Everything You Need to Know About Your Hose Bib!

everything you need to know about hose bibs
Your hose bib is what makes washing your car easy. It’s what lets you water your garden and what allows your kids to have fun running through the sprinkler in the summer. Your hose bib lets you enjoy the comfort of running water outside of your home with ease and total convenience. This small device attached to your home helps you take more pleasure in your summers and lets you be productive outdoors. So it’s no question that you want to maintain your hose bibs properly. But did you know that your hose bib needs any attention at all? It does! Especially in the winter months. Did you also know that your hose bib has the ability to contaminate the drinking water in your home and city? Many homeowners underestimate the necessity of learning how their hose bib works and what to do to safely maintain it year-round. Not to worry, we’ve created your quick 101 course on hose bibs right here. We’ve compiled all the most important information and tips that you need to be aware of when it comes to the hose bib in your Edmonton home.

What’s the Function of a Hose Bib?

A hose bib is the small faucet attachment on an outer wall of your home that facilitates your access to water in your backyard, driveway, and the like. As the name implies, this is the small tap that functions as an attachment to your garden hose, giving you easy access to water outdoors. Hose bibs disguise themselves under various names depending on who you ask - sometimes a sill cock, sometimes an outdoor water faucet, or even a spigot - but they all refer to the same water mechanism attached to the outside of your home.

Your hose bib connects directly to the plumbing system in your home. All the faucets in your home are attached to your plumbing system through a series of smaller pipes - your hose bib is no different. Because it’s outdoors, however, it does require different maintenance (especially once the cold hits) than your indoor water access points.

The Fixture With Many Names

We have heard hose bibs called so many different things over the years, here are some of the many names we frequently hear:

  • Hose bib (obviously)
  • Frost-free hose bib
  • Garden service
  • Lawn service
  • Hose faucet
  • Hose valve
  • Outdoor tap
  • Hose attachment
  • Lawn hydrant
  • Spigot
  • The thing that the hose goes onto (our personal favorite)

In all fairness though, how could anyone know what it's called if they never knew in the first place? Whatever you want to call your hose bib, I’m sure we’ll be able to get on the same page fairly quickly.

Standard Hose Bibs in Edmonton

The standard hose bib is comprised of a handle, a spout, a body, and a stem. Residential hose bibs in Edmonton don’t come in a huge variety, they are really quite standard making it easy for you! The most common sizes are usually either ½ inch or ¾ inch. All that this size refers to is the diameter of the pipe. When deciding on the size of the hose bib that’s right for you, it all comes down to how much pressure you need coming out of the faucet. The smaller the pipe, the stronger the pressure will be. This is a matter of your preference.

If you’ve already installed your hose bib and it’s the wrong size with respect to your hose or other devices, don’t fret! You can always purchase a size adapter instead of starting over.

How Does a Hose Bib Work?

Although your hose bib only makes its appearance to you on the outside of your home’s wall, we’re sure you can imagine that there is more than meets the eye. The pipes of the hose bib lead to the main water supply of your home, that’s where they draw their water. But more importantly, there is a water shut-off valve in your homemade for the hose bib specifically (some older homes don’t have an outdoor-specific water valve, but it really is quite standard for it to exist in most homes). In our Northern climate, some homes have separate shut-off valves for their hose bibs because we want to cut off their water access in the winter (freezing) months, all while keeping the water running normally in the rest of our home (more on this below).

A separate shut-off isn’t absolutely necessary though. Frost-free hose bibs are designed to shut off the water back in your home, away from the cold that bursts pipes. A shut-off is nice for some extra piece of mind.

If you haven’t already found your shut-off valve, take a look in your basement or on the other side of the outdoor wall with the hose bib. It is important that you have clear access to this valve, so if you can’t find it on your own make sure to ask a licensed plumber to identify it for you! Your Edmonton plumber would be happy to help.

Maintenance and Care Tips - Winterizing Hose Bibs

You probably don’t do any winter maintenance on your indoor faucets, but we sure hope you take a few steps to take care of your hose bibs!

First things first. Before the first frost hits, you’ll want to remove your garden hose from your hose bib. This is absolutely critical because it traps the water in the hose bib that would normally drain out. This is the water that is going to freeze when winter comes. If this step is missed, you can be pretty sure that your hose bib has either warped or split open, and it is going to make one heck of a mess when you go to use it in the spring.

