Winter weather can wreak havoc on a home, but there are some steps you can take to keep potential disaster at bay. If your house doesn't have one, a frost proof sillcock is a valuable ally that can help you avoid damage from burst pipes during the winter. These resilient spigots are designed with a shut-off valve located in the warm interior of the home.
Correctly installing one at a slight downward angle will help water drain more thoroughly, so there's less chance of it freezing within the pipes. Since plumbing codes can vary widely by location, it may be a good idea to get in touch with a plumbing inspector to get the skinny on local rules—some places may require a permit for this work.
Step 1 - Find the Connection
This is fairly easy if you have an unfinished basement. If you have a drop ceiling, you may have to explore the ceiling tiles to find the connection. A drywall ceiling might require more effort to find the existing connection—use a tape measure to approximate the location so you can create as small an opening as possible. Since you'll have to patch that ceiling after all the work is done. Why make it any harder?
Examine the connection to determine what type you have. There are several on the market, but common types are:
Male Iron Pipe (MIP) - exposed threading at end of sillcock
Female Iron Pipe (FIP) - interior threading at end of sillcock
Sweat Solder Connection - solder fitting cup at end of sillcock
Unless you work at a job where soldering is part of your normal routine, it may be easier to avoid one that requires you to haul out the torch. Of course, if you’re already interested in learning how to solder, more power to you. We always encourage learning new skills, and this is certainly a valuable one to have under your belt. Otherwise, you might be better off using another connection style that's easier to manage.
Step 2 - Measure
The most common lengths are six, eight, 10, and 12 inches. You may have to remove the sillcock to get an accurate measurement. (Make sure you’ve turned off the water before doing this.) This could change based on whether or not you decide to lengthen or shorten the unit in order to bring it closer to the wall leading to the exterior, or further inside the house. Decide on the type of connection you’ll be using, and the length you’ll want to replace, so you’re ready for your shopping trip.
There are a variety of connection styles available, which vary in ease of installation. One of the easiest types is a push fitting connection like the Shark Bite system.
Step 3 - Shut off Water
Use the isolation valve to shut off water to the location where you're working. If there isn’t one, you’ll have to shut off water to the entire house. All homeowners should know the location of their main water valve. If you don't, please make yourself aware, and get to know this important apparatus. Hopefully, if this is the first time you've taken a look at it, your shut off valve won't greet you with any problems that could have been missed after years of blissful ignorance.
Once the water is off, drain the line by opening the sillcock.
Step 4 - Disconnect Old Pipe
If the connection can be unscrewed, you can remove the faucet with a pipe wrench placed at the back of the sillcock (turn counterclockwise). A friend or supportive life partner positioned on the other side of the pipe inside the house can help to hold it secure and keep it from unscrewing other sections.
If luck is on your side, and you were able to twist off the old sillcock, you can move on to the next step. If luck isn't with you that day, you may find the joint is soldered together, in which case, you’ll have to use a pipe cutter to cut through it so you can create a new coupling. Use a bucket or other container to catch water that drips out of the cut section. Once disconnected, carefully remove it from the outside wall.
Step 5 - Insert New Sillcock
You may need to enlarge the entry hole using a spade bit for wood siding, or masonry bit if you're working with brick or concrete. Place a bead of caulk around the flange of the new sillcock to create a waterproof seal against the house. Insert it into the opening, and add more caulk if necessary to ensure a good seal. Return to interior of the house, and wrap pipe tape to the male fitting at the end of the sillcock. Screw it into one of the connectors, like the push on fitting, until fully tightened. With that fitting secured, connect it to the rest of the pipe line and get ready to test your work.
Step 6 - Test
If you disconnected the water supply to the entire house, open all faucets, including the newly replaced one, then slowly open the water main you'd previously shut off, allowing all faucets to flow until they run continuously without air spitting out of the lines.
Step 7 - Secure It
With the new spigot ready for business, attach it to the exterior wall using rustproof screws inserted into plastic wall anchors.
A frost free sillcock is a valuable upgrade you can make to your home to ensure it doesn't succumb to water damage during the winter months.