Winter months are cold and ice floats, so get your hoses in order.
Is the title cryptic? Maybe, but I do have a point to make.
Did you know that there are only a handful of substances that once they are in their solid form, can float in their own liquid? Water happens to be one of them. You have probably never thought about how or why frozen water (ice) floats, but I think it would be super bizarre if ice didn't float. Think about it...no ice fishing, and it would be harder to dig ice cubes out of beverages when my dog wants one; the problems would be endless.
HOME INSPECTOR NERD SECTION
The fact that ice does float in water creates different problems, and it is all because of science. Liquid water weighs approximately 1 gram per cubic centimeter (1 cubic centimeter = 1 milliliter) while frozen water weighs approximately 0.919 grams per cubic centimeter; er-go, ice floats in water because it is less dense. The only way frozen water can be less dense than liquid water is due to the fact that water expands as it freezes (has to do with hydrogen bonds). The expansion of water when it freezes is what causes damage to the plumbing components in your house. See, we made it full circle eventually.
WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT
There are 2 reasons why winterizing your exterior hoses and bibs is an important part of home maintenance.
Water pipes are typically made out of some type of rigid material (common materials are: copper pipe, PEX tubing, CPVC pipe, or galvanized pipe - galvanized pipe is not common anymore today, but it is present in most older homes). These types of materials are typically not very ductile (Ductility = the ability of a substance to undergo deformation before rupture).
Water WILL expand when it freezes. No two ways about it.
If there was an equation, it would look something like this:
Piping Material With Low Ductility + Freezing Water = Burst Pipe
This is why it is so important that you follow a few simple rules when it comes to hoses, exterior bibs, and the impending cold that comes with winter.
TYPES OF HOSE BIBS
There are two main types of hose bibs (spigot, sillcock, bibb, bibcock, faucet...all the same thing). Both are commonly found on houses today, but the frost-proof or freeze-proof models (means the same thing) are the most common, especially for newer homes.
Standard hose bibs have the valve portion of the faucet on the outside of the house which means that water remains in the supply piping all the way up to the exterior bib.
Freeze-proof hose bibs have the valve portion of the faucet on the inside of the house. In theory, when the valve is closed there should never be water in the supply piping between the valve and the exterior bib.
By following a few rules you can rest easy all winter, knowing that you have properly winterized your hose bibs.
Remove all hoses from exterior hose bibs. It does not matter if it is a "frost-proof" model or not...remove the hose before temperatures drop below freezing.
If you have a shut off valve on the inside of your house for the water supply pipe to your hose bib, shut it off.
If the shut-off valve on the inside of your house has a "bleeder valve" (this is a small, usually knurled knob on the side of the shut-off valve) do the following: Shut off the main valve. Place a bucket under the bleeder valve and then open the bleeder valve.
Next, whether you have a bleeder valve or not, open the exterior hose bib valve (outside of the house where you normally turn the water on when using a hose) to drain the remaining water out of the pipe.
Once the water has been drained leave the exterior bib open so that if there is water left in the pipe it has a place to escape.
Buy yourself a few Styrofoam Hose Bib Covers and install them over the exterior spigots.
That's it. A little work and a few bucks can greatly increase your chances of not having an issue with your hoses and hose bibs over the course of the long, cold winter.
NOTE #1 If you find that water continues to drip or run out of the exterior hose bib the interior valve is either not fully closed or it is likely that the interior shut-off valve is no longer working as intended. Check the interior valve to make sure it is completely closed. If this does not stop the dripping water, you will likely need to have the interior shut-off valve replaced.
NOTE #2 If you can not locate an interior shut-off valve it may be that the house was constructed without one, or the valve was previously removed. Further evaluation by a home inspector or plumber may be desired to determine whether or not the valves are present.
I have the experience, training and background to help you better understand your home. If you find yourself with a home related issue at your house and you need help diagnosing the cause of the issue, call me at: 920-253-6278 or send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: Do not attempt anything in this blog post yourself if you are not familiar or comfortable with the required skills and abilities needed to perform any maintenance or repairs. Noble Inspections always recommends hiring a qualified professional for any maintenance or repairs.