Install Faucet Covers

Slip foam faucet covers or insulation sleeves over each outdoor spigot. Close them securely to create a protective seal around the faucet body. These prevent drafts and keep faucets insulated from the cold.

Hard plastic faucet covers also available. Avoid using fabric covers that absorb moisture and allow freezing.

Step 10: Cover with Plastic

For added protection, wrap the insulating faucet cover with plastic sheeting or a plastic bag. Tie or tape the plastic securely to create a waterproof seal around the faucet covering. This provides an extra layer protecting from snow, rain and moisture.

Step 11: Check Indoor Pipes

Don’t forget to check any pipes passing through unheated indoor spaces like garages, basements or crawl spaces. Fully insulate these pipes or consider a heat lamp to keep them from freezing. Bursts here can still cause water damage indoors.

Tips for Effective Winterization

Keep these tips in mind as you winterize outdoor faucets:

  • Winterize on a dry, above freezing day to prevent leftover water in pipes from freezing before drained.
  • When shutting off interior valves, make sure valves are fully closed. Partially closed valves may still allow some water into lines.
  • After draining, blow out lines with compressed air for the most thorough water removal.
  • Insulate any sections of exposed pipe near outdoor faucets.
  • Install faucet covers securely with no gaps that allow cold air in.
  • Plastic wrap adds an extra waterproof barrier to prevent drips into insulating covers.
  • Consider heat tape or heat lamps if pipes are still prone to freezing even after winterizing.
  • Check indoor pipes in unheated areas too.

Thoroughly following these winterization steps helps ensure outdoor faucets are protected from freeze damage. Taking time to properly winterize saves you from costly plumbing repairs down the road. Be proactive before winter hits to safeguard outdoor spigots from burst pipes and water damage.

Winterizing Specific Faucet Types

Certain kinds of outdoor faucets and pipes require some additional winterization steps beyond the basics covered above.

Frost-Free Faucets

Frost-free faucets have an elongated stem that allows water sitting inside the faucet body to expand without bursting. However, the pipes leading to the faucet can still freeze.

When winterizing frost-free faucets, follow these tips:

  • Shut off indoor water valves and open outdoor faucet like standard winterization.
  • Open the drain valve to empty the line.
  • Do not turn the faucet lever on and off repeatedly as this can damage the frost-free seal.
  • Focus on insulating the exposed pipes near the faucet rather than the faucet body itself.
  • Make sure plastic faucet covers do not block the long faucet stem.

Vacuum Breaker Faucets

Vacuum breaker faucets have an anti-backflow device that prevents contaminated water from siphoning back into the home’s pipes. They require one extra step when winterizing:

  • After draining the line, press down on the vacuum breaker reset button. This opens the check valve so remaining water can drain out.
  • Once drained fully, release the reset button to close the check valve again.
  • Insulate and cover the vacuum breaker faucet like a standard faucet for winter.

Underground Pipes

For underground water supply pipes that feed outdoor faucets, insulating the buried lines themselves is often impossible. Here are some tips:

  • Where the underground pipe exits the ground, wrap insulating foam around the connection point.
  • For lines less than 2 feet down, try mounding soil or mulch over them for insulation.
  • Draining and insulating just the visible, above-ground faucet parts will still provide protection.
  • If concerned about deep underground lines, contact a plumber to blow them out with compressed air.

Pay special attention to winterizing underground pipe connections, as damage here can lead to ruptures below the frost line.

PEX Pipes

PEX or cross-linked polyethylene pipes have become more common for outdoor faucet lines in recent construction. PEX is flexible plastic tubing that is more freeze-resistant but can still burst.

For best PEX pipe winterization:

  • Follow standard drainage protocols. PEX’s flexibility lets you drain it completely.
  • Carefully check any fittings joining PEX to copper or rigid pipe. Insulate these joint areas.
  • Use heat tape or lamps along the entire PEX line for critical freeze prevention.

While PEX survives freezing better than metal, it is still vulnerable when left unprotected in winter. Take steps to insulate and apply supplemental heat if needed.

Re-Activating Faucets After Winter

When the weather warms up in spring, you’ll need to re-activate outdoor faucets after winterization. Follow these steps:

Remove Faucet Insulation

Take off any insulating foam covers, plastic bags and tapes from outdoor faucets. Unwrap any pipe insulation as well. Inspect the faucets for any damage that may have occurred over winter.

Close Drain Valves

Make sure the drain valves at the base of all faucets are closed tightly. This prevents water from exiting the drains when turned back on.

Slowly Turn Water Back On

Go inside to the shut off valves for each outdoor faucet. Slowly turn these counterclockwise to open the water supply again. Open valves slowly all the way to avoid pressure surges to plumbing.

Check for Leaks

With shut off valves fully reopened, go outside and turn on each faucet slowly. Let water run and inspect fittings for any leaks. Tighten connections if necessary.

