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How To Fix A Leaking Hose Bib - Plumb University

How To Fix A Leaking Hose Bib

by Trevor Woods | Last Updated: June 12, 2020

Summer is finally here and its time to turn on your hose bibs to water your lawn, wash your car, or fill up your swimming pool. But when you go to turn the hose on, the outdoor faucet starts leaking! Fortunately for you fixing a leaky hose bib is cheap and easy.

Follow our guide on how to repair an outdoor faucet and you will be back to being more productive in your yard or frolicking through a sprinkler in no time!

What Is A Hose Bib?

A hose bib is plumbing speak for an outside faucet, and it goes by many other names:

Phew, that’s a long list! It goes by many different terms because it is so important to us. Hose bibs let us enjoy the convenience of running water outside our homes with ease. These outdoor faucets allow us to take more pleasure in the summers and keep us more productive with our outdoor chores.

Your lawn services connect directly into your water distribution system just like any other faucet you would find inside your home. This brass bodied valve typically comes with a spout that accepts the connection of a garden hose and a wheel-style handle to turn the water ON and OFF.

This faucet style is more common than you think. You can find similar hose spigots at your washing machine, water heater, and rain barrels. Now, let’s help you better understand how hose bibs get water from inside your home to your yard, driveway, or garden!

SharkBite Hose Bibb
$13.96

The hose bibb has a durable forged body for strength and comes with an integrated mounting flange to secure the valve to the mounting surface.

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12/05/2022 12:13 am GMT

How Does A Hose Bib Work?

There is more than meets the eye when it comes to your hose spigot. Hose bibs are connected to your home’s main water supply where there is typically a separate shut off valve to isolate the exterior faucets. This valve can be found in your basement, mechanical room, or in the ceiling space below the hose bib.

While most faucets inside your home use cartridge-style mechanisms to control the flow of water, hose bibs utilize an old-school compression-style design. A cast brass body faucet with a wheel or handle that you spin counterclockwise to open and clockwise to close.

This faucet handle is attached to a threaded stem with a washer on the end. This washer presses against a valve seat to create a watertight seal when the handle is closed.

Water is prevented from seeping up around the valve stem by a packing nut located directly below the handle. This packing nut has several wraps of packing material to stop water leaks from the top of the hose bib.

What Are The Common Problems With Hose Bibs?

There are three common problems with leaking hose bibs. Each particular spigot issue has its own unique solution.

Leaking From The Spout

If your hose bib is continually dripping from the spout even if the faucet is closed, you are looking at replacing the compression washer at the end of the valve stem. Compression washers can wear over time and can develop small tears or cuts that let a small amount of water leak by.

A new compression washer will allow the stem to close completely against the valve seat and prevent that annoying hose bib drip.

Don’t Delay Stopping The Drip

If you don’t fix leaking hose bibs quickly this problem can worsen over time. Water leaking past the compression washer can cause erosion of the valve seat. This means you will have to use a reseating tool to cut a flat surface for the washer to mate up to.

Leaking From The Valve Stem

Water seeping out from around the valve stem calls for replacing the packing material that is around the valve stem packing nut. Packing material wears out with use and temperature change, causing it to relax and loosen up. A few wraps of packing string will stop leaking from around the hose bib handle when you use the faucet.

Leaking From The Valve Body

Water leaking from the hose bib valve itself is less common but the most serious problem. Older faucets can develop cracks in the brass body or if the hose bib has not been maintained properly and was allowed to freeze, it can cause the faucet to crack.

In this scenario, a complete hose bib replacement is required. This can cost you anywhere between $100 and $300. This type of plumbing service might be best left to the professionals, especially if it has split and is leaking inside your home. We will show you how to properly maintain and winterize your hose bibs to save you this costly repair.

