How to Replace a Leaky Outdoor Faucet or Water Spigot

Updated on August 25, 2018
watergeek profile image

With a Master's in sustainable development, Susette helps Southern California water agencies carry out their water conservation projects.

If you have a leaking water spigot, it might be easier to just replace it rather than try to fix it.
If you have a leaking water spigot, it might be easier to just replace it rather than try to fix it.

Outdoor faucets (also known as water spigots or hose bibbs) are subject to a lot of wear and tear that cause them to leak over time. However, they can be easier to fix than you might think. If you are the do-it-yourself type who welcomes challenges around the house, this is the article for you.

Before You Start, See If You Can Fix the Spigot

You've probably noticed that your spigot is leaking, but does it just require a minor repair, like replacing a washer, or do you need a completely new one?

Examine it for any visible signs of damage to the handle, stem, or supply pipe. Is it leaking from the handle, spout, or where it joins the main supply pipe?

  • If it's leaking from the handle, try tightening the packing nut or replacing the washer(s) first (see the photo below).
  • If it's leaking from the joint to the supply pipe, remove the spigot, inspect the threads for damage, clean the threads, and wrap them with Teflon tape.
  • If it's leaking from the spout, the inner mechanism may be damaged, and it's probably easier and cheaper to just replace the entire thing.

Hose bibbs usually cost anywhere from $5-10, but a plumber may charge you upwards of $150 for the replacement service. Save some money and do it yourself. As you'll see, they're really quite simple to replace.

Hose bibb handle parts unpacked and labeled.
Hose bibb handle parts unpacked and labeled.

Tools You Will Need

To make the job easy and avoid frustration, gather all your tools and supplies first.

  • Replacement spigot
  • Two pipe wrenches
  • Spray lubricant (penetrating oil)—to help loosen the threads
  • Stiff-bristled brush—to remove corrosion and other debris
  • Old rags—to wipe your hands and the pipe after scrubbing
  • Teflon tape (plumber's tape)—to seal the threads and prevent future leaks

What Type of Spigot Should I Get?

I recommend removing the old spigot and taking it to the hardware store to find a direct replacement. There are two things you or the store clerk should be looking for:

  1. Thread size: They usually come in 1/2-inch or 3/4-inch. Make sure you get a replacement that's the same size.
  2. Male or female: Is your spigot male (the threads are on the outside) or female (the threads are on the inside)?

How to Replace an Outdoor Water Spigot

  1. Locate the water shut-off valve.
  2. Shut off the water supply by turning the water shut-off valve clockwise.
  3. Open the spigot to drain the remaining water.
  4. Remove the spigot by firmly grasping both the spigot and the supplying pipe and twisting the spigot counterclockwise.
  5. Brush the threads to clean the corrosion.
  6. Seal the threads with Teflon tape.
  7. Install the new spigot by hand before tightening it with a wrench.
  8. Check for leaks.

The main water shut-off valve is usually located near the water meter.
The main water shut-off valve is usually located near the water meter.

1. Locate the Main Water Shut-Off Valve

In most houses, the main water shut-off valve is located near the water meter. If you live in a cold region, the meter is likely in your house or garage. If you live in warmer climates, the meter is probably outside—at the front or side of your house.

You may have one or two valves. The valves will either be controlled by a lever or a wheel handle. Ball valves use levers, while gate or globe valves use wheel handles.

Turn the lever or wheel handle clockwise to shut off the water.
Turn the lever or wheel handle clockwise to shut off the water.

2. Shut Off the Water Supply

Turn the lever or wheel clockwise to shut off the water supply.

If you're unsure which shut-off valve will cut supply to the faucet you're trying to replace, turn the faucet on slightly and close the shut-off valve. The water should stop running within a minute or two. If it doesn't, go back to the meter and look for another valve.

Levers are usually allowed to turn only 90 degrees. Wheel handles will turn until they are seated (usually within one or two full revolutions).

Drain leftover water to avoid making a mess.
Drain leftover water to avoid making a mess.

3. Drain the Excess Water

Open the spigot to let any remaining water drain out. You may have stopped the water flow, but there is still some water in the portion of the pipe from the shut-off valve to the spigot.

Remember to close it again when you're done.

Make sure the supply pipe is secured to prevent any damage from the twisting force.
Make sure the supply pipe is secured to prevent any damage from the twisting force.

4. Remove the Old Spigot

Firmly grasp the supply pipe at the hex nut with one pipe wrench. Keeping the supply pipe steady to avoid damaging the entire system, turn the spigot counterclockwise with the second pipe wrench.

Tip:

If it doesn't turn, stop. Don't force anything, which often does more damage. Spray some lubricant in and around the joint and leave it on for a few minutes to loosen the threads.

A few quick taps can also help loosen up the corrosion. Just remember to stabilize the supply pipe before doing so.

Use a brass or nylon brush rather than a steel brush to avoid scoring and damaging the threads.
Use a brass or nylon brush rather than a steel brush to avoid scoring and damaging the threads.