Flush Lines

Finally, let each outdoor faucet run for several minutes. This flushes any sediment or contaminants that may have entered plumbing over winter. Adjust to desired water temperature. The faucets are now reactivated and ready for spring and summer use.

Properly re-commissioning your outdoor faucets after winterizing is just as important as shutting them down for winter. Take time in spring to reverse each winterization step methodically.

FAQs About Winterizing Outdoor Faucets

Some common questions about properly winterizing outdoor faucets include:

Do I have to shut off indoor water valves when winterizing?

Yes, you should always shut off the indoor shut off valves leading to each outdoor faucet before winterizing. Leaving the valves on while trying to drain pipes introduces the risk of residual water freezing inside the lines. Shutting off indoor water supply is key.

How do I know if I drained the pipes fully?

After draining, close the faucet lever and drain valve, then briefly reopen the lever. No water should come out – this means the line is fully winterized and drained. Always double check for complete drainage.

Is it okay to leave hoses attached in winter?

No, all hoses should be removed in winter. Water left sitting in hoses will freeze and burst the hose. Detach and drain all hoses as part of winterization.

Do I need to add antifreeze?

Adding antifreeze is usually unnecessary, as long as pipes are fully drained before insulating. Completely draining all water from the lines protects against freezing. Only use antifreeze if drainage is incomplete.

How much insulation is needed?

At minimum, install insulating faucet covers. For colder climates, also wrap any exposed pipes near faucets with foam insulation. Wrapping pipes prone to freezing with heat tape is also an option for critical protection.

Can I turn winterized faucets back on temporarily?

It is not recommended to reactivate partially winterized faucets for temporary use during winter, as this may leave residual water that freezes. Fully winterize and leave dormant until spring.

Does winterizing protect from pipe bursts?

Yes, a properly winterized outdoor faucet should be fully protected from freezing temperatures and water line bursts, as long as all water is drained prior to insulating. Take care to thoroughly winterize.

Completely draining water lines and insulating faucets before winter arrives is guaranteed to prevent freeze damage. Following the winterization steps outlined here will keep your outdoor faucets safe from harm until spring. With care and maintenance, your faucets can last smoothly for many more years. Stay proactive against frozen pipes!

How to Remove Mineral Deposits from Faucets

Hard water containing high amounts of minerals like calcium and magnesium carbonate can leave behind white, chalky mineral deposits on fixtures like faucets. Not only are these water spots unsightly, but they can also clog a faucet’s aerator. Learning how to remove mineral deposits from faucets is an important part of home maintenance.

With the right methods and supplies, you can break down mineral buildup and restore your bathroom and kitchen faucets to a like-new shine. Here are some highly effective tips for dissolving and scrubbing away stubborn mineral deposits from faucet fixtures.

Removing Mineral Deposits from Faucet Aerators

Mineral deposits often accumulate inside faucet aerators, obstructing water flow. To clean an aerator clogged with minerals:

Unscrew Aerator Head

Use a coin or special aerator key to unscrew the aerator head from the end of the faucet spout. This allows you access to the mineral deposits inside.

Soak in Vinegar

Place the aerator head in a bowl and cover with undiluted white vinegar. Let it soak for 1-2 hours to dissolve mineral buildup.

Scrub with Brush

After soaking, scrub the aerator opening using an old toothbrush. The vinegar will react with the calcium carbonate deposits, breaking them down for easier removal.

Rinse Thoroughly

Rinse the aerator head well with warm water to wash away loosened mineral particles. Turn the fitting around with tweezers and use a pressurized stream of water flush out the last flecks.

Once fully rinsed, simply screw the clean aerator head back onto the faucet spout. Running water should flow freely again.

Removing Mineral Buildup from Faucet Fixtures

For removing stubborn mineral spots from the faucet fixtures themselves:

Wipe With White Vinegar

Dip a microfiber cloth or rag in undiluted white vinegar and wipe down the affected areas on the faucet. Let the vinegar sit for 5-10 minutes to react with the minerals.

Scrub Gently With Baking Soda

Make a baking soda paste by mixing 3 parts baking soda to 1 part water. Gently scrub the faucet with the paste using a soft sponge or toothbrush. Avoid abrasive scouring that could scratch the fixture.

Rinse Clean

Once scrubbed, rinse the faucet well with warm water to remove all baking soda and mineral deposits. Wipe dry with a clean, soft cloth.

Buff With Olive Oil

For added shine, rub a small amount of olive oil onto the clean, dry faucet using a soft cloth. Buff to polish away any remaining spots and leave a streak-free shine. The oil helps repel new water deposits.

Products That Remove Mineral Buildup

Besides vinegar, baking soda and olive oil, some commercial cleaners to consider using for removing stubborn mineral deposits from faucets include:

  • CLR Calcium, Lime and Rust Remover – Spray cleaner specifically formulated to dissolve mineral deposits. R