How To Repair A Leaky Hose Bib

Tools And Materials You Will Need

Complete Hose Bib Repair Kit
$14.00

Overhaul kit includes seat washer, metal handle, packing, and stainless steel screws,

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12/05/2022 12:11 am GMT

How To

Fixing a leaking hose bib can be done in less than an hour with a few basic hand tools. It’s generally best to address both possible causes for leaky lawn services since you will have access to the stem washer and the handle packing material at the same time.

We will show you how to do a complete hose bib repair with a few simple steps.

1. Turn OFF The Water

Start by shutting the water OFF to the hose bib. You will usually find the shutoff valve inside your home in the mechanical room or nearby the outside faucet.

Spin the handle of this valve clockwise to stop the flow of water for a wheel-type handle or turn the handle so that it is perpendicular to the pipe for ball-style shutoffs.

If closing the hose bib valve completely does not work or you don’t have a separate shut-off valve, you can turn OFF the water supply to the entire house instead.

2. Remove The Hose Bib Handle

Using a Phillips screwdriver, remove the screw that holds the handle to the valve stem. Pull up on the handle to slide it off the valve stem. This may take a little wiggling while you pry up on the handle until it comes loose. Carefully set the handle and screw aside and be sure not to lose the screw in your lawn or yard.

3. Unscrew The Packing Nut

Now you can use your adjustable wrench to unscrew the large packing nut on top of the valve counter-clockwise. You can use pliers on this packing bonnet nut but be careful not to ruin the soft brass nut with the teeth of the pliers.

Stay Smooth

You can use a file to smooth out any sharp tool marks left on your hose bib.

4. Remove The Valve Stem

With the packing nut undone the valve stem can be removed from the faucet body itself. You can do this by unscrewing the valve stem from the threaded body of the hose bib. Depending on the style of outside faucet you have you may need to turn the valve stem clockwise instead of the traditional counter-clockwise fashion.

5. Replace The Valve Stem Washer

Take a look at the rubber washer that is fastened to the end of the valve stem. If you notice any cuts, cracks, or deformities to the washer, this is most likely the culprit for your leaking hose bib.

Carefully remove the brass screw that retains the valve stem washer with your screwdriver in a counter-clockwise direction. This screw is typically made of brass and will be soft and easy to damage compared to a metal screw. If this screw gets damaged, you will have to replace it. Luckily, most repair kits come complete with extra replacement screws.

Compare the old washer with the new replacement. Match this washer exactly in size and shape. If you try and use a bevelled washer to replace an old flat-style washer the hose bib will not close properly and leak worse than before.

Assorted Faucet Washers
$9.98 ($0.21 / Count)

Contains all popular sizes of flat and bevelled bibb washers and brass bibb screws.

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12/05/2022 12:07 am GMT

6. Replace The Packing Material

This is the perfect time to replace the old valve stem packing material. If the hose bib uses a packing washer, replace it with an identical one from your faucet washer kit. If you do not have a replacement washer handy, you can make your own packing material with packing string or Teflon tape.

Unwrap the old packing string from around the valve stem beneath the packing nut. Then repack the valve stem with several loops of graphite string or Teflon tape. Wrap the packing material around the stem in a clockwise direction as if you were looking down onto the stem from where the handle is located.

Graphite Valve Stem Packing
$3.63 ($3.63 / count)

This valve packing features pliable construction for long-lasting durability.

The packing has a universal design to fit many valves.

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12/05/2022 12:09 am GMT

7. Reassemble The Faucet

It’s time to put the hose bib back together. Start by threading the valve stem into the hose bib valve body. Once the valve stem is in place, spin on the packing nut and tighten it firmly, but not too tight, with an adjustable wrench. If you tighten the packing nut too much the handle will be stiff and difficult to turn.

Reinstall the handle and secure it with its retaining screw. With the handle in place, take the faucet for a “test drive” and see if you can spin the handle and turn the hose bib ON and OFF. The handle should spin freely and you will be able to feel the new washer compress against the valve seat when the hose bib is closed.

8. Turn ON The Water

Now you can turn the water to the hose bib back ON and test for leaks. Turn your outdoor water faucet ON and OFF a few times to make sure there are no dibbles or drips.