5. Brush the Threads to Clean the Corrosion

Use a stiff-bristled brush to remove corrosion, left-over plumber's tape, and other debris. This prevents damage when installing the new spigot and ensures a water-tight seal.

Start from the base and overlap by 1/2-3/4 the width of the tape.
Start from the base and overlap by 1/2-3/4 the width of the tape.

6. Seal the Threads With Teflon Tape

Wrap the exposed threads with Teflon tape, starting at the base and overlapping about half the width of the tape until you reach the tip. Teflon tape fills in the tiny gaps between the threads to ensure that no water can leak out.

Hand-tighten first to make sure you don't accidentally cross the threads.
Hand-tighten first to make sure you don't accidentally cross the threads.

7. Install the New Spigot

Carefully screw on the new spigot by hand until it is seated. Tighten it the rest of the way using a pipe wrench. To prevent damage to the protective finish, wrap a towel around the spigot before grasping it with the wrench.

8. Check for Leaks

Once it's installed, check for any leaks from the joint, stem, and spout. Make sure the spigot is turned off before turning the water supply back on. Then, open the spigot and make sure that water is only coming out of the spout.

How to Replace a Leaky Faucet

Common Questions About Water Spigots

What's the difference between a tap, faucet, spigot, and hose bib?

All of them can refer to a valve that controls the flow of water, but there are some differences in their usage. For example, a tap in British English refers to the water control valve in sinks and bathtubs—what would be considered a faucet in American English.

Spigot is a more technical term for a tap or faucet used by plumbers and other people in the industry, and it usually refers to outdoor faucets. Hose bibb (or hose bib) is another term for a spigot and is so named because it is where you would normally attach a hose.

How does a spigot work?

In a regular spigot, water supply is controlled by a valve—either a ball, globe, or gate valve—that can be opened or closed by a screw-down mechanism. The diagram below depicts a gate valve. As you turn the handle, the mechanism either opens or closes the valve.

Leaks from the spout generally occur due to wear and tear in this inner mechanism. You may choose to replace the individual components, but it is usually cheaper and easier to just replace the entire spigot.

How can I prevent an outside faucet from freezing?

If you live in a region that is prone to frost, leaks can be caused by water expansion inside the pipe and/or spigot. To prevent frost damage, follow these steps:

  1. Close the main water shut-off valve and drain the water from the spigot(s).
  2. Wrap the spigot and any exposed pipes with pipe insulation (usually cylindrical foam pieces). Duct tape them for a tight and secure seal.
  3. Install a frost-proof faucet.

Note that wrapping with insulation will only slow heat loss. It cannot prevent it or generate heat. With continuous exposure to freezing temperatures, the insulation will become ineffective. This is why draining the water out or installing a frost-proof faucet are the best ways to prevent frost damage.

How does a frost-proof faucet or spigot work?

The basic mechanism of a frost-proof or freeze-proof faucet is similar to a regular faucet; a valve is opened or closed to control the flow of water. The difference is where the valve is located.

In a frost-proof spigot, the stem (the portion that houses the valve control mechanism) extends up to two feet into the house. This prevents the water from being exposed to freezing temperatures since the valve (the point where the water supply stops) is now located in the house.

Gate Valve Spigot
Gate Valve Spigot | Source

Questions & Answers

  • How do I replace an outside water spigot if I have copper pipes?

    It depends on if the copper pipe is threaded or not. If it is (I'm assuming you're replacing the faucet), you will replace the old faucet with a new one in the same way you would with any other kind of pipe.

    If it isn't threaded, and the leak is where the pipe joins the faucet, you'd have to cut off the end that inserts into the faucet, and use either solder or a compression fitting to put a new end on.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t7T-MtE3FL0

    Here's how to solder it on:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-BlJBJIUdQ

    If you use a compression fitting, watch out that you don't tighten it too much:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KR9cQwnnHXw

    If you're connecting copper pipes to plastic, you'll want to insert a liner in the plastic pipe to keep it strong and not leak under the compression fitting:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUeyjugrdDM

Comments

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    • watergeek profile imageAUTHOR

      watergeek 

      12 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.

      https://rebuildingtogether.org

    • profile image

      Patricia Ludwig-Longello 

      12 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 imageAUTHOR

      watergeek 

      12 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:

      http://homeguides.sfgate.com/ways-stuck-faucet-off...

    • profile image

      Angela 

      13 months ago

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

    • watergeek profile imageAUTHOR

      watergeek 

      14 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 

      14 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

      Nick

    • watergeek profile imageAUTHOR

      watergeek 

      15 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 

      15 months ago

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

    • krsharp05 profile image

      Kristi Sharp 

      6 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 imageAUTHOR

      watergeek 

      6 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 

      6 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 

      6 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 imageAUTHOR

      watergeek 

      6 years ago from Pasadena CA

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

    • Om Paramapoonya profile image

      Om Paramapoonya 

      6 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 :)

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