Hose spigots are the fixture that connects your water hose to your home. It has a bunch of different names depending on where you are from. Some of the common names that we get from customers when they are calling in are:
These terms all refer to the same thing. They all serve the same function and purpose and operate in roughly the same manner. In the plumbing world, the technical term used most often is “hose bib” followed closely by “hose spigot.”
The design is fairly simple and functions like a multi-turn gate valve). But they have two major differences versus your standard gate valve. The first is a safety feature and the other is a freeze-proof feature.
By plumbing code, each hose spigot must be equipped with a backflow prevention device. This is also called a vacuum breaker. When operating correctly, this serves as a safety feature that prevents water from the water hose from backing up into the main potable (drinkable) water supply. This is just in case there are contaminants such as yard waste or chemicals that got into the hose. Those contaminants cannot enter the drinkable water supply.
The vacuum breaker is designed to allow water to leak out a little when the water is turned off. That is not a hose spigot problem, that is by design. Now please understand that this is not supposed to be continual or when the hose is in use and under pressure. If you have any water coming from the hose spigot during use, then it is starting to develop a leak or fail.
The “freeze-proof” feature of a hose spigot is that it is allowed to self-drain after use. In order for this to be achieved, it must be installed at a slight angle that creates “fall.” In addition, it cannot self-drain when there is a water hose connected to it. This is pretty obvious, but people regularly leave their water hoses attached well into January. The self-draining feature can also not work if there is a leak or drip of any kind. That drip freezes and starts to create a little ice dam. Water continues to back up and continues to freeze more and then you get a pipe rupture.
Every year as the weather warms up and people start getting out in the yard, we get a multitude of calls for leaking or ruptured hose spigots. The difference between a leak and a rupture is pretty obvious.
Most leaks are due to age. Because a hose spigot is a “gate valve” that has a limited life, it is designed to be replaced. We typically see most hose spigots lasting problem-free for about 5-7 years but that’s not a hard-fast rule as we’ve seen them last much longer and much less. But if you have water coming out of any part of the fixture other than where it is supposed to, then it might be time to call Earl’s Plumbing. Keep in mind that a slow uncontrolled drip can lead to a complete rupture if not fixed.
Hose spigot ruptures are related to freeze damage. This is caused by water not being allowed to fully drain, or the accumulation of a leak inside the hose spigot that freezes. The freezing water expands inside the copper pipe portion of the hose spigot and creates a split in the pipe. This type of damage usually cannot be identified until you turn the spigot on. Sometimes the break is not severe enough until a hose is attached to create some back pressure. If you see water coming from out of the brick or more commonly where the brick and concrete slab meet or from the weep holes, you have a problem that needs to be addressed. Usually, if caught early enough the water does not migrate inside the home where it can cause interior damage, but that all depends on how quickly the rupture is identified.
In some instances, a hose spigot “leak” can be repaired. However, that is not a service we offer any longer. We decided several years ago that there was very little value for either party involved in repairing a hose spigot versus a full replacement.
The reason for this decision is that the “repair option” usually takes longer to diagnose and complete than it does to replace the entire hose spigot. In addition, the first repair usually did not always fix the issue, or it did but that created enough new pressure that another area began to leak and also needed to be repaired. More often than not, the repair option would fix the problem, but another leak would materialize. In addition, many of the factory parts needed to make a proper repair are not available for purchase. To avoid this temptation, we do not even carry repair parts for hose spigots on our trucks.
In the end, there is far more “value” to the customer in replacing the entire faucet that will last multiple years versus a repair that may only last a few months to a year. Because we might replace multiple hose spigots in a day or even multiple at one home, each of our trucks is supplied with multiple quantities of the various sizes required for almost any job.
It should be noted that although rare, depending upon the severity, a “ruptured” hose spigot can break off inside the wall. If this happens, sometimes the brick must be cut, or the drywall opened up from the inside to gain access to the spot. Obviously, this would cause an even larger expense and a 3rd party to make the repair. However, at Earl’s Plumbing, we have developed a pretty effective system that, in the event, this happens we can often remove these broken-off pieces without the need to cut the drywall open or remove brick. The success rate has been pretty high, and we’ve saved our customers thousands in additional repairs.
As stated earlier, hose spigot leaks are going to materialize with age. You can prolong the life with some routine maintenance if you are “truly” DIY savvy. But to avoid the major ruptures that can lead to property damage or a more costly repair, you MUST prepare for the freezing weather with a few simple steps:
If you experience a leak or rupture in your hose spigot, especially after a freeze, our team of expert plumbers at Earl’s Plumbing can help you out. With our help, it won’t be long before you are back to watering your flowers or before the kids are playing in the hose. Give us a call today to get started!