If you notice leaking around the handle, tighten up the packing nut a little further and test it again. Tighten as necessary in small increments so you don’t overtighten the packing nut.

In the rare circumstance that the faucet still leaks from the spigot after replacing the valve stem washer, you may need to use a reseating tool like the one shown in the video below. This tool will remove a little of the brass material from the valve body so that your hose bib makes a perfect watertight seal. Done!

How To Maintain And Winterize Your Hose Bibs

Hose bibs that are not properly maintained have the potential to leak, waste water, or even flood your home. This is a major concern for our northern climate, especially in the winter months.

Since water expands as it freezes, the lawn service outside or the water supply pipe inside the home can rupture. Burst pipes can damage foundation walls and flood your basement if not detected in time. To prevent this costly headache in the Spring, it is essential to winterize and protect your home in the Fall.

Don’t take any chances with frozen hose bibs. We will show you how to properly winterize your outdoor faucets with a few simple steps!

How To

As the colder months approach and you more worried about shovelling snow than watering your lawn, it’s the perfect time to turn OFF your hose bibs. If your home does not have “frost-free” hose bibs, you will have to stop the flow of water from inside your house.

Frost Free Sillcock
$34.11

Installs in seconds!

The SharkBite Push-To-Connect Anti-Siphon Frost-Free Sillcock has a 1/2? push-fit inlet that is compatible with Copper, PEX, CPVC, or PE-RT pipes and a 3/4? MHT outlet.

The valve comes with an integrated mounting flange to secure it to the mounting surface. There is also an integrated air gap backflow prevention system to prevent any potential back-siphonage.

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Most homes are equipped with separate shutoff valves that control the flow of water to the outdoor faucets. This valve will be located in your mechanical room or nearby each hose bib. These shutoffs will allow you to cut off the water supply to the outside during the Winter and keep the water running normally in the rest of your home.

If you are not sure if you have “frost-free” hose bibs or cannot locate the outdoor faucet shutoff, don’t hesitate to contact a professional for help.

1. Disconnect The Hose

First, you’ll want to remove the garden hose attached to your spigot. This will prevent any water leftover in the faucet or the hose from being trapped inside when the first frost hits.

Winter Warning

Any water that is trapped at the hose connection could split the hose bib or ruin the garden hose when it freezes.

2. Turn The Water OFF

Now you can isolate the outside faucet from the rest of your home for the Winter season. Turn the valve OFF that supplies water to your hose bib by turning the handle wheel clockwise until it’s fully closed or so that the handle lever is perpendicular to the pipe.

3. Drain The Hose Bib

Almost finished! With the shutoff valve to the outdoor faucet turned OFF you will need to go outside and open the hose bib to let any remaining drops of water drain out.

If your shutoff valve inside the home is equipped with a drain, open it and allow any excess water to flow out.

SharkBite Stop And Drain
$13.45

The SharkBite Connection System makes any plumbing project fast and easy with our unique push-to-connect technology.

Includes a built-in drain for cold weather draining and protection against freezing temperatures.

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12/05/2022 12:08 am GMT

Stay Dry

When using a “stop-and-drain” valve be sure to have a small container and rags handy to catch the water from the drain port. The small outlet on the valve can be tricky to aim so a rag or towel will help mop up any spilt water.

4. Turn The Hose Bib OFF

Once you have drained down the waterline that connects to the lawn service, you can now close the handle of the hose bib. Now you’re all set for the colder weather ahead and you’ll be worry-free when your turn your hose bibs ON again in the Spring. Done!

Conclusion

Fixing that frustrating outdoor faucet is easy! And with proper care and maintenance, your hose bibs will help you with your outdoor chores or fun in the sun for years to come.

Happy Plumbing!

Trevor Woods is the founder of Plumb University® and he started in the plumbing and construction industry in 1997. Since then, his mission is to make plumbing repair and maintenance easy for everyone. And each year, he continues to help more people with their plumbing installation, care, and troubleshooting.