Gilles' Outlet

July 21, 2008

Replacing a Freeze Proof Faucet

Filed under: Plumbing — Gilles @ 4:04 am

A freeze proof exterior faucet is replaced.

Skill Level: 2~3 (Basic ~ Moderate)

Time Taken: About 1 hour

A freeze proof faucet (also known as "sillcock", "bib hose" or "spigot") is an exterior faucet specifically designed to prevent water from freezing at or close to the faucet during winter freezing time. This is achieved by the two following unique design aspects:

  1. The water is actually shut as far away as 20 inches from the handle. This ensures that water stays in the building, far away from the freezing conditions,
  2. The faucet drains itself when the water is shut off to ensure no water remains accessible to freezing conditions.

Now, the automatic drainage can only happen if when the hose is disconnected from the faucet. This is why it is critical to always disconnect the hose from the faucet at the beginning of the winter. Many people did not respect this simple rule and saw their freeze proof faucet  … freeze. This is clearly written on every single faucet in home centers.

In this article, we replace an old faucet with a new one.

The existing faucet. It is a multi-turn valve with a rubber washer and has previously shown signs of leaks. Moreover, it does not have an integrated backflow preventer (sometimes called "vacuum breaker").

In North America, we expect to get clean water when we turn the faucet. There is a rare but dangerous phenomenon called "back-siphoning". It happens when the following conditions are met:

  1. A faucet (or garden hose is turned on)
  2. The faucet or hose is submerged in water that has "left the system" and is therefore considered dirty. For instance a shower head left submerged in a filled bath tub,
  3. There is a sudden loss of pressure in the water supply system, perhaps because the water was shut off for maintenance.

These conditions can cause the water to be sucked into the incoming water pipes, contaminating the system. Most building code require a backflow preventer to be attached to all garden hoses. Some cities require the whole house be protected against backflow at the meter level.

There are in-line vacuum breakers for spigots but it is easy to forget to use them. Besides, the wall behind this faucet is open so replacing the faucet is a faster operation.

Left: A replacement freeze proof faucet. I purchased it for about $20 at a local plumbing supplier. It is 10” long which means that the water is cut 10 inches away from the handle. The faucet is actually located close to the threaded piece on the far left of the picture. 

Right: The faucet offers a two in one connection: threaded or sweat soldering. The heat of the torch can melt the rubber gasket in the faucet so a warning on the faucet body reminds installers to remove the cartridge before soldering.

Left: The old faucet seen from the inside of the house. It is an 6” freeze proof faucet which means that the water is shut off 6 inches away from the handle.

The new 10” faucet will provide a little more protection.

I went inside and shut off the water at the main valve.

 

Right: From outside, I removed the two screws holding the faucet to the building.

Left: Using a pipe cutter, I cut the existing faucet as short as I could. The idea is to leave enough copper pipe so I can adjust to the size of the faucet without having to cut and solder an extension.

The pipe cutter is easy: You set it up on the pipe, make one turn, tighten the screw a little, make another turn and so on until the pipe is cut.

Right: The pipe separated and a little bit of water drained. I put a small bucket to collect the water.

Left: I pulled the faucet from outside. It came without a fight.

 

Right: Using an adjustable wrench, I  removed the packing nut of the faucet and extracted the cartridge, as required by the manufacturer.

Left: The disassembled faucet. The body of the faucet is at the top. The cartridge is the brass part at the bottom.

 

Right: I slid the faucet’s body in the opening. I could insert it into the cut pipe but as expected, the pipe was too long and the faucet stayed proud of the siding.

Left: I measured the distance between the siding and the faucet’s flange. It turned out to be about 1/2”.

Right: Back inside, I pulled the faucet as much as I could and marked where the pipe needs to be cut. It is not easy to see on this picture but you can actually see the bottom of the fitting in the faucet and it is possible to estimate where the cut needs to be done by eye.

After marking, a quick check with a tape measure showed that I would remove about 5/8” of the pipe, which felt about right.

Left: I cut on the mark with the pipe cutter.

 

Right: This pipe cutter as an integrated reaming tool. It is designed to cleanup the inside of the pipe after cutting. The burr left by the cutter is minimal but any obstruction in the pipe can reduce the water flow and create a lot of noise when water flows.

 

 

Left: I removed the reamer from the cutter and reamed the end of the pipe by hand. It took a while but this step is important.

 

Right: I cleaned the end of the pipe with a piece of waterproof 100 grit sandpaper designed for this application. This cleans the copper and allows the solder to bind to the copper properly.

After this operation, the copper should be very shinny. I removed any dust and sandpaper grain with a damp rag. The pipe needs to be perfectly clean for the solder to be successful.

Left: I used a round wire brush to clean the inside of the fitting on the faucet body.

 

Right: I then applied tinning flux on the outside of the pipe …

Left: …. and inside the fitting.

I could have applied flux later but my experience told me that the flux helps lubricate the joint a little bit and facilitates inserting the pipe into the faucet’s fitting.

Right: I pulled the faucet out and applied two thick beads of 100% silicone caulk to the flange of the faucet.

Left: I positioned the faucet in the opening, inserted it into the pipe in the wall and secured it with two 1 5/8” exterior screws.

 

Right:  I added a more caulk at the bottom of the faucet and smoothed it with my finger. This should achieve a water tight seal.

It is not the most perfect bead of caulk I ever did but this area can’t be seen so effectiveness matters more than aesthetic. 

