Freeze-proof your tap

Keep your outdoor faucet working year-round

By Iain Mitchell


Photo by Roger Yip

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When I was a kid, I built a hockey rink in my backyard. It was a pretty cool rink, too, if I may say; floodlights, boards, the whole bit. Well, not boards exactly; more like tall snowbanks coated with water so they’d freeze up and the puck would bounce off ’em. They worked like boards anyway, and when you were only four feet tall yourself it didn’t really matter that they weren’t very high. Maintenance was pretty basic: my Zamboni was a snow shovel. After a while, though, the ice would get pretty cut up and it was time for a flood.

I’m here to tell you, that’s when operating your own rink turns into a big hassle.

Anticipating the freezing of the garden hose, I had drained a length of it in fall and stored it the garage. The outdoor faucet to which the garden hose connected, however, I had failed to consider. It was frozen solid. For the rest of the winter I had to feed that hose through a window into the laundry room of our house (which was in the basement), trudge back inside to connect the hose to the faucet in the laundry tub (no small feat; the threads on the spigot were only two deep), turn the water on, trudge back upstairs and outside, point the hose onto the ice surface until the hose inevitably fell off the tap, run back inside to reattach it…you get the idea. Much snow and ice tracked through the house later and my mom was giving me grief about the whole rink idea.

The solution

If only I’d had access to the little beauty we’ve installed here. How is it better than the average hose bibb? Unlike most, its valve isn’t located right under the wheel that turns it; it’s actually 14″ away, tucked safely within the insulated confines of the home. The mechanism travels along a stem–available in various lengths–that passes through the foundation wall.

When picking up your faucet, you’ll have to know the width of your foundation wall so you can purchase one with a long enough stem to travel all the way through it. Add an inch or so to this measurement to give yourself some working room.

When you drill the hole in the foundation wall it’s imperative that it run slightly upward. This angle will prevent water from outside from entering the house, but it also ensures the faucet assembly will drain properly after use. It’s this drainage that allows the faucet to be used all winter long, because as long as no water is present in the pipe, it can’t freeze up.

The rest of the installation is a straightforward plumbing fix. One tip included here is the use of bread to stop up the pipe prior to soldering; this will prevent any stray drops of water from cooling the joint prematurely and ruining the seal. The bread dissolves when the water is turned back on.

What you’ll need:

Safety glasses, 1″ masonry bit, hammer drill, regular drill with 3/16″ masonry bit, adjustable wrench, socket (for Tapcons) tape measure, propane torch, tubing cutter, emery cloth, Teflon tape, paste flux, solid solder.

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