Whether you’re de-winterizing your home or simply need to turn on or off your outdoor water supply for any reason, you should know how to adjust your home’s hose bib.
Most homes have one or two hose bibs—also known as a spigot, house faucet, outdoor tap, or whatever nickname you've given it—to access outdoor water. Unless you have a frost-proof hose bib, you likely turned off the water to your hose bib right before the winter, and it's time to flip it back on. Read on to learn how to do this simple seasonal chore.
Prepping to Turn Your Hose Bib On for the Warmer Months
If you're new to your home and unfamiliar with your hose bib, it's worth it to call a local plumber about your system. Pipes on frost-proof hose bibs are structured in a way that protects the spigot from ice during the winter. The pipes are often much longer than standard ones, but it can be tricky to tell the difference at first glance. If you left your frost-proof spigot on last winter, you don’t need to take any action.
Having trouble finding your spigot? It may be blocked by an insulated cover. Begin by removing the covers that protected the bib over the winter.
Check That Your Hose Bib Is Off
Before heading inside to look for your water controls, make sure your hose bib is closed. It was likely left open to drain any remaining water in the winter. You don't want water shooting through the spigot as soon as you switch on the water source, flooding a patch of your yard.
To ensure it’s closed, simply turn the handle on your outdoor spigot all the way to the right in a clockwise direction until it stops.
Locate Your Shut-Off Valve
There are several water control valves throughout your house. You'll find main water shut-off valves near your water heater, on the exterior of your house, under your sink, and often behind the toilet.
You should also be able to spot a specific valve for the water hose bib. These are often clearly marked and will sit on the other side of the wall or in the unfinished ceiling of your basement. Buildings without basements may find them in their crawlspace or a utility closet.
Keep in mind that you may have separate hose bib valves if you have spigots on either side of your house.
Tighten Your Bleeder Cap
A bleeder cap is a small opening that allows water to escape during the winter when you winterize the pipe. It will look like a very small knob on the side of the pipe about an inch in from the valve. Grab a pair of pliers and turn this knob clockwise until it's shut. You may also be able to adjust the knob by hand depending on the age of the pipe. You'll know it's still open if you switch on the main valve and find water shooting through this cap.
Open the Water Valve
Photo: Lost_in_the_Midwest/Adobe Stock
Now it's time to let the water flow freely to the pipe by turning the valve counterclockwise to open it. You'll likely have one of two valve types—a gate valve or a ball valve with a lever. Gate valves have circular handles that you turn until it stops. Ball valves have a handle that runs perpendicular to the pipe when closed. Turn this valve 45 degrees so it sits parallel to the pipe. Once you do that, the water should be back on.
Check for Leaks
Inspect the area around your water valve and bleeder cap to make sure there are no leaks in the surrounding pipe. Cracks can occasionally still occur in harsh winters. If you spot any water coming through this part of the pipe, turn off your valve and call your local plumber for a look.
Test Your Spigot
Head back to your outdoor spigot and ensure there are no leaks on this end of the pipe as well. Since you switched the bib off earlier, you shouldn't see any water dripping from the spigot.
Switch the spigot on by turning it counterclockwise and ensure there is a steady flow of water.
Connect Your Garden Hose
Last but not least, attach your garden hose to the spigot and let the water flow. Ensure that you can create a firm seal between the hose bib opening and the hose to avoid losing water. Keep in mind that you don’t need to turn the water valve off in the warmer months in between uses. Control the water from the outdoor spigot until it's time to winterize it again.
Reverse Steps to Winterize Hose Bib
If you're on the other end of the calendar and starting to winterize your plumbing, you can reverse the steps to turn your hose bib off for the season. Here’s how:
Disconnect your garden hose and store it for the winter.
Go inside and close the water valve by turning it clockwise or switching the lever perpendicular to the pipe.
Open your bleeder cap to release the remaining water and leave it open for the season.
Open your outdoor hose bib to release the final drops of water.
Cover with an insulated cover for extra protection.
Why is my outside spigot not working?
When water stops flowing from your outdoor spigot, always begin by making sure it's been opened for the season. Winterized hose bibs need to be turned back on from the indoor water source in the spring. Other culprits when fixing an outdoor water spigot include:
Debris blocking the pipe
Loose and leaking packing nut
Issues with your home's water supply
Call a local plumber if you are not able to find the issue by opening the water valve or checking the washer and packing nut. There could be a problem further up the pipe that needs attention.
When should I turn my outside water off and on?
Winterize your pipes and turn off your outdoor water before air temperatures consistently drop below zero. In most northern regions, this falls between mid-October and early November. Turn your spigot back on in the spring after the threat of freezing temps are behind you, usually from mid-April to early May.
Can you use the outside spigot in the winter?
It is safe to use a frost-proof or freeze-proof spigot or pump in the winter if you live in an area with freezing temperatures. Otherwise, it's best to fully drain and shut down your outside spigot in the winter to avoid cracking a pipe.