Left: Turn the torch on and start warming up the fitting. Make sure you do not directly put the flame of the torch on the join you will be soldering: the sooth of the torch will contaminate the joint and it will be difficult to achieve a water  tight seal.

 

Right: After about 15 to 30 seconds, move the torch away and apply a little bit of lead free solder to the fitting. If the solder melts like water, quickly put about 3/4” of solder into the fitting. Solder will be sucked in by capillarity and will seal the joint.

If it does not melt and becomes liquid, move the solder away and apply some more heat.

It is critical to not apply heat directly to the solder: it will melt too quickly and will not allow you to produce a water tight joint.

Left: As the joint is still hot, I take a slightly damp rag and clean up the excess solder at the bottom of the pipe.

You have to be quick and gentle during this operation of you will remove solder from the joint and it will leak.

At this point, I left the fitting alone for a few minutes to allow it to cool down. I then cleaned all residues of flux with a damp rag. Flux residues can corrode pipes so it is a best practice to always clean flux up. 

Right: I applied a generous bead of expanding insulating foam from the inside of the wall. Washington energy code mandates that all opening be sealed properly to reduce air infiltration.

I am using Great Stuff Pro Gaps and Cracks with gun applicator. It is a overkill here (it is a residential type V fireblock which is not required in this application) but I had a can that was going to expire so I finished it up here.

Left: I turned the water on for a few seconds to flush the pipe from all flux residues.

I then threaded the faucet stem back in. This is a delicate operation: the cartridge needs to engage in its housing and go all the way in.

Right: I tightened the packing nut by hand and then made one more turn with the wrench.

I turned the water back on and checked for any leaks.

Left: Alert readers have noticed that the pipe is located close to the edge of a stud. Plumbing codes call for nailing plates. This will prevent nails or screws to go and puncture the pipe.

 

Right: It is matter of positioning the plate and nailing it home, like that.

Tools Used:

  • Impact Driver 
  • Pipe Cutter 
  • Torch with MAPP gas
  • Basic Carpentry Tools

Materials Used:

  • New Freeze Proof Faucet
  • Lead free solder
  • Tinning flux
  • Nailing plate
  • Outdoor screws (1 5/8”)

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10 Comments »

  1. Aujourd’hui tu soudes, demain tu vas nous refaire ton landscaping au tracto-pelle. Finalement tu aurais du faire l’ICAM :-)

    Comment by Denis — August 4, 2008 @ 11:06 pm

  2. Great. Why did you solder the sill cock to the existing plumbing instead of using the threaded portion of the fitting?

    Comment by brett — April 10, 2011 @ 5:51 pm

    • Brett, this has to do with preference and the amount of work involved. Using the threaded adapter involves soldering a female adapter on the copper pipe, applying pipe sealant and finally tightening the whole faucet. And everything needs to be aligned right.

      With this technique, I can align everything right before, make one solder and be done. No need to mess with pipe thread sealant. Also, I for things concealed in walls, I trust sweat soldered connections more than threaded adapters.

      Comment by Gilles — April 30, 2011 @ 8:47 am

      • yeah, I figured that. I had to replace one of my freeze proof faucets that was terminated inside of a finished wall. To my surprise, the connection was solder instead of thread. Consequently I had to cut a 6″ square access hole in the finished dry wall. But … I don’t know that if it were threaded would I have been able to back it out, from the outside, without back up on the female, without twisting off.

        I wound up soldering the new one in and putting a plastic access cover in place of the dry wall. Next time it fails, pop the cover off, de-solder, 16 minutes.

        Comment by brett — April 30, 2011 @ 10:21 am

  3. Are there any concerns with soldering two dissimilar metals together? Will it corrode and leak eventually, without a dielectric coupler? (i.e. copper pipe to zinc-plated pipe?)

    Comment by John — May 10, 2011 @ 8:05 am

    • John, great question.

      As you point out, directly connecting two different metal pipes like copper to galvanized steel pipes can cause galvanic corrosion. Essentially, the water in the pipe electrically connects galvanized steel to copper. Electrons have a tendency to move between the two metals, creating a tiny voltage difference. It is almost like a battery. Over time, this movement of electrons can corrode the connection and make it leak.

      The specific faucet I used is plumbing code approved (UPC). It has been specifically designed to prevent this problem : zinc plated outside for a better look but the slot which receives the pipe is a copper ally. This is why plumbing codes require all parts in the plumbing system to be code approved.

      Comment by Gilles — May 14, 2011 @ 3:18 pm

  4. Is it possible to just replace the inside components of the faucet? I have two of these that are leaking.

    Comment by Jim — October 18, 2011 @ 3:03 am

    • @Jim, Yes, *some* inside components can be replaced. In your case, it seems that you should replace the gasket.

      It can be tricky to find the right gasket. I find that selecting the wrong gasket will cause leaks so you should spend the time to select a matching gasket. I like to shut off the water, remove the stem of the faucet and take it to the plumbing supplier. My supplier sells to local tradesmen and can pick the right gasket for me in seconds.

      Comment by Gilles — October 20, 2011 @ 11:28 am

  5. I have a faucet that will not shut off. Can the insides be replaced with new. It doesnt leak I just can’t turn it off.

    Comment by Tadd — September 23, 2012 @ 4:11 pm

    • It is sometimes possible depending on the make/ model. Thay being said it might be simpler to replace it completely.

      Comment by Gilles — May 11, 2013 @ 10:42 am


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