How to Replace an Outside Water Spigot

Updated on August 14, 2017
watergeek profile image

Susette worked with public water agencies in Southern California for several years directing water conservation teams and water auditors.

Leaky outdoor spigots can be easier to fix than you might think. If you are a do-it-yourself type of person, who welcomes challenges around the house and doesn't like to spend money where you could figure it out yourself, then this article is for you.

This spigot is in an exposed place, so will be fairly easy to replace.
This spigot is in an exposed place, so will be fairly easy to replace. | Source

Tap, Faucet, or Spigot - Definitions

When you're starting a new project, it's a good idea to define your terms. Most people don't worry about this much, until they go to buy parts and the sales rep takes them to the wrong thing, or they ask for advice from someone over the phone and neither can understand the other.

Tap, faucet, and spigot are often used interchangeably. However, each has its own particular special use that differentiates it from the others:

  • Tap is any contrivance that turns to open up a flow of some kind of liquid or gas. In its most specific and enjoyable form, it is used to mean the tap on a beer barrel. When you go to a bar and ask for "whatever's on tap," you are asking for whatever beer they've bought in bulk, which comes in barrels, rather than bottles, and you will watch them go over to a barrel with your glass and flip the tap up to release the beer. You might want to test this out, after you've finished this job.

  • Faucet is a tap used to release water. In its most specific form, it means those used indoors, that are usually decorative as well. One identifying feature of a high class hotel is its fancy bathroom faucets.

  • Spigot is more specific than the other two, and means the plain tap that's outdoors, used to connect hoses and fill buckets. Working with a spigot has some similar and some different requirements than working with an indoor faucet.

To Repair or Replace Your Water Spigot

It's also a good idea, at the beginning of a project like this, to examine closely what it is you really want to do. You've probably noticed that your spigot was leaking, but does this require just a minor repair, like replacing a washer, or a complete new spigot? If, upon examination, you discover there are no cracks or visible damage to the spigot, you could try just replacing the washer first (if it has one). But if the spigot handle has broken off, or spins without opening the water supply, or has a crack running down its post that leaks, then you'll need to replace it.

Gate Valve Spigot
Gate Valve Spigot | Source

Spigot Parts & Function

There are different ways that faucets and spigots are set up to block and release water from a pipe. The diagram above shows the commonly used "gate valve" with the spigot half open. You can see that the handle is directly connected to a screw-down mechanism connected to a flat plate. Next to it is a vertical plate that semi-blocks the pipe.

The vertical plate has a hole in it. Water can go under the plate, but it can't get out. It can only get out through the hole, which is blocked by the screw-down mechanism when the spigot handle is closed. When you open the handle, it raises the flat plate up and opens the hole, so water can flow out.

Most of these parts are pretty sturdy, but if they break you will need to replace the spigot. With this type of spigot there is no washer to make it a quick repair.

Spigot Tools and Supplies

To make the job easy, rather than frustrating, gather all your tools and supplies first. Your aim is to take the spigot off, take it into a hardware store to find one that matches, then put the new one on when you return home.

If you make sure first that you have all your tools and supplies in place, then you'll know if there is anything else you'll need to purchase while at the store.

  • Two pipe wrenches

  • A spray lubricant to help loosen the spigot

  • Stiff bristle brush to clean off debris

  • An old rag to wipe your hands and the pipe after scrubbing

  • Teflon tape for sealing
  • New spigot that you will be purchasing

Finding the Water Shutoff Valve

Needless to say, if you take the spigot off without first turning off the water supply, you will immediately be drenched. (Note that turning off the water supply means no one can use water in or outside of the house until you turn it back on.)

The first step in replacing the spigot, therefore, is to find the house shutoff valve. Here is how:

  • Look for the water meter. In cold climates it might be inside the house or garage, but in most climates it's outside the house, and very often close to the gas or electric meter.

  • Find a spigot (or faucet, if you're inside) on the same side of the house that you can see from the meter, if possible, and turn it on slightly.

  • Now look below or near the meter for two handles or levers. Determine which is closest to the house. Turn the handle clockwise or flip the lever to close it.

  • Check your open spigot to see if the water has stopped flowing. If so, you're good. If not, turn the first one back to where it was and try the other spigot. Once you have it, close the spigot you were testing with.

Shutoff Valve (on the left)
Shutoff Valve (on the left) | Source

Replacement Procedure

Now you are ready to work on the derelict spigot.

Disconnect: Locate the place where the spigot joins with the main pipe. Spray that area with lubricant to start the freeing-up process. With a pipe wrench in your non-dominant hand, clasp the main pipe underneath the join. With the other pipe wrench in your main hand, clasp just above the join and turn counterclockwise. Once the join loosens, you'll be able to put the wrenches down and loosen it the rest of the way with your hands.

Purchase new spigot: Pull the spigot and whatever it's attached to out of the pipe. Wipe it off. Use the brush to scrub rust out of the end of the pipe, then wipe it with the cloth. Take the old spigot to a local hardware store and buy another one exactly like it - same width and length. If you don't have teflon tape, get that as well.

Reconnect: Back at home, take the new spigot out of its package. Make sure it's handle is closed. Wrap teflon tape several times around the threads that will screw into the main pipe. This will prevent it from leaking at the join. With your hands, screw the new spigot into the pipe as far as you can. Pick up the wrenches and tighten it the rest of the way, ending with the spigot facing in the proper direction.