Next, ensure that your hose bib no longer has access to water for the season. How? Turn off water access using the specific shut-off valve inside your home for your outdoor faucet. If there isn’t a shut-off valve, this doesn’t end the party, but you’ll want to make sure that the hose bib is in fact a frost-free hose bib, with the actual valve about 12” behind the wall from the valve handle outside. You’ll notice that

You’re not done there, though. If you do have a shut-off valve installed on your hose bib pipe you’ll have to turn the handle on the hose bib for a few seconds to let any last water drain out of the pipe. You don’t need to get every drop out, but if some drains out you are much better off than before. There exists a critical component for this last draining to function properly, however. The spout of your hose bib must be installed at a lower point than the access of your water, to ensure that the last water drips out! If you aren’t sure if this is the case in your home, we strongly advise that you have a licensed plumber take a look and confirm this for you. It could save you a huge headache in the future. Why? Let’s go back to elementary science class for a moment. When water turns to ice, it expands. Can you imagine the results of this leftover water (ice!) being stuck in your pipes when winter hits? Don’t let the ice crack your hose bib in the winter, or worse, the pipes leading to your home!

Common Problems You Might Experience in the Winter if You Don’t Winterize!

What happens if you don’t winterize your hose bib? Although you might get lucky, chances are you’ll experience cracks or leaks in your pipes. This can happen either because you’ve left the hose attached during the winter or because you didn’t drain the hose bib before the start of cold weather.

Because water expands when it turns to ice, either the outdoor piece of your hose bib will burst, or the inside section between the handle and the valve seat will expand to the point of bursting from the ice buildup inside. If it’s the latter, you might not detect the problem until springtime. You could come down to a flooded basement in April, or you could experience other water damage within the foundation or walls of your home. Whichever it is, you’ll have a headache to deal with, and it could get costly. Following these simple, quick tips will let you enjoy the coming of spring and thawing as you should!

How Can I Guarantee the Safety of My Home?

Although water freezing into your plumbing and damaging your pipes seems quite scary, you won’t have to worry about these added safety measures. In addition to ensuring that the outdoor faucet does not have ANY access to the water of your home during the winter months, there are other preventative measures you can take to ensure the plumbing of your home’s hose bib is safe for you and your family year-round.

Frost-Free Hose Bibs: What makes a frost-free hose bib different than a standard one? A critical difference between the two is that a frost-free hose bib has a stem (the small internal pipe attachment that goes back into the wall) that extends deeper into your home than a standard one does. What this means for the hose bib is that the valve portion is inside your home where it’s warm, and the part that extends outside doesn’t have any water in it so it won’t freeze in the cold, winter months. This is not the case with a standard hose bib which freezes during the winter and is consequently prone to cracking due to ice. Although there are rare occasions where a frost-free hose bib may experience damage in the winter months, it is highly unlikely and usually well worth the small investment to free yourself of that worry. In Edmonton, frost free is the only way to go with the way our winters are. But remember, even a frost-free hose bib won’t survive leaving your garden hose on into the winter.

Vacuum Breaker: This is usually an attachment to the outer spout of your hose bib. It looks like a cap on the spout of the hose bib. The vacuum breaker is used as a preventative measure for backflow. Once water comes out of your garden hose it should be out for good. It is rare, but not impossible, to encounter a loss of water pressure from the city supply. This could happen for a few reasons, but the most common is due to a fire truck pumper hooking on to a nearby hydrant, they can drain the water pressure pretty quickly. If ever this happens to your home, it’s possible to experience backflow. Why is backflow a problem? You can’t ever be too sure of what has crawled into your hose - it remains outdoors after all. The same goes for any sort of chemicals you may be working with on your patio or on your garden weeds - these toxins are not something that you would want your family or your community members ingesting.

If water that has entered your hose ever gets sucked back into the water system, it can enter your drinking water as well as that of the publics. If any contamination has occurred on the outer end of your hose bib, it is now a danger to you and those that share your water. Not only that, it’s a huge cost for your city to remedy contaminated water (which may be later reflected in higher taxes). A simple installation of a hose bib with a vacuum breaker can give your family the added certainty that your water is potable, and your neighbors will be grateful to you for thinking of everyone’s safety.

Licensed Plumber: Do not underestimate the service of a licensed professional. Even if you have a lot of your own knowledge or are an ambitious do-it-yourself-er, there are details in the installation or maintenance process of your hose bib that you might miss. As happy as we are when our clients have some plumbing know-how and take good care of their pipes, even the knowledgeable homeowners we encounter do not always realize how much there is to know about their home’s complicated plumbing. With Mr. Rooter Plumbing Edmonton, any service our licensed plumbers perform for you, along with any parts we use, are all guaranteed. What does this mean for you? Total peace of mind! You know your home is in good hands with an experienced professional.

Give Your Hose Bib the Attention it Deserves

The hose bib is a small piece of the average household that many homeowners forget about. In the springtime, our plumbers run into plenty of cases of flooded basements caused by a poor understanding of the importance of hose bib maintenance and winterization. With the proper care and maintenance, you can have easy outdoor access to water for many years to come. For any help you need along the way, Mr. Rooter Edmonton is gladly here for you to lend a hand. So go ahead, relax, and run through the sprinkler this summer.