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Let’s talk about hose bibbs. Sometimes called an outdoor faucet (and technically termed “sillcock”), a hose bibb is the valve where you attach your garden hose. And since summer is when you’ll usually use that hose the most, it’s a good idea to have some basic understanding of how a hose bibb works, which is what we’ll cover today–along with some maintenance tips and tricks.

Anatomy of a Hose Bibb

First, let’s go over the anatomy of a hose bibb. The most common type of valve used is a compression type, where the handle rotates to screw the stem or spindle into the seat, thus sealing the opening and stopping the water flow (see diagram). These valves are effective, but, like everything else, they degrade over time. As you see in the picture, the valve has two  washers: a stem washer and a packing washer. If you do find that your hose bibb drips from the handle, you can usually simply tighten the packing nut with a small crescent wrench (or similar tool) and get it to stop. 

If you notice the whole thing dripping even when it’s closed, it’s a sign your stem washer is bad. In this case, I can’t recommend anything other than calling a professional–being outside exposed to weather makes hose bibbs both very hard to take apart and very easy to break if done wrong (sometimes even we encounter one that we can’t get apart, in which case the whole thing should be replaced).

Indoor Shutoff Valve for Hose Bibbs

Next, let’s touch on indoor shutoff valves for hose bibbs. Every outside faucet should have an inside valve that controls water flow before it reaches the outside for winterization purposes (note I said “should,” although inevitably there will be some installed without these). While the location of these indoor valves can vary, they’re most commonly found under your sinks.

If you’ve ever looked under a kitchen or bathroom sink and noticed a valve coming off the cold side and back into the wall or floor, odds are that it’s a hose bibb shutoff. If you have a hose bibb that no water comes out of, there’s probably an interior shutoff for it that’s been closed at some point. If you can track it down, you’ll solve your own problem.

Indoor valves are mainly used to help winterize outdoor faucets as I mentioned above. Since hose bibbs are exposed to freezing temperatures during the winter, they can burst if they’re full of water. To prevent this, simply close the indoor valve, open the outdoor one, and let the water flow out–oh, and make sure you disconnect your hose, too!

Actually, disconnecting the hose after every use is good practice in general as it keeps the hose from fusing to the faucet (as discussed in my article from a few months ago on galvanic corrosion), and you’ll be able to see easily if you have a drippy faucet.

Contact Us for Hose Bibb Trouble Shooting

Congratulations! Now you know how hose bibbs work, and you can better diagnose your own problems when they arise; and if you know how to winterize your outdoor faucets. As always, when in doubt give us a call or visit our Facebook page. Hope you all have a great, safe, and Plumb Smart summer!

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