Test: Turn the house shutoff valve back on. Go back to the new spigot and test it to make sure it works and does not leak anymore. Once done, be sure to tell everyone in the house they can use the water again.

The video on the right will show you replacement of a spigot that is different from the gate valve spigot pictured above. The video at the bottom will show you how to replace a spigot, along with the pipe below it, if the leak is caused by a burst pipe.

Replacing a Faucet that Leaks at the Outlet.

Freeze Proofing

If you live in a cold area where pipes freeze during the winter, this might be a good time to wrap the pipe for protection. If you decide to do so, you'll want to purchase a wrap at the hardware store, if you don't already have one. Wrap the exposed pipe well and duct tape it closed. This should help prevent the problems dealt with in the following video.

Replacing a Faucet and Pipe Split from Freezing.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • watergeek profile image

      watergeek 4 months ago from Pasadena CA

      @Patricia - The price is going to vary depending on the difficulty of the project, i.e. how long it's likely to take for the repair. From what you say below it sounds like the plumber will have to break into the stucco to access the pipe inside the wall. He won't know where the leak is relative to the nearest join (where two pipes connect), so he'll need to be able to actually see the pipes to determine how much needs replacing. He'll also want to see if the pipe is breaking down because it's old, in which case there may be leaks in connected pipes too.

      Breaking into the stucco, checking for leaks further in, repairing each one, then closing up the stucco afterwards makes the cost higher than the rough figure I gave below. Looking at it in terms of time, $900/$55 per hour = 16 hours for the one repair, assuming they charge what most plumbers do.

      To verify whether the plumber's estimate is reasonable for your area, I would suggest you call your water supplier and tell them your situation. If they can't help you, ask who can. Or look for a local nonprofit like Rebuilding Together to see what they recommend.

    • profile image

      Patricia Ludwig-Longello 4 months ago

      I have a spigot that is slightly leaking not sure where Not far down the line but nevertheless- somewhere in the line close to the part that comes from the stucco- I had a company that came and gave me estatament from 900-1300 then told me they could go as low as 800 when I questioned price but no lower their reviews seem to be good except for that pricing i'm just trying to get an honest opinion about the price

    • watergeek profile image

      watergeek 4 months ago from Pasadena CA

      That depends on what you mean by "cemented." If it's really cemented or glued, you'll probably have to replace the pipe behind it as well. In that case, don't even bother trying to pry it apart. Just unscrew the pipe behind it and take it off as one piece.

      If what you mean is that it's seriously stuck, then you'll need two 12" wrenches to unscrew it as follows:

    • profile image

      Angela 4 months ago

      If the old faucet appears to be cemented on to the pipe, how do you recommend getting it off?

    • watergeek profile image

      watergeek 6 months ago from Pasadena CA

      @Nick - The cost depends on what's wrong, of course. In the U.S. the average replacement cost for the entire faucet will be around $250, if a plumber does it (includes labor). If there's a leak in the pipe behind the faucet, it will cost more to replace both. The minimum charge for a plumber is $55 per hour.

      If you do it yourself and it's just the faucet, it should cost a little less than $100 for materials, plus the time you spend shopping and installing. If you live in a cold area, be sure to buy a frost free silcock (outdoor faucet). Good luck!

    • profile image

      Nick Brown 6 months ago

      Great blog, extremely helpful.

      One question, can you give me a berh rough guess on cost of materials needed to replace the spigot, replacing the entire spigot, faucet, and tap?

      Parts cost $125, $200, $300...?

      Just spent 40 minutes cutting up my hands trying to water my dead rose bushes. Time for action!

      Thank you


    • watergeek profile image

      watergeek 7 months ago from Pasadena CA

      @Carole - You mean the nut that holds the spigot onto the pipe? Did you spray a lubricant on it first? If so, and it was still too hard, can you get some help to screw it off with the pipe wrenches?

    • profile image

      Carole Brinkert 7 months ago

      l am still one of many that cannot remove the screw in the the rest of the info. is moot!

    • krsharp05 profile image

      Kristi Sharp 5 years ago from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota.

      Very useful and well explained. It seems as though you've detailed everything step by step which is exactly what people need. Great use of videos. Nicely done. -K

    • watergeek profile image

      watergeek 5 years ago from Pasadena CA

      Lindacee - We haven't even started talking about outdoor plumbing problems yet. Now think about all the sprinkler leaks that don't get fixed, and then the potential irrigation pipe leaks underground! LOTS of water wasted!

      Simone - I agree and that's why I wrote it the way I did. It helps me, also, to know how a thing works before I call in someone to fix it for me.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

      This is so helpful! While I still have no intention of replacing an outdoor water faucet by myself, it really helps to know what to look for and which decisions I should be making.

    • lindacee profile image

      lindacee 5 years ago from Arizona

      Thanks for clearing up the tap, faucet and spigot confusion, watergeek. I've always used the terms interchangeably -- and incorrectly! Good instructions for this DIY project. I wonder how much water is wasted each year because of faulty outdoor plumbing? Not to mention the damaged caused to foundations and basements!

    • watergeek profile image

      watergeek 5 years ago from Pasadena CA

      Aha! Plumbing is not your DIY field, eh? ;-)

    • Om Paramapoonya profile image

      Om Paramapoonya 5 years ago

      Thanks for the step-by-step instructions. You made it sound pretty simple, but still, it doesn't sound like fun. LOL Rated up and useful :)