Frost Free Faucets

  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Well, broken water pipes can cause expensive home headaches and they happen most often in winter when pipes carrying water freeze, expand and then burst.

    TOM: Yep. But ironically enough, the pipe most susceptible to freezing – which, of course, is that outdoor hose faucet – is also the easiest to protect. With us to talk about that is Richard Trethewey, the plumbing-and-heating contractor on TV’s This Old House.

    Welcome, Richard.

    RICHARD: How are you?

    TOM: We’re well.

    And this is a problem that I have seen happen time and time again over the years. When I was a professional home inspector, you could always see a home where you had several old hose bibbs and then one that was brand-spanking new. And you know it wasn’t because they wanted to do an upgrade, because it actually froze.

    RICHARD: Yeah. That’s right.

    TOM: How do these frost-proof faucets work and do they really stop freezing?

    RICHARD: Well, the standard – and by the way, they don’t – there’s not an issue when they freeze. It’s an issue when it thaws.

    TOM: Oh, is that right?

    RICHARD: When the water – once they freeze, the water doesn’t come out.

    TOM: Yeah. That’s true.

    RICHARD: It’s just a big block of ice. But oh, my goodness, the first thaw and the house is just (inaudible at 0:22:36).

    TOM: Totally flooded. Right.

    RICHARD: So frost-proof sill cocks are beautifully ingenious. And that is the standard outdoor faucet. It has a handle and right below the handle is the washer. And so that means right below the washer, water is sitting in harm’s way where a cold freeze could come and split the faucet. Now, the faucet’s made out of metal; it’s brass and so that brass will split readily. The difference with a frost-poof, it’s as if you had that handle and then a very long stem or thread that came down and put that washer back 10, 12 or 14 inches inside the building.

    TOM: So you’re actually holding the water back, so to speak?

    RICHARD: That’s right.

    LESLIE: Into the conditioned space.

    RICHARD: That’s right. And then – and what’s so wonderful about these is it means you could go out and wash your car on a day that’s suddenly nice. You could – just above freezing. You don’t have to think about – remember to do it. But every – worries, lives in fear – “Oh, I didn’t call or I didn’t get it turned off in time when the first frost comes.”

    TOM: Right.

    RICHARD: So they’re – it would be great if they were a standard thing in cold weather, cold climates, you know.

    TOM: But they’re just not?

    RICHARD: They just – no. Well, just the cost is just more money than a basic one.

    So, we do them all the time. We always love it. I actually showed, on Ask This Old House last year, a hot and a cold one on the outside of the house. And that was just fantastic. So now you could wash the car, wash the dog, you can do anything with a hot-and-cold, frost-proof sill cock on the outside of the house.

    LESLIE: So then no more turning off the water supply to that bibb?

    RICHARD: That’s right, that’s right.

    LESLIE: Which in my house, it’s in a closet behind the laundry room, that I store all the holiday decorations in. I have to pull out a million boxes to get back there just to turn this bibb off.

    RICHARD: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. So the question if you want to put one in after the fact you – if it’s in an exposed basement, it’s pretty straightforward. Then it’s just going to be – you’re going to have to use a torch, so you need some basic skills around plumbing. But then it’s just to turn the water off to the old one, cut out the old one, clean it up with an emery cloth and then push that new frost-proof sill cock in from outside and just make that connection and solder it together. It’s a pretty straightforward project and it really is great.

    Now, we just did a – we saw – we always – the great thing about our show is we get new samples on different stuff.

    TOM: Right.

    RICHARD: So we just saw a variation on a frost-proof sill cock. And that is when you look at it on the outside of the house, it just looks like a little, flush disc that you can paint to make it look so you don’t see anything.

    TOM: Right.

    RICHARD: And then when you want to use it, you – there’s a little blue adapter that sticks onto the end of your hose and you just push it in and twist. And that makes it activate.

    TOM: Oh, cool.

    LESLIE: Oh, how interesting.

    RICHARD: So when you’re done, it just looks so clean and beautiful, so …

    TOM: Like a quick-connect.

    RICHARD: That’s it: a quick-connect, yeah. So you’ve got to be sure you don’t lose the quick-connect to activate it. But if you really had the money side of the house where it’s really – you wanted the front of the house to look great and not see those faucets, it’s just beautiful.

    TOM: So last question: if you do have the freeze-proof faucet on the house, should you still have that shut-off valve for it?

    RICHARD: Do you worry?

    TOM: Yeah. I’m Italian. I can’t help it.

    RICHARD: You’re a home inspector.

    If you’re going to have a frost-proof sill cock, live a little.

    TOM: Yeah.

    RICHARD: Leave it so you can rot in the cold weather.

    TOM: What are the chances?

    RICHARD: That’s right. And if you’re Florida, you don’t have to worry.

    TOM: There you go. Richard Trethewey, the plumbing-and-heating contractor on TV’s This Old House, I’m going to call you to come to my house when it freezes and breaks in February.

    RICHARD: I’m coming right over.

    TOM: Thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    RICHARD: Great to be here.

    LESLIE: Alright. Catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit

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