Replacing a Residential Hose Bibb Isn’t So Scary
After watching your hose bibb leak all summer long it may be the right time to replace it right before old man winter comes in to rob us of our joy. Most times homeowners call up their local plumbing contractor to replace their frost proof hose bib because it looks too damn difficult. If you’re one of those homeowners please read on. It’s not near as difficult as you think.
PLUMBER PRO TIP: As fall fades and the freezing temperatures return to the Midwest and Northern states please remove your garden hose from your hose bib. It’s a quick and easy way to ensure that your water lines serving the hose bibb or sillcock won’t freeze and eventually leak. Here is the reason; quite often water sits inside the piping leading to the hose bib. If water is present and it does freeze, the water will expand bursting the piping. It’s why so many hose bibbs are replaced during the first thaw. The homeowner doesn’t know their water line has split because it’s been frozen for 3 months. As the water warms the leak becomes visible.
Step #1: Find The Connection Point
You have to find the connection point between the water supply and the sill cock. If you have an unfinished basement this is usually pretty easy. You can look where the hose bibb is on the outside of the house and then go into the basement and approximate where it ties in inside the house. To make it easier on yourself you can use windows or landmarks or bring a tape measure to hit it right on the nose. If your basement is finished with a drop ceiling you’ll have to pop a few ceiling tiles to find the connection. It’s when you have a drywall ceiling that things can get interesting. Obviously in this case you want to use a tape measure and be as exact as possible to minimize the ceiling opening.
PLUMBING PRO TIP: I have run across several exterior hose bibbs that were placed in a location with little or no forethought went into how it would be repaired if it should ever fail. Remember it’s much easier to buy a longer garden hose than it is to uncover a hose bibb buried inside a garage wall, wedged next to the foundation. In this case call your local licensed plumbing contractor to come and fix it right.
Step #2: What Kind Of Connection Do You Have?
A frost proof hose bib comes in several different connection types. By connection types I mean the hose bib has to connect to the water supply in some way. Those connection types are as follows:
- MIP (Male Iron Pipe) Connection – The threads on the end of sillcock are exposed and they would thread into a FIP
(Female Iron Pipe) adaptor at the connection point.
- FIP (Female Iron Pipe) Connection – The threads at the end of the sillcock are on the inside so there would be a MIP adapter soldered at the connection point and the sillcock would screw onto the adapter.
- Sweat Solder Connection – This is hard connection. The end of the sillcock will have a solder fitting cup at the connection point which would slide over the water piping and a solder connection would have to be made.
PLUMBING PRO TIP: The Soldered connection is the most difficult connection to make. Unless you love to solder things or are in the trades and soldering is a familiar skill, steer clear of a soldered connection. Also it makes it more difficult to replace should the hose bibb malfunction in the future.
Step #3: Find Length of the Hose Bibb
Figure out the length of the hose bibb. Frost proof hose bibbs come in different lengths meaning their connection points to the interior water supply can be made closer to the interior wall or further inside the building. Hose bibs come in lengths starting at 4” and increasing incrementally by 2” all the way to 24”, the most common being 6”, 8”, 10” and 12”. There are directions you’ll find on the major manufacturers websites that talk about measuring the wall thickness, please disregard. Common sense tells you to replace your hose bib with one that is the same length as the one being replaced. You can lengthen or shorten if you have to but if it isn’t necessary leave it alone. Measure the length of the unit from the back of the wall plate to the end of the sillcock and that will get you your length. You may have to remove the defective unit to measure. If this is the case please remember to turn shut off the water supply to the hose bib. If no isolation valve is present you may have to shut down the water to the entire house. Once the water is shut off turn on the faucet to drain any water left in the line.
Step #4: Choose Connection Type Of New Frost Proof Faucet
Decide what connection you are going to use with the new frost proof faucet. I spoke above about the type of connections you may see however, in the last 10 years or so many different connection styles are available. If you have a threaded connection whether is be MIP or FIP its pretty easy to use the same connection to replace.
Step #5: Shut Water Off Before Making Repair
Please remember to shut off the water and to drain remaining water from the water line servicing the hose bibb. IF you have a MIP or FIP connection just unthread existing using a pipe wrench and channel locks or two pipe wrenches. The second can be used as a hold back or for leverage. Once the old faucet is removed place the new one through the existing opening. Come back inside and prepare the male threads with Teflon tape or pipe dope to ensure a positive seal. Screw in the new hose bibb into place until threads are full engaged.
Step #6: Turn Water Back On
If you had to shut off the main water supply turn on the faucets in the house including the new hose bib. Turn on the main water supply and let the water run until the water runs freely from all faucets, Make sure there is no air exiting the faucets. When the water is back on and running you’re back in business.
PLUMBING PRO TIP: I mentioned above about there being different types of connections being developed over the last decade or so and I think they are worth mentioning especially one in particular.
Other Connection Types To Consider When Replacing a Frost Proof Hose Bib
PEX Tubing – PEX has been used globally for quite some type and it’s finally seeing widespread use here in the U.S. There are several ways to join PEX pipe and fittings together. One of the more popular joining method involves a spline fitting and a clamp that is crimped sealing the fitting. Wirsbo also makes a very popular PEX joining system as well.
Compression – This is by no means a new way to make water connections but I’ve never seen or used a compression connection to install a exterior hose bibb. This involves a straight piece of copper pipe, reamed of course, a compression ferrule just like you’d see on supplies to a kitchen or bathroom sink faucet and a compression nut to tighten the joint and ensure a water tight seal.
***GREATEST PLUMBING PRO TIP – I’m apologizing in advance to all of my plumbing pro friends but I have to give out this tip. There are a ton of push fittings on the market right now, Shark Bite by Cash Acme is the most popular but there are others like Blue Hawk. These are almost ridiculously simple to install. If you can’t figure out how to install using the instructions above do the following. Shut water off, cut piping right in back of the hose bibb connection point clean and ream piping to prepare. Buy a ½” FIP x Press adapter and thread it on the end of the new hose bib and press it on to the bald end of piping making sure it’s on till it hits home and you’re done. It will literally take under an hour. If you have no ball valve to isolate the faucet and you have room you can add a press ball valve in the same fashion.
I hope that the above removes a little bit of fear if you have to tackle removing and replacing a frost proof hose bibb.
As always thanks for reading.